Walk-ability often is touted as a selling point for Morristown. But like anything else, it has pros and cons, as the town council heard on Tuesday night.
A petition from 40 residents of the town’s Historic District urged officials not to water down new parking regulations for their neighborhood.
These residents of Wetmore Avenue and DeHart Street warned that their sidewalks and streets once more will become a thoroughfare for rowdy drunks if the new rules are amended.
Two residents from Morris Township, meanwhile, asked the council to support extending a James Street sidewalk from Foote’s Pond in Morristown to Spring Street in the Township.
More Township residents would walk, bike and jog into Morristown if they could do so safely, they contended.
‘DUMBFOUNDED, BLIND-SIDED AND CONFUSED’
The new regulations for the Historic District imposed two-hour street parking limits during the daytime for nonresidents, and made overnight street parking for residents only.
Steve Tarsitano, who lives on a quiet dead-end on Wetmore, argued last month that the ordinance is overkill–most bar patrons won’t park that far from downtown nightclubs, he said.
Instead, he told the council, the restrictions only make it harder for him to entertain guests. Councilwoman Alison Deeb, whose Fourth Ward includes this neighborhood, responded by asking the council to consider easing the restrictions there and elsewhere.
But Tuesday’s petition credited the new rules with restoring “a peaceful, clean and safe quality of life” by cutting down the “constant noise, litter of all types but mainly alcohol bottles, urinating on lawns, vomiting, smashed windows in our cars, fights, people dressing in cars, our plants being broken and stolen, etc.”
Relaxing rules for lower Wetmore, the petition said, would cause residents to “relive these issues with all the people walking up and down our streets late at night and in the very early mornings.”
There is abundant municipal garage parking for bar patrons, and residents’ needs are adequately served by four guest parking passes issued to each resident on affected streets, according to the document.
It was presented by Mary Dougherty, the wife of Mayor Tim Dougherty and head of the local Democratic party. She later explained that she was acting only as a resident of Wetmore Avenue. Four residents spoke in favor of the petition, and defended the ordinance.
“If it’s not [applied to] the whole block, it doesn’t work,” said Bob Morris. Ravitte Ginsberg said a bad situation is getting better, and she related a recent incident to underscore why it’s important not to backslide.
Ravitte found a cell phone in her secluded driveway.The young man who retrieved the phone told her, “I didn’t even know I was here, I was so drunk,” she recounted.
Alison Deeb said parking complaints–from both sides of the issue–have dominated her six years in office.
“I’m completely dumbfounded, blind-sided and confused as to what the proper procedure and the protocol and the proper way to address the situation is… I don’t know what the answer is,” the Councilwoman said.
Watch the meeting:
21:24: Dan Brownstein and other Township residents, re: James Street sidewalk
31:38: Mary Dougherty, re: Parking petition
36:45: Residents support parking petition
41:00: Councilwoman Alison Deeb, re: Parking petition
58:56: Mayor Tim Dougherty, re: Parking petition
Some residents have complained that the restrictions hinder their dinner parties. People attending board meetings at Macculloch Hall also have been ticketed, said the Councilwoman, the lone Republican on the governing body.
Alison asked the Administration to update a parking study of the neighborhood. She also expressed interest in consulting with Councilwoman Rebecca Feldman, the council’s lone Independent, about residential parking issues she encountered in her First Ward.
A meeting with affected constituents might be helpful to clarify matters, Council President Michelle Dupree Harris suggested to Alison.
As for dinner parties and board meetings, town Administrator Michael Rogers said residents and officials of Macculloch Hall, the Kellogg Club and Assumption Church have been advised to alert the Morristown Parking Authority and police so guests won’t be ticketed.
Other exceptions have been granted occasionally. Over the summer, the council approved month-long street parking permits for residents of a Mount Kemble Avenue apartment complex while their parking lot was expanded.
Enforcement of the new ordinance has improved late-night parking for residents, according to Mayor Dougherty. “It’s working,” he said, noting that his own son and nephew have been ticketed for not displaying permits or guest passes in their cars.
A TALE OF TWO SIDEWALKS
Dan Brownstein of Morris Township told the council he has spent a dozen years lobbying for a James Street sidewalk connecting his neighborhood to the Thomas Jefferson School in Morristown, and to Morristown’s downtown.
Dan cited health, economic and environmental benefits from extending the sidewalk from Morristown into the Township. Marcy Needle of Bike and Walk Morristown also spoke in favor of the extension.
For the first time, Dan said, Township officials appear interested and they may have found some escrow funds for an engineering study. Morristown Councilman Stefan Armington said he and Alison Deeb intended to speak with Township Committeeman Jeff Grayzel on Wednesday.
Together, the two municipalities could seek a grant under the state’s Safe Routes to School program,
Stefan said. Earlier this year, Morristown secured $120,000 from that program to reconfigure a Sussex Avenue intersection.
But the Township should take the lead role, the Councilman said, because that’s where most of the new sidewalk would go. Another wrinkle, noted Township resident Adam Smith, is jurisdiction for James Street. It is a Morris County roadway.