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Red Bank council moves forward with plan to create redevelopment agency

 Municipal officials in Red Bank have introduced an ordinance that would, if adopted, create the Red Bank Redevelopment Agency.

The agency would supervise the logistics involved with “smarter, rather than greater” construction in town, Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna said during the Feb. 13 meeting of the Borough Council.

A public hearing on the proposed ordinance is scheduled for Feb. 27. The council may adopt the ordinance following the public hearing.

“As a jewel in central New Jersey, Red Bank should avail itself of the modern tools available to municipalities,” Menna said.

Council President Erik Yngstrom, Councilman Hazim Yassin, Councilwoman Kate Triggiano, Councilwoman Kathy Horgan and Councilman Ed Zipprich voted “yes” on a motion to introduce the ordinance.

Councilman Michael Ballard voted “no.” Ballard declined to respond to a reporter when asked why he voted “no” on the introduction of the ordinance.

According to the ordinance, the Red Bank Redevelopment Agency would be responsible for the clearance, replanning, development and redevelopment initiatives in the borough.

If the ordinance is adopted, the mayor will appoint seven commissioners to the new agency. The first set of commissioners would serve terms of between one and five years. Subsequent appointments would be for five years.

During the meeting, resident Dan Reardon said he was concerned with a part of the ordinance which states that Red Bank “seeks to provide (development) incentives and stimulate growth.”

Reardon said he is skeptical of the nature of a redevelopment agency. He said such an entity could “push development harder than the course (that development) would naturally take.”

“I don’t think there is any justification for this (agency),” he said.

Menna said he met with representatives of the Division of Local Government Services and the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs and said they “unanimously and glowingly” recommended that officials formulate and integrate a redevelopment agency.

Menna said the redevelopment agency’s commissioners would coordinate and strategize development in Red Bank. He said the creation of such an agency does not necessarily mean that “massive” development projects would be pursued.

“The whole purpose of a redevelopment agency is not to encourage greater development, but to channel the resources Red Bank has to coordinate and develop, in a comprehensive fashion, the planning, guidelines and financial issues in terms of the municipality’s anticipated growth and its service to the community,” he said.

“ … A redevelopment agency would focus time, energy and resources to get the work done and to get it done efficiently,” Menna said. “Specifically, (the agency could help) coordinate transportation, because we are a transportation hub, work with our health institutions and engage our entertainment sectors and commerce …”

Resident Ben Forest, who praised the expertise that could be provided by individuals who devote time and attention to serving as commissioners, said a redevelopment agency “could be dangerous if you’re an amateur.”

Borough Attorney Greg Cannon said the commissioners would oversee projects to ensure redevelopment initiatives come to fruition. He said some redevelopment plans never advance past the discussion stage.

“You sometimes can start off with a big idea and it can never get momentum,” Cannon said. “This agency would be created to flip the process. With (the commissioners’) expertise they will go out and look at properties, see what the market is like and come up with more options for a developer.”

Zipprich said individuals who are appointed as commissioners would formulate and oversee design standards for development.

The proposed ordinance states that the commissioners will serve without compensation. It states that the Red Bank Redevelopment Agency will employ an executive director, but makes no mention of the compensation to be paid to that individual.

In other council business, Business Administrator Ziad Shehady said Red Bank will receive an $18,000 grant for technology that will be used to televise government meetings. Council meetings will be broadcast online and on a local access channel for Comcast and Verizon Wireless customers, he said.

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