Salerno attorney and former mayor Ed McKenna challenged testimony by a planner for the owner of the nearby Station Place apartments. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
By JOHN T. WARD
A planner who testified against variances for 46 apartments in downtown Red Bank got a tongue-lashing from former mayor Ed McKenna Thursday night.
The planner’s attorney termed McKenna’s aggressive approach a “preposterous rant.”
An elevation showing the Monmouth Street side of Michael Salerno’s proposed mixed-used project, looking east, above, and a recent view of the site from a similar angle, below. (Rendering by SOME Architects; photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
The setting was the latest in series of zoning board hearings on a three-year-old plan by developer Michael Salerno.
The plan calls for a four-story building encompassing the sites of an existing office building 121 Monmouth Street, as well as the former Big Man’s West, a concert venue owned by late saxophonist Clarence Clemons, both of which would be demolished.
After three years of review and changes, Salerno’s plan still has not gone to a board vote. The hearing is expected to conclude November 3.
That’s when a traffic expert hired by the owner of the Station Place apartments, just west of the site on Monmouth Street, is expected to testify, said its attorney, Kevin Asadi.
At Thursday’s hearing, Station Place’s hired planning expert, Joe Burgis, said “there is no justification” for variances sought by Salerno for density, setback and other features.
Salerno’s plan calls for a density of 64 dwelling units per acre, in a zone that permits only 16, and has no setbacks from the street along Monmouth Street, Burgis said. An existing train station overlay zone that would permit higher density does not include the site, Burgis noted.
“The municipality chose to adopt an overlay that’s 400 feet to the west” of the site, he said.
McKenna, on cross-examination, went immediately to a map prepared by Burgis, and pressed him on the comparable density and setbacks for Station Place.
“See this building here? Who owns that?” McKenna asked Burgis. “It’s your client, right? So despite the testimony you just gave this board, your client has almost 50 units per acre.”
Burgis said he had not been hired to evaluate Station Place, and Asadi objected to the line of questioning as beyond the scope of the application.
“It goes to credibility,” McKenna told the board. “He’s testifying that this board should be enforcing 16 units per acre, when the person that’s writing his check has 50 units per acre.”
McKenna said the board had in recent years approved four projects in excess of 60 units per acre in the neighborhood, projects he called “built and highly successful.”
In light of that, he said Burgis “showed disrespect for this governing body, disrespect for this town, tremendous people that serve here.
“I live in this town. You don’t,” McKenna told Burgis.
Asadi again objected.
“I don’t know how this became a rant against my planner,” he told Chairman Ray Mass. “This is preposterous, and I want it to stop.”
Brought within the application, and to be used as a stand-alone three-bedroom unit, is a house at the corner of Oakland and Pearl streets, which boosted the prior plan for 45 units by one. The house would count toward Salerno’s obligation to provide three affordable housing units, McKenna said.
Carl DeAngelis, whose family owns the building just to the east of the site, home to Pearl Street Consignment shop, told the board he is “fully in favor of the application.” But he voiced concern about how demolition would impact a common wall between the properties.
McKenna said Salerno would insure DeAngelis against any potential damage, and pay for the engineer of his choosing to review the construction plans and oversee the work.
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