At its regular meeting Monday night, the Parsippany Planning Board approved an application by the Franciscan Sisters of St. Elizabeth to build a new parking lot at St. Elizabeth School, 499 Park Road. The project also includes making temporary classroom structures permanent.
Attorney William Strasser represented the nuns--and there was a large contingent of Franciscan sisters in the audience--and reminded the board that their request to upgrade the school's parking lot is about maximizing safety.
Traffic engineer Judd Rocciola testified about his meeting with board planner Gordon Meth to assess the potential traffic impact of the move. They determined that the construction of a new lot and the move from 238 to the school's current enrollment of about 335 would mean "a very modest increase" in traffic.
"The site can handle it and handle it well," Rocciola said.
The increased parking would come in the form of a new upper lot offering 85 spaces for parents. The lower, or first level, lot would be limited to staff and include four spaces reserved for handicapped drivers. And an old chain-link fence on the property would be removed in order to ensure proper sight distance exists.
Bruce Rigg, a licensed engineer, land surveyor and planner speaking in favor of the nuns' plan, testified that, in answer to board concerns, new lighting and landscaping plans were in the works as well and sidewalks were to be installed.
Board member Robert Keller asked if there would be room in the new lot for fire trucks or emergency vehicles to turn around. Strasser said yes, and Meth concurred, saying that there would be ample room.
A lingering board concern existed over the driveway, said Rigg. In answer, he agreed to modify the driveway plan, so that it will have one lane to allow one car to exit the parking lot and move on to Smith Road at a time.
A number of residents rose to offer questions or comments, and one did so numerous times: Glenn Lipkin, who lives nearby and communicated his concerns over the effect any increased traffic might have on the surrounding neighborhood. Lipkin also shared concerns over careless drivers who he said speed through the area and create a hazard for children.
During testimony from school principal Sister Cathy Lynn Cummings, Lipkin asked her how she would enforce parking rules in the school lot and stop cars from speeding.
Sister Cummings admitted she could not answer that.
"That's not really my job," she said, indicating that police are responsible for enforcing traffic laws.
Lipkin then addressed Mayor James Barberio.
"I ask you, Mr. Mayor," Lipkin said. "How do we get better traffic enforcement on Smith Road? Can we get officers on patrol here?"
The mayor said he would address the matter, but noted that available budget dollars are short and the police force is already understaffed.
"We are limited in what we can do by the 2 percent [tax levy] cap," Barberio explained.
After a bit more discussion, the matter was brought to a vote and approved. The Franciscan sisters in the chamber audience broke into a round of applause.
In another matter, Board Chairperson Kaushik "Casey" Parikh announced the resignation of board member Milin Shah, who he said is leaving to attend Seton Hall University School of Law.
The next Planning Board meeting is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 19.