YMCA TO COUNCIL: GIVE US A BREAK

ymcaAn offer to preserve the trees at right wasn’t enough to save the Y’s expansion plans, but a simple request may. (Click to enlarge)

Four days after the conclusion of a long but failed effort to win approval for a facilities expansion plan, officials of the Community YMCA last night asked the Red Bank council for a shortcut.

They want the town to designate the recreational facility as a permitted use in its zone.

Y officials, accompanied by a land-use attorney, say the request is based on a desire to fix an anomaly in the borough zoning law that allows the operation of the Atlantic Club health facility but not the Y, though both are in the professional-office zone and are located less than half a mile from one another on Maple Avenue.

The Atlantic Club designation “is an oddity, in that it’s a zone within a zone,” Y lawyer Marty McGann told redbankgreen.

Approval of the request would mean that the Y could return to borough hall with its plan, or a modified version of it, without having to confront the significant issue of a use variance, McGann said.

That would essentially leave planning and zoning Director Donna Smith Barr to determine if any other variances were required, or if the plan could be approved without public hearings.

Though a 4-3 majority of zoning board members voted in favor of the plan, it failed to get the supermajority vote required for use variances, and failed.

Pitching the redesignation idea to the council last night, the Y’s co-interim executive director, Andrea Plaza, focused entirely on the good works and outreach of the organization, which she said at 136 years is the town’s longest-running charitable organization.

In particular, she cited its free memberships to police, fire and first-aid providers; discounted membership fees for qualified families; and initiatives to combat childhood obesity.

At no point in the public presentation was any mention made of the disparate treatment in the law of the Y and the Atlantic Club.

Still, Mayor Pasquale Menna said that the Y’s request was “appropriate” under the state land use law and would be referred to the borough planner for review.

“There has to be at least a threshold basis for the change,” Menna said. “I think there are some legal issues for us to consider as a governing body. We need to meet certain standards and objectives.”

He assured Plaza that the review “is not going to be a long process.”

Afterward, McGann said that the Y had not decided whether to appeal the zoning board rejection to state Superior Court, but may yet if the council rejects the zoning-designation request.

“I think if I were a betting man, you could probably expect an appeal,” he said.

Plaza is sharing leadership of the Y with Steven Benini following the resignation, effective last Friday, of president and chief executive officer Gary Laermer.

Laermer, who headed the CYMCA for four years, left to become a senior vice president and chief development officer at the YMCA of Greater New York.

Plaza said Laermer’s departure played no role in the expansion plan’s failure at the zoning board.