Count Basie Theatre security worker Dennis O’Keefe working the entrance to the borough hall parking lot Wednesday night. A restaurant owner cited theater activity for creating parking issues last weekend. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
An effort to coax a 773-vehicle garage into the heart of Red Bank cleared another speedbump Wednesday night.
At its semimonthly meeting, the borough council authorized a request for proposals, or RFP, from developers interested in building on the 2.3-acre municipal lot on White Street.
But first, it tweaked the requirements to be more environmentally friendly.
Under a resolution that won unanimous council approval, developers with at least two similar projects in their portfolio and willing to pay a $1,000 submission fee have until April 26 to respond to the RFP, the guidelines of which are contained in a redevelopment plan crafted by consultant CME Associates and adopted by the council in December.
Those guidelines include a demand that any project yield a net gain of no fewer than 500 parking spaces for public use. At present, the White Street lot holds 273 vehicles.
Mayor Pasquale Menna said the issuance of the request doesn’t lock the borough into any obligations, either to particular builders, plans or even to building a garage.
“It’s a fluid document,” he said. “It has more escape clauses that a piece of Swiss cheese.”
Second-year Republican Councilman Mike Whelan, who has spearheaded the garage initiative, said the aim of the RFP is “to see what ideas might be out there that we don’t know. This is the last step to see whether we continue going down this road.”
Prior to voting on a resolution authorizing the issuance of the RFP, the council agreed to include language proposed by the Environmental Commission last month to ensure that developers come in with plans that are environmentally responsible.
At the December 14 council meeting, EC chairman Frank Corrado pressed for provisions such as boosting the open-space requirement to 25 percent of the site area, from 10 percent. Menna, too, has pressed for a green approach in terms of stormwater reuse and other aspects of the project.
Those suggestions, said Councilman Mark Taylor, have been incorporated into the redevelopment plan that builders are to use as their guide in crafting proposals.
Two Democratic council members, Kathy Horgan and Ed Zipprich, each voiced reservations but voted in favor of the RFP issuance. “I haven’t felt this would be the best way to solve our parking problem” said Horgan. Zipprich said he “couldn’t agree more.”
Branch Avenue resident Steve Hecht pressed the council to put a squeeze on the Count Basie Theatre to contribute to a large-scale parking solution. And Teak restaurant owner George Lyristis reported that his restaurant had its best-ever weekend last weekend, boosted by the sold-out two-a-day shows by standup comedian Sebastian Maniscalco, but that overlapping traffic to the seatings couldn’t be accommodated by available parking.
Menna said negotiations with the Basie “have to be held” at some point.
The Red Bank Business Alliance, which supports the garage-building initiative, plans to hold a public forum on the issue at the Red Bank Middle School from 7 to 9 p.m. on Monday, February 6.