The seven-story, 76-room hotel would be built on a one-acre riverfront property adjacent to Cooper’s Bridge, seen here from the Middletown side of the Navesink. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
A 2013 change to the building height limits in Red Bank’s waterfront development zone did not constitute “spot zoning,” even though it benefitted a planned Hampton Inn a state appeals court ruled Wednesday.
Instead, the appeals court upheld a Superior Court decision that found the changes “were enacted as part of a comprehensive plan to advance the general welfare of the community.”
As reported by redbankgreen last week, Rbank Capital, of Old Bridge, returned to the borough planning board in November, hoping to restart hearings discontinued in 2013 in the midst of litigation.
Real estate agent Angela Agazzi, a Wallace Street resident, had sued to force the project from the planning to the zoning board, which has stricter standards of proof.
Through her attorney, Ron Gasiorowski, Agazzi argued that zoning amendments passed by the borough council in the midst of the Hampton Inn hearings amounted to “spot zoning” to allow the developer to contravene zoning law.
The amendments raised the maximum building-height at the proposed hotel site, at Rector Place and Route 35, to 82.4 feet. They also came just two months after the zoning board, which had been asked for an interpretation of the height restriction, ruled that the hotel would exceed the height limit for its zone, which it said was 50 feet.
Then-borough Attorney Dan O’Hern, however, argued that the changes were an attempt to clarify murky and contradictory rules affecting the entire waterfront development zone, not solely the hotel property.
In April, 2014, Superior Court Judge Thomas Scully in Freehold rejected Agazzi’s challenge. Agazzi appealed.
After arguments last month, the three-judge appellate panel ruled Wednesday that it was “undisputed” that the three height standards previously in effect in the waterfront zone were “confusing and unworkable.”
From the decision:
“The Borough acted responsibly in reviewing the ordinance at the behest of the ZBA [zoning board of adjustment], and then enacting a new regulation that promotes uniformity within the district. Contrary to plaintiff’s contention, the ordinance does not contravene the Master Plan, and in fact continues the seventy-five foot height standard that had been included in the ordinance prior to its amendment. “
Gasiorowski said Thursday that he doesn’t yet know if his client will appeal the matter to the state Supreme Court.
The latest plans by Rbank Capital, led by managing partner Larry Cohen, call for “very minor” changes from the original plan, attorney Marty McGann told redbankgreen last week.
Though no date for a resumption of the hearings had been set last week, officials expected it could come up as early as February 17.
Here’s the decision: Agazzi v. Red Bank, Appellate Division Decision 011316