A satellite view of the Senior Center, where the patio provides a view of the Swimming River. (Satellite image from Google Maps. Click to enlarge.)
By JOHN T. WARD
The Red Bank council initiated a process to create a new “passive park” behind the Senior Center Wednesday night.
Still unanswered, however, is the question of how big the park might be, and how it would be accessed.
Councilman Michael Ballard at Wednesday’s council meeting. Below, a tax map shows the two lots that now comprise the site. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
The one-story Senior Center overlooks the Swimming River from a bluff at 80 Shrewsbury Avenue. The building has been closed since it was damaged by a fire suppression system leak in early 2019, and is now undergoing repairs budgeted at $1.9 million.
But for two years, the center’s fate was a political football in a heated debate over the now-shuttered Redevelopment Agency that split the all-Democratic council.
Little of that rancor was evident Wednesday night, when the council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing borough Attorney Daniel Antonelli to submit a subdivision application to the planning board to initiate the process.
Still, Ballard’s proposal prompted some pushback from Councilwoman Kate Triggiano.
“There’s, sincerely, no space there for a park,” Triggiano said. “I think there’s a little confusion among the public about what this step is and what it would do.”
No information was immediately provided about how large the park might be, or how much of the site is accessible on foot beyond the Senior Center usage.
According to property and tax records, the center comprises two east-west lots, one 33 by 368 feet (.28 acres), and the other 134 x 318 feet (.98 acres). The building and parking lot take up more than half the total area, and what remains is scrub that slopes to the river.
Triggiano asked how the proposed change would impact the center itself, should it need to install equipment, such as a generator, that might encroach onto parkland.
Antonelli, who said he had walked the property shortly before the meeting, responded that “maybe there’s some portion of level property before it slopes down” that could be used to determine where to draw the property line.
Borough Engineer Ed Herrman would help steer the project, he said.
Triggiano also questioned why a deed restriction wasn’t being pursued instead of a subdivision and park designation.
Antonelli said a deed restriction could be used, but could be reversed by the council in the future.
By contrast, he said, Ballard’s approach would lead to the newly designated lot being included on the borough’s Recreation and Open Spaces Inventory. That could only be undone by approval of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and carries a “penalty,” he said: the town would have to designate two acres elsewhere in town as open space.
Ballard said the subdivision was the “proper way to go about” preserving the site in perpetuity.
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