By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
“I would have to agree with everyone who’s ever said Red Bank is difficult to do business with,” said Geoff Johnson, who has approved plans to build a kayak and canoe rental and boat club on the banks of the Swimming River, at the north end of Shrewsbury Avenue.
Because Johnson’s property is at the end of Shrewsbury Avenue’s antiquated water line, a fire hydrant out front doesn’t deliver enough pressure for use in case of an emergency, borough officials have told him.
A replacement of the existing 4-inch main with an 8-incher is on the drawing board, and expected to be done by the end of the year. But until there’s adequate service to the hydrant, Johnson can’t proceed with construction.
The town says it’s on him to come up with an interim fix if he wants to continue building, Johnson tells redbankgreen.
So Johnson, 55, is faced with having to fork over beaucoup bucks for backup system, or lose a season of construction progress while waiting on the borough.
One interim fix calls for a temporary water connection to a point in the main with better pressure that officials say Johnson would have to pay for. According to Johnson, fire inspector John Drucker also told him he could rent a pricey 43-foot, 21,000-gallon water tank and park it in his yard until the main is replaced.
That option is not only expensive, but an eyesore and safety hazard, he said.
“It’s a spectacle,” he said, and, “it’s an enormously expensive undertaking.”
Johnson, a retired Manhattan-based architect, said he has poured his savings into the three-story structure, dubbed the Boathouse at Red Bank, which is to feature indoor kayak and canoe storage on the ground floor, rental offices on the second and an office and lounge for a private boat club on the third. He envisions the club as a “Monmouth Boat Club, but for kayaks and rowing” instead of sailing.
With building approvals from the borough and state Department of Environmental Protection in hand since 2008, Johnson’s slowly laid the framework for the boathouse and is ready to finish it.
But “I am sitting on hold because of a lack of flow of a fire hydrant,” said Johnson, who lives in the Navesink section of Middletown. “I’d like to do a little arm-twisting and get them to yield on this. That tank is horrendous, in both appearance and cost.”
The property, which faces the west side of the Galleria at Red Bank, also features a Victorian-era house that Johnson has renovated into two rental apartments. But to lose another season of activity on the river would have a major impact on his wallet, Johnson said.
So far, Johnson has laid the foundation for the building and is currently working on installing the parking lot’s curbing and lighting. He had hoped to have the building’s frame erected by July, but the substandard flow has slowed the project’s pace, and Johnson is hoping the borough will reconsider the options given to him so he can get to work and open for business in time to catch summer business.
“I’m going to do everything I humanly can and try to move the ball down the court,” Johnson said.