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Township Moves Ahead With Parking Deck on Lot #2

Committee votes for $8.1 million plan that would increase parking for commuters, residents.

The township committee voted Tuesday to move forward with plans for a parking deck, and has decided it will go on Municipal Parking Lot #2, located at the corner of Lackawanna Place and Essex Street.

The committee also voted to award the professional contract to Tim Haahs & Associates, an architecture and engineering firm that specializes in parking. Vice President Jim Zullo has presented options for Lot #2 and for Lot #7, which was also under consideration.

Phase 2 of the project will now get underway and will include the preparation of architectural, engineering/design, and construction documents ready for public bidding, bid analysis and construction administration services, according to committee member James Suell, who serves on the parking subcommittee along with Robert Tillotson.

Lot #2 would have a total of 362 spaces and cost $8.11 million ($22,410 per space), according to Zullo’s previous public presentations. The funding for the first five years will come from the Parking Utility Capital Fund, and thereafter will be paid for by parking permits.

The vote to move forward with a deck on Lot #2 was unanimous.

The project will create enough parking spaces to eliminate all 150 valet spaces and create an additional 64 to 70 spaces above what is currently available now, including valet. Lot 2, at the intersection of Lackawanna and Essex, is in a largely commercial area.

The lot currently has an overflow of commuter parking when lots 7 and 9 are full. It has 173 spaces, and the study estimates 150 cars in the valet parking on a busy day.

A parking deck has been a controversial topic for years, with many residents saying it is unnecessary if the township would make more efficient use it current parking lots.

In other business:

