Congregation Beth Shalom Secretary Sara Breslow speaks against a proposed zoning ordinance at Monday’s council meeting. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)
By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
Red Bank’s borough council voted 4-1 against a contentious ordinance amendment that would have made the Community YMCA a permitted use at its longtime location Monday night, effectively ending the organization’s recent bid to expand the Maple Avenue facility.
It very well may be the council’s most expensive vote this year, according to Mayor Pasquale Menna.
“My only admonition is that it’s going to be really costly for the borough. I can’t guarantee what happens,” he said.
Council President Art Murphy III cast the lone vote in favor, telling reporters afterward he thinks it ideal to allow commercial recreational facilities in the professional office zone in which the Y is now classified as a non-conforming use.
Michael DuPont abstained from voting because he has been a Y member for 25 years and has an “affinity” for the organization that he’s acknowledged in the past. Council members Sharon Lee, Kathy Horgan, Juanita Lewis and Ed Zipprich all voted no, without comment. As mayor, Menna only votes in the event of a tie.
Had the council approved the change, Y officials could have returned to with expansion plans to the borough without having to deal with the obstacles of a use variance. The amendment was drafted shortly after the Y failed to gain a supermajority vote from the zoning board in February.
Since the ordinance was introduced, the planning board rendered a decision that making the Y a permitted use wouldn’t fit in with the borough’s master plan, its guiding planning and development document.
All along, Menna has been one of the few local officials vocal in favor of the change, and Monday night’s decision by the council further isolated his position. He speculated after the meeting that of the three options Y officials have to accept the zoning board’s decision and do nothing; come back to the borough with a new application; or appeal the board’s decision in state Superior Court the latter seems to be the most likely.
He said that would undoubtedly “cost the Y and the borough a lot of money.”
Marty McGann, an attorney representing the YMCA, declined to comment on the organization’s intentions.
Looking out from the dais to a chamber full of residents, business owners and Y members, none of the council members offered a rationale for his or her vote.
“It would have been nice to have them expound on their views,” said Steven Benini, the Y’s vice president of financial development.
Referring to months of fueled debate among residents and local officials at public meetings, Benini added, “We found it odd that after so much had been said, they had nothing to say.”
However, he said, the work and goals of the YMCA in Red Bank will stay the same.
“We’re driven by our mission, not the building,” Benini said.
Co-interim executive director Andrea Plaza said the Y’s board of directors must regroup and “really consider all our options.”
According to Menna, Y officials have 45 days from the time a resolution regarding the zoning board’s decision is passed to file an appeal. He was unsure Monday night if that resolution had yet been approved.
Here’s the ordinance: 2010-11ordinance