A yellow border outlines the site of developer Ray Rapcavage’s Azalea Gardens project, with Harding Road at the bottom, Clay Street to the left and Hudson Avenue at right. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
Demolition of a house destroyed by fire five years ago could begin as early as this month as the first step toward the creation of a new 18-home community at Red Bank’s Five Corners, developer Ray Rapcavage told redbankgreen last week.
Rapcavage won zoning board approval last Thursday for his site plan for the project, which calls for 16 townhouse-style homes aligned along the Clay Street side of a property that also abuts Harding Road and Hudson Avenue.
He’d previously obtained variances from the board allowing him to create residences in a zone where they’re permitted only as rentals above a commercial use.
The project began in 2013, when Rapcavage unveiled a plan for 22 homes and a commercial building with a greenmarket. That element was scrapped before the plan was rejected by the zoning board in 2015 as “too dense.” A year later, a plan that had undergone extensive changes won approval.
The only significant change in the plan since the variances were granted in 2016: the homes will now be fee-simple, meaning owners will have title to the land beneath them, rather than condominiums. RayRap attorney Armen McOmber told the board the change was needed to ensure construction financing. But a homeowners’ association will still be formed to oversee maintenance of the common elements, including the garden, he said.
No parking variance was needed, as the project calls for three parking spaces per home, including individual garages, driveways and non-public guest spots, all on the Clay Street side of the project.
Shade tree committee member Boris Kofman noted the lack of greenery on that side of the project, and suggested that some of the visitor spots be sacrificed for trees.
But McOmber said the idea “just didn’t make a lot of sense for us,” as Clay Street has no homes on it, and Rapcavage wanted to “maximize the buffer out front,” where the English-style garden of pathways takes up half the total site.
One house among six Rapcavage owns on the half-block site was destroyed by fire in 2012, and its remaining husk has sat idle, partly covered by a tarp, ever since. Rapcavage said the structure would be the first to be removed, possibly within three weeks. Other homes how owns there have tenants who will have to be relocated, he said.
A portion of the site was home to a gas station and a remediation project was completed to address underground contamination, McOmber said. Monitoring wells will now have to be removed.
Board member Sean Murphy said Rapcavage “has gone through a lot, and has really gone out of his way to meet the concerns of the neighbors.” The board vote in favor was unanimous.
Rapcavage said he hopes to begin construction as early as next spring.