Overnight parking sparks intense public discussion in Haddonfield

Is the tide turning in favor of keeping a longtime overnight parking ordinance on the books as is in the borough? At a lengthy discussion of overnight parking after the conclusion of last week’s council meeting, residents came and spoke out in favor of keeping cars off of the streets of Haddonfield overnight.

This was the second public discussion the commissioners hosted on the topic. At the first meeting, several residents seemed to support the idea of repealing the ordinance, but last week not a single resident spoke out in favor of allowing cars to park on the streets overnight.

The ordinance, which has been on the books since Jack Tarditi was mayor, prohibits Haddonfield residents from leaving their car on the street from 2 to 5 a.m. If a resident doesn’t have a driveway or they have more cars than their driveway can accommodate, they can apply for an overnight parking permit with the borough.

There are currently 144 permits for overnight parking issued for 2012. If the ordinance is repealed, the borough would be losing around $15,000 to $16,000 in revenue from overnight parking tickets and fees for the overnight parking permits.

A ticket for an overnight parking offense costs $18, of which the borough receives $6.50. The rest of the ticket cost goes to state mandated charities and other various funds.

Commissioner Ed Borden said it’s a matter of how the Haddonfield public wants the police department to use its resources. Having the ordinance on the books typically takes a police officer off of the street for 40 to 45 minutes a night to write down the residents who call their cars in for overnight parking, as well as time for officers to write tickets for offending vehicles parked on the street between 2 and 5 a.m.

Borden also said that the police department is perfectly fine with keeping the ordinance the way it is if that’s what the public wants.

“There no source of conflict between our citizens and the police department than this issue. I kid you not,” Borden said. “It comes up time and time again.”

John Plodyzyn of Woodland Avenue said it’s a matter of safety for the neighborhoods. You don’t want a lot of strange cars parked out on your street late at night, he said. With the ordinance as it is, it has to be easier for police officers to spot suspicious cars or cars that are out of place on a street, he said.

Borden said it’s been over five years since a Haddonfield police officer has made an arrest due to noticing a suspicious car on the street, which he confirmed with Police Chief John Banning.

Data also shows that the time for burglaries in the borough is not between 2 and 5 a.m., Borden said, but during the day while people are at work.

Bill Tourtellotte spoke out fervently against changing the ordinance. If the ordinance is repealed, Haddonfield would see a boom in cars being parked on the street 24-hours a day, not just at night, he said.

Changing the way that permits are given out would be a mistake as well, Tourtellotte said, referencing a change in the ordinance that had been floated at a previous meeting.

“It would be a mistake to be able to get an overnight parking permit with no questions asked. I’m all for something with a hardship getting a permit, but if it’s just for convenience I don’t agree with it at all,” he said.

It’s a safety issue as well, he said. With so many cars on the streets during all hours of the day, it’s quite easy for a child to run out from between them into a street and not be seen by a motorist, Tourtellotte said.

One suggestion that seemed to stoke the interest of the commissioners and those in the audience was a policy brought forth during the meeting that Montclair Township has employed since 2009.

Like Haddonfield, Montclair has a “no parking between the hours of 2 and 5 a.m.” ordinance on the books, but does not offer full-time parking permits. Instead, the township offers special “one night” permits for the cost of $5.

According to Montclair Township’s website, “the new overnight permit is a hangtag type, printed with ‘scratch-off’ boxes that reveal the date for which parking is desired. The properly dated tag must then be displayed on the vehicle mirror while it is parked on the street overnight. Permits are valid for no more than one day. If longer-term parking is needed (including days), the vehicle must be parked off street.”

The audience members greeted the suggestion with enthusiasm and the commissioners seemed to be intrigued as well.

The discussion will continue at the commissioners next work session and the next borough meeting.