By JOHN T. WARD
A nonprofit housing organization’s proposed expansion of a house it owns on Red Bank’s West Side ran into some resistance at the zoning board last week.
While board members agreed that HABcore’s plan to add four apartments to what’s now a two-family house on River Street is “inherently beneficial” as defined by zoning law, at least one board member expressed concern that it would result in “a huge building for this neighborhood.”
Renderings show the addition from two sides, with the existing house at left. Below, architect Eric Wagner testifying at the zoning board hearing. (Rendering by Kellenyi Johnson Wagner; photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
HABcore, which has owned the property since 1992, provides permanent housing to homeless families, veterans and others in need, with a total of 300 clients spread across properties in Monmouth and Ocean counties, executive director Steve Heisman told the board last Thursday. A boarding house HABcore operates on South Pearl Street is occupied by 21 clients, he said.
The organization, a spinoff of borough-based Lunch Break, proposes to create four new independent-living units, housing one occupant apiece, in a new structure behind the existing house, which currently has five residents.
The proposal requires a number of variances, including one that would allow the new units at just 576 square feet of living space, where the borough requires a minimum 900 square feet. The planning office also determined that the house would need 12 parking spaces, though none are provided.
Heisman said that one current resident recently acquired a car — the first in memory since HABcore has owned the house. Otherwise, the residents generally can’t afford to own vehicles, he said.
HABcore architect Eric Wagner testified that the addition would be barely visible from the street, and that the units, while undersized according to borough ordinance, would be “very serviceable for one person. It’s very ample.”
But board member Sean Murphy called the addition “huge.” He said that while he did not oppose helping homeless people find housing, “it seems to me this is taking up too much of this property. This is a big building.”
Planning consultant Andrew Janiw testified that the project would not be out of character in the neighborhood. “I think it’s a reasonably good fit,” he said, one that would have a minimal impact on the area.
But River Street resident Chris Havens asked the board to “make it a little smaller and keep the nieghborhood low-density.”
Attorney John McMahon, representing Cherokee Realty and its principal, Jay Wolkind, owner of two nearby properties, challenged the application on multiple grounds.
“No one is arguing agains the mission of HABcore,” McMahon said. “It’s ‘is this the right place for it?'”
Referring to the project as “a boarding house with tiny units,” McMahon said it would reduce property values nearby.
Like McMahon, Murphy expressed apparent frustration that the property “obviously has not been well-maintained up to now,” and that increasing the number of occupants would exacerbate that.
“As good as HABcore is, that is not fair to the neighbors,” he said.
Testimony on the matter concluded just as the zoning board reached its 9:30 p.m. cutoff time, and the matter was adjourned before an up or down motion could be proposed. The hearing is scheduled to resume May 3.
Here’s the Habcore plan.