By JOHN T. WARD
The Red Bank zoning board this week takes up two projects that have generated heat in the past, one involving the Red Bank Charter School and the other a townhouse plan by builder Ray Rapcavage.
In April, the charter school’s board of trustees approved a plan to pay $1.725 million for 135-137 Monmouth Street, a tenanted retail and office structure where it already rents space for its Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) lab.
Superintendent Meredith Pennotti said warehouse space in the building would be turned into a gymnasium, ending the 20-year-old school’s reliance on remote locations to provide physical education and recreation to it 200 students. The deal will also allow for the creation of an art room and performing space.
School lawyers argued in letters to the planning and zoning office that the institution, as a public school, is exempt from site plan and variance requirements under state law. But planning director Glenn Carter ruled otherwise. So the school is going to the board first, to appeal Carter’s decision, and second, in the event the board rejects the appeal, for a variance to allow an educational use in a warehouse zone.
The school had previously leased a portion of the building for $3,800 per month. It’s also home to several office tenants, including a language school and an employment agency, that would remain, Pennotti told redbankgreen in April. The building’s storefront, formerly occupied by Prown’s Home Improvements, has been leased to Red Bank Frameworks, which is preparing to relocate there from a block away.
“We’ll be a landlord, like a lot of charters,” Pennotti said. “That’s how we survive.”
The pending acquisition, Pennotti said at the time, should not be taken as a sign that the school is reviving its effort, launched in late 2015, to double its enrollment, a campaign that was fiercely opposed by the borough school district. The New Jersey Department of Education rejected the plan in February, 2016.
“We are only expanding our facilities, not our enrollment,” Pennotti said. “Our goal is to have a gym, a gym we can walk to.”
Rapcavage is back before the board with his plan to demolish homes he owns on adjoining lots fronting on Harding Road, Hudson Avenue and Clay Street and create a community he calls Azalea Gardens.
After multiple attempts and redesigns, Rapcavage won approval last December for the first half of a bifurcated application. That gave him a variance to allow the construction residences in a zone where they’re permitted only as rentals above a commercial use, and another for a third bedroom in a zone that allows only two per dwelling.
The second half, under consideration Thursday, requires approval of the detailed site plan, which calls for 16 attached townhomes facing east, with an English garden out front and direct access out back to Clay Street. Closer to Hudson are two freestanding “cottages,” each two stories tall with just 529 square feet of living space. He needs setback and other variances.
Here’s the full agenda. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in council chambers at borough hall, 90 Monmouth Street.