RED BANK: PARKING GARAGE CLEARS HURDLE

rb white st 070915 3A redevelopment plan for the White Street parking now goes back to the council for possible adoption, followed by a request for proposals from builders. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

LicPlate1A concept zoning plan for a parking garage that could double the capacity of Red Bank’s White Street parking lot cleared its latest hurdle Monday night, when the borough planning board found it compliant with the town’s Master Plan.

But in returning the document to the borough council for further action, the board asked for reconsideration of some of its particulars. Among them: making sure that any stores and restaurants in the new structure not be exempt from — wait for it — parking requirements.

rb-parking-white-st-110816An aerial view of the White Street lot. (Photos by Google Maps. Click to enlarge)

By a unanimous vote, the planning board found the plan, written by planner Anthony Rodriguez of CME Associates, consistent with the Master Plan. Here’s the plan: white-street-lot-redevelopment-plan-2016-25

The document is meant to “establish at least a baseline from which the borough can request proposals,” Rodriguez told the board.

In a nutshell, the plan sets zoning parameters for the 2.3-acre borough-owned property, which now has parking for 273 vehicles. That number would double, at least, to a minimum 550 spots under Rodriguez’s recommendation, which also calls for ground-level retail fronting on White Street, as well as housing units in a structure that could be as much as eight stories tall — three floors higher than the downtown’s tallest building.

But stores and apartments themselves would generate parking demands, and local merchants, while otherwise supportive of the garage, feared that the parking solution they’ve clamored for would be heavily diluted before the process got much farther.

“Somebody could come in with a 10,000-square-foot restaurant” that takes up to 200 spaces at peak demand times, said Anthony Jude Setaro, a real estate agent and member of the Red Bank Business Alliance.

At the suggestion of Mayor Pasquale Menna, who serves on the planning board, the board put together a list of suggestions for the council to consider before it votes on a pending ordinance that would finalize the zoning parameters for the site. Here’s the ordinance: 2016-25

Among the other suggestions:

• Reduce the maximum height of the structure

• “Strongly encourage” the inclusion of retail space on the ground floor, rather than making it a requirement.

• Reject as unsafe Rodriguez’s recommendation that cars enter the facility via an entrance opposite the English Plaza parking lot.

• Revisit Rodriguez’s recommendation that the developer be allowed to build apartments as small as 450 square feet, which he said would give the builder the flexibility to create housing for millenials and empty nesters who don’t need as much space as their predecessors in the real estate market.

Architect Mike Simpson, who was on the planning board when it team of planners that crafted the 1995 Master Plan, said that without those smaller units, the borough would not be able to meet its own objectives as set out in the housing unit of that plan.

“My employees can’t afford to live in Red Bank” unless they’re lucky, Simpson told the board. With the 900-square-foot minimum, “you’ve pretty much zoned them out of the downtown.”

Board member Guy Marrotta, however, argued strongly that the borough stick to to its minimum unit size of 900 square feet. “I don’t like the idea of substandard living space,” he said.

Menna suggested that the council determine the actual sizes of recently built apartments in town as part of its discussion.

The council is expected to hold a public hearing and possible adoption vote on December 14. If it’s approved, the council would then embark on the process of soliciting specific proposals. Upon selection by the council, and the execution of a development agreement, a specific building plan would then have to go before the planning board for site plan approval, officials have said.

Menna said the borough intends to retain ownership of the property, though no decisions have been made about revenue splits or tax collection.