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PLANNING BOARD TO BUONA SERA: MANGIA

Buona_seraBuona Sera’s plan to expand into the space now used by Fins and Feathers was approved by the Planning Board earlier this week.

It doesn’t have a single parking space to offer its customers, but Buona Sera Ristorante has gotten a greenlight from borough planners for an expansion that will boost its capacity by 148 seats.

In lieu of parking, the restaurant at the corner of Maple Avenue and Monmouth Street will be required to make a one-time $70,000 contribution to the borough parking fund, said Planning and Zoning Director Donna Smith Barr.

The Planning Board gave unanimous approval to the restaurant’s expansion Monday, despite reservations by the Visual Improvement Committee of Red Bank RiverCenter, the downtown promotional entity.

“The VIC feels strongly that the expansion plans do not include adequate parking, and the applicant should provide specific plans for adequate parking to accommodate growth,” RiverCenter Executive Director Nancy Adams wrote to the board recently.

But an analysis of existing parking conditions conducted for Buona Sera by the Manalapan firm of CMX Engineering claimed to have found an abundance of unused spaces nearby.

Within a “two-block radius” of the eatery, which the firm said included Peters Place, CMX counted 218 parking spots on the streets and 276 spaces in the White Street lot. An hourly inventory on consecutive Friday nights — October 26 and November 2 — including a night when the nearby Count Basie Theatre was hosting an event, showed a minimum of 122 spaces available, CMX project manager Jeffrey Fiore said in a report.

The restaurant contended that local ordinances required it to provide just 39 spaces to accommodate the expansion. At $2,500 per space mandated by the borough’s “parking deficiency” ordinance, the $70,000 payment is the equivalent of 28 spaces.

In 2003, five years after it opened, Buona Sera was allowed to expand into the space above Fins and Feathers, where it created a private catering facility and bar. At the time, it was granted a variance for 97 spaces it otherwise would have had to provide, according to planning department records.

Fins and Feathers, a live-animal and pet-supplies store that now occupies the space Buona Sera will expand into, is moving January 1 to the former site of the Victory Market, also on Monmouth Street.

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