YMCA SCALES BACK EXPANSION PLAN

cymcaTalks between Community YMCA officials and Red Bank’s zoning board led the Y to shave 15,000 square feet off a proposed expansion at the Maple Avenue health facility. (Click to enlarge)

Almost 10 months after a protracted hearing process that led to a rejection and lawsuit, the Community YMCA will return to the Red Bank zoning board this week with a dramatically scaled-back proposal to expand its Maple Avenue health facility, redbankgreen has learned.

Andrea Plaza, the Y’s vice president for family health, said closed-door settlement negotiations with the board resulted in the nonprofit making significant changes to the scope and appearance of the proposed expansion.

The talks resulted in “a better plan,” Plaza said.

The changes include a reduction in size of the proposed expansion, to 25,000 square feet, from 40,000 SF, Plaza said. The new idea also drops plans to develop a vacant lot on the southern side of the Y’s neighbor, Congregation Beth Shalom. The rejected plan had envisioned that area being used for parking.

Also included is a redesign of the facade, which would now incorporate red brick to create a more traditional appearance. Though it had been modified over the course of months to answer objections, the prior plan called for a look that some zoning board members still felt was architecturally out of place with nearby structures.

Plaza praised the talks for prompting the Y to draft a “more efficient” plan that still meets the organization’s goals.

“It does what we need it to do” to accommodate existing membership and growth, she said. “We also don’t have to raise as much money to build it.”

Attorney Marc Leckstein, sitting in as board attorney for Kevin Kennedy, who recused himself from the application, was not immediately available for comment.

In February, the board voted 4-3 in favor of the Y’s plan, which would have nearly doubled the size of the facility. But because a zoning variance was being sought, a supermajority was required, so the proposal failed. The Y later appealed the rejection to the planning board, which upheld the zoning board decision, and asked the borough council for a rezoning, but failed at that, too. The Y then filed a lawsuit in state Superior Court in Freehold.

Plaza said the settlement discussions, overseen by attorneys for the two sides, were conducted behind closed doors with the aim of ending the Y’s lawsuit, though the suit remains pending. Under what’s known as a ‘Whispering Woods’ legal precedent, the Y is now expected to publicly detail the proposed changes beginning Thursday night, followed by a public comment period and board vote.

[UPDATE. December 1: Here’s the zoning board agenda: 12-2-10zoningboardofadjustmentagenda]