MESSAGE TO MENNA: DON’T SELL THIS LAND

Img_4241The borough council ordered up an appraisal on the disused borough parking lot at the foot of Maple Avenue last month, with an eye toward a possible sale.

Pushback on Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna’s plan to sell a disused plot of riverfront borough land has begun.

Both today’s Asbury Park Press and this week’s Hub have stories about citizen efforts to derail the idea. And they’ve won support not only from the two Republicans on the six-member borough council, but from at least one Democrat, the Hub reports.

Larry Higgs of the Press features Fair Haven resident and Red Bank property owner “Cindy Barton,” who’s pictured sitting in her kayak on the property and wants to see the tract used as a boat launch. [We think Higgs means the woman identified in the Hub as Cindy Burnham; property records don’t show anyone named Barton owning property in either town, but Cynthia Burnham owns one in each.]

“It’s 50 feet (on the riverfront), but it’s 50 feet more of riverfront property that Red Bank residents have to enjoy,” said Barton, a Fair Haven resident who also owns a house in Red Bank. “I’m asking residents to come to the next council meeting to voice their opinions in support of saving this last piece of riverfront property.”

Menna, though, sees the property as a possible offset to a looming 20-percent local property tax increase for the owner of an average-assessment home, from $1,561 this year to $1,873 under the recently proposed 2008-’09 spending plan.

“There are any number of possible scenarios,” said Menna tells the Press. “Government has to look at everything, including disposing of property and cutting services.”

Currently, the property is underutilized, but a final decision is up to the council, Menna said. He cautioned that using the land for open space and a boat launch will have a price tag.

“Everything we do has a cost. No matter what we do, taxpayers have to pay for it,” Menna said. “The question is can we afford another open space application? We’d have to maintain it.”

The Hub’s Melissa Karsh looks at the politics of the land-sale proposal, reporting that the borough’s Environmental Commission has passed a resolution opposing the sale of the property and at least three council members are opposed to the sale.

“The EC felt that this was waterfront property and RedBank has very little public access waterfront. It is an area that has been talked about for a long time to extend the riverfront along, and if someone built there it would make it more difficult,” said commission President Louis DiMento. “Environmentally … if you build something, it will obstruct the view of the waterfront. Eventually it could be for better uses.”

Borough Council members Mary-Grace Cangemi, John P. Curley and Sharon Lee are also opposed to selling the property.

“I’m really opposed to selling the last opportunity for riverfront access that we have for our citizens. We lost most of our riverfront access on the east side of Red Bank. I really don’t think that it benefits citizens to sell the property,” said Lee.

She added, “It’s about quality of life in Red Bank, and we’ve given away more of our waterfront than we should have.We’re surrounded by water and our citizens can’t access it.”

Cangemi said she does not think selling the property is a sound economic plan.

“I don’t think that you use an asset for tax relief, because once you sell all your assets, you have no way of providing the same relief next year. You don’t use capital money for anything other than capital projects,” said Cangemi.

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