By JOHN T. WARD
Facing almost certain rejection of its plan to add seven stories to a downtown Red Bank building, a developer won a four-month reprieve from the zoning board Thursday night.
Amid criticism by a board member that its plan was “putting a lot in one bag,” PRC Group asked for and received a last-minute adjournment on its application.
The development would dramatically alter the Red Bank skyline, creating 137 apartments and new tiers of parking above Pazzo MMX restaurant, at 141 West Front Street, between West and Pearl streets.
The proposal requires a host of variances, among them one for height. Including a parapet wall, the structure would rise to 122 feet in a zone where the limit is 40 feet.
Over two and a half hours, PRC-hired experts attempted to make the case that the project would not have significant impacts on traffic; would fit well in the neighborhood, where several high-rises and high-density apartment buildings are located; and would do what the Master Plan has called for in multiple editions since 1995.
Regarding traffic, expert Maurice Rached said that “the relevant point is what is the impact of this development? Is it significant enough to cause alarm? No.”
But board member Eileen Hogan was not persuaded. Contrary to data cited by Rached, she said, “there’s the real element, of actually driving around,” she said. Rached’s studies don’t reflect “the reality that we all know,” she said.
A planner, Christine Nazzaro Cofone, said the proposal was “harmonious” with other high-density buildings in the area, and advances multiple aims of the borough Master Plan.
That document “for years has talked about increasing development and intensity near and the train station,” she said. “We’re 1,000 feet, approximately,” from the station she said, and “this is certainly an appropriate location” for this proposal, she added.
The project provides its own parking, as well as on-site affordable housing for 15 tenants, she said.
“This really hits on a lot of the planing goals,” Cofone said.
But board member Sean Murphy pushed back.
“There’s a reason the train station overlay is where it is,” he said. “You’re not in it.”
PRC Attorney Peter Wersinger cited other benefits to the town, including the financial impact of spending by some 300 new residents and additional property tax revenue of some $900,000 per year.
Board member Bruce Maida asked about PRC making its garage available to patrons of the Count Basie Center for the Arts just block away. Wersinger said PRC was willing”to talk about shared parking” for 100 or more spaces. “Our intention is to provide that benefit to the borough,” he said.
At the conclusion of PRC’s presentation, the project’s size, and particularly its height, remained sticking points for several board members.
If in revisiting the Master Plan the planning board “had wanted this kind of building in that zone in 2019, [it] would have said so,” said board member member Ray Mass.
“Maybe cut in half, but that would still be 20 feet” above the allowable height, he said.
As board Chairwoman Lauren Nicosia was about to ask for a motion to approve or reject the plan, Wersinger asked for an adjournment, so the board could “take the time to reflect” on the testimony.
“I don’t know how my mind’s going to change,” said Mass.
“I believe all the testimony tonight would lead down the path to potential modifications” of the proposal, said board member Richard Angowski, a lawyer who works in land-use.
The hearing was scheduled to resume June 3. A full set of documents filed on the proposal can be found here.
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