By JOHN T. WARD
But progress toward a public garage on White Street — a partial solution to what many business owners consider a parking crisis — may have hit a legal speed bump.
At the council’s first meeting following last Friday’s deadline for garage proposals, officials were mum on the topic, except to report that five submissions had been received.
Discussion of the subject was precluded, said Mayor Pasquale Menna, by pending litigation over the redevelopment plan that serves as the framework in which a garage — along, possibly, with housing, stores and restaurants — might be constructed on the White Street municipal lot.
Following the public portion of the meeting, the council convened behind closed doors to discuss, among tother things, a lawsuit filed in January by lawyer Ron Gasiorowski on behalf of a group of Red Bank residents formed by former Councilwoman Cindy Burnham.
The group, which bills itself as Residents for Responsible Development LLC, contends that the potential eight-story structure allowed under the redevelopment plan is too tall for the area.
The suit also says the plan was not in conformance with the borough’s Master Plan. Here’s the complaint, in Superior Court in Freehold: RRD v Borough 013017
Could the lawsuit delay the process of reviewing the White Street proposals, redbankgreen asked Menna.
“It could,” he said.
The names of the entities that submitted proposals were not immediately released.
Also Wednesday, the council eliminated a fee landlords had to pay into a parking capital fund per space they couldn’t provide to customers when they built or altered downtown structures.
The fees have not been imposed since 2010, when a moratorium was instituted in an effort to jump-start the downtown economy.
They often ran into thousands of dollars, and hit restaurateurs and owners of entertainment businesses particularly hard because of the amount of customer traffic they might generate. Former Gaetano’s owner Tom Cappello complained to the council in 2015 that he’d paid $24,000 to the fund when he opened the Wallace Street restaurant in 2003 while newer eateries were skating into town under the moratorium.
Temple Gourmet Chinese owner Victor Kuo objected to the fee elimination. He argued to the council that the measure should be held until there’s a garage into which customers of new development might be steered. Absent that, he suggested, the council would be adding to the problem.
“Why now?” Kuo asked. “There’s really no reason to bring this up now. There’s no parking garage. Let’s table this until we get the infrastructure.”
Other commenters, however, said that the fee loomed as an uncertainty that served as a deterrent to downtown investment. Bringing the fees back would be “irresponsible,” said Anthony Barbero, publisher of Industry Magazine.
Council approval of the ordinance eliminating the fees was unanimous.