By JOHN T. WARD
The three Democrats on the Red Bank council — and a candidate to join them there — endorsed a downtown parking solution that calls for a new White Street garage without additional development Tuesday.
The announcement set the course for a possible head-on collision with the governing body’s three Republicans, who have championed an approach that welcomed the possibility of hundreds of new housing units as well as a parking deck.
The Democrats said the borough should conduct a new parking needs assessment of the White Street lot, or an update of earlier assessments to include the entire downtown. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
Calling their proposal a “plan for implementing a downtown parking solution without constructing high-rise apartments and condominiums” on the 2.3-acre borough-owned White Street lot, the Democrats issued a five-page, wide-ranging critique of the Request for Proposals, or RFP, process led by Republican Councilman Mike Whelan that generated five development proposals from private builders.
Councilman and party chairman Ed Zipprich, who is up for re-election in November, along with councilmembers Kathy Horgan and Erik Yngstrom and Zipprich running mate Michael Ballard, said in a statement that the RFP proposals were “fatally skewed by a requirement of 500 ‘net new’ parking spaces – a requirement that was unilaterally inserted by Councilman Whelan after his dialogue with commenters at the December 14, 2016 Council meeting.”
In addition, the statement said, “the requirement “made the project unfeasible for developers unless they simultaneously construct hundreds of high-rise apartments or condominiums in Red Bank’s downtown – dense development that the Borough’s roads and infrastructure simply cannot sustain.”
The Democrats said all five concept plans should be rejected as “non-compliant” with the borough Master Plan. In addition, they contend, the borough should focus on less-expensive interim parking solutions while assessing the true parking shortfall and identifying revenue to pay for a longer-term solution.
Here’s the cover letter to the Democrats’ plan: RB Dems cover memo 062
And here’s the full plan: RB Dems parking plan 062717
In response, Whelan told redbankgreen Tuesday afternoon that the Democrats’ criticism was “ironic,” given that Zipprich and Yngstrom, as members of the parking committee, had voted in favor of the borough issuing the RFP.
“The parking committee (Ed, Erik & myself) met several times regarding the lawsuit [by ex-Councilwoman Cindy Burnham] and how we can amend the redevelopment plan together to solve the lawsuit, and we were all in agreement on multiple issues on how to do it. After multiple meetings and great collective ideas the communication stopped and then the press releases started,” Whelan said by text.
“It would have been common sense for Ed & Erik to express ANY of these ideas/concerns at our multiple parking meetings with all of our professionals and key people to find solutions instead of empty baseless attacks for Ed’s reelection campaign,” he said.
Coming less than two weeks after the five private developers presented their concept plans at a packed-house special meeting of the parking committee, the Democrats’ proposal returns attention to a so-called “pure garage” parking solution.
Downtown landlord John Bowers has been the foremost advocate of the garage-only plan, which he contends the borough could build, quickly, for $16.5 million, without ceding control of the property, and could do so at an annual surplus.
The Bowers plan is not mentioned in the Democrats’ statement, though it does allude to unidentified “alternative proposals.”
The Red Bank Business Alliance, a group formed in part to press for a downtown parking garage, told redbankgreen last week that while it was “pleased” by the the responses to the RFP, which it called an “unprecedented advance toward a parking solution.”
Still the group said it believes that a pure garage solution “should be given serious consideration as a solution.”
“Such a proposal is certainly a viable option that we hope will be considered equally by Council as an option, as part of its deliberations,” the group said in a statement.
Here’s the full RBBA statement: RBBA re RB Parking 062117
And here’s a statement from Red Bank RiverCenter on the parking proposals: RiverCenter parking comment 061517
A deadlock on the council would have to be broken by Mayor Pasquale Menna, who is only permitted a vote in the event of a tie. Over the course of multiple deadlocks last summer and fall involving matters of parking and redevelopment, Menna, a Democrat, consistently sided with the Republicans.
Menna has said that he favors a “Princeton model” parking solution involving a public-private partnership that doesn’t financially saddle residential taxpayers or “change the character of Red Bank.”
Here are some highlights of the private developers’ proposals, with links to the complete documents available in each post: