COUNCIL: RED CARPET TO REPLACE RED TAPE

sogo-sushi-072011New procedures are expected to expedite openings and expansions by restaurants, like Sogu Sushi on Monmouth Street, and other types of business. (Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Welcome to Red Bank, business owners. Please take note of the red carpet in front of you.

That’s the message borough officials are delivering, fresh off the arrival of a bulleted report on cutting down administrative hindrances and other processes that drive prospective restaurateurs, shopkeepers and others to the ledge.

Ordered in response to the clamor of businesses and developers who’ve long blasted the borough for being difficult, and at times, torturous, to deal with, the months-long investigation by an ad-hoc ‘red-tape review committee‘ included multiple discussions with borough officials, business owners and the downtown promotion agency RiverCenter.

“The bottom line is the welcome mat is out, the screen door is open,” said Councilman Mike DuPont, who led the review. “You can have a cup of coffee with the mayor and everybody who’s here.”

Last week, Administrator Stanley Sickels highlighted the report and went over steps the borough is taking to keep bureaucracy at a minimum and tempers at bay.

Some samples of what Red Bank is doing, as outlined by Sickels:

• The zoning office has developed a flow chart describing the zoning process for applicants. It will offer detailed instructions on how to complete applications, and then provide a checklist for applicants.

• The planning and zoning departments will hold weekly application reviews and will also dedicate time for applicants to meet with department heads at one time.

• The unit is targeting plan reviews to be complete within five days of their arrival to borough hall.

Also, Sickels said since restaurant and food-use applications are the borough’s most common, Red Bank is cribbing from a 65-page restaurant guide used in New York City that gives the complete rundown on what business owners need to do to get their doors open.

“It’s sort of a soup-to-nuts procedural packet,” Sickels said. “There are a lot of good things we think we could use here, and use that as a guide.”

Despite multiple efforts from the governing body to make Red Bank a desirable location to open up shop — its suspended a requirement for contributions to the borough parking fund, for example — many a business owner has grumbled over red tape and regulations at borough hall and Mayor Pasquale Menna acknowledged them as, in some cases, enough to make a business owner jump out a window.

These new measures, DuPont said, are “just to make Red Bank that much more easier to work with.”