ATL. HIGHLANDS – “Get to a point,” said Parking Committee member Mark Fisher, as he led a 90 minute explanation, discussion and informational session on options the borough faces concerning a solution to parking problems in the business district.
Fisher and others on the committee headed by Councilman Jon Crowley pointed out parking issues and solutions have been suggested and studied three major times in the past 20 years, and still no solution has been implemented.
Nor was one implemented at last week’s council meeting as the governing body agreed to possibly look into the possibility of financing a feasibility study on the need for, esthetics, cost, and possibility of a three or four story parking garage on the borough owned parking lot adjacent to the post office at the rear of businesses on First Avenue.
Council also deferred action on its current parking ordinance revisions following the public hearing in which former Harbor Commissioner and former Councilwoman Jane Frotton questioned how the borough could impose fees for parking on land acquired through Green Acres funding. Frotton also asked if the Harbor Commission had been included in discussions of the parking fee possibility for the parking area and council agreed to delay final approval until after further consultation with the harbor commissioners. Action, if any, is expected to take place at the next council meeting.
At the invitation of Crowley and Fisher, Jim Zullo, a professional planner with THA Consulting, an engineering and planning firm, who has overseen construction of more than 1,000 parking projects in the past 28 years, presented a comprehensive exhibit of a variety of parking garages, showing how their design fit in with their surroundings, were constructed with a minimal waste space, and are a distant cry and major improvement over garages of the past because of increased and safe lighting, windows, and other amenities. Zullo cited a variety of different garages he has planned that meet the needs of major cities including Philadelphia and small towns including Millburn, Princeton,, and one currently looking for construction in Hudson, New York.
In response to numerous questions, Zullo said the life expectancy of a parking garage is 50 to 60 years with regular maintenance, the borough property is adequate and capable of a facility for 88 spaces per level, and a garage would support future development, encourage new retail businesses, and could include facilities for bikes, scooters, and shuttle busses as well as private vehicles.
Carolyn Northrup spoke on how both the interior and exterior of the building could be enhanced with art work, with many grants available for art projects that would offset borough costs for added beautification.
Paul Wright spoke on the environmental benefits of a parking garage, including the impact of clean energy increases.
Local business owner Bob Sherman spoke on a garage as aiding local businesses, citing a resident who opened his business in Red Bank rather than locally because of the parking situation.
Costs of a parking garage are high, and Zullo estimated the suggested feasibility study would take no more than five months and could be accomplished most likely for under $45,000.