ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS - The Mayor and council took no action, nor did it set another date for future action, after a two hour long public hearing last week in which the Chief of Police strongly urged parking from First to Fifth avenues on Ocean Blvd. Numerous residents voiced their opinions, the majority opposing the proposal.
Police Chief Dave Rossbach traced the history of the recommendations to permit additional parking along Ocean Boulevarde back to now retired Chief Jerry Vasto in 2019. He asked the governing body to consider parallel parking on the county road in response to requests from residents and an increased need for more parking availability. No action was taken at that time, he said. A parking committee was appointed at the reorganization meeting in January 2020. Chief Rossbach initiated a request in September of 2019 for the County Traffic Engineers to look into parallel parking on Ocean Boulevard. The Parking Committee learned of the chief’s recommendations in February, with Rossbach asking for Parking Committee involvement on the recommendation in May 2020.
In August of last year, the Monmouth County Board of Commissioners approved a program of milling and paving 1500 feet of Ocean Boulevard from First to Seventh Avenue, which would include striping spaced adequately for parallel parking in the finished project, and gave their approval for parking on the southern side of the road between First and Fifth avenues.
Rossbach cited numerous reasons for permitting parking and explained the safety aspects noting that even on dangerous curves further east on Ocean Boulevard, there is parking on the side of the road. The chief said the road width where parking is being recommended is one of the widest in the entire borough, and there have been numerous complaints over the years from residents on the side streets wanting more parking capability.
Studies have shown that parallel parking reduces traffic speed, always a concern on Ocean Boulevard. He said there would be no parking within 25 feet of any intersection and added, “there’s no reason not to approve parking here.” Signs that now ban parking would be removed, adding to the general esthetics. He noted the Parking Committee studied his recommendations as did the Environmental Commission, and also pointed out Grand and First avenues, both already have roadside parking. Rossbach added that the proposal with Monmouth County now would include painted crosswalks at Fourth and Grand avenues.
Parking Committee Chairman Mark Fisher, a resident of the borough for 37 years and a frequent attendee at all municipal meetings, noted the Committee only has the power to study, learn, and advise the governing body, and make its recommendations based on its studies of any situation. Councilman Jon Crowley, the borough’s liaison to the committee, who had previously served on the former Mayor LeGrice’s parking committee as well, is a member of the current committee. All six members of the committee were in agreement with the chief’s recommendations to allow parking between First and Fifth Avenues on Ocean Boulevard. They noted with the construction of over 70 new apartments, and 20,000 feet of retail space in the Business District, with limited parking on First Avenue, additional parking is needed due to a volume problem. “The Chief’s idea is long overdue,” Fisher told the governing body.
But local residents, most of whom live on Ocean Boulevard or nearby streets, opposed the parking proposal for reasons ranging from the street is not wide enough to lack of safety of bicyclists, pedestrians and for children darting behind cars, and parking would take away from the scenic beauty of the road also known as Scenic Drive.
Zack Brown of Victorian Woods Drive suggested not permitting the parking, but that a parking fee be considered when there are major events at the Municipal Yacht Harbor. Allan Dean questioned what were plans for snow removal with the additional parking, a question Borough Administrator Adam Hubeny said had not yet been considered. Brent Sonnek-Schmetz cited an ordinance currently on the books which calls for no parking and asked that consideration of parking be delayed until that ordinance is addressed.
Council took no action during the hearing. The next meeting of the governing body is Thursday, April 22.
Contacted after the meeting, the Parking Committee Chairman said he was aware of Borough Code Chapter 139 – PARKING which cites more than 50 streets and locations where parking is prohibited, including portions of Ocean Blvd. under discussion in the proposed recommendations. He added “a Borough Code can be changed or updated via an Ordinance amendment passed by the Council. An ordinance amendment proposal to address this and correct other parking issues in the Borough is needed soon”.