The extension of metered parking hours that went into effect on Sept. 1 has quickly sparked protest from Haddonfield residents, though the change was meant to generate revenue for the borough.
Where parking was previously Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., the updated ordinance extends the hours from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, when weekend parking was free.
“Our trash collection, our waste collection costs have skyrocketed,” said Mayor Colleen Bianco Bezich. ” … There’s a lot of things we’d like to do in response to the business owners and to the residents that we can’t do if things stay stagnant, so there’s other ways we could raise revenues, of course. But … there’s actually studies that show that paid parking shows value for businesses economically.”
Other options previously discussed included raising some taxes or fees. The mayor noted that many businesses actually close at 6 p.m., and that the extended hours would really only impact restaurants. Though the commissioners considered other ways to generate revenue, they ultimately decided that downtown visitors would have to pay for the parking extension from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
About 15 residents spoke out against the move during public comment at the Sept. 25 Haddonfield commissioners meeting. One was longtime resident Dorothy Rivers, who was executive director of the Haddonfield Symphony and serves on a number of boards. As of Sept. 28, more than 1,600 had signed an online petition protesting the parking changes.
That petition was started by the publisher of Haddonfield Today, resident David Hunter, who wrote in his publication that to charge shoppers to park on Saturdays was a “dumb” move. He also spoke at the commissioners’ meeting.
“When municipalities introduce and update pay-to-park systems, they need to be really sure the systems are thoughtfully planned, smoothly implemented, customer friendly and glitch free,” he noted. “Recent changes to metered parking in Haddonfield satisfied none of those criteria.”
Hunter and other residents raised the issue of shoppers not being able to park for short periods of time without paying under the new system, as opposed to 12 minutes that were previously free. They also had complaints about the parking app and the difficulty of finding a kiosk to pay, as well as valuable weekend visitors now having to pay for parking.
Under the change, visitors can pay for parking via a phone app or at a kiosk. Bianco Bezich noted that the kiosks were initially put in place to update ineffective technology and service equipment, so the commissioners had to find new solutions. But while there are now a number of signs with QR codes for payment, kiosks are a bit more scarce.
Starting in January, seniors in the borough who are 60 and older can also pay for a parking permit that will allow more flexibility in where to park. The permit would be tied to a vehicle so drivers won’t have to pay for repeat parking.
Several residents also voiced concerns that businesses will be negatively impacted by the change, as customers who want to avoid paid parking may choose to go elsewhere.
As with all other ordinances, Bianco Bezich noted that at earliest, it will take two months to make any kind of change, since the parking extensions would have to be introduced on first reading at a subsequent meeting and also be heard at a public hearing before again being considered.
“I’m a believer in seeing how things work and collecting data and then making decisions and collectively collaborating to do that,” Bianco Bezich noted.
Haddonfield will offer free holiday parking in November and December, so that time can not be factored into data on the extensions.
Police Chief Jason Cutler noted that those who receive tickets while on their way to pay for parking can have them resolved at police headquarters by showing the time of payment and the time on the citation.
“If they bring the ticket down to the police department, we can take care of it right then and there, and we have,” he said.
No action was taken on the parking ordinance.
In other news:
- The Sept. 25 meeting also marked the borough’s first official hybrid meeting. Residents will be able to access future commissioners meetings and participate via Zoom.
- The borough issued a number of proclamations, including October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Oct. 6 as Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day, Oct. 8 to 14 as Fire Prevention Week, and Oct. 15 to 21 as Friends of the Library Week.
The next commissioners’ work session is Tuesday, Oct. 10, at 6:30 p.m.