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Meter Hours Hold Fast As Council Rejects Parking Proposal

Candace Braun

After hearing weighted concerns from Borough merchants, Council voted 5 to 1 against an ordinance that would extend parking meter hours in the Borough. Councilman Roger Martindell was the sole supporter of the plan.

If passed, the ordinance would have extended parking meter hours from 7 to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and added meter hours on Sundays, from noon to 5 p.m. As a result, approximately $170,000 would have been added to the Borough's annual revenue, said Borough Administrator Bob Bruschi.

Some 30 residents and downtown merchants appeared at the July 13 meeting to voice their concerns about the impact extended meter hours could have on their businesses. Many argued that the downtown redevelopment project has made it difficult to keep patrons coming in, and that increasing meter hours would only compound the problem.

Henry Landau, owner of Landau's on Nassau Street, said that the busiest time for restaurants is after 6 p.m., and the busiest day for stores is Sunday. Enforcing meters during these times would hurt many businesses, he said: "We've been through a lot in this town. I thought there was an understanding that [the Borough] would give [merchants] a break."

Some Council members were also strongly opposed to parts of the ordinance, including Council President Mildred Trotman, who did not want to enforce meters on Sundays, as some churches hold services that could extend for more than two hours, causing drivers to receive parking tickets.

The meter ordinance was drawn up by Mr. Bruschi after Council voted unanimously in early May to increase parking revenue by $50,000 in 2004 and $200,000 in 2005. It was first suggested after the Borough announced a potential tax increase of 14 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for 2004.

In arguing for the ordinance, Mr. Martindell said that it would encourage more patrons to park in the new garage on Spring Street, where parking tickets are not an issue. He added that it would also save the average taxpayer approximately $70 per year.

"Frankly, our taxpayers are begging for some kind of tax relief. This is one way to do it," he said.

Herbert Tuchman, owner of PJ's Pancake House on Nassau Street, said businesses shouldn't be punished for budgetary problems in the Borough: "I don't know the answer...but your solution is the wrong way to go."

Kristin Appleget, president of the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce, said that she already hears weekly complaints about parking in Princeton, and the ordinance would only drive more visitors out of town.

"The perception of this town is not a welcoming one, but one where [drivers] are ticketed constantly," she said.

Jessica Durrie, co-owner of Small World Coffee on Witherspoon Street, said she felt her customers would come in less often and spend less time there if they were forced to pay for parking an additional two hours at night.

"You'd be amazed how many quarters I keep in my bank to give out to the public," she said. David Newtown, vice president of Palmer Square Management, said that business is down, and it will continue to go down if meter hours are increased: "Just when merchants are about to see the light at the end of the tunnel, it turns into an oncoming train."

Some merchants urged Council to ask for more money from Princeton University to make up for the continually increasing budget. A non-profit educational institution, by state law the University is not required to pay property taxes on its land.

In 2003 the University gave approximately $300,000 in lieu of taxes, however members of Council believe more is needed to keep the Borough's budget in check.

"Of all the things we might not agree on, we all agree the university needs to give more," said Ms. Trotman.

Council members said they will continue to investigate other ways to keep the budget down for 2005.

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