INFURIATED BUILDER BLASTS RED TAPE

r-mumfordRoger Mumford says he won’t proceed with his West Side development project until he gets more cooperation from the town. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Roger Mumford is pissed.

Infuriated, in fact, by what he calls the “non-stop torture” of dealing with Red Bank red tape.

And he says he’s not going to move forward on his self-funded Lincoln Square project on Bridge Avenue and Drs. James Parker Boulevard until he gets more cooperation.

Since gaining site plan approval last year to tear down a corner bodega and nearby homes and rebuild the area with a new bodega and five luxury homes, Mumford says he’s been hampered along the way in dealing with a borough permitting process that, “in my opinion, lacks leadership.”

“Every step of the way has been torturous,” Mumford told reporters Wednesday night, after appearing before the council to air his complaints.

A veteran developer with more than 4,000 projects under his belt, including a condominium project across Bridge Avenue from the Lincoln Square site, Mumford says he’s already poured at least $200,000 into various applications, engineering and legal fees and escrow accounts; has had to pay about $23,000 in water and sewer connection fees for existing connections; and was told by the fire inspector that he’d have to install sprinkler systems in all the single-family homes he plans to build — a requirement, he was told, because fire trucks won’t be able to get to the back of the properties.

“It was well-intentioned,” he says, “but it was just another example of non-stop torture from Red Bank.”

He came to the council Wednesday to get back the remaining $6,000 balance on a $25,000 parking fund payment made and then waived. The fee was imposed, he says, even though he’s not adding to the density of the area, normally the trigger for a payment into the deficiency fund.

“I had an issue with the idea that I had to pay a parking fee,” Mumford says. “I’m not asking for a tax abatement. I’m not asking for anything more than a little more cooperation from Red Bank.”

Considering he’s putting up his own money to rehab a “blighted” area in town, he told the council he thought it should be a little more cooperative to get the project moving.

His troubles, he says, are not unique.

“This is not just me. I constantly hear that this system in Red Bank is a far cry from the turbo resolutions of days passed,” he says. “It’s infuriating. It’s outrageous.”

Mumford says he made his appearance not to whine, but because in all his years working on projects, he’s never encountered so many layers of red tape.

“This is about the fact that, when somebody with their own private investment comes in to make an impact in a blighted section of Red Bank, I’ve been frustrated every step of the way,” he says.

Mumford directed much of his criticism at Mayor Pasquale Menna, saying he’s avoided him and his requests to take care of the parking requirement. Still, Menna lauded Mumford’s efforts to redevelop a section of the West Side. Speaking to Mumford’s complaints, Menna says, “he’s right.”

“You, more than anyone else, have privately transformed that side of town. I’ll say it anytime, anywhere,” Menna says. “I’m sorry you feel there has been a lack of cooperation.”

Borough Attorney Daniel O’Hern says because the borough received a letter from Mumford’s attorney implying a potential lawsuit, the matter would have to be discussed in a closed-to-the-public executive session, and advised council members not to discuss it. O’Hern says the borough is in the process of seeking a solution to Mumford’s concerns about the parking fund.

Until there is one, Mumford says he isn’t moving on his project. The remaining balance owed to the parking fund would free him up to file a map of the area, obtain proper demolition permits and allow him to begin construction.

“Until this matter is resolved, I can’t file the map and I can’t start the project,” he says.