Parking and Speeding in Residential Areas a Public Safety Concern in Ship Bottom

By Gina G. Scala | Jul 03, 2019
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Ship Bottom — It’s summer on Long Beach Island; that means parking is at a premium. Perhaps nowhere more so than in Ship Bottom, where day-tripping beachgoers often opt to enjoy the sun, sand and surf. The situation this summer, with the opening of Hotel LBI at the entrance to the 18-mile barrier island has borough officials concerned with an uptick in traffic congestion and parking, especially in the neighborhoods surrounding the municipal boat ramp.

“It’s a public safety issue,” Councilman Tom Tallon said, noting customers of the 102-room luxury hotel are parking in neighborhood areas, such as Shore Avenue and  10th, 11th and 12th streets.

His concerns are shared by Councilmen Joe Valyo and Council President Ed English, who said hotel customers are walking across Route 72 (Ninth Street) because of the congestion surrounding the hotel.

“Public parking is jammed,” Valyo added. “We have an obligation to the residents as much as we do to him (hotel owner and developer Chris Vernon). There are a lot of cars parking all over the neighborhood.”

The concerns were raised during the borough council’s discussion surrounding the liquor license renewal for the hotel, which opened Memorial Day weekend. The council created the hotel-exception liquor license earlier this year, transferring it to the hotel in April before it expired, as all liquor licenses do, on June 30. Liquor license renewals must be in place prior to July 1. Parking is not a condition of the liquor license, which was approved by a vote of 4-2.

Under the preliminary and final site plan, which was revised April 30, Hotel LBI has 205 off-street parking spaces. On-site garage parking, which includes valet use, 122; on-site surface parking, 11; ancillary spaces on lot 3 block 103, 19; and valet-controlled parking spaces on lot 8, block 100, 53.

The hotel is required to have 128 parking spaces, or 1.25 spaces per unit. There are 102 guest rooms. The accessory dining facility, according to the preliminary and final site plan, calls for one space for every four guests, or a total of 50. The document also shows one space for every employee, for a total of 18 employees. The salon requires nine parking spaces.

At the time of the June 25 discussion, English, Tallon and Valyo were concerned that the $10 valet parking fee was prompting hotel customers to opt for a no-fee parking option along residential roads south of the hotel. The hotel has since begun offering free valet parking.

At the boat ramp, the harbor master or another person in charge has complete control over the parking situation, according to municipal code.

“If the harbor master or other person in control instructs the owner or custodian of any vehicle on the ramp premises to move the vehicle, it shall be moved immediately,” Chapter 12, section 12 reads. “If not removed upon the order of the harbor master or other person in charge, the vehicle may be ordered removed by the harbor master and/or by the police of the borough. Vehicles will be towed away at the owner’s expense. No overnight parking of vehicles or trailers shall be permitted unless authorized by the harbor master.”

And just last month, the borough council introduced an ordinance expanding parking regulations at the boat ramp. Under Ordinance 2019-17, vehicle parking is for the permitted use of the boat ramp and municipal facilities only. All unauthorized vehicles will be towed at the owner’s expense.

“If you think you’re going to have a problem … it’s already a problem,” Ken Reuter, a 10th Street resident told the council, adding he’s witnessed individuals crossing Ninth Street to get to the hotel. “You have a public safety issue.”

The traffic congestion and parking at the hotel are only adding to the influx of more traffic and speeders on the residential roads, particularly 10th Street, he said. In fact, Reuter hand delivered a petition, signed by all of the residents of 10th Street, regarding the speeding and increased traffic on the road.

He said the motorists come off the Causeway, make the right onto Shore Avenue and the first left onto 10th Street at a high rate of speed and often without braking for the stop sign. One day not so long ago, he took an informal poll from his front porch, he told the council. He said he watched 18 cars come off the Causeway and make the first right onto Shore Avenue.

Of those 18 motorists, according to Reuter, nine ran the stop sign and two didn’t even slow down. All 18 drivers turned left onto 10th Street; eight of them were speeding.

“Someone is going to get seriously hurt,” he said, saying the speeders are going well above the posted 25 mph limit, some apparently reaching above 60.

Tallon, who also serves as chairman of the public safety committee for the borough, said police have been in the area of 10th Street and clocked most speeders at around 33, 34 mph.

“A lot of locals are speeding,” he said, noting that most of the homes on the block don’t have sidewalks, and while that won’t slow down speeders, it would keep pedestrians safely off the road.

Reuter and his neighbors are hoping for a different resolution, such as a speed hump (not the traditional speed bump). A speed hump is made from recycled rubber or plastic and minimizes noise. In many situations, the speed hump is simple to install, so it would be easy to remove in the offseason.

“I know what’s going on down there,” Mayor William Huelsenbeck told Reuter. “We have a company that’s looking at some things. They have a traffic division. We’ll have a professional come in and see what can be done.”

— Gina G. Scala

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