On Tuesday, the Maplewood Township Committee (TC) voted to introduce an ordinance to change some of the parking rules in Maplewood Village.
In short, the ordinance would change all of Maplewood Avenue from 1-hour to 2-hour parking, and would also increase parking times in some lots. The full list of suggested changes can be read here.
If the TC approves the resolution at its Dec. 18 meeting after a public hearing, it will take effect sometime in January of 2013.
The proposal has attracted controversy, with some commenters asking whether the changes will in fact address the town's parking issues and will have a positive or a negative effect on business traffic for merchants in the Village.
John Harvey, former owner of Freeman's Fish Market, is conducting his own survey to gauge parking needs. In a comment he posted on Patch Thursday, he said nearly 64% of the roughly 60 people who completed the survey said they spend less than an hour in the Village per visit.
"This should be a good case for making sure the availability of spaces on an hourly basis, rather than two-hour basis is maintained," said Harvey.
Patch reached out to the Maplewood Village Alliance (MVA) to get clarity on its role in the changes. MVA president John James responded via email. (The Alliance is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation governed by a board of directors composed of business and property owners, Maplewood residents and municipal officials).
First, a bit of background. Changes to Village parking were originally proposed based on suggestions that came out of a 2011 township-commissioned parking study conducted by Maser Consulting, PA, an engineering firm. (The full study is on the township website).
A public meeting held in Sept., 2011 was attended by residents, business owners, members of the Chamber of Commerce, the Transportation Committee and the MVA.
The MVA suggested that since the first parking counts were taken in August, when many people are on vacation, they did not accurately represent the parking situation in town. The firm took additional parking counts in the winter and spring of 2012, and used that data for the study.
The township presented the MVA with the final draft of the study and its recommendations in the fall of 2012, and asked for feedback.
James said the MVA shared the study with all the Village's merchants and with the Transportation Committee, and asked for input. In October, the MVA provided the township with responses to the individual study recommendations, including time limit changes.
"All of the Maplewood Avenue businesses who responded to our request for feedback favored two hour limits," said James. "In fact, many of them have long been requesting this. Baker Street and Highland Place were kept to one hour in order to keep shorter-term spaces in the mix. The Baker Street lot will remain two hours and the on-street parking will remain one hour."
(While the study recommended designating some of the spaces in the Baker Street lot as merchant parking, the MVA did not support that, James said.)
James said that although he hasn't seen the specifics of the ordinance, he believes that the MVA will be in support of all of the proposed changes.
Meanwhile, a merchant parking plan launched in 2011 has been a success, said James.
"Merchant feedback has been extremely positive and we believe the number of permits issued in 2012 is well over 100," he said.
"We understand that the merchant parking plan along with these proposed time-limit changes, and short-term plans to re-stripe spaces and improve and simplify signage, won't completely solve the parking issues Maplewood Village faces, but they are measures that should improve the overall situation," said James. "The goal is to make the Village as visitor friendly as possible."