Freehold Borough officials table action on parking meter pay stations

FREEHOLD – A plan to institute paid parking in Freehold Borough has been placed on hold.

A $150,000 bond ordinance that was introduced on Feb. 4 to fund the purchase and installation of parking meter pay stations has been tabled by the Borough Council amid debate over the potential introduction of metered parking.

Council members tabled the bond ordinance on Feb. 19.

Mayor Nolan Higgins said the ordinance was being tabled so officials could continue discussions with Downtown Freehold, which manages the downtown district, and other stakeholders regarding metered parking.

The introduction of the bond ordinance followed the council’s recent establishment of a parking utility which will manage parking operations. Revenue raised from parking will be kept in a separate fund for accounting and budgetary purposes, according to municipal officials.

During the Feb. 19 council meeting, several members of the public spoke in opposition to the plan to institute paid parking in lots that are owned by Freehold Borough.

Resident Joseph Boguslawski called paid parking a great inconvenience and said, “I avoid towns with paid parking. It’s not worth the aggravation. As residents, we should be allowed to park without facing the additional cost of paid parking.”

Resident Colton Braun said he lives in an apartment complex that has a private parking lot. Braun said because people who do not live in the complex park there, he has had to park in the borough-owned Market Yard, which could become a paid parking lot.

“This (plan for paid parking) is going to affect residents,” Braun said. “How do you separate the residents who need to be there from the people visiting. Would we have to pay for parking passes?”

Braun said his band would not perform in town if its members had to pay for parking spaces.

Resident Marvin Harris told council members not to compare Freehold Borough to Red Bank, which has metered parking. Harris described the parking situation in Red Bank as chaotic and said there are vacancies in that town’s business district because of parking issues.

Resident Anthony Braica, who owns La Cipollina restaurant, said he is not opposed to paid parking, but is opposed to metered parking. He shared the sentiment expressed by some people that residents should not have to pay for parking and said he believes the borough needs additional parking spots.

“We don’t have enough spots,” Braica said. “We anger the people who can’t find spots and we’ll anger the people who do get spots. People are going to pay for an inadequate amount of spots.”

Braica said his restaurant has lost business because people were unable to find parking. He said if the problems persist, he will have to move. He recommended constructing a parking garage.

Resident Jean Holtz said misinformation was being spread about the new parking utility and added, “It was never the intent of the parking utility to charge residents to park.”

Following comments from the public, Council President Kevin Kane, Councilwoman Annette Jordan and Councilman George Schnurr said metered parking could benefit residents by using parking revenue, and not municipal taxes, to pay for parking improvements.

“The parking utility is going to reduce the burden on taxpayers and put the burden on people using the parking,” Kane said.

Schnurr said paving improvements that were completed in a parking lot that is used by a pharmacy were paid for by borough taxpayers.

Without metered parking, Schnurr reasoned that borough taxpayers would have to pay for improvements to the McGackin parking lot, estimated at $400,000, and the Market Yard, estimated at $2 million.

“It is going to cost $2.4 million to work on these lots and our (municipal) budget is $16 million,” he said. “With no paid parking, borough taxpayers with have to subsidize the costs. Somebody has to pay for it.”

Regarding the number of parking spaces in town, Councilwoman Sharon Shutzer said studies have determined there are enough spaces; the problem is that individuals overlook available parking spaces that are farther away from popular locations than other parking lots.

“Every study we have done has said we are not lacking in parking spaces,” Shutzer said. “The management of the spaces is wrong.”

Shutzer made note of a parking lot at Sheriff and Lafayette streets which has been determined to be underused.

Councilman Michael DiBenedetto reasoned that the parking issue is not inherently negative because the demand for parking demonstrates interest in the borough. He said officials are looking for the best possible solution to manage the situation.

Regarding the suggestion to construct a parking garage, he questioned how a parking garage would be funded and where it would be built.

“We tabled this ordinance because of you,” DiBenedetto told members of the public on Feb. 19. “We want to be together on this, not divided.”