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HAMPTON INN EYES RED BANK EYESORE

hampton-innPlans for a Hampton Inn at the site of a former gas station on Route 35 in Red Bank call for a six-story, 76-room hotel at the foot of the Navesink River. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

A major name in the hotel industry is looking to develop on a long-vacant eyesore property on the Navesink in Red Bank.

A franchisee has filed plans to build a six-story, 76-room Hampton Inn at the southwestern foot of Cooper’s Bridge, on the 1.2-acre former home to an Exxon station.

In order to move forward, though, the developer has asked the borough council to first make a change to its zoning law.

hampton-plansAn architect’s rendering for the Red Bank proposal. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

The plan calls for a dock, boardwalk, swimming pool and new bulkhead along the Navesink to allow public access. There would be parking for 78 vehicles at ground level beneath the building.

But there’s a hangup. The property touches on Rector Place, which is subject to a 12-year-old ordinance that sought to retain the street’s historic single-family character, according to Mayor Pasquale Menna.

The problem for RBank Capital LLC, the owner, is that the ordinance did not identify, by address or block and lot, the properties covered. And its property has 44 feet of frontage on Rector.

“In the strictest sense of reading the ordinance, I could not find [a hotel] to be a permitted use,” planning and zoning Director Donna Smith Barr said.

The provision is “a significant roadblock being presented to my client to develop this property,” attorney Marty McGann wrote in the application.

Menna raised the issue at the February 14 council meeting, when he proposed what he characterized as a technical revision to the zoning law to exclude the property from the ordinance.

“I don’t think anyone envisioned that that property should have been included,” he said. “That property isn’t really on Rector.”

Afterward, Menna told redbankgreen that the impetus for the change he is proposing had not come from RBank capital, but rather a review of the ordinance by the borough itself.

Borough engineer Christine Ballard said the property, because of its former use, is “subject to a lot of environmental restrictions” that would make single-family development inappropriate. “It seems that property should remain for commercial use,” she said.

Monmouth County records – which identify the property as “80 Rector Place” – indicate that RBank bought it out of the bankruptcy of convicted swindler Solomon Dwek for $842,000 in 2008.

No hearing is scheduled for the development proposal, but if it moves forward, the site, which has been vacant for about 15 years, would become home to the third hotel in town, joining the nearby Oyster Point Hotel and the Molly Pitcher Inn, both owned and run by J.P. Barry Hospitality.

The council is expected to discuss the proposed zoning change at its meeting Monday night.

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