The redevelopment plan for the White Street parking lot is slated for recission next week, but will have to be redone at some point, says Councilman Mike Whelan. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
By JOHN T. WARD
Now that Red Bank’s elected officials have agreed, unofficially, to restart a drive for a downtown parking solution, what happens next?
Two government meetings on one night, for starters.
First, to neutralize a lawsuit that’s held things up, they’re expected to rescind the ordinance that created a redevelopment plan for the 2.3-acre borough-owned White Street parking lot last December, said Councilman Mike Whelan, the first-term Republican who’s been driving the process as head of the parking committee.
Last week, at their regular semimonthly meeting, the three Democrats and three Republicans on the governing body agreed to what they described as a “compromise,” under which the council will scrap a contentious nine-month-old redevelopment plan for the White Street parking lot. Next Wednesday, the council is expected to adopt an ordinance rescinding plan which passed on a 3-2 vote last December.
The Democrats, led by Councilman Ed Zipprich, who is up for re-election in November, had previously denounced all five proposals floated in response to the plan as ‘ridiculous’ in size.
The rescission is expected to nullify a lawsuit filed in Superior Court in Freehold in January by former council member Cindy Burnham, under the rubric of Residents for Responsible Development LLC. Here’s the original complaint: RRD v Borough 013017
Following next Wednesday’s council meeting, slated for 6:30 p.m. at borough hall, the council is expected to head over to the Red Bank Primary School for a meeting of the parking committee.
With representatives of BNE Canoe and Yellow Brook expected to be in attendance, “residents and business owners will finally be able to talk about what they would or wouldn’t like to see on White Street,” Whelan said. Until now, because of the litigation, “we haven’t been able to give the public an opportunity to speak.”
From there, Whelan said he expects the two developers to compete for the right to build on the site.
Whelan said he’s opposed to a garage-only solution, as well as any that call only for parking and residences, without creating new retail space [Correction: the original version of this post mistakenly said Whelan also wants to to see restaurants on the site]. Absent stores, he said, he fears the nearly block-long White Street site will be bereft of visitor activity.
“You want to breathe life into White Street,” he said.
Whatever it looks like, council approval of a specific development proposal is “going to be the biggest decision” the town has faced in years, Whelan said. “It’s going to set the table for the future.”
Eventually, Whelan said, a new redevelopment plan will likely have to be crafted and approved. Meantime, the rescission won’t affect an earlier, and equally controversial decision by the council to declare the White Street lot an “area in need of redevelopment,” a formality required in order for the borough to qualify for Redevelopment Area Bond financing, should it pursue that funding route.
Meantime, “we’re not starting over,” Whelan told redbankgreen Tuesday. “We’re just moving forward with a fresh start.”
Here’s BNE’s complete submission made in April in response to a request for proposals, with sensitive financial information redacted by the borough. Yellow Brook’s original plan has been all but scrapped and revised since it was filed, and an updated version was not available.