By JOHN T. WARD
Nearly two months after five builders presented concept plans for a parking solution on White Street, Red Bank officials have yet to schedule a promised public comment session on the proposals.
That appeared to contribute to frustration voiced during the public comment portion of the council’s semimonthly meeting Wednesday night.
Though Councilman Mike Whelan had suggested, on July 12, holding a special meeting of the parking committee on August 9 to take comments on the proposals, the date came and went without the meeting being scheduled.
He cited miscommunication with Mayor Pasquale Menna, who told redbankgreen two weeks ago that, as far as he knew, Whelan had announced the August 9 date at the July 12 council meeting.
Whelan, however, said it was his recollection that Menna said on July 12 that he would schedule a meeting. The minutes of the July 12 meeting support this.
“There will be a public forum,” Menna said Wednesday night, in response to questions from Locust Avenue resident Ben Forest. “The matter is still under discussion.”
Whelan, who chairs the parking committee, told redbankgreen that he cannot schedule the special committee meeting because it would have to be advertised in order for all six council members to be present.
Otherwise, Wednesday’s council session yielded little fresh news about the effort to find a downtown parking solution. The parking committee, consisting of Whelan, a Republican, and Democratic councilmembers Ed Zipprich and Eric Yngstrom, has not met in three or four weeks, Whelan said.
In the interim, Red Bank RiverCenter announced last week that it “cannot and will not” support a plan for a parking garage on White Street that doesn’t yield a net gain of 500 parking spaces on the 2.3-acre site — and none of the five plans submitted by would-be developers currently meets that target, it said.
“If they’re not on board, that’s a pretty big problem,” Forest told the council during the public comment session. He also complained about a lack of information about the process of combing through the five proposals, and said that perhaps “the smart play here might be a restart” on the process of solving downtown parking issues.
That prompted a response from Hudson Avenue resident Scott Broschart. “Restarting the process would be a colossal failure,” he said. “How much more time can we waste?”
RiverCenter vice chairman Tom Fishkin, owner of Readie’s Fine Foods on Broad Street, called for “a little more unity on the council” on the parking issue, which has been marked by partisanship.
“We want to see something come from the governing body” indicating progress, he said. “After Labor Day, I don’t see anything happening, because it’s the sacred election time.”
“We’ve come a long way” in the last year, added Victor Kuo, owner of Temple Gourmet Chinese, also on Broad. “Can we follow through?”