Police Lose Out in Ship Bottom Borough Parking Wars

Jul 05, 2017

Summer parking challenges continue to plague Ship Bottom as the free municipal parking lot behind borough hall fills up with the vehicles of beachgoers and other visitors on the weekends, leaving no room for police cars.

Councilman Joe Valyo brought the issue to the table at the borough council’s June 27 caucus meeting, saying there was a problem over the June 24-25 weekend for cops returning to the police department. They were unable to find a parking spot in the municipal lot, he said.

“When police leave, their spot is taken,” he said, adding designating and marking off a set number of spots for the police department would resolve the issue.

However, the municipal lot has historically been used by the general public for free parking. Its continued use as such is something the council wants to keep in play because it alleviates the limited number of parking spots in the borough, which sees a large number of day trippers to the Island during the busy summer season.

“I talked with the chief,” Councilman Tom Tallon, chairman of public safety, said of Police Chief Paul Sharkey, “and he doesn’t see a problem with people parking (in the lot) for the beach.”

Still, a parking problem does exist, Valyo said. There have been instances when there are no parking spots in the front of the building for individuals doing business at town hall, so they’re parking in the back lot, he said. That’s what is creating a parking backlog, he said. Toss in a limited number of handicapped parking spots and it’s no wonder the cops have nowhere to park when they come back to police headquarters.

”We have to give cops spots; mark them out and then go from there,” he said, ending a prolonged discussion about what to do to solve the issue.

While there was some discussion about whether the parking issue existed during the week, Mayor William Huelsenbeck noted there is a problem with parking on court days. Until the issue is fully resolved, he insisted that people parking in the municipal lot not be issued a ticket.

“It’s not fair if we say people can park there and then issue tickets,” the mayor said.

Also June 27, the council introduced an ordinance that would open a limited number of parking spots on Central Avenue. Under the proposed measure, parking would be permitted on the east and west side of Central Avenue – a county road – on Fifth and Sixth streets. Parking would be prohibited from the south curb on Third Street to the north curb on Fourth Street, according to the proposed ordinance.

“So there’s no parking by the library,” Tallon said, adding any future review of parking concerns on the roadway would be conducted by the county engineering department, which also evaluated the roadway this time around.

A second reading and a public hearing on the ordinance will be held during the council’s July 25 meeting. The area in question is zoned residential and business.

When the discussion first arose in May, the mayor noted parking is at a premium in the borough and there is no ground within the town to convert to a parking lot that wouldn’t cost a great deal of money. A few years ago, the council agreed to change the stop sign ordinance, and now permits cars to be parked within 15 feet of a stop sign instead of the state-regulated 25 feet, according to Huelsenbeck. A law on the books allows the council to take that step if necessary, he explained.

— Gina G. Scala


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