  • The committee signed a proclamation honoring resident Alda Krinsman for her community volunteer work. Gerry Viturello also was honored for his 20 years of service to the township’s Community Service Award Committee, of which he is stepping down as chairman.
  • Approved the appointment of Sean Cassels to the Millburn Police Department.
  • Committee Member Timothy Gordon said he met with New Jersey Transit, which will be putting ticket machines at the Short Hills train station.
  • Mayor Sandra Haimoff said the township committee has been asked by The Concerned Neighborhood Association to review the township’s lawsuit against Rabbi Mendel Bogomilsky. The suit was settled more than a year ago, and the rabbi filed an application for the center to construct a new synagogue at the corner of Old Short Hills Road and Jefferson Avenue. Since then, Bogomilsky, lawyers for both sides, and various experts have been testifying before the zoning board. Haimoff said the township committee’s legal counsel has advised the board can revisit the lawsuit, but she said this action should in no way be construed as the township committee having taken sides, or that it will interfere with the zoning board proceedings.
Realist June 22, 2011 at 11:38 AM
Is this Millburn's Stimulous plan?
MK June 22, 2011 at 12:21 PM
I have a question--possibly naive...... It seems to me that the only way this parking situation would make sense is if it somehow brought more business into downtown. Even then, it's dubious....so I was thinking about downtown Westfield and all of the mall-like stores they have there---a Gap, etc etc. I realize we have the Mall at Short Hills but it would be wonderful to have a downtown situation like Westfield's. One could argue that the Mall services the Short HIlls. Chathams etc but this other concept would target Millburn/SH, Springfield. It might bring in more commuters to the station---and more shoppers to the other stores and more revenue to support this deck. Is that something that has ever been considered? I imagine in the past it would be unthinkable---it would never pay for itself because of competition to the Mall but today's retail environment is a different landscape than years ago. For one--retail space has never been cheaper. Online shopping has also caused varying strategies--some chains opt to close stores--other to open as many as possible ie Gap. So for example, while this area would never support a Macy's--it could support a Banana Republic, a Gap, a William & Sonoma---places where one could easily stop in, pick up something and then head home after work. This is just something I thought about this morning... It would take a conscious plan/wooing by officials but it might bring in the $ to justify the deck.
MK June 22, 2011 at 12:23 PM
Realized I never really asked a question--just presented an idea. I guess my questions are: 1) Is there any type of agreement with the Mall that we not do this? 2) Has this ever been considered before? What has changed since then that could impact things today? 3) Would the tax, shoppers etc pay for the costs of the deck? etc etc Too much coffee this morning!!!
frustrated resident June 22, 2011 at 12:46 PM
If we need to bring in businesses to support the cost of the deck, then we do not need the deck! why put an $8M cart before the horse?????
MK June 22, 2011 at 12:52 PM
Amy: Agreed. My comments were based on the assumption we are stuck with the cart....
frustrated resident June 22, 2011 at 12:55 PM
mommakiddies - I guess I am still holding out hope that this doesnt happen.
MK June 22, 2011 at 01:02 PM
Ah! Well---I have not been following this all that closely--my suggestion above was coffee fueled! If pressed, I'd agree this seems excessive and not sure of the purpose.... though on the other hand, I worry the downtown is in decline. Still--always best to put the horse before the cart and I have not heard anything that says they have considered the retail situation beyond what exists today.
Really People June 22, 2011 at 02:59 PM
The vote was to approve moving forward with phase 2 plans for approx $300k. Optimally, the residents (and businesses) can squash the actual construction of the proposed Tillotson & Suell Parking Deck by going to the polls in the November election. I've heard talks that to move forward with securing the $8MM bond, there would need to be a 4-1 vote by the committee. I'd love to get this confirmed by someone and we all know we won't hear it from the township committee who treats the people they're supposed to be representing as idiots. All they did last night was re-read the unfounded rhetoric of why the Tillotson & Suell Parking Deck is allegedly direly needed, take the vote, and then condescendingly tell the crowd that they probably have other places they want to be so they can leave. No, Mayor Haimoff, the residents & business owners wanted to be heard. This needs to be the year of the residents actively participating in voting for the two seats up for election. The town needs to work to together and this township committee has once again proven that they really don't want to do that. So, it's up to the residents to unseat Tillotson and vote for the appropriate candidate to replace Suell's spot.
MarkDS June 22, 2011 at 03:02 PM
Hint to the 4 candidates running - First 2 to come out against the deck almost certainly get my vote.
Really People June 22, 2011 at 03:07 PM
The township committee for years was making the parking "situation" a Millburn vs Short Hills battle which they failed to accomplish as the residents continued to band together. Then, the committee attempted to pit business owners vs residents which was fundamentally flawed as the even outside contractor hired for Phase 1 plans made it like Lot 7 should have never been considered in the first place -- would've loved to hear the contractor's opinion if the committee was still pursuing the library parking lot. But now we really see that the battle is the Township Committee vs. the residents & the businesses -- doesn't seem like a democratic government to me.
Really People June 22, 2011 at 03:16 PM
mommakiddies: We can bucket your idea in the abandoned Downtown Redevelopment plan that went off-course from the very beginning. So many residents and business owners have attempted to bring possible solutions for the parking "situation" to the table that could couple with a real commercial downtown redevelopment to be a win-win for everyone. However, when asked why the parking situation and downtown redevelopment couldn't be worked on in concert, the township committee responded that "it's not that easy." Brilliant answer -- right?!?! Just keep treating your constituents like they're idiots and that you're so much smarter than them and that'll really seal your re-election !!!
Damian June 22, 2011 at 07:27 PM
Does anyone know if the town asked about the empty lot next to the Post Office as a potential parking lot? Very close to the train station and putting a parking lot there would add dozens and dozens of spaces. I'm sure the acquisition and construction cost would be a fraction of a concrete box downtown.
Charles June 22, 2011 at 09:36 PM
@Damian -- Is the empty lot next to the P.O. owned by the town? Insofar as there may be a private owner and private use may be concerned, how could one offer parking which can compete with the cheap lots and business parking permits subsidized by the town? Any private owner would need a bunch of regular parkers to make the use worthwhile. The problem, again, is the nature of the subsidies for business parking permits, including transferable permits, and the easy access to them. If you are talking about purchase of the lot by the municipality, it is my understanding that the TC simply considers locations beyond lot 2 as too far for commuters.
Charles June 22, 2011 at 09:43 PM
@Mommakiddies, Westfield has been a model for some time. There have been rumors that indeed there is an agreement with the mall on some competitive issue. The flaw, perhaps, in your basic premise however is that we need to get more commuters into town to justify the deck. It is easy to get commuters to use the parking spots - just charge less for "business" permits which allow commuter parking and make them easy to obtain. That's exactly what the town has been doing. There's plenty of extra demand out there if we want to open up our spots. Sure that'll get more people into the downtown. But shouldn't the commuters paying a high price for parking complain?
