Published: April 13, 2008
POINT PLEASANT BEACH
IT usually takes a lot to get 200 people to show up at a council meeting, but on the Jersey Shore, it takes only two words: parking permits.
Mayor Vincent R. Barrella of Point Pleasant Beach found this out when he tried to push through a parking plan this month that would have required residents living near the beach to buy permits in order to park in front of their homes during the summer.
Mr. Barrella proposed his plan last month, saying he was trying to push tourists from street parking into municipal parking lots in order to raise much-needed revenue for the borough. But residents viewed the plan as costly and discriminatory because it would apply to only one section of the community, and they came out in droves the night the Borough Council was to vote on the measure to oppose it.
The crowd was so large, the meeting had to be moved from the borough hall to the auditorium of a nearby school.
In the end, the mayor was unsuccessful in persuading his colleagues to go along with his permits idea; he even lost support among his fellow Republicans on the Council. When the Council’s Republican president, Michael Loughran, made a motion to withdraw the proposal, he received a 30-second standing ovation from the crowd. “Rest assured, this ordinance, as presented, will not go through,” Mr. Loughran said. His motion to withdraw the ordinance essentially means the measure is dead.
The plan would have established a beach parking zone in about a third of the borough, and residents living there would have had to pay $5 a year for an annual permit to park on the street during the summer months, between 9 a.m. and noon. Rental property owners would have had to pay $50 for the first permit and $350 for each additional one. Seasonal permits would have been available to anyone at a cost of $250. Those without permits would have had to park in one of the borough’s parking lots, half of which are owned by the municipality. The borough charges $2 an hour to park. Private lots charge from about $15 a day to as much as $45 on holiday weekends.
No doubt the borough could use more revenue, but residents said this was not the way to get it. Faced with a lower surplus and less municipal aid, residents are looking at a 26 percent increase in the property tax rate in fiscal 2009, which amounts to a $310 increase on the average borough home.
“I said it was not perfect. It was a start,” Mr. Barrella told residents, adding he was surprised by the extent of the opposition to his plan. “It sort of tells you the type of forces that are lined up against change in Point Pleasant Beach.”
Gordon Gemma, a planner hired by Martell’s Tiki Bar and Jenkinson’s Pavilion to give testimony against the plan, said the borough should be doing more to increase parking. “This decreased it,” Mr. Gemma said.
Robert Hinkley, a 74-year-old Kearny resident who owns four rental units in the borough, said funneling people into pay parking lots makes a day at the beach prohibitively expensive.
Edward R. McGlynn, a lawyer for Jenkinson’s Pavilion, took a stronger view: “It would have denied people the right to come to the beach,” he said.
Parking is a perennial problem in most beach communities, where spots become scarce as the summer tourists descend. Some communities, like Ocean Grove and Bradley Beach, charge beachgoers about $7 a day to get onto the sand but allow them to park free. Other places, like Seaside Heights, have meters on about half the borough’s streets but sell annual permits for $200, allowing people to park in metered spots — except those just off the beach — without having to feed the machine.
During his campaign last year, Mr. Barrella, who took office in January, promised to do something about Point Pleasant Beach’s parking problems. After his measure was defeated, Mr. Barrella, a former Internal Revenue Service agent and now a tax professor at Pace University in New York City, said he was forming a bipartisan exploratory committee to continue to look at the parking permit issue.
“We don’t want to close the town off to people. That’s not the goal here,” Mr. Barrella said. He said that year-round residents must pick up the tab for the additional services required by the influx of tourists during the summer. “I was just looking to defray some of that cost on the people who come here to visit.”