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RED BANK: WHERE ARE THE GARAGE PLANS?

rb-parking-white-051817-2-500x375-3863815Five developers have submitted proposals regarding the White Street municipal parking lot. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

park-it-2017-license-plate-220x127-8716892Seven weeks after receiving proposals for a possible new downtown parking garage, the Red Bank council may release them this week, Councilman Mike Whelan tells redbankgreen.

But the disclosure still hinges on legal roadblocks thrown up by former Councilwoman Cindy Burnham, who sued the town over the plan immediately after she left office.

mike-whelan-041217-1-500x375-5977796Councilman Mike Whelan chairs the parking committee. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

Following adoption of a redevelopment plan aimed at enticing private developers to build a 773-vehicle garage on the 2.3-acre White Street municipal lot, the town received five submissions by April 7, said Whelan, who heads the local government’s parking committee.

But no details of those proposals, including the names of the would-be builders, have been shown to the public while officials deal with a lawsuit Burnham filed through lawyer Ron Gasiorowski in January, four weeks after she left office. The Republican-turned-independent was defeated by Democratic newcomer Erik Yngstrom in her bid for a second three-year term in November.

The lawsuit claims that the eight-story structure permitted under the plan authorized by the council one week earlier is too tall, going by the Master Plan and existing zoning. It also alleges a last-minute change to the plan permitting that height was not properly advertised to the public before adoption.

Here’s the lawsuit: RRD v Borough 013017

“The only reason we haven’t [released the proposals] is because of the pending litigation,” Whelan said Tuesday.

He said the parking committee has met twice with lawyers from the borough’s redevelopment attorney, McManimon Scotland Bauman, and now believes the plans can be considered for possible release.

A discussion about the responses to the Request for Proposals, or RFP, is listed on the workshop portion of the agenda for the council’s semimonthly meeting Wednesday night. But the issue of release may hinge on the outcome of an executive session in which the council consults with its attorneys behind closed doors, Whelan said.

“My goal is to release them by the end of the meeting,” he said.

Whelan had previously told redbankgreen that the council was mulling a possible re-do of the process of creating the redevelopment plan in order to address at least some of the issues raised by the lawsuit. No such measures are listed on Wednesday’s agenda, however.

Once the plans are released, Whelan said he’d like to see a public forum in which the five contenders have an opportunity to detail “their vision, the architecture, the financing” and other aspects of their proposals.

Meantime, John Bowers, who owns a number of commercial properties on White Street opposite the lot and elsewhere in town is pushing a garage-only plan — no homes, no stores or other businesses — which he argues would result in a quicker solution to the parking crunch, with the borough retaining control of the site and its revenue.

Whelan said the aim of the RFP process was to “start a conversation” about all types of solutions, and Bowers’ plan “is still an option,” even though it was submitted outside the parameters of the RFP process.

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