The Town of Kearny is once again looking to tighten controls over handicapped parking.
Officials are looking to strike a balance between protecting the rights of impaired drivers while also freeing up as much space as possible for regular curbside parking, always at a premium.
To that end, the mayor and Town Council are proposing various amendments to the town code regulating handicapped parking that will be considered for adoption at a public hearing May 24.
For starters, the town wants to say it will consider granting permits for handicapped street parking only if the applicant “does not have the use of a driveway, carport, garage or off-street space available and sufficient in size to use for parking their vehicle on the tax lot in which the person resides or is within 100 feet of that tax lot.”
Councilwoman Susan McCurrie, who, as head of the council’s ordinance committee, helped draft the proposed amendments, said that there are circumstances where the owner of a driveway or off-street space – it may be the applicant’s landlord, for example – is using that space for himself or a family member or is renting it to someone else.
Or, McCurrie said, it may be the case that the driveway – because of the age of the property – is “too narrow” to permit sufficient space for additional parking.
To qualify for a handicapped parking permit, an applicant would have to meet certain medical standards as defined by the proposed amendments as follows:
An applicant cannot walk “without the aid of a … wheelchair, walker, crutches or leg brace(s).”
An applicant “suffers from any respiratory disease … as determined by the person’s physician and certified by the town’s physician,” as measured by an American Medical Association guide.
An applicant “has a cardiac condition to the extent that [his/her] functional limitations are classified in severity as Class III or IV according to the standards set by the American Heart Association.”
An applicant “is severely or permanently limited in the ability to walk because of a brain injury or neurological condition.”
Under the proposed changes, as part of the permit review process, conducted through the Kearny Police Department, applicants must agree to allow their doctor “to release medical information to the town.”
And that information is to include “a certification by the [applicant’s] physician on a prescription pad stating that the applicant is a permanently disabled person as defined [by the aforementioned criteria].” Only if the town’s doctor concurs can the applicant qualify for a permit.
According to McCurrie, the town will rely on First Care Medical Group of Lyndhurst to vet the reports of applicants’ doctors. Kearny contracts with First Care to administer physical exams to new hires and handle related medical matters.
Following the medical review, the proposed amendments call for the KPD to “survey the parking area in question to determine whether it is a location that can be designated as a restricted parking zone.” If an application is denied, the KPD is to notify the mayor and council.
The fee for a handicapped parking permit would be raised, from the current $40, to $75, for the initial application and, from the current $20 to $40, for each one-year renewal period, although the fee may be waived “if the applicant’s sole source of income is Social Security benefits or public assistance from a state or county welfare agency.”
Other proposed changes would permit the KPD to temporarily open a restricted parking space to public use if a permit holder “will be out of the state for more than 30 consecutive days.” The permitee must notify the KPD that he/she will be away for that length of time and must remove his/her vehicle from the restricted space during that period. Failure to notify the KPD “shall be grounds for non-renewal of the handicapped parking permit.”
On March 8, the mayor and council voted to prohibit a handicapped parking permit holder from parking “in any curbside parking spot within a radius of 200 feet of the perimeter of the [applicant’s residence]” subject to a $100 fine for a first offense. As part of the new proposed revisions, that prohibition – aimed at preventing permit holders from “reserving” spaces for relatives – would not apply “during street sweeping operations” or during “street or underground utility construction or repair.”