YMCA SUES BOROUGH OVER PLAN DENIAL

ymca1The Community YMCA says the zoning board rejection was capricious. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

As expected, the Community YMCA has filed a lawsuit against Red Bank’s zoning board for its decision to not allow the Y to nearly double the size of its Maple Avenue facility, putting the nonprofit at odds with the town on two legal fronts.

The suit, filed on May 18 in state Superior Court in Freehold, says that the board’s resolution denying the Y’s expansion plan “lacks a factual basis for its negative findings and provides nothing more that conclusions unsupported by fact or applicable land use law, ” and therefore makes the board’s decision unreasonable.

The Y is seeking to reverse the zoning board’s decision and win approval of the variance applications and site plan. It is also asking for compensation for the cost of the suit and whatever other relief the court deems just.

The board voted 4 to 3 in favor of the plan back in February, but a supermajority was required for the plan to pass because it entailed a use variance. The Y has been operating for decades in the professional office zone on Maple as an exception.

Six weeks later, the planning board rejected a request by the Y that its plan be deemed in conformance with the town’s master plan.

Among planning board members, only Mayor Pasquale Menna favored the Y request.

Menna predicted in April that a lawsuit would be filed after the council rejected, 4-1, a proposed ordinance amendment that would have made the YMCA a permitted use, and therefore made it easier for its brass to return with another plan.

“I saw it coming,” Menna told redbankgreen.

The zoning board will be represented by its conflict attorney, Marc Leckstein, who couldn’t offer much on the suit earlier this week.

“The board feels there’s nothing wrong,” with its decision, he said. “We will defend the suit as necessary. We feel confident in our decision.”

The lawsuit is the second pending by the YMCA against Red Bank.

The Superior Court will also preside over a lawsuit filed last year concerning the Y’s attempted sale of  51 Monmouth Street, where the onetime borough hall was located. A decade ago, Red Bank sold the property for $1 to the Children’s Cultural Center, which later merged with the Y. After costly repairs, the Y put the property up for sale, but Red Bank claims that a state statute precludes the association from selling and that it should revert to borough ownership.

Menna said the lawsuits cover “two separate, distinct issues.”

Here’s a single document containing the YMCA’s lawsuit and the zoning board’s resolution of denial: cymca-v-rbzba-2