By John Marshall

After a break in action over the summer, the Princeton Merchants Association is moving full speed ahead into the fall with initiatives and activities to benefit not only the town’s merchants, but also the entire community.

On Sept. 23, Mayor Liz Lempert came to our General Meeting to talk about a proposed ordinance that would restrict the night-time hours that businesses abutting residential zones can be open.

The mayor gave us a brief summary of the proposed measure and fielded questions from business owners to better understand our concerns. We are continuing to work with the township in an effort to come up with a solution that is mutually acceptable to everyone involved.

We feel that discussions like these are a good reason why it’s important for business owners to become involved in the PMA. Our meetings are a dynamic forum for things that are happening in town that affect us, and we want merchants to have their opinions heard.

Mayor Lempert, along with business administrator Robert Bruschi and town engineer Deanna Stockton, are expected to be back at our Oct. 21 meeting to work through another long-time issue — parking. (The meeting was rescheduled from its original date on Oct. 28 due to the visit of the Dalai Lama to town that day.)

Jack Morrison, owner of the JM Group and a PMA director, was involved with the development of two of the downtown parking garages and is now helping us work with town officials to look for parking solutions.

“Parking has been a sore spot for Princeton ever since I’ve been here,” Morrison said. “What we are discussing with the township are short-term, mid-term and long-term solutions to alleviate and accommodate employees, residents and customers.”

Unfortunately, the lack of parking can dissuade people from coming here. “People come into town and they circle and circle looking for parking,” said Morrison. “And then later, if they’re three minutes late getting back to their car, they get hit with a ticket.”

“The merchants and, I think, the new town government are cognizant of the customer experience and the fact that people can go out to Route 1 and eat at a restaurant, shop in a clothing store, or go to a hardware store,” Morrison said. “They offer all of the things we offer and their customers have free parking and don’t have to worry about getting tickets.”

One solution that the PMA and township are investigating for all the parking garages, municipal lots and meters is the mPay2 system, which is currently in beta use at Princeton University’s Arts and Transit Project.

Under the mPay2 system, you can download an app for your smartphone and pay for parking. The company also has a mechanism to attach a QR code to parking meters so that you can scan the code with your phone and use it to pay. The app can also send you notifications if you are running out of time and allow you to add more so that you don’t get a ticket.

“As we start to add technology into the mix, I think we’re going to be able to make some great strides as opposed to where we stand today,” said Morrison.

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On a different note, this month the PMA is involved in sponsoring events for the benefit of the entire community — the Arts Council of Princeton’s Halloween Parade, and a benefit that will raise funds for the town’s volunteer emergency services.

The PMA is a co-sponsor of the annual Hometown Halloween Parade on Oct. 30 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. The event begins at Hinds Plaza where the Princeton University Marching Band will perform. Then the band and giant puppets from the Arts Council’s “CAPs” teen afterschool program will lead the procession to the Palmer Square Green for a spooky performance by Princeton Theatre Experiment and Stone Soup Circus! For more information go to artscouncilofprinceton.org.

On Oct. 17, from 6 to 9 p.m., McCaffrey’s and the PMA will be holding a fundraising cocktail event with a flamenco exhibition sponsored by the Arts Council in the Princeton Shopping Center courtyard under the big tent to benefit Princeton’s Fire Department and First Aid & Rescue Squad. The event is a precursor to McCaffrey’s Specialty Food Showcase, which is also held in the tent in the courtyard, on Oct. 18 and 19, noon to 5 p.m., all proceeds are being donated.

This year the PMA decided to create what it hopes will be an annual event that recognizes, thanks, and supports the unsung heroes volunteering every day within our own community.

We ask not only that you participate in these events, but also consider becoming an EMT, firefighter or filling one of many other critical supporting roles. There is nothing more exhilarating in life than stepping up, potentially into harm’s way, and in so doing joining the ranks of hero.

Tickets for the Friday evening event are $50 and all proceeds go to the fire and rescue squads. For more information, or to buy tickets, go to our website at princetonmerchants.org, McCaffrey’s Customer Service Desk, La Jolie Salon & Spa, Small World Coffee, or Blue Point Grill. Tickets for McCaffrey’s Specialty Food Showcase are $5 at the door, children under 12 free. Emergency volunteers will be there, and equipment will be on display.

John Marshall is the newly elected president of the PMA and owner of Main Street Bistro. The Hometown Princeton column is provided monthly by the PMA. On the web: princetonmerchants.org.