By JOHN T. WARD
By a 6-0 vote, the governing body agreed to introduce an ordinance that could result in the adoption of a redevelopment plan for the White Street municipal lot.
What’s in the 10-page plan? Only insiders knew, but to advocates for a large-scale solution to the parking shortage downtown, that didn’t matter.Downtown business owners Mike Simpson, Steve Catania, Angie Courtney and Amy Russo Harrigan chatting after Wednesday night’s council action on parking. (Photos above by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
As they have in recent months, a unified group of business owners urged action, several of them calling at the same time for a dialog about the proposal that would include residents. Homeowners derailed two attempts at getting a garage plan approved more than a decade ago amid concerns about the impact on taxes.
“I do respect that it will cost to build a garage,” said Patrizia’s restaurant owner Lou Maschi. “But the cost is far less than if businesses close,” thereby shifting more of the tax burden to homeowners, he said.
“We have a decades-long problem with parking,” said Cheese Cave owner Steve Catania. “I suggest you utilize the vast resources of business owners, RiverCenter and residents to get input.”
The ordinance was added without notice to the agenda for the council’s semimonthly meeting. Here’s the ordinance: 2016-25
Missing however, was Exhibit A, the 10-page redevelopment plan itself for the 2.3-acre site. Officials including Mayor Pasquale Menna said it would be available on the borough website Thursday morning, after correcting a typo pointed out by its author, planner Anthony Rodriguez of by CME Associates.
But downtown property owner Bill Meyer objected to its absence. He was met with responses that the separation of related documents from enabling ordinances is how it’s always been done.
Meyer also got pushback from other audience members who were impatient to continue the drive toward a parking solution.
“At least get the ball rolling,” said architect Mike Simpson, a former RiverCenter chairman who was also involved in the drafting of the 1995 Master Plan. “There should be no reason not to take this first step.”
For the first time in recent months, the advancement of a redevelopment plan did not divide the council. Councilwoman Kathy Horgan said she had questions, including “who’s going to be the developer, and will we retain ownership” of the site, but voted to introduce, as did the rest of the governing body.
“The only way to answer those questions is to introduce,” said Councilman Mike Whelan.
Borough Attorney Jean Cipriani also told Horgan that with numerous steps along the way, including hearings on the plan, the selection of a developer and the crafting of a developer’s agreeement, “there’s no point at which you can’t say,’no, let’s stop.’ You can end the process at many, many stages.”
Afterward, an elated Whelan, who serves as liaison both to RiverCenter and the parking committee, said the introduction was the “most fantastic” achievement so far of his first 10 months on the governing body.
“This is a huge night for Red Bank,” he said.
The plan now goes to the planning board for approval and possible modification, and is expected to be returned to the council for a public hearing and possible adoption on December 14.
Here’s the plan, which became available after the above article was published: white-street-lot-redevelopment-plan-2016-25