MarkDS June 23, 2011 at 09:44 AM
Charles you keep making those claims about business permits but I have yet to see any evidence that they are in fact being purchased for commuter purposes in any kind of significant numbers.
Damian June 23, 2011 at 10:15 AM
The lot is privately owned; at one point very expensive condo's were planned. I assume the economy put that to bed for now. It's one block away and would be perfect for commuter parking. If the town hadn't looked into it, that tells me that all the due diligence about commuter parking was shoddy (which we know it is anyway!)
Charles June 23, 2011 at 12:32 PM
@Mark, what are significant numbers and what evidence have you seen? You need to walk through the lots and look at the permits on the cars, and that's what I have done. That's why I keep posting. I haven't seen any postings anywhere actually to the contrary. I repeat, at the Short Hills lot in the commuter area and the reserved commuter spots on the street, it was 10% business permits and 20% absent any permits (including a car where a policeman's cap was on the back ledge where the permit should be). That is a large number of cars and it is in addition to the reserved business spots in the commuter lot, which were also full. I didn't see any such permitted cars in Lot 7, but that makes sense because the business reserved spots are walkable. Are you in denial of my witnessing? Do you have personal observation to the contrary?
Charles June 23, 2011 at 12:36 PM
Even if those busines permitted cars are parked at the commuter lots and not being used for commuting, there are plenty of business permit spots, where commuters are excluded, which remain empty all day. This is the case both on Chatham and in the Millburn lots (as I am sure you are already aware). So the underlying cause of the business permit parking in the commuter lot should be eliminated anyway (the business permit rules should be restricted).
MarkDS June 23, 2011 at 12:37 PM
But nothing you observe shows or can show that the business permits are being acquired by commuters (in or out of town) for the purpose of commuting. I agree that there needs to be greater segregation of business permits and I think all business spots need to be removed from the Short Hills train station lot and lot 2.
Charles June 23, 2011 at 12:47 PM
Not true, because I have a copy of the business permit application. No where does it say that the permits cannot be used for commuting. The town does not elicit that information. Rather, it gives permits, including transferable permits, to business managers and their employees. The permits then are without any restriction at all. Since the town does not elicit information on the use of the permits, what you are asking me to prove cannot be proven. Oh, I suppose I can stand at the lot and follow people as they exit their cars. But really, all you need to do is count up the business-permitted cars in the commuter lots. In Short Hills, there are not that many businesses open at 9 a.m. and the closest "business," the post office, has its own lot.
MarkDS June 23, 2011 at 12:56 PM
But the application does have restrictions on the issuance of business permits. So yes, you can not make a valid claim as to the use without following the people. And post office employees do use the business parking spots in the Short Hills parking lot as I see uniformed people coming and going from cars. I would guess that is why the spots are there. The lot behind the post office is mostly for trucks.
Charles June 23, 2011 at 01:34 PM
Not true. The restrictions on issuance of business permits is only status based. They establish a privileged class of business owners and employees, not necessarily residents, who can obtain super-permits: substantially cheaper, more transferable (for a slight extra fee), and usable for any purpose. You can theoretically trace down usage by going through the people and their relationships, but the permits can be used by any family member or guest of the manager, owner, or employee without violating any restrictions and the application does not request such information. Also, there are no restrictions on type of business. Nannies and Ebay sellers, for example, can apply truthfully without violating any restrictions. As to the post office, your observation may explain some business permit usage but it does not explain why many business permitted cars are parked nearer to the station in prime spots and cars parked in spots not near the station. I would question why the town should be subsidizing the federal post office for the parking, especially when it has its own lot, but at least that usage would be consistent. None of this explains the many vehicles parked which do not display any permit at all.
mollyb June 23, 2011 at 06:50 PM
I totally agree. I have eyed that empty lot for years and wondered why the TC hadn't at least suggested purchasing it and paving it over. It could serve as a lot for commuters (a hop, skip and a jump to the station) or put many of the business permit holders that park in Lot 2 there, which would free more space in Lot 2 for shoppers or commuters. Either way, it should have been looked into before making this expensive and stupid decision. Why is it we bought Rimbach and various other buildings on Essex St at quite a cost before actually deciding what we'd do with them (and have so far done NOTHING), but didn't think to purchase this smaller lot? I'm so sick of this TC and think it's time for some new blood. Glad there's an election in November.
Pucci June 23, 2011 at 11:11 PM
@ Charles -- re: cars in lot with no permits. Our family has 2 cars -- and one permit. While I usually drive the car with the permit to the station, a few times a month I drive the other car. All it takes is a call to the police in the AM to temporarily "register" our other car. I am sure lots of other folks in town do the same. It is not an abuse of the system, simply a convenience.
Charles June 24, 2011 at 01:37 AM
@Pucci, absolutely, no problem, and I accounted for that. Seems very odd that 20% of cars are being called in however. It is a very large percentage.
Charles June 24, 2011 at 01:43 AM
@ Pucci, however, just thought of another way to game the system given what you say. If I want to call in a friend's car from time to time, and I then say I have the permit on the other car, is anyone checking to make sure I don't park the car with the permit as well? Although we are a one-permit family, we have never done what you say you have done and there also have been times when we wanted to have both cars at the lot. Theoretically the cars are only supposed to be called in when the permit car is unavailable - in the shop.
Charles June 24, 2011 at 05:22 PM
@Pucci, I re-read this -- Are you actually saying that the town allows people to drive two cars to the lot even though there is only one permit? That would be contrary to my 15-year understanding of what the parking permit allows. If so, seems like an incredible sanctioned abuse from my perspective. Surely you are not saying such a thing.
G. Anderson June 24, 2011 at 06:27 PM
Charles - I think Pucci was saying that he temporarily transfers the permit to the non-registered car when the registered car is unavailable which might answer your query about some cars not displaying a permit. Only one car utilizing the permit, not two. Regardless, this conversation is now an exercise in futility.
Pucci June 24, 2011 at 06:51 PM
@G.Anderson Correct! (But maybe I can just make multiple calls to the MPD and park a dozen cars on my permit.) Whew. This is getting tedious.
Charles June 24, 2011 at 07:29 PM
Clarified as to Pucci. However, 20% being temporarily transferred is a lot of cars if that is the source for all of the cars displaying no permits and I certainly can wonder aloud why Pucci and others need to do all that transferring, three times a month or whatever. In fifteen years of parking we have transferred a permit exactly zero times.


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