COURTYARDS PROJECT WINS FINAL OK

courtyards-at-monmouthThe development, fronting on Monmouth, West and Oakland streets, calls for a dozen units for low- and moderate-income buyers. (Click to enlarge)

With a last-minute concession to neighbors, a plan to build 57 residences on a vacant lot near the Red Bank train station won final approval Thursday night.

It’s the third such plan for the property, after two earlier ones ran aground. But a lawyer for the property owner, Amboy Bank, pledged that this one, called Courtyards at Monmouth like its immediate predecessor, will actually get built.

The proposal, by Amboy subsdiary GS Realty, has been in the works for year. Last July, a divided zoning board granted variances for the density of the plan; since January, separate hearings have been underway on requests for a long list of variances, including structures up to 53 feet high in a zone that allows only 40 feet.

As they were in the first round, neighbors were ambivalent about the plan. Nearly all who spoke at the hearings expressed relief that a long-vacant service station and two dilapidated Victorian houses would finally be replaced by something new and vibrant.

Yet they balked on particulars, including a proposed four-foot setback for the 12-unit affordable structure, to be sited at the corner of Oakland and West. Nearby residents said their homes were uniformly set back about 15 feet, and that granting a variance would ruin their ability to enjoy sunsets on their porches.

“Having that building on the end just sort of wall-off the corner is very disturbing,” said Amy Green.

“It’s a plus for the neighborhood,” Mandy Hanigan of Oakland Street said of the plan. But she saw deficiencies in it that she said were all traceable to its size.

“I hope the bank does make their money back, but by putting in less units,” she said.

Zoning board member Vincent Light, who last year opposed the density request, suggested a change in the alignment of parking spaces that might allow the building to be moved back from the street. After a huddle of architects and others working for Amboy, attorney Ken Pape told the board that the building would be moved up to 15 feet from the curb.

The plan also calls for an easement that would allow the borough to install solar collection panels on the roof and a provision for a community-shared rental car that would be available to non-residents at the Courtyards.

At the vote, board members had little to say about the plan, except for Rosemary Minear, who cast the lone vote in opposition, citing the density as well a plan to put solar panels on a canopy over a parking area.

“I know you’ve answered many of the residents’ concerns, but you haven’t answered the concerns of the borough,” she said, calling the project “too much.”

In other board business, a hearing on plan to turn the former Harper’s Copy Center on East Front Street into a bait and tackle shop was tabled until May 5.