Higher fines seen for meter-feeders

Borough Council gears up for a shortage of parking spaces.

By: Jennifer Potash
   Meter-feeders beware — Princeton Borough intends to strictly enforce its parking ordinances as it contends with a potential parking shortage later this year.
   The capacity of the 180-space Park & Shop lot off Spring Street has been cut about in half due to the construction of the three-story Princeton Public Library on an adjacent site. The remaining spaces will likely be lost if Princeton Borough proceeds with a planned five-level parking garage with related development on the lot.
   The Borough Council asked Borough Administrator Robert Bruschi to draft an ordinance Tuesday raising the fine for meter feeding. Mr. Bruschi said he would propose a $2 increase to $20.
   Other measures include lowering the rates of meters in underutilized lots such as Trinity Church off Mercer Street.
   If a crisis ensues when the Park & Shop lot closes, then the council would consider lifting the two-hour parking limit on non-metered residential streets adjacent to the downtown such as Bank, Madison, Green and Wiggins streets, or possibly installing temporary meters on those streets.
   Bill Howard, a member of Borough Merchants for Princeton, called for the borough to have a plan ready before the lots are closed.
   A survey of the organization’s membership found nearly two-thirds of the business owners would like a permit system to allow downtown employees to park on residential streets.
   Most of those surveyed have between one and 10 employees. Fewer than half of the employers surveyed pay for employee parking, which can cost $60 to $170 per month. Those employers that do not provide parking say employees use metered spaces, parking garages or on-street spaces.
   Councilman David Goldfarb said there are several places within a 10-minute walk of the downtown that are free to park, such as Hamilton Avenue and Spruce Street.
   "People are very resourceful and will figure out where the free parking spaces are," he said.
   Mr. Howard and Leo Arons, also a Borough Merchants for Princeton member, noted that many employers did not know about Palmer Square’s value pass program, which provides discounted rates to downtown employees.
   The council also does not want the limited downtown spaces filled by construction workers for the library or garage sites.
   Mr. Goldfarb said most of the workers could be accommodated on the construction site.
   For the workers who can’t park at the construction site, said Councilwoman Wendy Benchley, the borough should make arrangements to park off-site and provide a jitney to the downtown.
   Councilman Roger Martindell said it was an excellent idea, but questioned how to enforce the provision.
   In another action, the borough announced a get-tough approach for downtown merchants who let the sidewalks become cluttered with cigarette butts and debris.
   Property owners are required to sweep the sidewalk in front of their property, but owners have been inconsistent along Nassau Street, Mayor Marvin Reed said.
   "I walked home on Nassau Street from the Memorial Day parade and the sidewalk was disgustingly dirty," the mayor said.
   Under the new policy the borough will clean the offending sections and bill the property owner, he said.