At his last meeting as a councilman, Mark Taylor posed with his infant son, Cole, as his wife, Ashley, took their photo. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
The Red Bank council wrapped up 2018 last week with swan songs for two one-term members of the governing body, one of whom was the youngest ever elected in the borough’s history.
• It was a night of farewells as Republicans Mark Taylor and Mike Whelan attended their final session as council members. Elected together in 2015, they opted not to seek second terms.
Without mentioning specific issues, both spoke about the clashes that frequently divided the council along party lines during their terms, but praised the democratic process.
Whelan, who was just 23 when he eked out a three-vote win that required a recount, said the “collision of ideas” had been productive, because “at the end, everybody came together.”
When it reorganizes at 3 p.m. January 1, with the swearing-ins of Kate Triggiano and Hazim Yassin, the council will consist entirely of Democrats.
• As expected, the council adopted a revised redevelopment plan for the former Visiting Nurse Association headquarters at 176 Riverside Avenue, adopting changes that would allow site owner Saxum Real Estate to seek approval for as many as 80 units per acre on the 2.7-acre lot, and to earn additional “density bonuses.”
Several residents, including, Elm Place resident Dan Riordan, pressed the council to increase setbacks for the proposed development to allow for so-called complete streets, calling the plan “a giveaway to the developer” that “gets us nothing.” Allison Gregory, of Bank Street, also focused on complete streets, telling the council that shrinking setbacks from 50 feet to 4 feet “would be a huge mistake.”
Councilman-elect Hazim Yassin urged the council to follow the planning board’s recommendations, which eliminated the bonus units. He told the council that, as a member of the board, he hadvoted in favor of allowing 90 units per acre, “and it didn’t pass. We needed to compromise,” and the suggestions the board sent to the council “weren’t made lightly.”
But council officials followed the lead of special redevelopment attorney Joe Baumann, who argued once again that the greater density was needed to ensure the highest possible number of affordable housing units.
“The governing body has other considerations that were not really the purview of the planning board,” he said.
Councilman Michael Ballard said the ordinance “troubles me something fierce,” but “I will hold my nose” and vote in favor of it in order to advance the affordable housing objectives, he said.
“We have to have faith in our professionals crafting that redevelopment agreement” between the borough and Saxum, said Council President Ed Zipprich. Approval was unanimous.
The council also:
• approved a new four-year contract with borough police covered by the collective bargaining agreement with PBA Local 39, the details of which have not yet been disclosed.
• awarded a new grant-writing contract to Millennium Strategies, but at the suggestion of Mayor Pasquale Menna, curtailed it to six months, rather than a year, as previously proposed.
• unanimously approved a resolution calling on the United States Postal Service to offer consumer financial services, such as check-cashing and no-fee ATMs, at its 33,000 branches nationwide. Here’s the resolution: 18-291.PDF
• Menna also announced that a public presentation of a long-awaited downtown parking study will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, January 10 at the Red Bank Primary School.