Spotswood council adopts ordinance requiring car removal during snowstorms

PHOTO COURTESY OF OLD BRIDGE TOWNSHIP

SPOTSWOOD–The Borough Council adopted an ordinance requiring that all residents must remove their vehicles off roads during snowstorm emergencies.

Before adopting the ordinance, Chief of Police Michael Zarro said this year brought some extraordinary circumstances, and extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary measures.

“It’s not our goal of the police department to ticket the residents, we try to go above and beyond all the time for our residents, but we were at a really critical point. The mayor and I were in constant communication and we were monitoring the weather,” Zarro said. “We had some changes in the weather where it became sleet, and some ice and some rain and a combination, which limited some of the snow that we were anticipating in the snow, we were at a critical point.”

During the last major snowstorm, Zarro said there were lanes compromised or squeezed due to the snow and cars on the roads.

“We were at a point where we had discussed the declaration of emergency to remove cars from the road and we were hoping not to do that,” Zarro said. “We may or may not have another year like this, but we wanted that language in there because our response time in the pandemic, in an emergency is what we pride ourselves on here, [meaning] EMS, fire and police. We were compromised, getting up and down the roadways … to get us to houses.”

While the borough’s emergency services were receiving calls, Zarro said the need to climb over piles of snow, unplowed driveways and compromised roadways takes out critical and sensitive response time.

“That’s not because of us, but unfortunately, we’re going to have a liability on that and that’s something that I cannot accept,” Zarro said.

The police department, Zarro said, prides itself on using its Nixle service in order to inform residents about emergencies early.

“Although we have about 3,400 subscribers, I would implore people to get on Nixle. We send out early mornings, I’m religious about that … and I spearhead that as the chief,” Zarro said. “Before any storms, I speak with Office of Emergency Management (OEM), we send out the warnings to move cars off the road due to the cumulating snow.”

After speaking with OEM, the fire chief and Zarro, Mayor Jackie Palmer said they have all agreed that it is best that no cars be on the roads during a snowstorm. Having residents park their cars on one side of the road would not work.

“From a planning perspective, on one side of the road would be just atrocious for them, and … when people clear their cars off, we would have to replow again. So the main problem it would cause is that we would have to do it twice or more,” Palmer said.

Councilman Larry Kraemer said that one of his neighbors doesn’t have a driveway and that he has no choice but to park his car on the street. So, he does not want to get a fine for parking on the street during a future snowstorm.

Council President Ted Ricci also voiced the same concerns about where residents should park their cars if they don’t have a driveway.

Borough Attorney Victoria Flynn said based on how the language is drafted in this ordinance it would not affect residents who live on non-busy streets and that this ordinance will mostly apply to residents who live on busy roadways.

Councilman Charlie Spicuzzo said he agreed with Zarro; however, he asked that for residents who live on busy streets that don’t have a driveway, if the borough could provide alternative parking for them.

“In terms of having additional places to park within the borough. I suggested to Board of Education Member Daniel Lennan that the board could take a look at allowing people to park in the parking lot of the high school,” Palmer said. “Typically when there’s snow, there’s no school or it’s virtual. If there’s an overflow parking we talked about that a little bit last time we don’t have the space in the borough municipal lot here.”

Palmer said that’s not something the governing body can determine at this time. The main purpose of this ordinance is about making sure the roads are clear.

“The second piece of that is that why are we special when every town around us is doing this, has done this, or it has this in place,” Palmer said. “East Brunswick has it – East Brunswick is massive. If they could figure out how to get everybody’s cars off the road. Why can’t little tiny Spotswood figure it out?”

After a lengthy discussion, the council approved and adopted the ordinance requiring vehicles to be removed off the streets during snowstorms on March 1 during the council meeting via video conference.

Upon the declaration of an emergency, there will be no parking on streets or sections of streets where temporary emergency no-parking signs are displayed, according to the council agenda.

The chief of police or, in his/her absence, the ranking police officer is authorized to declare an emergency and to direct the posting of the emergency no-parking signs when weather conditions, accidents, fires or public celebrations dictate or require the avoidance of hazards or other conditions which interfere with the free flow of traffic, according to the council.

An unoccupied vehicle parked or standing in violation of this section will be deemed a nuisance and a menace to the safety and proper regulation of traffic, and any police officer may provide for its removal. The owner will pay the reasonable costs of the removal and storage which may result before regaining possession of the vehicle, according to the council.

Unless another penalty is expressly provided by New Jersey statute, every person convicted of a violation of a provision of this chapter, or any supplement, will be liable to a penalty of not more than $150 or imprisonment for a term not exceed 15 days, or both, according to the council.

For more information, visit www.spotswoodboro.com/borough-council or call 732-251-2121.

Contact Vashti Harris at vharris@newspapermediagroup.com.