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RED BANK: BOARD RESISTS DENSITY BONUSES

176-riverside-061418-1-500x375-6252445The former VNA building sits on 2.7 acres at the corner of Riverside Avenue and Bodman Place. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

hot-topic_03-220x138-9108919A recommended new overlay zone that would allow generous density bonuses won’t be on the Red Bank council’s agenda for its next meeting Wednesday night.

That’s because members of the planning board, which was tasked with reviewing the proposal, think it gives too much away to the affected site’s new owner.

boas-cassidy-101518-500x375-3629776Planning board members Barbara Boas and David Cassidy voiced misgivings about the proposal. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

At issue is a 31-page, borough-mandated redevelopment plan by engineering firm CME Associates that suggests new design and other parameters for the site of the former Visiting Nurse Association headquarters, located at the corner of Riverside Avenue and Bodman Place.

A new overlay zone for the site, introduced earlier this month by the borough council, was kicked over to the planning board, which under New Jersey law must review such changes for compliance with the town’s Master Plan.

Among other changes, the CME proposal would allow 70 units per acre, “which is a bit more dense than is currently permitted” by the existing zoning, and “a little bit more” than nearby structures, such as the Colony House apartment building, which has 60 units per acre, CME planner Chris Dochney told the board on October 15.

And that number “could go higher under certain conditions,” he said. His report suggests bonuses of five extra units per acre for a green roof, solar panels, a wind energy system, a rain garden, bicycle parking and other features.

The steps the developer would have to take to get additional units prompted board members to push back. Board chairman Dan Mancuso questioned the wisdom of giving a five-unit bonus for solar panels without specifying how many panels must be installed.

“So you could put one up and get five extra units?” he asked. “There needs to be some minimum quantity there.”

Similar misgivings were voiced regarding a bonus for bike racks.

Barbara Boas questioned the concept of giving any bonuses at all. “What’s the correlation” between those features and density, she asked.

“The density is your only leverage to get some of the things you might want to see in a building, such as a greener, more sustainable building,” Docheny said.

“How about, ‘you don’t do those things, we don’t let you build the building’?” Mancuso said.

“We’re already giving you a density bonus,” Boas said. “It’s already too dense.”

“I think what we are proposing here is consistent with your Master Plan,” Docheny said.

“This seems really dense,” said board member David Cassidy. The site is just up the street from the Navesink River, which is the subject of runoff issues, he noted. “So why are we making it optional for green development? Why are we not cementing in, when we have a potentially great gateway, green standards. They should not be optional.”

Traffic issues were also raised. Councilman Michael Ballard said he was worried that “more buildings and traffic in that small enclave is going to be very problematic. It’s going to exacerbate an already very bad situation.”

During a public comment session, Cedar Avenue resident and independent council candidate Sue Viscomi said the rezoning discussion should be held off until a fix is in place for the problem faced by motorists exiting Bodman Place onto Riverside Avenue southbound.

Mayor Pasquale Menna has advocated for a traffic light at the intersection, but said the New Jersey Department of Transportation has resisted the idea, arguing that the intersection is too close to the light at the foot of the Route 35 Cooper Bridge.

Menna noted, however, that first-year Governor Phil Murphy, who lives across the Navesink River from the site in Middletown, “knows how bad that intersection is, and can actually see it from his window.”

Menna suggested that the board continue discussion of the proposal at its next meeting, scheduled for Monday, November 5.

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