The results are more than a year away, but Seaside Heights officials on Wednesday voted unanimously to hire a consulting firm to examine parking issues in the fast-changing Shore town, with the possibility of a multi-level garage deck on the table as a potential long-term solution.
“They’re going to be looking at the whole town,” said Mayor Anthony Vaz. “Parking on the street, maybe a parking garage. We’re looking to the future, and we also want to make sure we’re in compliance with state requirements.”
Parking in Seaside Heights faces numerous challenges, though some of them are not completely clear. With motels and bungalows being rapidly replaced with new homes, some of the developments eat up on-street parking spaces, while others actually generate new on-street parking spaces – especially former commercial properties like motels that had wide driveways. But at the same time, with land becoming more valuable, operators of private parking lots are becoming more likely to sell their parcels to developers and exit the business.
The parking consultant has not yet been chosen, and will be hired utilizing a competitive contracting process.
For years – if not decades – Seaside Heights has flirted with the idea of building a parking deck. Potential locations have varied from the large “free parking” lot near Bay Boulevard to a number of borough-owned properties. Vaz said that if the borough were to become serious about constructing such a lot, he would prefer to see it in a centralized location closer to attractions as compared to the Bay Boulevard lot, six long city blocks from the ocean. The current municipal surface parking lot on Grant Avenue would be one location that could prove attractive, the mayor said.
“But this would be something we’d look into in the future – perhaps putting it out to bid for a lease,” Vaz reiterated.
The borough would have numerous options, including the aforementioned long-term lease of the property to a private operator or a municipal garage operated directly by the borough. In either case, parking at the property would be governed by ordinances and resolutions voted-on by the governing body.
Such a project could also prove valuable in emergency situations, Vaz said, including allowing residents to temporarily relocate their vehicles to an elevated parking deck during serious storms which threaten vehicles with floods.
“There are several avenues we can look at, but it’s going to take about a year after the study is completed to see where we’re going,” he said.
Meanwhile, tourism in Seaside Heights continues to be on the rise as redevelopment remains in full swing.
“We’re getting a bit more tourism and we want to provide parking for them,” Vaz said. “People can go to private lots now, but they’re becoming fewer in number and we may need an alternative.”