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Borough Council Looks to Move Forward With Plans for Stacked Parking at Garages

Candace Braun

An ordinance that would legalize stacked parking in Borough garages was introduced 5 to 1 by Council at its meeting on Tuesday, September 28. The ordinance, which was amended by Council, will be reviewed by the Princeton Regional Planning Board on Thursday.

The ordinance would allow stacked parking in existing parking garages in the Borough where at least 100 spaces are allotted for cars. Stacked parking is defined by the Borough as parking spaces created by a parking arrangement not satisfying the current stall width and aisle requirements for each car. The cars would be parked in such a way that drivers would be unable to retrieve their cars without moving other cars out of the way, either with the assistance of another driver, or a garage attendant.

The stacked parking ordinance would apply to garages in the Central Business District, which include Palmer Square garages on Chambers Street and Hulfish North, as well as the Borough's new garage on Spring Street.

"Maybe it's time to stop using parking as a constraint on development," said Councilman David Goldfarb, adding that stacked parking seemed like the best solution to the parking problem in town.

One change that Council made to the ordinance approved by the Planning Board would not require garages to have an attendant dedicated to moving cars for drivers if the site is "designated for use by permanent, registered occupants of the same residential or commercial unit."

The other change to the ordinance removes the sunset clause that would make it expire at the end of 2009. Council President Mildred Trotman suggested the change, as the estimated completion date of the townhouses that would make use of the garages is currently predicted for 2008.

Councilman Roger Martindell, who cast the lone vote against the ordinance, said he disagreed with opening up more spaces at other parking garages when the new Spring Street garage is never full. He voted against the ordinance because he felt it was a "premature proposal."

However, Mayor Joe O'Neill reminded him that stacked parking was part of an agreement made between the Borough and Palmer Square Management back in 1990, as part of the Palmer Square Housing Settlement. The purpose of the plan would be to free up additional space for cars so that Palmer Square could move forward with its development plans to build 97 luxury-unit townhouses on Hulfish North.

Michael Allison, a Hulfish Street resident who operates a business in Palmer Square, said that stacked parking would become an inconvenience to many residents and business owners who need to move in and out of the garage at a moment's notice: "We must have designated spaces with easy access."

Mr. Goldfarb contended that Mr. Allison would still be able to obtain the kind of parking he wanted: "I'm assuming the kind of parking you want will always be available at a price."

After the Planning Board reviews the amended ordinance, it will be returned to the Borough for review and final approval on November 9.

Alarm System Fees

In related news, Borough Council is looking to adopt an ordinance that would set the annual registration fee for residential fire alarms at $150, with a $300 additional fee if more than four false alarms came from the residence during the previous year. These charges would increase the Borough's annual revenue by approximately $60,000.

According to William Drake, a Borough fire official, there are approximately 185 alarm systems currently registered in the Borough. Out of those systems, he estimated that 25 generate more than four false alarms per year.

Councilman David Goldfarb suggested increasing the penalty fee from $300 to $500, as well as charging a $500 fee for residents who fail to register or renew an alarm.

Council agreed to these amendments, and will hold a public hearing on the ordinance at a meeting later this month before giving final approval.

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