PLANNING BOARD TO HOLD DO-OVER
Government watchdog Steve Fitzpatrick says public inattention could lead to more traffic and parking problems in Red Bank.
A recommendation to let developers build 40 units where they're now limited to 16 is one of several that Red Bank residents will get a second shot at commenting on Wednesday night.
That's when the planning board, at the direction of Mayor Pasquale Menna, takes another stab at soliciting input on suggested changes to the master plan, the policy document that guides zoning regulations.
The do-over of sorts comes after pressure from lone-wolf activist Steve Fitzpatrick, a 50-year-old retired Long Branch firefighter who lives on Hudson Avenue. Last month, he urged Menna and the borough council to re-open the public hearing because the sole session conducted by the planning board followed nearly six-months of closed-door discussions and landed on a Monday night 10 days before Christmas.
"A lot of things like this happen the meeting notice is a tiny blurb on a back page of the Asbury Park Press," says Fitzpatrick. "And the meeting was held right in the heart of the holiday season."
If more people knew what was being proposed, more might be as alarmed as he is about what's on the table, Fitzpatrick says.
The re-opening of the public comment period is something of a formality, as the board has already voted to adopt the Master Plan Re-Examination Report and a related Historic Plan Element.
The board's recommendations have been forwarded to the council, which in turn must hold hearings on any new zoning ordinances or amendments to existing ones before they can be enacted.
Still, while planning board members say they're satisfied that all the legal requirements of public notice were met, they're happy to hear from more citizens.
"I would encourage people to come out," says Dan Mancuso, the board's vice chairman. "I can't stand when people complain but don't come to the meetings. It certainly helps when people are there. It's helps guide us."
One aspect of the plan that Fitzpatrick is alarmed about is a proposal to allow 35 units per acre in the vicinity of the train station. (Click inset to enlarge map)
The subcommittee that drew up the proposal wrote in its report that a new "overlay" zone shoud be created in the area "to encourage residential development with ready access to public transportation as the primary means of travel."
Fitzpatrick views that increase as an invitation to New Jersey Transit not only to build a commuter parking garage on its station property, but to clear the way for a private garage developer to build housing units atop the structure in numbers that would put added stress on borough streets, sewer and water systems and schools.
None of those services and infrastructure impacts were addressed by the subcommittee, contrary to the recommendation by the Monmouth County Planning Board that they be, he says.
Fitzpatrick says the review subcommittee was formed last July and met an undetermined number of times between then and November, when it handed in a draft report. A month later, at the board's December 15 meeting, the proposal was approved.
Menna, who is a member of the board, was not present.
Maps that were prepared in the process were not even completed until
the day of the meeting, Fitzpatrick says. And they're still not online
for the public to see them.
"It was over and done with within a month," says Fitzpatrick. "There has to be more community input into the development of the master plan. County guidelines call for community workshops. They should have held a public hearing on the draft report."
Here's the Master Plan Re-examination Report Download 2008 Master Plan.
Here's the Historic Plan Element Download 2008 Historic Plan Element.
And here are the minutes of the December 15 meeting: Download Planning Board minutes 12.15.08.
The 1995 Master Plan and the 2002 re-examination are available at the borough website's planning documents page.