Resident Proposes Beach Haven Parking Overhaul

Aug 28, 2019

A Beach Haven resident is looking to use a provision in the borough’s form of government to overhaul what he says is an ineffective parking ordinance. John Harvey said the local government is organized under the Faulkner Act (the council/manager option), which went into effect in 2010.  He said this method of organizing places complete responsibility for municipal affairs on the council, and a borough manager who is the chief executive with broad authority.

“For a seasonal town like Beach Haven this approach seems reasonable,” he said. “But to balance this significant decision-making power, the Faulkner Act provides citizens the right of initiative and referendum.  This means that proposed ordinances, like a revised parking ordinance, can be introduced directly by the people at any time without action by the local governing body.”

Harvey said the right is exercised by preparing a conforming petition signed by 10 percent of the registered voters who turned out in the last general election in an odd-numbered year. Once the petition is submitted, the local governing body can vote to pass the requested ordinance, and if it refuses, it is then submitted directly to the voters.

He said that at a recent council meeting, Mayor Nancy Taggart Davis said the current parking ordinance was adopted in 2013, post-Superstorm Sandy, at the suggestion of Township Engineer Frank Little. She continued that Little’s suggestion was to relax the existing parking ordinance due to the devastation caused by the hurricane.

“She and her council colleagues subsequently adopted the relaxed parking ordinance, which is still in place today,” said Harvey. “With the recent rash of large real estate developments, this parking ordinance is simply not effective, and serves to exacerbate an already saturated parking and traffic problem during peak season. It also increases the risk to pedestrian safety.”

According to Harvey, the key issue is that the measure does not distinguish the amount of parking required for a large restaurant and/or hotel addition to the community.

“A recent example is the new Station 117 Restaurant in the middle of our town,” he said. “With an additional restaurant capacity of approximately 160-plus seats, the only required additional parking for this project was a net four parking spaces. Needless to say, this requirement only adds to an already congested parking and traffic situation during peak season. It also increases the risk to pedestrians.”

He proposes a new parking ordinance where the ratio for new restaurants could be one parking space for every four restaurant seats.

“If this were the case, the developer of Station 117 would have been required to include 40 parking spaces with his plan, not the four parking spaces that were required,” he said. “With the impending Morrison’s Marina development which includes a 102-room hotel and a restaurant/event venue/rooftop entertainment destination, the capacity will dwarf Station 117. You can only imagine how much the current parking, traffic and pedestrian safety problems will be exacerbated. The borough manager and borough council’s complacency in addressing the outdated parking ordinance is concerning, and it raises many questions as to why they are not taking action.”

Harvey said he plans to discuss his proposal at the council’s next agenda meeting, on Thursday, Aug. 29, at 4 p.m.

“What we want to do is go back to the parking regulations as they existed in 2012,” he said.

Harvey has also reached out to numerous residents through an email, and said he has received many positive responses.

“I am incredibly concerned with how this new hotel could impact the neighborhood,” wrote Karen O’Keeffe. “There is no parking on the street on weekends now without the hotel. I have found it difficult to stay up to date on this as I find that there is a lack of transparency on what is to come in terms of discussions for people in the neighborhood impacted.”

“This year the parking has been outrageous to say the least,” wrote another respondent. “I sit on my deck and I watch the number of cars circling looking for parking to either get into Tuckers or one of the other restaurants down here at the bay. Also the employees park on the streets and that reduces the number of spots for customers. I am in favor of returning the parking requirements back to pre-Sandy standards.”

A Holgate resident wrote, “In the past two years I have been finding it difficult to find parking to go to work. The side streets and public parking lots are completely full. I watch as other cars circle the streets looking for parking. I get caught in traffic (!) in BH backed up to the point where I sit through a green light because it is not moving all the way back to Pearl Street. It is ridiculous to keep building these huge establishments without the infrastructure to support them, buildings that change the entire character of the island that was/is the draw to Long Beach Island. How long before the tourists tire of the traffic and lack of parking and decide to go somewhere less congested?”

Davis said she did not expect major changes to the ordinance.

“I don’t think the parking problem is any worse this year than other times,” she said. “We usually hear complaints during the summer when it’s a problem, but it won’t be a problem after Labor Day. I’ll talk with our engineer (Little), but I don’t see much happening.”

Davis said that at a recent borough council meeting, former councilman Donald Kakstis had suggested that the borough start its own shuttle bus system.

“That’s something that might work,” said the mayor. “It would take some cars off the street for people looking to go out to eat or shop.”

Borough Manager Sherry Mason said the borough first needs to have Harvey’s proposal formally submitted.

“Then the council would review it, and we could hold public hearings,” said Mason. “By then we’ll know if his proposal has any merit.”

— Eric Englund

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