ORANGE, NJ — Traffic violators, beware! Double-parkers and fire lane idlers in Orange may soon be subject to a new parking authority.
In an ordinance introduced on July 6, the Orange City Council outlined a potential plan to establish the new department. According to the ordinance, the parking authority is necessary to ease the growing congestion of city streets; unburdening the township’s roadways is expected to create a safer environment for motorists and pedestrians.
Unsafe parking is a problem that, according to the ordinance, “can no longer be remedied by regulatory processes and cannot be effectively dealt with by private enterprises.” If the streets are to be made safe, the new department must be created, according to the ordinance.
With safety as a top priority, the ordinance also stated that obstructive parking has been having an effect on emergency services, saying that “such parking … impedes the rapid and effective fighting of fires and the disposition of police forces, endangering the health, safety and welfare of the general public,” though no facts or figures accompanied the claim.
Another benefit to establishing the parking authority would be a new source of revenue, which, according to the ordinance, would “reduce the tax burden on property owners” through the issuing and collection of fines from tickets. Adding supplemental earnings into the township’s coffers would seem quite the incentive for Orange’s council to give the go-ahead, though it appears the city’s leadership is not fully behind the ordinance just yet.
Council President Kerry J. Coley was hesitant to support the creation of the parking authority without proper due diligence, wanting to ensure that Mayor Dwayne D. Warren’s administration had a more fully realized vision for the department.
“This is something that the administration has mentioned in the past,” Coley said. “However, the administration never gave a full presentation to the city council or had a special meeting for the public. Until the administration gives a full presentation, I will not be supporting this legislation.”
Despite some resistance, there is precedence in the area for the creation of a parking authority. South Orange has a parking authority that offers off-street commuter and residential paid lots in an attempt to cut down on congestion. On-street parking in certain areas, such as near the train station, is enforced by pay meters.
East Orange established its parking authority back in 1970. Its mission statement, found on the city’s website, is to “promote traffic improvements … and to improve conditions affecting public safety and welfare” — wording echoed in the proposed Orange ordinance.
The proposed ordinance, though somewhat bare-boned, does include a basic outline for how the parking authority would be run, what some of its functions might be and the power that it could potentially wield.
According to the ordinance, the department would be run by a team of seven commissioners, appointed jointly by the city council and the mayor’s office and serving five-year terms. The commissioners cannot be current government employees, with exceptions made for the chief of police and the city’s traffic engineer. These commissioners will not be compensated for their services.
For any action the parking authority wishes to take, such as the development of property to be used as a new lot, a simple majority vote would take place, just as is the case for the city council.
The parking authority, according to the ordinance, would have within its power the ability to undertake any project it deems would promote “the free movement of traffic and the relief of traffic congestion on city streets.” Such projects could include the construction of off-street parking lots, the policing of parking meters, and the enforcement of parking laws set by the state and city.
Such laws would be the focus of “parking enforcement officers,” individuals whose responsibilities, among other things, would include the issuing of tickets for parking violations. These officers would not be members of the township’s police department, according to the ordinance, and will not be armed.
Parking enforcement officers would also have the ability to tow away vehicles in violation of any laws and statutes, and to testify in court should their actions result in prosecution. The ordinance also states that a training course would be required for all enforcement officers.
The ordinance, if passed at an upcoming meeting, could take effect in as little as 20 days unless otherwise noted by the city council. So, in the near future, do remember to check the meter and always keep your vehicle between the lines.
Photos by Patrick Tagerty