By JOHN T. WARD
A new municipal body with the potential to exert powerful influence on the future of Red Bank quietly took to the stage Tuesday.
Not quite the hottest ticket in town, the late-afternoon session of the new Redevelopment Agency drew an audience of three: two advisory committee members, who left early, and a reporter. But the ideas being floated, including the possible sale of borough hall, could soon move to the spotlight.
Funded with a $30,000 seed budget, the nine-member committee, chaired by Dave Huber, voted to appoint attorney Louis Rainone, who was not present, to serve as general counsel. The committee also designated a handful of other lawyers, planners, engineers and other professionals to provide proposals, and to quote fees, on an as-needed basis, for tasks that have not yet been identified.
All were selected after a borough-issued Request for Qualifications, said Ken DeRoberts, the consultant who was previously named executive director of the agency.
The report found that the borough was “paralyzed” in regard to redevelopment issues because it “has no person, office, or entity to provide leadership, focus, and drive to get things done.”
Now, the “crucial issue,” said DeRoberts’ partner, Joe Hartnett, is that “there’s so much going on in this community, and the mayor and council have so many issues to deal with, that there’s a real need to have an office or agency with a laser-like focus on redevelopment issues.”
Councilman Michael Ballard was the sole member of the governing body to oppose the creation of the agency last October.
Though the agency is expected to turn its attention in time to setting new development standards for private projects, the “dire” conditions of municipal facilities “really drove” the creation of the committee, DeRoberts told the members.
“There’s a great opportunity value here, and we want to be able to exploit it,” he said.
Borough Business Administrator Ziad Shehady outlined a number of deficiencies and safety issues that need to be addressed at town properties, including borough hall; the senior citizens’ center; and the public works yard on Chestnut Street, where employees have been working out of “temporary” trailer offices for some 15 years.
“From a tax perspective, we’re sitting in a building that’s prime real estate,” he said of borough hall, a four-story structure at the corner of Monmouth Street and Maple Avenue that the town acquired and renovated two decades ago. There’s the potential to sell the property and relocate town operations elsewhere, turning it into a ratable, he said.
Though it’s not taxed, the property is assessed at $7.2 million on the Monmouth County tax rolls.
The committee discussed the need for the borough to update its Master Plan, and will begin getting down to work by reviewing existing redevelopment agreements and areas designated as needing either redevelopment or rehabilitation.
The committee is scheduled to meet at 4:30 on the fourth Tuesday of each month in the council chamber at borough hall. The group’s advisory committee will meet at 3:00 p.m. preceding regular committee sessions on a quarterly schedule.
Shehady said he and three committee members had attended training classes at the Rutgers University last week. Under the New Jersey Local Redevelopment and Housing Law of 1992, all members must complete classes in ethics and principles of redevelopment within 18 months of their appointments or resign, he said.