The council directed the planning board to evaluate the borough-owned White Street lot for its “suitability” for a parking garage — and to do the same for a private lot where the zoning board turned down a 35-unit apartment building. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
On the agenda:
• a legal interpretation that could lead to the construction of a new parking facility on White Street
• a do-over of sorts for a rejected 35-unit apartment building on West Front Street
• and yet another plan for housing on a disused “five corners” property on the edge of downtown.
Ray Rapcavage on the site of 18 homes he’s proposing to build at five corners. Below, the privately owned vacant lot opposite Riverside Gardens Park, below, where 35 apartments were rejected earlier this year. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
• One concerns the possible construction of a parking garage in the heart of town. In particular, the planning board has been asked to determine whether the 2.3-acre municipal lot on White Street “satisfies the criteria for designation as a noncondemnation redevelopment area.”
That’s a legalistic way of saying that the board is being asked to answer whether the site meets the criteria of “an area in need of redevelopment” as defined by state law.
The so-called “needs study,” was a step recommended in a June, 2014 report by the civil engineering firm CME Associates on the town’s options regarding parking solutions. As part of that study, CME — which was hired in January as the borough’s “redevelopment engineer” — recommended the town take a redevelopment approach with a private developer, rather than self-financing a garage, selling the land to a garage developer, or pursuing other alternatives.
This spring, the planning board agreed to pay CME $8,350 for a report that’s expected to be the centerpiece of Wednesday night’s discussion.
Because property is owned by the borough and has no structures on it, no condemnations are necessary, officials have said.
Getting a garage built there, however, may be challenging. Though downtown business owners appear more unified than in the past in supporting a garage, two attempts by the borough government since 2000 to advance a garage plan for the site proved highly divisive and failed to win council approval.
Here’s the 2014 report: CME White Street Lot Report 061714
• As part of the garage discussion, the board was also directed to determine if 55 West Front Street is in need of redevelopment.
In March, he private-sector owners of that vacant property, formerly the location of a nursing home, were denied by the zoning board in their quest to build a 35-unit apartment complex called the Element there. Less than a week later, Mayor Pasquale Menna, who was clearly irritated by the board’s decision, persuaded the council to add the site to the planning board’s review of the White Street property.
According to the agenda, both properties are to be covered by a single up-or-down vote. Approval could lead to the creation of a new “overlay” zone specifically for the property, Menna said in March — a potential outcome that prompted critics to charge that the council was verging on illegal “spot zoning,” or tailoring the land use law to benefit specific land owners.
• As reported by redbankgreen last month, developer Ray Rapcavage has once again revised his plans for half-a-block’s worth of properties he owns at the five corners formed by the junction of Harding Road, Hudson Avenue and Branch Avenue.
Or, it’s more accurate to say, he’s gone back to the drawing board and come up with an entirely new plan after his last one, calling for 22 homes on the site, bounded by Hudson, Harding and Clay Street, was shot down by the zoning board in December.
Rapcavage’s latest proposal calls for 18 homes fronted by an English garden. And the plan doesn’t need any variances, he claims. Details are here.
His appearance before the planning board Wednesday night, however, is informal, Rapcavage tells redbankgreen. He’s just looking “to get [the board’s] input” on what he terms a concept plan, and not yet seeking an up-or-down vote.
Here’s the agenda for the meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. at borough hall, 90 Monmouth Street.