atrium-lot-render2A representative of the Atrium at Navesink holds an artist’s depiction of the proposed lot while residents listen to testimony at last night’s zoning board hearing. (Click to enlarge)

Questions about traffic and pedestrian safety slowed plans for a 98-car valet parking lot to serve the Atrium at Navesink Harbor senior citizen high-rise last night.

Complicating the work of the Red Bank zoning board was its own determination to weigh the plan as though a second, pending proposal — for the addition of six stories to an already approved six-floor annex to the Atrium — did not exist. That plan is expected to land before the board as early as next month.

atrium-lot-render1An artist’s rendering showing a view of the planned lot from West Front and Pearl streets, looking northwest. (Click to enlarge)

Atrium owner PHS Senior Living of Princeton is seeking a use variance to build the lot, located at the triangular juncture of Riverside Avenue and West Front street, once the home of car dealership. An office building was previously approved for the site by the planning board, but that structure, which was to be the second phase of the Red Bank Corporate Plaza across West Front Street, was never started and the lot has remained vacant.

Acting on a recommendation of board attorney Marc Leckstein, the zoning board last night voted to hear the parking lot plan separate from the request to add 24 luxury units to a planned Atrium annex. The annex is already approved for 60 units just to the east of the existing 12-story tower.

Leckstein, citing case law, said any applicant had the right to have separate hearings for use variances and site plans, a right that could only be quashed when two elements were deemed so deeply integrated that they could not be held separately. In doing so, he rejected a request by attorney Sean Byrnes, who appeared on behalf of the tenants of the neighboring Riverside Towers highrise.

“We’re going to have to go through this all over again” when the building plan lands before the board, Leckstein said.

But the discussion of the parking lot quickly and repeatedly became enmeshed in questions about the impact of the proposed building addition on employee parking and other issues tied to the growth of the Atrium.

Board members also pressed Atrium representatives about the impact of special events hosted there. Events such as the KaBoom Fireworks and Sunset Luau fundraiser have each attracted several hundred guests to the property.

Such questions were clearly irksome to Atrium attorney John Giunco, who took the position that the board should not be talking about the adequacy of the lot because the planning board had already settled that question when it gave its approval for the planned six-floor addition.

Moreover, he said, PHS already has a more than sufficient supply of spaces to accommodate its employees, residents and visitors. The company owns the former Salvation Army lot between Riverside Towers and the Hovnanian Enterprises headquarters, where it has room for 45 cars. It also leases a smattering of small lots, which it will drop if the lot is approved, still resulting in a net gain of spaces.

“We have the spaces now. They’re all over this portion of town,” Giunco said. “We consider this plan an improvement, a consolidation.”

Board member Karen Waldmann and engineer Christine Ballard, though, said their concerns were the volume of valet-driven cars down Allen Place, a residential block, and whether a card-controlled gate into the lot would cause backups on Riverside Avenue.

Plans show that on both Riverside and West Front, drivers would only be able to enter the lot by making right turns, and also would only be able to exit by making rights. Valets would enter and leave the lot following a clockwise pattern east on Riverside, west on West Front, and north on Morford and Allen places.

The hearing is scheduled to continue on October 1. Residents of Riverside Towers high rise are expected to object. Alternate board member Manny Carabel, who lives at Riverside and has voiced concerns about the plan, recused himself from the hearing.