ZONING BOARD: TAKE ME TO THE RIVER

Navesink_bankstA view of the Navesink from Bank Street.

Thanks largely to a YouTube video recorded by a Bank Street resident, a condo plan approved recently by the Red Bank zoning board will have to provide clearly marked public access to the Navesink River.

Brian Donohue’s video, as redbankgreen reported last week, raised questions about just who controls access to the river when multifamily dwellings are built on its bluffs.

In particular, the video focused on whether guarantees of public access offered when condos built on Chapin Avenue earlier this decade were met, and whether even officials of the homeowners’ association at that project knew the extent of the public’s rights.

Donohue screened the video for the zoning board as it was mulling conditions for the approval of RW @ River’s Edge, an 11-unit condo that would sit above the river between the western ends of Bank Street and Drs. James Parker Boulevard.

The video, said board attorney Kevin Kennedy, showed that even when there is a public access easement, “the public doesn’t always know about it,” nor do the homeowners who are supposed to honor it.

“That video was eye-opening, to be sure,” said board member Kevin Moss.

As a result, “We said, ‘let’s make this site as public as can be,'” said Moss. “This had to be better.”

Kennedy drafted conditions that he said “clearly and unequivocally” require that access “remain open and inviting to the public.”

• RW @ River’s Edge will be required to grant a public waterfront access easement and file it with the Monmouth County clerk.

• The easement must be specifically referenced in the to-be-formed homeowners’ association’s offering statement and bylaws.

• And the developer must provide ample and clear signs “and other forms of demarcation clearly delineating the association’s private property from the public access easement property.”

Those conditions were approved unanimously by the zoning board last week.

Here’s Donohue’s take on the outcome, via email:

I’m stoked! Looks like a great move by the board to me – (although really, I don’t know quite enough about this stuff to know whether that’s a real forceful move or not.) As I’ve said all along, I’m not happy with the design or even the concept of condos being built where they will seem so wildly out of place. But if this project opens up the riverfront so park-starved west siders can walk to the river and enjoy the great sunset views from the bluff or skip a few stones with their kids, it will be well worth it having them built. The neighbors and town need to fight and work for that. Also, you hear so much grumbling about how the town is run, but I think the various boards have been really reasonable throughout this whole process. Now I hope they build something…

RW’s attorney, Kevin Coakley, tells redbankgreen that while there will be a dedicated and clearly marked easement that the public can use to access the river from the street, his client can’t currently build a sidewalk or any other structure because the state Department of Environmental Protection considers the site to be part of a bald eagle habitat. (At least one pair keeps a nest upriver in Colts Neck.)

As for the Chapin Avenue project, Kennedy read this statement into the record:

“The board was extremely concerned with the content of a videotape and the apparent violation of a waterfront access easement on another property, and encourages the neighbors to consider actively pursuing the matter further through the appropriate borough offices.”

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