RED BANK: SUPPORT GROUP’S PLAN APPROVED

Family Resource Associates intends to buy and occupy the former home of Red Bank Veterinary Hospital. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

A nonprofit that provides therapeutic services for people with disabilities and their families plans to relocate to Red Bank after clearing technical hurdles in the borough’s zoning laws Thursday night.

Family Resource Associates would move just half a mile from its longtime home on Haddon Avenue in Shrewsbury to the former home of Red Bank Veterinary Hospital at Newman Springs Road at South Bridge Avenue, executive director Nancy Phalanukorn told the board.

But the 38-year-old organization first needed to win its appeal of an administrative ruling by borough planning director Glenn Carter. He had determined in October that FRA was seeking a “hybrid” use of the facility for both the delivery of counseling and therapeutic services and as administrative offices, and that such hybrid uses were not permitted in the highway business.

“In general, if something is not listed as permitted in a zone, it’s prohibited,” Carter told the board. FRA’s plan, he said, “seems like a use not really contemplated by the zoning ordinance.”

In response to a board member’s query, Carter said FRA’s proposed combination of uses would appear not to be allowed anywhere in town given that the highway business zone is the most permissive.

Under FRA’s plan, the first floor of the two-story, 8,000-square-foot building would be used to provide physical, speech and occupational therapy, with a limited schedule of classes in therapeutic dance, yoga and karate. Administrative offices would occupy the second floor, said Phalanukorn, who has headed the organization since 1986.

No exterior changes other than new signs are planned, FRA representatives told the board. With 31 parking spots on site, parking is ample, considering that there are rarely more than eight vehicles at the Shrewsbury facility, and no expansion of services is contemplated, Phalanukorn told the board. Most clients travel to and from their appoints via public transportation, while others are often dropped off and picked up by family members, she said.

“This is like heaven” in terms of parking, she said.

About two dozen supporters of the organization attended the meeting as show of support, and no objections were made by audience members.

FRA’s staff members “provide critical services for our community,” Wallace Street resident Jane Kleiman told the board. “The families who rely on them need for them to remain close by.”

Kelly Wilder-Willis of Harrison Avenue said that FRA’s support services freed up family members of FRA’s clients to participate in the community as volunteers.

While endorsing the FRA proposal, board member Sean Murphy said Carter was correct to apply a strict interpretation of the zoning law.

“I agree that this was for the board to decide, and I hope that doesn’t deter you from doing the great job you’ve been doing,” Murphy told Carter from the dais.

The board’s approval was unanimous.

A secondary issue — that by endorsing the appeal, the board might be forcing FRA to then obtain site plan approval from the planning board — was settled when the zoning board agreed to that the veterinary hospital’s site plan OK was still effective.

The veterinary hospital is now located in Tinton Falls.