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.