BERKELEY – A perennial issue, especially as the weather warms, is the lack of parking in the South Seaside Park section of the township, located between the ocean and Barnegat Bay and north of Island Beach State Park.
The most recent version of this conversation was sparked when the Township Council approved an application by Ebby’s (Berkeley Food & Liquors, LLC) restaurant on Central Avenue. The restaurant wants to open a sidewalk cafe.
Councilman James Byrnes warned that some of these sidewalk cafes “explore new territory,” in spreading out a bit too far and that they need to be watched.
Business Administrator John Camera said that the language in the approval is exactly what the township wants. If it is not followed, then it is a matter of enforcement after that.
South Seaside Park resident Don Whiteman said that parking in the area is already bad, and anything like this will just make it worse. It causes undue amounts of stress and bad blood between diners and residents. People are getting threatened and his car got keyed.
The side streets, where everyone lives, are getting “inundated with cars,” he said. Here, there are homes built on undersized lots. Sometimes, the amount of property between two driveways isn’t enough to park a car, so that space is wasted.
“You look at other towns, there’s municipal parking. Looking at South Seaside Park, you have to park in front of someone’s driveway,” he said.
Additionally, these restaurants, whether its Ebby’s or Bum Rogers or any other business, has employees who have to park as well.
Mayor Carmen Amato and Byrnes said that they keep trying to get the state to allow local parking at their property on the tip of SSP’s bay side.
“We’re trying to buy properties when they go up for sale but we can’t afford to compete with a developer,” Amato said.
Byrnes mentioned he and Business Administrator John Camera were looking for two handicapped parking spots for that location. A voice from the back of the meeting room shouted “You’re not the only one.”
The parking issue comes up often. Plans get floated such as changing streets to one-way and striping diagonal parking spots.
Bill McGrath, who does engineering work but lives on the mainland, repeated his suggestion for installing curbs. “People have a 50-foot lot so they think they have a 50-foot driveway.” In other words, people park on the stone front yard and then get angry when someone parks on the street blocking them in. If there was a curb and driveway, they would have a specific place to park. He had suggested that the residents get a special tax to pay for the curbing.
“It’s logical but the people there would be as angry as a wet hen,” Whiteman said.
Officials said that approvals like the one for Ebby’s have already gone through the Planning Board, which oversees land use. The challenge that’s presented is that the board has to take each plan separately. They can’t restrict a property owner because of conditions caused by neighbors or the area. In other words, the board can’t shut down any business venture because there’s already a lot of traffic in the neighborhood.
In related news, the Township Council awarded a $198,735 contract to SDW Construction to reconstruct Walkovers in SSP. That work will be done in the fall.