By JOHN T. WARD
[Correction: Councilman Ed Zipprich is the only Democrat up for re-election this year. He’s expected to face off against incumbent Republican Linda Schwabenbauer.]
The three Democrats on the Red Bank council denounced their Republican counterparts late Wednesday for pushing a “Jersey City-style high rise vision” that could result in 12-story buildings with hundreds of residences on the site of the White Street parking lot.
In a press release issued hours after the council agreed to publish proposals submitted by five would-be developers of of a downtown parking facility, Democrats Ed Zipprich, Kathy Horgan and Erik Yngstrom vowed “staunch opposition” to the proposals, which one termed “ridiculous” in size.
Following a half-hour closed door session to discuss a lawsuit over the garage effort, the council agreed to release the submissions, which were received seven weeks ago under a sealed-bid-type submission process and have been withheld from the public since.
Additionally, the developers will be invited to make short presentations about their plans to the parking committee at a special meeting scheduled for June 14, following the completion of the regular semimonthly council meeting, said Mayor Pasquale Menna. The public is welcome, but there would be no comment or question session at that time, he said.
According to borough officials, the proposals were filed by:
The Democrats, in a press release issued shortly before midnight by party chairman Zipprich, said the proposals call for buildings that “reach up to 12 stories, structures that would instantly become the largest buildings in downtown Red Bank, dwarfing others in size. They each come with hundreds of apartment style units, retail, and parking growing out of the 2.5 acre plot.”
“The proposals would chart an aggressive course for the urbanization of downtown Red Bank, an initiative led by 25-year old councilman Mike Whelan,” the statement said.
More from the statement:
“The Republican Plan would, quite literally, cast a shadow across half of historic downtown Red Bank. In the middle of the afternoon, walking down Monmouth Street would feel like you’re in a back alley in Manhattan. These proposals are ridiculous and I will do everything I can to ensure they do not become reality.”
In the statement, Horgan said there’s a need to “maintain our village-style downtown,” and Yngstrom said the proposals “would undoubtedly lead to chaos” in terms of the strain they would put on the borough’s century-old water and sewer system.
Here’s the full release: RB Dems 052417
Zipprich is up for re-election in November. Yngstrom is in his first year on the council.
Whelan, who heads the parking committee, told redbankgreen early Thursday morning that the Democrats’ statement was “100-percent a political move.” He said that both Zipprich and Yngstrom are on the parking committee, which has seen and discussed the proposals, and had said “absolutely nothing” in opposition to them.
He also noted that the council voted unanimously to issue the request for proposals, or RFP, that resulted in the five submissions.
“They’re making it seem like the Republican party” knew in advance what the RFP would yield, when in fact none might have come in, said Whelan, clearly angered. Given that the Democrats also agreed to the RFP, “I would loved to know how we’re pushing any of this.”
Whelan said he and fellow Republicans Linda Schwabenbauer and Mark Taylor would issue a party response Thursday morning.
Under the request for proposals, builders were urged to submit plans that would result in at least 550 new public parking spaces on the 2.3-acre White Street lot.
A sixth proposal, submitted outside the parameters of the RFP process, is being touted by John Bowers, who owns a number of commercial properties on White Street opposite the lot.
His garage-only plan calls for the borough to retain ownership of the lot and build its own 818-space parking facility, which he forecasts would cost $16.5 million and generate an annual surplus of $328,000, based on a 21-percent vacancy rate per eight-hour day.
It was not immediately clear if Bowers would be permitted to detail his proposal at the June 14 meeting.