By JOHN T. WARD
It was a night of “hold that thought” as hearings got underway on one of the largest development plans in Red Bank history Monday night.
At a planning board session on a 210-unit apartment complex proposed for a busy stretch of Riverside Avenue, neighbors who packed the room were repeatedly advised to defer their questions and comments on traffic until the developer’s traffic consultant testifies.
A site plan shows the project wrapping around a parking lot for tenants of the Colony House apartments. Below, Robert Freud looks on as opponents’ attorney Ron Gasiorowski, right, compares documents with developers’ attorney Chad Warnken. (Plan by Dynamic Engineering; photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
At the hearing’s opening Monday night, civil engineer Robert Freud (pronounced ‘frood’) offered an overview of the site plan for the multiuse project, which would replace the vacant former VNA headquarters at 176 Riverside Avenue.
There, at the corner of Bodman Place, a unit of Saxum Real Estate proposes to construct two five-story buildings with 210 rental units, a 323-vehicle parking garage, 9,000 square feet of coworking space and a 2,350-square foot retail food space for a yet-to-be-signed tenant.
Here’s the complete site plan: 176 Riverside Site Plan
And here are the architectural drawings: 176 Riverside Ave Architecturals
The developer is not seeking any variances, said applicant’s attorney Chad Warnken. Its plan, he said, complies with a redevelopment plan approved by the borough council last year, in part driven by a need to provide more affordable housing in town or face potential litigation. The project would supply 31 units deemed affordable, Warnken said.
The redevelopment plan allows the developer to erect 70 units per acre on the 2.4-acre site, with a “bonus” of up to 20 units per acre for meeting specific criteria related to reducing carbon impacts. By providing resident-only jitney transport to the train station; contracting with Zip Car or a similar provider of short-term auto rentals; building two rain gardens and offering other amenities, Warnken said Saxum qualified for 86 units per acre.
Under board rules, public comment is reserved until the completion of all testimony. In the interim, residents and other interested parties are permitted to question the applicant’s professionals after their presentations.
But many of the questions directed to Freud concerned traffic, and were deferred.
One-third of the 135-minute meeting was take up in questioning of Freud by Ron Gasiorowski, an attorney for Park Ridge II, III, IV LLC, owner of the 30-vehicle Colony House apartments’ parking lot, which would be surrounded on three sides by the Saxum project.
Gasiorowski asked several questions about the space between his client’s property and the northern portion of the Saxum project, but it was not immediately clear if he was objecting on the basis of insufficient buffering.
Traffic, Mayor Pasquale Menna said near the session’s close, is “one of the premier issues” arising from the Saxum plan. The site is at an intersection considered one of the most problematic in town, particularly for motorists trying to turn south from Bodman Place onto Riverside Avenue, which doubles as state Route 35.
Menna, a lawyer whose office is on Bodman Place, has repeatedly urged the New Jersey Department of Transportation to install a traffic light there. But the DOT has rejected the suggestion as “not feasible,” arguing that the location is too close to the lights at the juncture of Riverside, Bridge Avenue and Rector Place.
Here’s the applicant’s traffic report: 176 Riverside Traffic Study 041919
Here’s the review by the board’s planning consultant, Ed Herman: T&M Saxum report 070519