THIRD TIME’S A CHARM ON MONMOUTH STREET

siros-monmouthStreet-level stores with 12 apartments above and parking underground will replace a longtime service station at Monmouth and Pearl streets.

After repeated tries, a scaled-back plan to replace a former auto service center at the corner of Monmouth and Pearl streets has cleared a major hurdle.

The Red Bank zoning board last night unanimously approved a pair of variances that could lead to the construction of a multi-use retail and residential structure on the site, most recently the home of Circles Skate Shop.

The plan calls for 6,100 square feet of stores at street level and two floors of six apartments each, ranging in size from 1,100 SF to 1,400 SF, according to Anthony Busch Jr., the project’s architect and one of its principals. (The others are his father, Anthony Busch Sr.; Patrick Nulle; and property owner John Chimento.)

Dubbed “Siros of Monmouth,” the project also has underground and off-street surface parking for 73 cars — 28 more than needed.

That rare parking surplus, taken together with a scaling back of a project from prior versions, led to an approval that had eluded the developers for more than a year.

An early iteration of the plan called for 36 housing units and no retail. Later, to accommodate the concerns voiced by an advisory committee of RiverCenter, the stores were added, and the proposed fourth floor of the structure was lopped off, leaving 24 units. Later still, the number of units was cut to 16.

But even that plan was rejected by the zoning board in April. Though sympathetic to the plan, board members said the project was too dense for the half-acre property.

Last night’s discussion of the plan also focussed on density, and whether the proposal would fit with the intention of a master plan re-examination that the borough planning board is scheduled to discuss Monday night. The borough council is expected to introduce an ordinance adopting the board’s proposed changes on July 27.

Borough engineer Rich Kosenski contended that, even after a loosening of density standards in the zone in which the property sits, the owners would need a variance to build the project. But zoning board members appeared satisfied that the project would not be out of place under the proposed zoning regime.

They were clearly persuaded, too, that the project could serve as the first to help bridge the east and west ends of Monmouth Street, which board member Chris Ferrigine said is interrupted by an “eyesore” stretch between Pearl and Wall streets.

“This plan would be a welcome addition,” he said, in remarks that were echoed by his board colleagues. “I think it’s a good start.”