PARKING-SHORTAGE RULE TO BE SUSPENDED

Rclarge2_010508By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

In an effort to pull Red Bank’s struggling business districts out of an economic hole, the borough council is making a revenue concession aimed at attracting new stores and restaurants.

With the introduction of an amendment to its laws Monday night, the council moved toward implementing a one-year suspension of its parking deficiency policy, which requires new businesses to pay into a fund if they lack the number of   parking spaces required by ordinance.

Says Tom Fishkin, a business owner who sits on the board of RiverCenter: “It takes a big pressure off,” for businesses to come in, he said. “It takes one variable out of the equation.”

Indeed, the parking fund has become a hurdle for new or expanding businesses in town, Mayor Pasquale Menna acknowledged. Depending on the amount of space used, it could cost a new tenant thousands just for parking spaces it can’t provide, he said.

The parking fund was set up about 15 years ago to pay for solutions to borough parking, whether that be repaving, new meters or other improvements. But as the borough struggles to keep its existing merchants, while finding difficulty in attracting new ones, the council appears ready to freeze the policy in the hope of triggering a local stimulus that still hasn’t taken hold on the national level.

The amendment is up for final passage at the council’s next meeting, on October 25.

“I think this is going to make the difference with jump-starting our downtown businesses,” Menna said.

Menna said if no new businesses are coming in, there is nothing to be gained in the fund, which has about $500,000 in it. If new businesses come in, but don’t pay, it’s still a win, because the borough has broadened its tax base, he said.

“We can undertake this experiment, and I think it’s going to be well-received,” Menna said.

Fishkin, who ownes Readie’s Fine Foods on Monmouth Street, lauded the move, hopeful that it will stir a sluggish economy and rejuvenate Red Bank as a destination, now that Asbury Park and Long Branch have emerged from their own struggles of sustainability. He said making a higher profile bodes well for everybody else in town.

“If we can bolster our night life, it can only help Red Bank, and make us the top destination in Monmouth County,” he said.

The suspension would be in effect until the end of 2011, Menna said.

Meantime?

“I think you’re going to see a lot of C.O.s [certificates of occupancy] real soon,” he said.