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South Orange: Parking Restrictions on Western Drive a Safety Measure

Amy Kiste Nyberg

Thursday, December 26, 2013 • 8:00am

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – Although about a third of the homeowners on Western Drive petitioned the Board of Trustees not to impose parking restrictions on their street, the trustees explained that the new limits are necessary to ensure residents’ safety.

At its meeting Monday night, the board heard from several residents who objected to the proposal to limit on-street parking to one side of the street. Residents said they only learned of the plan last Friday when notices were hand-delivered to them. Village Administrator Barry Lewis Jr. said that the notification delay was the result of a miscommunication with staff.

“I’ve lived on Western Drive South for 28 years,” Aaron Nierenberg told trustees. “I never noticed any problems with garbage trucks or any large vehicles … even when cars are parked on both sides of the street.”

Jeremy Garber said he was unhappy with the timing of the notification and with the information included. “I don’t understand why all of a sudden we have this problem,” he said. “I find this thing quite difficult to sort out.”

Trustee Sheena Collum said about a year ago a Western Drive resident had brought up concerns about the ability of emergency vehicles to navigate on the horseshoe-shaped road. Transportation Safety Committee members visited the site and also consulted with the police and fire chiefs and the rescue squad.

“The fire trucks could make it up the street but they need clearance on both sides of the truck” to deploy firefighters and equipment, Trustee Mark Rosner explained. “We have a responsibility to make sure that public safety comes first.”

Trustee Walter Clarke suggested that “more comprehensive outreach would be beneficial” and that notification could include a diagram explaining the no-parking zones. “I do think the visual would certainly help,” he said.

The board agreed to delay action on the ordinance and give residents more information about the plan.

In other action, the board:

  • Introduced an amendment to the Central Business District Redevelopment Plan that would allow professional offices on the first floor of businesses that do not front on South Orange Avenue. Originally the plan restricted first-floor occupancy to retail businesses. “We are having trouble attracting retail on those streets,” Rosner said. “This could help bring more people downtown.” The vote was 4-1, with Collum voting no. “You plan for the future,” she said. “It doesn’t seem like we gave this enough time.”
     
  • Reminded residents that commercial property owners must clear snow no later than four hours after snowfall ends, and residential property owners must clear snow no later than 12 hours after snowfall ends.
     
  • Voted 5-0 to ask Essex County to lower the speed limit on Valley Street from 35 mph to 25 mph. Trustees noted that Maplewood has already made the same request for its portion of Valley Street.
     
  • Heard a report that plans for a rescue squad building on Sloan Street should be ready for discussion sometime in January. The proposals will likely include buildings with either three bays or four bays, and will include buildings with and without a second-story space that could be used as an emergency shelter.
     
  • Learned that the village had saved $25,775.87 in the repaving of Turrell Avenue and approved a change order to the contract with Stanzaile Construction to reflect that savings.
     
  • Approved the following appointments: David Kraiker as an alternate member to the Environmental Commission and William Angellino, Thurman McKoy and Milton Westrichas commissioners to the South Orange Parking Authority. In addition, Village President Alex Torpey appointed Richard Bell and Robert Orgera to the South Orange Environmental Commission.
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