Brick resident Frank Gualtieri isn't happy about getting a Point Beach ticket.
But he never would have come to a Point Beach Council meeting to complain if it didn't require a court appearance.
"It was an honest mistake, I didn't know about the parking plan," he told the mayor and council at Tuesday night's meeting at "I don't have a problem paying it, but I oppose a mandatory court appearance for this. It's a parking ticket!"
"You were talking before about negative publicity." Gualtieri told them. "This is why some of it exists."
Gualtieri, a former Beach resident who now lives in Brick, is one of many residents and visitors who have started noticing that their District 4 parking tickets have the box checked off for a mandatory court appearance. That's "mandatory" even if they, like Gualtieri, would much rather just mail in a check and forget about it.
Plans are in the works so that a District 4 ticket is no longer a "court-mandated summons"
Municipal Attorney Sean Gertner said at the meeting he is working with municipal court staff to turn the "court-mandated summons" into a parking ticket, like all other Point Beach parking tickets, that does not require a court appearance.
"I'm fairly confident this issue will be resolved," he said. "I have a meeting this week to finalize the process. I'll have a final answer by the next council meeting."
No one on the dais objected to that. Mayor Vincent Barrella said in an interview earlier that day that he thinks the District 4 tickets should be treated the same as other local parking tickets, which do not require court appearances.
In a recent interview, Councilmember Kristine Tooker said she believes no one had intended to make the District 4 ticket a "court-mandated summons" and that she supported efforts to eliminate that requirement.
Gertner said later he does not think that resolving the problem will require council to amend
One option being explored is to include the District 4 tickets on the municipal fee schedule, which means the amount of the fine will be set and those ticketed can mail in payment. A court appearance would only be needed for those wishing to plead not guilty and contest the ticket, similar to other local parking tickets.
District 4 parking fines not collected yet
Gertner also said that Municipal Court Judge James Liguori has said he will not have the court collecting any District 4 parking plan fines at least until all pending litigation is resolved.
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Gertner said that's probably why Gualtieri's court date wasn't scheduled until Sept. 28, because the judge doesn't want the town collecting any fines now anyway.
But for Gualtieri, postponing a court date to September just made the court requirement sting even more, since he is a teacher at Freehold High School.
"I would have to take time off from school and last year I had a perfect attendance record," he said. When Gertner told him the requirement will probably be eliminated, he seemed relieved.
Municipal officials agreed that when the issue is resolved, news about the decision will be posted on the municipal website and that notices will likely be sent to those who received tickets.
Hanging tags, damaged tags and impact on tourism
Robert Dixon, who has lived full-time on the Boardwalk for the past 12 years, told council that the hang tags given out to residents get easily damaged and are too long to keep on while you're driving because they could block visibility or be a hazard, so they have to constantly be removed and then put back again. That can lead to drivers forgetting to hang them again, which can lead to tickets, he said.
Barrella said the police officers have to ticket those in violation, whether the violation is due to forgetfulness or other factors.
"I would think that you, as a law enforcement officer, would understand that," Barrella said to Dixon, who is a Roselle police officer in Union County.
Barrella said any residents with damaged hang tags can have them replaced by the Borough Administrator's office.
Each District 4 household receives five parking hang tags, allowing them to park in District 4 from midnight to 6 a.m., when it is otherwise off-limits, and households in other parts of town get one hang tag. Employees of businesses in District 4 are also eligible for the free hang tags.
Dixon said the town did not put enough thought and planning into the District 4 plan, as evidenced by mandates for unnecessary court appearances and hang tags that are easily damaged.
Moreover, he alleged, the news about the parking restrictions is keeping people away from the community's tourism attractions.
"No one's coming here anymore," he said.
The parking plan expires in September and would not be implemented against next year without council adopting a new ordinance to do so.
Earlier in the meeting, Corbally had said during his committee report, "The District 4 parking plan seems to be working, except for those who got tickets." He said municipal officials are working on a way to eliminate the mandated court appearance.
Some say plan is keeping noise and litter out of residential neighborhoods
Regarding the effectiveness of the parking plan, Councilmember Kristine Tooker said, "District 4 is dramatically quieter. I wish some of our businesses would advertise that parking is free in the Silver Lake Lot from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m."
The large parking lot is on the corner of Arnold and Ocean avenues.
Representatives for Jenkinson's and Martell's could not immediately be reached for comment.
Barrella, Tooker, Corbally and Councilmember Bret Gordon had voted in favor of the parking plan, saying it was necessary to have more people parking in lots rather than on residential streets being loud and disruptive.
Councilmembers Stephen Reid, William Mayer and Tim Lurie had voted against the parking plan, saying it would unfairly hurt local businesses and potentially lead to residents, not just boardwalk patrons, getting tickets. In recent, separate interviews, the three said they did not know that the plan required court appearances for those ticketed and they are against that.
Dave Cavagnaro, a Parkway resident, said he has noticed that municipal roads in District 4 are cleaner than they had been before the parking plan went into full effect on June 22 and also cleaner than Ocean County roads.
"This is another sign the parking plan is doing some good," Cavagnaro said.