Residents will have a chance to vote on a proposed residential parking plan in November, but their vote may not matter.
The Point Beach Borough Council voted narrowly on Tuesday night to place a non-binding referendum on the November general election ballot that asks residents how they feel about a parking plan that would allow only local residents and taxpayers to park from midnight to 8 a.m. throughout the town.
Each household of residents and taxpayers would receive five parking passes to allow them to park during those overnight hours.
Because the referendum is non-binding, the council is not obligated to heed the wishes of the people and would still be free to significantly alter or ignore the proposal.
Council members Kristine Tooker, Michael Corbally and Tim Lurie voted to place the question on the ballot.
Council member Frank Rizzo, who was attending the meeting via telecommuting, and Council member Sean Hennessy voted no. Council member Jeff Dyer was absent.
Rizzo did not elaborate on why he was voting no. Hennessy said he felt council had not discussed the proposal before it was placed on the agenda, he didn't find out about it until Friday and the timing of it being on the November ballot is "too political."
Mayor Vincent Barrella did not vote because, in the borough council form of government, he only votes when there is a tie.
But before the discussion and voting, Republican Stephen Reid, who is running against Barrella and Lurie for mayor, was the first one at the microphone to blast the plan.
"Mayor, what is your parking plan? No one knows about it," Reid said, heatedly. "It's a sentence and you want people to vote on it. That's terrible. This is just political. And I want you to say that. I want you to be honest with people. I oppose any parking plan that you endorse, Mayor."
"I'm not going to respond to most of what Mr. Reid said," Barrella responded after Reid had sat down. "If he wants to make political speeches, he can make political speeches."
The "sentence" Reid referred to is the sentence that will appear as the question on the ballot.
It reads: "Shall the governing body of the borough of Point Pleasant Beach institute, by the appropriate action, regulations limiting parking on public streets to residents of the borough of Point Pleasant Beach?"
What that means, said Corbally, who asked that the measure be on Tuesday's agenda, is that throughout the borough, each household would receive five parking passes that would allow them to park on the residential streets from midnight to 8 a.m. from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
During the rest of the year, anyone can park on any street without needing passes.
Those without those passes, such as tourists, would not be able to park on those streets at those times during the summer.
Corbally said he proposed the plan because a big part of the problem with rampant petty crime this summer has been with people drinking heavily at boardwalk establishments and then walking down residential streets to go to their cars.
He said he was recently at the boardwalk when bars closed at 2 a.m. and saw people who were "drunk as skunks" staggering down streets, getting into their cars and, in one case, looking for a place to urinate.
He said the latter effort was significantly hampered by patrol cars which managed to drive around the bend every time one of the "drunks" attempted to find a place to do his business.
He said the police had geared up on the boardwalk for the 2 a.m. closing time.
"They were gearing up, some were stretching, you could see them tensing up," he said.
He said the police ably handled the outflow of patrons at closing time and there were no significant problems.
"I underestimated the job of the police," Corbally to the council, residents and Police Chief Kevin O'Hara. "The job is not as easy as I thought it was."
Corbally noted that he saw a number of these inebriated bar patrons just in the four minutes it took him to walk from the boardwalk to his home on Niblick Street.
"I'm sure residents up and down that street saw and heard a lot more of them all night," he said.
Corbally said it would cost about $30,000 for signs to post throughout the town to alert motorists to the new parking regulations.
O'Hara said that will create a need to add to the existing schedule of the parking enforcement officers who now go off-duty at 1 a.m.
Corbally also explained that he is proposing this now because state law dictates that a municipality wishing to place a non-binding referendum on the November ballot must do so by Aug. 19. The council's next meeting is Aug. 23, after the deadline.
Reid had also made mention of a 2008 parking plan that had been unsuccessfully endorsed by Barrella and said he thinks Barrella has been having meetings and discussing bringing a parking plan back ever since then.
Tooker, later in the meeting, said, "Contrary to what Mr. Reid said, the mayor hasn't been talking about a parking plan since 2008. I've been talking about it. I think we need a parking deck or a jitney. The overnight parking (of bar patrons) is disrupting everything. It's a war zone.
"If parking was closed overnight, it would go a long way to solve the problem," Tooker said. "This has been a hot bed issue for years. Why not find out what people think?"
Borough Clerk Maryann Ellsworth said Point Beach does not have to pay anything for the referendum because Ocean County pays to print the November general election ballots.
Kristin Hennessy, a New Jersey Avenue resident, said she felt the non-binding referendum is not fair because it does not afford part-time residents, who comprise approximately 42 percent of the local population, an opportunity to vote.
Lurie asked why the town is not doing this as a survey enclosed with all water bills so you the full-time and part-time residents are able to voice their opinions.
Corbally turned to Lurie and said, emphatically, that at a prior meeting, "You were in favor of putting this on a referendum. That's all we're doing."
Lurie, "I didn't know about 42 percent of the people (not being able to vote)."
Corbally replied, "You've been up here that long and you didn't know about the 42 percent?"
Corbally then told Kristin Hennessy that he doesn't necessarily plan to act on the result of the referendum.
"Then why are you doing it?" she asked.
Corbally said he feels it's important to find out how the public feels about the plan and that if the town sends out surveys in the mail, many residents and taxpayers will not send them back.
Residents Dave Cavagnaro and Ben Dispoto said they are in favor of the referendum.
Dispoto said, "It's a good idea, in the sense that you will get a sense for how people feel."
He said the ballot question does need "some clarity. I'm sure it will all be fleshed out. But the concept is a very good idea."
He also noted that business owners who live in Point Beach can vote on the referendum in November.