By DON STINE
A proposal to create a special pilot program that would allow residential permit parking in densely populated Ocean Grove brought so many people to the Nov. 27 Township Committee meeting that the hearing was postponed and has been moved to a larger facility.
The public meeting room has a capacity of 125 people with 90 chairs provided. Approximately 175 people showed up for the special meeting, prompting township officials to cancel it. The audience consisted of residents and business owners on both sides of the permit parking issue.
“We are postponing the meeting because we are already in violation of the (township’s) fire code. I would like to get this done. It is not fair for everyone not to have an opportunity to speak and have an opportunity to be heard,” Mayor Michael Brantley said.
The rescheduled meeting will be held Monday, Dec. 18 at 6 p.m. at Michael T. Lake Performing Arts Center at Neptune High School, 55 Neptune Blvd.
Committeewoman Carol Rizzo said that the overcrowding on Monday night “is not a good thing” and that she supports postponing the meeting.
“No one is more disappointed than I. But you will all have a chance to speak,” she said.
“It is really important to remember that we are all neighbors and residents. It is important that everyone get a chance, whether for or against, and everyone will get a chance at the mic,” she said.
Some Ocean Grove residents have been pushing the governing body to either place a nonbinding referendum on a ballot that would allow permit parking for the first time in the historic district or just officially approve it. Residents cite that many parking spaces are being taken up by people working in or visiting Asbury Park and Bradley Beach, especially on weekends and during the summer.
The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association said previously it is willing to go to court to stop the township from issuing residential parking permits in the historic district, saying such permits will create problems that have far-reaching implications.
OGCMA President Michael Badger said that the association is eager to continue the dialogue with the Township Committee, community and residents but that it remains opposed to parking restrictions as currently proposed under the pilot program.
“We request that Neptune, Asbury Park and other groups work to discuss alternative mitigations to the parking crisis. The OGCMA remains committed to working with our neighbors to make Ocean Grove the seaside community where all generations can know and grow in Jesus,” he said.
In a recent statement, the OGCMA said it is against permit parking because it discourages visitors, costs residents money, creates inefficiencies, hurts business and burdens law enforcement.
A special ad hoc committee previously looked into improving parking in Ocean Grove but did not support permit parking as a viable alternative.