Truck-parking Issue Remains Unresolved In Lindenwold

Posted: February 13, 1996

LINDENWOLD — After months of truck drivers asserting their right to make a living while residents complained that the big tractor-trailers were unsightly and blocked streets, many thought the issue was finally going to be wrapped up this week.

But that would've been too easy.

A truck-parking ordinance that was to be voted on tomorrow has been put on hold. The ordinance allowed one commerical vehicle weighing more than 9,000 pounds to be parked in residential areas behind a property. All others would have to be parked in industrial zones.

Emotions have run so high about the issue over the last three months that Council President Bernice Walden even sent letters to 100 residents randomly selected from a registered voters' list telling them the item was on the agenda at a meeting last Wednesday.

She said that the ``cross section'' of the voters' list included ``every district, all seven districts, and both Republicans and Democrats.''

The letter read, in part: ``You have a right to express your opinion whether or not you want truck parking on your street and in your neighborhood. As a member of the governing body, I felt it my duty to inform you of this matter so you can make an informed judgment.''

The letter, which included Walden's phone number, was an unprecedented move on the part of a council member, said Bert Wolfe, spokesman for the New Jersey State League of Municipalities. ``It is unusual to send out a notice like that,'' he said. ``I've never heard of it being done.''

Said borough administrator Richard Crane: ``Council people sometimes do unusual things. I have learned not to be surprised.''

About 15 residents who opposed the ordinance showed up at last week's meeting. ``It was crazy,'' Walden said.

Several council members had to pound on the table for order when a resident told truck owner and operator Jim Hannah he should move someplace else, like Baltimore.

``It was pretty boisterous, for sure,'' Hannah said. ``Politics down here are so bizarre. They're mind-boggling.''

Walden told residents at that meeting she would vote against the ordinance. Many joined her in her opposition. ``I don't feel we should have any trucks parked in private property in residential areas. . . . They're unsightly,'' Virginia Pepe said. ``If they're parked on the street, I feel it's a safety hazard.''

But Councilwoman Ellen Woodland disagreed. ``The whole thing here is trying to strike a balance,'' she said. ``We live in a blue-collar town.''

Hannah was the lone trucker who spoke up. ``I'm sitting here watching my profession trashed,'' he said. ``I disagree with anyone that tells me I can't bring my personal vehicle home and set it in the driveway. We're just people trying to make a decent living.''

By the end of that meeting, the council decided not to take a vote on the ordinance this week, hoping to get further discussion - and more consensus - on the topic.

Nearly everyone involved has lost track of the number of times the issue has come up. ``Oh, I don't know, maybe four or five times,'' sighed Crane. ``It seems like forever.''

The first ordinance was introduced Nov. 8, but tabled Dec. 13 because of opposition from residents. Another version was offered for discussion by former code enforcement officer Jim Valentine. A third version, the one discussed last Wednesday, is being reconsidered.

And tomorrow the issue will be discussed yet again, said solicitor John Kearney. ``The fun goes on.''

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