By Jaimie Julia Winters and Kelly Nicholaides
Residents are not happy with a rise in parking fees at Montclair Parking facilities that hit in January. Rates went from 75 cents to $2 an hour at the Fullerton Deck, and YMCA members who park there are asking the the council for a break.
“When I walked into the YMCA [Park Street branch], everyone was complaining about the increase,” said Y member Jennifer Prost. “The cost to park at the deck near the YMCA used to be 50 cents an hour. It went up to 75 cents, then to $1 for an hour and 20 minutes, $1 for a half hour and now it’s at $2 an hour. That’s a big increase during a short period of time.”
Since Prost, her husband and their daughter go to the YMCA three to four times a week and at different times, the cost for the family will add up to more than $1,000 a year just to park in order to “use the services of a local business,” she estimates.
“I’ll try to park on the street, but it’s going to be hard just to find a spot, and then deal with trudging through the snow,” Prost said.
She sent an email to Parking Enforcement Supervisor Emanuel Germano, noting that the higher fees will be a hardship on moderate-income families, but has not heard back. Germano did not return a phone call or email to Montclair Local requesting information on the increase.
On Jan. 1, the town raised parking fees due to “operational increases and the need for ongoing capital improvements in the township’s existing structures.” Rate increases went from $1 to $2 hourly at the Crescent and Fullerton decks. The meters were removed from the Fullerton deck. Parkers now have the options to pay by phone using Parkmobile or paying at PayStations. Bay Street deck daily ticket holders pay $2 an hour for parking weekdays from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m.; $2 an hour on weekends; and $7 if they enter from 3:45 a.m. – 6 p.m. and exit by 12:15 a.m. on weekdays.
Membership Director Lisa Kievit at the YMCA Park Street branch did not return a phone call to shed light on how parking costs may impact memberships. But Councilwoman Robin Schlager.
said YMCA officials approached her over complaints from members on the parking increase.
“I think we should do something, maybe waive the first hour,” she told council members at the Jan. 8 council meeting.
But council members agreed that special concessions should not be given to one group or even one parking facility.
“What about other groups, the church or school groups, who use the parking facilities? It would be difficult for me to single out the Y users,” said Councilwoman Renee Baskerville.
But Mayor Robert Jackson said he didn’t have a problem with waiving the first hour fee for all users at the Fullerton Deck because it is underutilized.
Township administrator Tim Stafford was charged with asking the parking authority to conduct an analysis on the utilization of the Fullerton deck.
Parking issues have been an ongoing challenge in Montclair. Permit holders have complained to the town in the past that non-permit holders were taking their parking spots at the Fullerton lot. To mitigate the parking issue in the downtown due to construction of several redevelopment projects and street closings creating parking shortages, the mayor and council created a Special Parking Zone where violations result in fines doubling, from $30 to $60. Additionally, it raised permit fees from $50 to $70 a month. The town also altered overnight off-street parking permits to allow permit holders to park in metered areas from 5 p.m. until 8 a.m. daily specifically when time charges do not apply.