By DON STINE
Approximately 200 showed up for the Neptune Township Committee meeting this week for a discussion of permit parking in densely populated Ocean Grove, where parking is at a premium.
“There are different points of views and concerns,” Mayor Michael Brantley said at the beginning of tje special meeting on creating paid permit parking in the historic district.
The committee is expected to give comments on the permit parking issue at its Dec. 21 meeting.
Brantley said during his 10 years on the governing body he has seen multiple reports and reviews on the Ocean Grove parking situation.
Township Committeewoman Carol Rizzo presented information about a special pilot program that to would allow residential permit parking in Ocean Grove.
Rizzo and other residents said that the Ocean Grove parking problem has only been made worse by people working or visiting Asbury Park or Bradley Beach and parking in Ocean Grove since Asbury Park has metered parking and Bradley Beach has some metered parking.
Rizzo agreed that many parking studies have been conducted, but she added that “the issue continues to persist and is getting worse” and, while some small measures have been taken, “they have had no significance to residents.” She called the situation “maddening to residents” and that the township “has to give (permit parking) a try.”
“You will not know until you try it out,” she said.
Out of the 3,569 parking spaces, the permit parking would use about 1,900 of them.
Those eligible for a parking permit includes homeowners, annual renters, people living in tents over the summer, and licensed bed and breakfasts, with one only permit per unit issued.
At the meeting, Rizzo presented various Ocean Grove statistics that effect parking, including the number of residents, number of cars and available parking spaces. Two proposals were presented to implement the permit parking, with Rizzo saying she would recommend it first be tried at the north end, near Asbury Park.
It is estimated that the initial permit would cost between $70 to $90 with the amount to be adjusted, if needed.
After Rizzo’s presentation and the governing body’s comments, more than two dozen residents, on each side of the issue, lined up at separate microphones to speak.
Some Ocean Grove residents said they “feel trapped” by not being able to take their car to the store or to run an errand without having a parking space when they return and that the problem has become exacerbated in recent years.
But legal action also looms if parking permits are approved.
“The Camp Meeting Association’s Board of Trustees will be reserving the option to pursue legal remedies, if necessary, to protect its property rights and those of its constituents,” said John DiGiamberardino at a previous Township Committee meeting.
The camp meeting owns the land in Ocean Grove.
Local attorney Monica Kowalski said that the parking is included in the township’s master plan and that the township “can’t permit it away.”
“It’s a bad idea and you will have to revise your ordinances,” she said.
Attorney James Hundley, who has his law office in Ocean Grove, said permit parking would be a “real kick in the pants” for him.
“My employees and clients will not be able to park and it discriminates against businesses and every resident outside Ocean Grove. This is a bad plan,” he said.
Hundley recommended the governing body go back to the drawing board and see where additional parking can be created in Ocean Grove.
Township officials asked who will handle the permits, records, signage and other costs. Rizzo said Chief Financial Officer Michael Bascom told her that no new personnel would be needed. Police would monitor the permit parking spaces using a license plate scanner.
Committeeman Kevin McMillan said he needs to see more defined revenue and cost figures, with Committeeman Robert Lane Jr. saying he believes the permits would affect tourism and hurt some businesses.
“There are a lot of unknown questions,” said Deputy Mayor Nick Williams.