By JOHN T. WARD
Fresh off a prolonged tangle over a proposed and ultimately rejected Hampton Inn hotel on the Navesink River, Red Bank officials are taking an editing pen to land use laws and a chainsaw to building heights.
Under an amendment floated for adoption at Wednesday night’s borough council meeting, new buildings in the town’s waterfront development zone would be limited to 75 feet above mean sea level. Currently, structures in the zone are allowed to be as tall as 140 feet.
The changes could clear the way for Rbank Capital LLC, owner of former filling station property at the foot of the Route 35 Cooper’s Bridge, to return with a slightly modified hotel plan, said Mayor Pasquale Menna.
Menna said the changes are needed to clarify zoning limits that, in the case of the Hampton Inn, were fodder for two lawsuits and turned the hotel proposal into a ball batted back and forth between the borough planning and zoning boards both of which found the language of the law vague and baffling.
In finding last month that the hotel, at 82.2 feet above mean high tide of the adjoining river, would exceed the height limits for the property, zoning board members complained about the ordinance, and asked the council to fix it.
The council, in turn, directed its planning consultant, Richard Cramer, to do a review of the waterfront development ordinance. He came back with a report (RB Planner Recommendation) a week ago suggesting the changes proposed Wednesday night.
The changes would also for the first time ensure that the former Exxon property is no longer considered as part of the adjoining neighborhood along Rector Place. Those homes on the river side of Rector Place, several of them considered historic, would be reclassified from the waterfront development zone into a residential zone.
Though its longest side is along busy Route 35, the hotel site has 40 feet of frontage along Rector Place, and has historically been regarded as “fronting” on Rector Place.
Stephen Mitchell, a Prospect Avenue resident who, with deep-pockets help from out-of-town hotel owners, challenged the Hampton Inn plan before two boards and in court as “too tall, too big and too intense” for its location, left the council meeting before the substantive discussion of the amendments and was not immediately available for comment.
Asked if he had discussed the proposed changes in advance with the principals of Rbank Capital, Menna said he had not. “I’m sure they’ll read about it in the news tomorrow,” he said.
The proposed changes now go to the planning board for review and are expected to be put up for an adoption vote on July 25.