DetailAn architectural rendering of George Coffenberg’s proposed retail and residential project, with West Street in the foreground and Oakland Street at right. The Monmouth Street side would have four-story buildings.

A mixed retail and residential project proposed for Monmouth and West streets hit a speed bump last night enroute to possible approval by the Red Bank Planning Board.

At issue is a question towns all over New Jersey are grappling with the in the aftermath of a state appeals court decision of 13 months ago. The court upended rules drawn up by the state Council on Affordable Housing, saying that COAH had miscalculated the need for so-called “affordable housing” while hindering, rather than fostering, its creation.

Now, having pretty much come to terms with developer George Coffenberg over building design, access to an underground garage, landscaping and other matters, the borough has decided to call in its planning expert to referee dispute over which rules, exactly, apply while the state is in the midst of proposing new ones.

Coffenberg’s attorney, Wayne Peck, contends that the builder cannot be obligated by the borough as a condition of plan approval to provide any so-called “affordable” units among the 20 that the project calls for. The borough contends… well, it doesn’t know exactly where things stand, and needs expert advice, says board attorney Michael Leckstein.

“The major aspects of this project are very pleasing,” Leckstein said. But under COAH rules that he acknowledges are in flux, the builder could be obligated to provide between five and eight low-cost units, based on the number of market units and the jobs that could be created in the street level stores, he said.

“This is an area where the ice hasn’t formed yet that I’m walking on,” Leckstein said.

Because of the uncertainty, towns and builders find themselves “in the greatest level of turmoil we’ve had in 15 or 20 years,'” Coffenberg’s planner Andrew Janiw, told redbankgreen.

Borough planner Richard Creamer of T&M Associates is expected to report to the board in advance of its next hearing on the Coffenberg plan, which has been scheduled for March 3.

In the meantime, a public hearing on the proposed new COAH rules is scheduled for tomorrow at the Monmouth County Library in Manalapan from 4p to 8p.

By coincidence, Mayor Pasquale Menna, who sits on the planning board, was in a hurry to leave last night. He said he was attending a dinner with Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Joe Doria, under whose aegis COAH falls.

The project needs a variance for a 20-space parking deficit.

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