RED BANK: GARAGE DEBATE PREVIEWED

white-st-lot-110816A public hearing on a key measure in the push for a possible garage at the White Street lot, above, is slated for December 14. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

LicPlate1Argument over a potential parking garage for downtown Red Bank dominated the first post-election meeting of the borough council Wednesday night.

No action related to the gradually advancing proposal was on the agenda. But the brief debate may have been an early taste of what’s to come next month, when the council holds a public hearing on a key step in the process.

Repeating some of the concerns he aired Monday night, when the planning board found that a concept zoning plan for the 2.3-acre White Street municipal lot complies with the borough Master Plan, downtown property owner Bill Meyer contended that a garage on the White Street lot would not yield much in terms of a net gain in parking spaces.

The lot now has parking for 273 vehicles. Under the zoning plan written by planner Anthony Rodriguez of CME Associates, a private developer would be required to create at 550 spaces on the site, in a building that could not exceed eight stories in height. Here’s the plan: white-street-lot-redevelopment-plan-2016-25

The council has scheduled a hearing and adoption vote December 14 on a pending ordinance that would incorporate the CME plan into zoning law. That in turn would clear the way for the town to seek proposals for the site from builders. Here’s the ordinance: 2016-25

Meyer, who owns 12 Monmouth Street, has been perhaps the most vocal critic of the garage proposal. He took to the mic during the public comment portion of Wednesday’s meeting to run through a list of misgivings about it, asserting that the construction phase would disrupt downtown parking and traffic for at least a year; that it would force the relocation of two major food festivals held on the site annually; that raising the height limit in the zone would prompt private property owners to also seek higher limits, generating more need for parking if granted; and that the rise of Uber and Lyft would soon make large parking facilities obsolete.

As he did Monday, Meyer also suggested the council look into a concept created some years ago by architect Jerome Morley Larson for reconfiguring the lot, and changing the parallel parking curbside along White Street to perpendicular, which he said could generate an additional 130 or so spaces.

“We don’t even know who’s going to own this” or how revenue would flow to the borough, Meyer said of the garage. “The whole thing is in need of starting from scratch.”

But two store owners, including one of Meyer’s tenants, as well as another downtown property owner pushed back on Meyer’s criticisms.

Temple Gourmet Chinese restaurant owner Victor Kuo said he would ask that Meyer “stop speaking for businesses. I haven’t agreed with anything he’s said yet.

“We need to stop listening to these conspiracy theories,” Kuo said. “We need facts, and we won’t see those facts” until developers respond with proposals, he said.

Steven Catania, owner of the Cheese Cave, located in the ground floor of Meyer’s building, told the council, “I can speak on my own behalf when it comes to my needs and what the business community needs in terms of parking.”

Both Kuo and Catania are members of the Red Bank Business Alliance, a volunteer consortium formed earlier this year to push for parking solutions and other improvements to the commercial district.

John Bowers, who owns retail and office space on White Street, as well as the building that houses the Clearview Cinemas opposite the parking lot, took aim at Meyer’s suggestion for increasing on-street parking.

“One hundred and thirty cars is a drop in the bucket,” he said, noting that the parking shortfall was said by experts to be 1,200 spots more than 15 years ago, and that the number has grown since.

Here’s the ordinance: 2016-25