By JOHN T. WARD
The Red Bank council’s Democrats goaded two of their Republican counterparts Thursday to take sides on pending development proposals for the White Street parking lot.
GOP council members Linda Schwabenbauer and Mark Taylor “are the only two members of the governing body who have not provided the public with their position on the matter in the eight weeks since” five proposals for the site were received, Democrats Ed Zipprich, Kathy Horgan and Erik Yngstrom said in a statement.
“We do not answer to Ed Zipprich,” Schwabenbauer said in response.
The Democrat’s taunt was issued two weeks before five would-be developers are scheduled to make their first Q&A presentations on their plans at a special meeting of the parking committee, following the regular council meeting on June 14.
In their press release, the Democrats attacked Schwabenbauer and Taylor for “refusing to support or oppose” a “plan” by fellow Republican Councilman Michael Whelan, who has spearheaded the garage solicitation effort.
The GOP pair need to “tell Red Bank residents whether or not they plan to move forward with a Jersey City-style high rise in our historic downtown,” said Zipprich. “This sort of waffling is what frustrates people about national politics. We don’t need that here in Red Bank.”
Here’s the statement: RB Dems 060117
Schwabenbauer responded with an email to redbankgreen that said:
We do not answer to Ed Zipprich. We answer to the residents and to the best interests of our town. There is a process in place to ensure we hear from residents and provide them with the greatest amount of transparency possible into these proposals, and we stand by our commitment to honor that process. To state our own positions before that process even begins would essentially be saying we are not open to hearing the thoughts of others. We would ask Red Bank’s residents to keep in mind that proposals can be adjusted, and to therefore view each proposal with an open mind regarding both what it is, and what it could be.
Schwabenbauer and Zipprich are up for re-election in November. Zipprich is the chairman of the borough Democratic party.
Last week, before the five proposals from private developers were made available to the public, the Democrats issued a statement declaring their “staunch opposition” to the plans. Mayor Pasquale Menna, who was quoted in the statement, later disavowed prior knowledge of it and distanced himself it.
As mayor, Menna votes only in cases of a tie, and has frequently sided with the Republicans on issues concerning redevelopment of downtown properties, including the White Street lot.
The Democrats said the submissions made in response to a request for proposals, or RFP, are “ridiculous” in size, and said they “would undoubtedly lead to chaos” in terms of infrastructure.
Whelan responded that with their opposition, the Democrats had “sabotaged the process” just as it was getting underway, even though each had voted in favor of allowing the RFP solicitation to go forward.
Taylor said last week that the Democrats were seeking to “hijack a project that is so integral to the growth and future of Red Bank to use it purely as a political tool, and without even giving the public a chance to review, digest and comment on any proposed project.”
Meanwhile, none of the Democrats has responded to repeated inquiries by redbankgreen asking if they support a garage-only plan proposed by downtown landlord John Bowers.
Here are some highlights of the proposals filed in response to the RFP, with links to the complete documents available in each post: