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Red Bank grapples with plans for parking lot

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RED BANK – The struggle over providing adequate parking in the borough continues.

The borough is being sued by a group called Residents for Responsible Development over its current redevelopment plan for the municipal parking lot located on 75-79 White St., according to council Democrats.

The redevelopment plan calls for a parking garage to be built at the White street municipal parking lot to improve the borough’s downtown parking availability, according to information provided by the borough.

Mayor Pasquale Menna declined to comment on the lawsuit. He said, “Since there are both legal discussions ongoing regarding the lawsuit and the status and review of the responses submitted, it would not be appropriate for me to make any pronouncement during those reviews in anything other than a public open council meeting.”

Council President Kathy Horgan, Councilman Edward Zipprich, Councilman Erik Yngstrom, and Council Candidate Michael Ballard released an alternative parking plan for the municipal lot in April, according to Horgan.

In their proposed plan for the municipal lot, the Democrats revealed that the borough is currently being sued due to its current adopted redevelopment plan for the lot.

“The group suing the borough alleges that the [redevelopment plan] was improperly adopted on December 14, 2016, and also alleges that the plan includes elements that do not comply with the Borough’s Master Plan, that is, that the size of the Plan is too big for our downtown,” Horgan said.

On Dec. 14, the council approved an ordinance, in a 3-2 vote, to adopt a development plan for the property commonly known as the White Street parking lot, according to the council agenda.

Former Council President and Republican Cindy Burnham and Zipprich voted “no.” Republicans Linda Schwabenbauer, Mark Taylor and Michael Whelan voted “yes.” Horgan was absent the day the council voted.

Whelan is also the borough’s chair for the Parking Committee.

“Red Bank lacks parking, which is destroying the downtown and the business community. A suffering downtown has a negative impact on property taxpayers,” Whelan said. “The current status is White Street lot is an area in need of redevelopment which allows the borough to explore all avenues to create growth for Red Bank and enter into a public/private partnership.”

After adopting the redevelopment plan for the lot, the council passed a resolution, by a 5-1 vote, authorizing the beginning of a request for proposals from developers for the redevelopment of the municipal parking lot, according to the council agenda.

“We need to stay competitive and create an economic environment for businesses to thrive, not just survive. We have lost business to Asbury, Pier Village, and there are future projects down the pipeline such as Bell Works, Fort Monmouth, Monmouth Mall, etc.,” Whelan said. “[This] creates economic growth, revenue for the taxpayers, solves a three decade problem at little to no expense to residents. Also, [it] moves Red Bank forward and takes an underutilized asset and turns it into a beautiful project for the future.”

On April 7, the borough received five requests for proposal from Bijou Properties, BNE Real Estate Group in partnership with Canoe Brook Development, Dobco Inc., Mill Creek Residential and Yellow Property Company LLC, according to information provided by the borough.

If a proposal is eventually accepted, the developer will build a garage for Red Bank and then build his/her development, according to Whelan.

“The Democrats do not have a plan. They voted for the request for proposal to be sent out to the development world and when the proposals came in to the borough they opened them and said ‘no’ to all of them before they even allowed public comment or the developers to explain their plan that the Democrats voted for,” Whelan said.

The Democrats explained their alternative plan for the municipal lot.

“The current redevelopment plan is fatally flawed because it requires developers to pay the entire cost of a parking garage with 500 net-new parking spaces, an enormous feat that can only be accomplished through including massive surrounding development. Our alternative plan calls for tapping multiple sources of revenue, and thus, continuing negotiation with one of the five responding developers, but on a small, more sustainable project than currently is being proposed by the Republican plan,” Horgan said.

According to the Democrats’ proposed plan, the borough should decline to accept all responses to the borough’s April 7 request for proposal for the municipal lot and either conduct a new parking needs assessment or revise prior assessments to consider not only the White street municipal lot, but the entire downtown.

“First, evaluating the parking problem; second, figuring out how much it costs to solve that problem; and third, tapping multiple sources of revenue from the Special Improvement District, RiverCenter, to the developers to pay for the solution to our parking problem. In short, it is the opposite of the Republican plan, which puts all of our proverbial eggs in the developers’ basket. Instead, our plan has the borough leading by gathering resources to accomplish the end goal: a Red Bank parking solution, not a downtown development project with an accompanying parking garage,” Horgan said.

The Mayor and Council are well aware of the alternative plan, according to Horgan.

“The mayor has chosen not to support it. The Republicans refuse to cast votes to take the first step by modifying the redevelopment plan. So, we are currently at an impasse pending an upcoming public comment session that we hope will encourage movement forward,” Horgan said.

For information about the White Street municipal lot redevelopment plan, visit www.redbanknj.org/149/Administration.

For information about the request for proposal plans, visit www.redbanknj.org/196/Planning-Zoning.

Contact Vashti Harris at [email protected].