Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 18
 
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
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State Rejects Borough Bid for Sunday Parking Fees, 30-min Meters on Nassau

Dilshanie Perera

The New Jersey State Department of Transportation (DOT) recently rejected the Borough’s request to extend Sunday metered time limits and to reduce the limit on certain meters to 30 minutes along Nassau Street.

Nassau Street/Route 27 is a state-controlled roadway, and thus, changes to meter hours are contingent on state approval.

In a letter dated March 11 of this year, Acting Supervising Highway Engineer for Traffic Roderick Gilmore explained that the DOT’s Bureau of Traffic Engineering and Investigations (BTEI) “feels that reducing time limit parking to 30 minutes and the adding of Sunday metered parking in the requested areas would create an undue burden to the general public’s access to various businesses along Route NJ 27 (Nassau Street).”

The measure follows two requests placed by the Borough in February and April of last year petitioning for the meter hour extension. In March 2009, Council voted 4-1 to extend meter hours until 8 p.m. on Monday through Saturday, and begin charging at metered parking spaces from 1 to 8 p.m. on Sundays. The changes would be in effect in the central business district area bounded by Nassau Street, Vandeventer Avenue, Wiggins Street, Paul Robeson Place, and Chambers Street.

Even though the state rejected the Sunday extension and 30-minute meters, Mr. Gilmore noted that lengthening the already-approved time limit regulations was supported by the BTEI.

At the meeting last week, Council passed a resolution extending meter hours on Nassau Street in the aforementioned area Monday though Saturday until 8 p.m., and until 7 p.m. along the rest of the roadway.

Borough Administrator Bob Bruschi reported that the resolution has to go back to the state for approval before it can be finalized and that it had been mailed as of Tuesday.

As for meter changes in the rest of the central business district exclusive of Nassau Street, Mr. Bruschi reported that “all of the new regulations will be enforced; however, we will move very slowly into it with warnings and providing notices for free parking, so that visitors in town understand their options without being given a ticket.”

When passed last year, the meter hour extensions and the charging for Sunday parking roused the ire of various merchants and business owners, who saw the move as one that would hinder business in a time of already existing economic troubles. The Borough’s reasoning behind the increase was to garner outside revenue, thereby enabling the municipality to keep the tax rate flat. Anticipated monies gained from the changes were estimated at $100,000 per year from charging on Sundays, and $70,000 from the extension of nighttime hours.

Mr. Bruschi said that the rejection of extended hours along Nassau Street “should not significantly detract from revenue,” adding that “it might cost us about $20,000” per year in monies that could have been collected on Sundays along Route 27.

Local Merchant Henry Landau of Landau’s on Nassau Street had expressed displeasure at the Borough’s initial move to extend the parking meter time limits, calling the decision “anti-business.”

“They voted in the change without checking the ordinance first, or the state statute,” Mr. Landau said of the Council’s passage of the parking fee extension last March. Even the meter hour extension from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. had not been formally approved or rejected by the state since the change was passed.

Mr. Landau brought the matter to Council’s attention during budget and parking discussions last year. Additionally, after the parking extension ordinance was passed, local merchants including Mr. Landau banded together to draft a petition urging that the state not pass the fee extension along Nassau Street. Over 7,500 signatures were collected.

Hypothesizing that revenue from parking was already down due to the removal of meters affected by downtown construction and the loss of the corresponding parking ticket revenues, Mr. Landau remarked that the fee extension was likely devised to adjust for the gap.

Business partner Robert Landau noted that “as a taxpayer in Princeton Borough, I’m offended by the inappropriate decision making.”

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