RED BANK: MUMFORD DROPS PARKING BID

Developer Roger Mumford with a rendering of his proposal last June. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

One of the two remaining private-sector contenders to redevelop Red Bank’s White Street parking lot has pulled out, citing frustration in dealing with the borough government.

In the process, he left behind a pair of smoking tire tracks.

BNE Real Estate’s Jonathan Schwartz, above right. Below, Councilman Erik Yngstrom now heads the all-Democrat parking committee. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

“As far as we’re concerned now, we’re out,” borough-based builder Roger Mumford told the council in remarks that grew heated Wednesday night.

“Yes, we have withdrawn,” Mumford told redbankgreen via email Friday. “We are literally wasting time and money with a borough that lacks visionary leadership, stable government” and other elements he considers vital to ensuring large-scale development, he wrote.

“Red Bank has demonstrated a total lack of good faith or sensitivity with regard to how they handled the RFP [Request for Proposals] process,” he continued. “The whole thing was a circus with [Councilman Ed] Zipprich the ringleader and the mayor complicit with his silence.”

In withdrawing the bid of his firm, Yellow Brook Real Estate, Mumford leaves only BNE Real Estate among five original contenders for the right to redevelop the 2.3-acre White Street lot.

BNE principle Jonathan Schwartz said Friday that, as far as he knows, his firm is still in the running. He also said he does not share Mumford’s frustrations.

“We’re used to doing very complicated projects that take a long time,” he told redbankgreen. “The borough only gets one chance to get this right, and we’re OK with them taking their time.”

Mumford’s action, and BNE’s status as the last developer standing, may both prove meaningless, however. After Democrats, led by Zipprich as their local party chairperson, regained majority control of the council in November’s election, momentum toward the selection of a builder all but came to a halt.

Since January 1, the three-person parking committee that Republican Councilman Mike Whelan previously headed has been under the chairmanship of Councilman Erik Yngstrom. Along with Democratic colleagues Kathy Horgan and Zipprich, Yngstrom has turned the committee’s focus to the process of commissioning a comprehensive parking study, something Whelan and downtown business owners resisted as a waste of time and money in the face of a parking shortage they consider obvious.

Yngstrom said Friday that an RFP for parking experts interested in conducting the study should be available for approval at the council’s next meeting, scheduled for February 14, with bids due 30 days after that.

Beyond that, it’s too early to say what concrete steps the committee will take, he said.

“That’s the main prospect of the study,” he said, “to generate ideas on what we can do, downtown-wide, to move forward” with a solution to a parking shortfall that he agrees is real.

Both BNE and Yellow Brook are still in the running, he said, prior to Mumford’s latest statement.

“That process [of selecting a developer] is just on hold,” Yngstrom said.

In recent months, Mumford has not been quiet about his frustrations. He has said he spent tens of thousands of dollars to come up with concept plans, only to have the RFP process undermined by the Democrats, who denounced all five proposals before any of the developers had had a chance to publicly explain them. On Wednesday, he repeated his criticisms, and added to them.

In response, Zipprich said that his party issued a seven-point parking plan last June, adding, “I’m sorry if Mr. Mumford feels disrespected, but I don’t think we could have been any more transparent.”

That prompted Mumford to make a second trip to the microphone during the public session.

“You cannot be serious,” he said to Zipprich. “If you were, it’s the most intellectually dishonest thing you’ve done since last year. I know what abuse looks like, I know what manipulation looks like and I know what ugly politics look like, and you were the personification of it last year, Ed Zipprich.”

Zipprich did not respond to Mumford Wednesday night, and did not respond to a redbankgreen email seeking comment Thursday.