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Borough Considers On-Street Overnight Parking Options

Requests for parking greater than any other town in county, dispatchers say.

Chief Philip J. Crosson and Lt. Brian Gibbons asked the Chatham Borough Council to consider revoking or revising the borough's overnight on-street parking ordinance to accommodate for growing needs.

According to Gibbons, "the overnight parking issue is becoming problematic, or has been problematic, for quite some time." The ordinance does not allow on-street parking between the hours of 2 and 6 a.m., which Mayor Bruce Harris said helps borough streets "maintain a village look."

Police do not technically have the authority to grant overnight parking permission, though a tradition has emerged of residents calling police to request permission. The resident will give the make, model and license plate of the car and the street where it will be parked, and police will not enforce the ordinance for that particular car.

This tradition emerged as a courtesy to residents, but has become inreasingly commonplace. Gibbons said residents call in to ask for overnight parking permission for one of a few general reasons:

  • For a family emergency, such as a sudden illness or death, usually lasting under a week;
  • For an extended visit or ongoing construction, for a week or more;
  • Their homes do not have driveways which accommodate the number of cars used by their families.

"Residents frankly just don't have enough parking in their driveways," Gibbons said. Many homes in the borough do not have garages, or have a one-car or two-car garage while their family may use three cars or more. Some homes do not have driveways at all.

"We get as many as 50 requests a day" for overnight parking, Gibbons said. These requests are usually fielded by the Morris County Communications Center, though they also are received via email or voicemail to various police officers and administrators.

Each request takes between one and two minutes to process into the computer system. "You're looking at roughly, might be as many as 10 hours of processing a week for overnight parking. Any computer errors, which do occur," result in citations which then need to be voided, Gibbons said.

From the other side of the issue, Gibbons said police also receive complaints from residents who wonder why the parking ordinance is not enforced for their neighbors.

"There's a great deal of time and efficiency that is wasted" on this issue, Gibbons said.

Police asked that the council consider either rescinding the ordinance and creating a new one which addresses current needs, or modifying the existing ordinance to allow for exeptions in the most common instances. Gibbons suggested permits for short-term, temporary and annual on-street overnight parking to accommodate residents' needs.

Councilman Vicki Fife said she was in favor of modifying the ordinace, which Dates back to a time when people had one car and a horse and buggy."

Several councilmen, including Council President James Lonergan and Traffic Committee Liaison James Collander, agreed to form a subcommittee to further investigate the issue with cooperation from police. Lonergan said he anticipated the subcommittee would have their findings available by the meeting on Aug. 13.

A permanent solution is needed, police said. "According to county dispatch, no other town gets the amount of volume we do" for overnight parking requests, Crosson said.

Donna M. Russo July 10, 2012 at 11:20 AM
While the ordinance maybe antiquated, I believe that it also aids in theft deterrence because unfamiliar cars are easily identified. When I get home late at night, I have some peace of mind to see no cars on the street but especially in front of my house. I am in favor of easing the administrative burden on the police by modifying the ordinance to require permits for those residents who need off-street parking on a regular or extended basis except only in front of their specific property and only upon a showing a good cause. However, any new ordinance should still permit overnight guest amnesty when timely called into the police as a courtesy. I also believe that any amendment to the current ordinance should require that a warning should first be issued before a summons is issued as a courtesy to our residents.
Sir July 10, 2012 at 12:36 PM
Here is a novel idea, let's allow over night parking as the township does and most other communities do throughout the country. The fact we have our police fielding 50 requests a day for someone to ask permission to park their car on the street is ludicrous. Isn't their time better spent on matters that allow them to serve and protect our community as opposed to focusing on trivial things like having to grant permission to park a car on a street?
Sally July 10, 2012 at 01:36 PM
The township does not allow overnight parking. There is no street parking between 2:00 - 6:00 a.m. just as in the Borough.
Duncan Munchkin July 10, 2012 at 01:45 PM
So you ARE prepared for people to ditch their cars on Chatham streets for an extended trip into the city on the train, right? Three or four days of free parking is cool. It's not like our septugenarian parking force actually ever gets out to chalk a tire.
Poka Yoke July 10, 2012 at 04:43 PM
I'm getting out my crystal ball and making a prediction...some how the council will turn this into an admini-trivia nightmare for citizens AND charge a fee to park. OR...maybe residents can combine the process with their newly enacted sidewalk repair costs that our wonderful council just passed off to us? Mayor Harris wants us to keep our "village look"!?... Maybe he should have spoken up before 1/2 the town became populated with mini-mansions. Sad and pitiful that we squander our police resources to deal with this level of minutia.
chatham July 10, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Listen, I enjoy not having to see a street filled w/parked cars as I did when I was growing up in an urban area, however, it is ridiculous that you cannot park in the street during those times. The other day, I left my car parked outside accidentally and fell asleep. I woke up at 3am and realized that I did that and chose not to go outside as I didn't want to wake up my family or neighbors. BIG mistake, I got a ticket! Don't you think that as a real courtesy to the residents of the town that the license plate be checked and if the car is registered to the same address that it is parked in front of that you wouldn't give that person a ticket! Isn't that when your conscious turns on and say to yourself there must be a good reason why this person left their car out! This is ridiculous and insulting!!
Ron Swanson July 10, 2012 at 06:26 PM
I know of a town on Long Island that also has a prohibition on overnight street parking; however, each tax-paying resident is given one or two dashboard permits that they can use anytime when they have guests staying overnight, or for when they themselves need to leave a car on the street when necessary. This way the cops know that the cars belong to town residents or their guests, parked in front of their own homes. This is a good solution because it still makes non-resident or stolen cars stick out like sore thumbs, while eliminating the need for residents to call the police department to ask permission every time they need to park on the street for a valid reason. The ordinance does need to be changed - what is so special about 2 - 6 AM anyway? Noone's even awake at those hours to even see that the town looks like a village.
Resident July 11, 2012 at 07:07 PM
Abandoning the rule would be a mistake. It might save a few dollars, but then it would cost us even more in the long run. It would make the Boro more attractive to criminals, and might turn it into a long-term parking lot and junk yard for abandoned and stolen vehicles. Instead of calling the police for permission to park your car in the street overnight, you'll be begging them to investigate suspicious vehicles. Just imagine the effect on property values.
park in the back July 12, 2012 at 04:25 PM
I think R Swanson makes a great suggestion...seems easy, cheap, and makes sense...which is why it probably wont work here! I have lived in several towns similar to Chatham in NJ and other states where they "allowed" over night parking. There was no rampant crime, abandoned junk yards of cars, or any threat to the atmosphere of the towns. People did not go on vacations and leave their cars parked in front of strangers houses nor did I ever feel threatened because someone parked on the street near me.


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