By JOHN T. WARD
Adding yet another twist to what’s already the most convoluted building request in recent Red Bank history, the borough zoning board ruled Thursday night that a proposed 72-room hotel on the Navesink River exceeds height limitations.
In a trial-like case that turned on questions of property frontage and where streets begin and end, the board rejected the contention by Hampton Hotel developer RBank Capital LLC that the hotel site fronts on Route 35, rather than Rector Place, and should be subject to a height limit of 85 feet above mean high tide, rather than 60 feet.
The board’s 6-1 rejection of those arguments appear to mean that Rbank will have to either shear off several floors of the six-story structure or start its application all over again, abandoning a series of hearings now on hold at the planning board.
The zoning board was not ruling on the overall merits of the hotel plan, which had been the subject of planning board hearings that began last September.
Rather, the zoning board convened solely for the purpose of hearing an “interpretation” challenge by objector Stephen Mitchell, who contended that the height of the proposed structure, at 82.2 feet above mean high tide of the adjoining, put it in violation of limits for the waterfront development zone in which it would be built.
That, in turn, meant that the case should have been heard all along by the zoning board, which has different and arguably stiffer standards, Mitchell contended.
Lawyer Marty McGann and engineers for Rbank argued that though the former Exxon property has 47 feet of its southern border on Rector Place, it should more properly be seen as fronting on Route 35, and that a different height standard should thus apply.
The board, with little discussion and some apparent uncertainty, agreed with Mitchell.
Only board member Karen Waldman took Rbank’s side.
“Yes, I agree it’s on Rector Place,” she told redbankgreen afterward. “But I don’t think it ought to be treated like the rest of Rector Place,” which is lined with residences. “I think it’s separate and distinctive.”
Here’s Mitchell’s comment on the outcome, via email:
I never had an issue with developing the site with a hotel. My problem with the Hampton Inn plan was that it was too tall, too big, and too intense of a development for the 1 acre site. Tonight’s Zoning Board interpretation only bolsters my opinion. Now, let’s see if the Hampton Inn comes back with a more responsible and conforming design.