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RED BANK: PIPES, RENTALS, VOTING ON DECK

al-larotonda-011117-500x375-5361384Branch Avenue resident Alberto Larotonda with a lead pipe he brought to a council meeting in 2015. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

See Correction below

By JOHN T. WARD

hot-topic_02-220x137-6360205The Red Bank council may authorize spending up to $2.4 million to replace water service lines made of lead when it meets Wednesday night.

Also on the heavy agenda: possible adoption of a controversial law restricting short-term residential rentals; a study of water rates; a change in the zoning law governing cannabis sales; and authorizing early, in-person voting for an historic May election.

red-bank-3-east-front-012723-500x375-7790207The owners of Scarlet Reserve Room are seeking a zoning change to enable cannabis sales. Below, early, in-person voting would be available to all registered voters in the May 9 special election, but only at borough hall. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

red-bank-voting-machines-110322-2-220x165-6218292• Up for introduction is $2.4 million in debt and spending for the replacement of lead water lines.

According to the text, the work would cover pipes from the main up to the curb, “and, as applicable, from the curb onto real property, including, but not limited to, privately-owned real property and privately-owned structures at various locations.”

The borough is seeking funding for the project through the New Jersey Water Bank Financing Program.

Engineer Jaclyn Flor, of borough-based ENGenuity Infrastructure, is scheduled to make a presentation on the project at the meeting.

• Separately, ENGenuity would be paid $106,610 to conduct a water-rate study under a resolution up for approval.

According to interim Administrator Darren McConnell, the aim of the study is to determine whether the borough’s water utility “is charging the appropriate rate to its customers.”

“That would include such things as the rate per gallon as well as connection fees,” he told redbankgreen via email. “They essentially look at what it costs to operate the utility, the capital investments already made in the utility and the future capital plans.”

• A hot-button ordinance to regulate short-term rentals, such as those offered via Airbnb, is up for adoption.

• Up for “discussion” are potential changes to the zoning law that established where cannabis businesses can operate.

At the council’s January 25 meeting, John Marchetti, an owner of Scarlet Reserve Room, 3 East Front Street, said a ban on cannabis businesses within 1,000 feet of a playground is impeding the company’s pursuit of a New Jersey dispensary license.

The shop opened 2021 as a CDB and “cigar-tasting” emporium, with its location chosen based partly on a borough map that did not show the address as prohibited from cannabis sales, Marchetti said.

“This is why we signed a lease,” with plans to seek a state license, Marchetti said. But a subsequent revision to the map put the shop “out of the zone” where sales can legally occur because of its proximity to the play area in Marine Park, he said.

Now, with a conditional license issued by the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission in hand and less than 120 days to get a location approved by the borough and convert the license to annual and open to operate, Marchetti has been denied by the zoning board is appealing to the council, he said.

The business has been unable to find another location in town that isn’t also “zoned-out,” he said. “In addition, the landlords who are in the zone have become predatory, asking 10X for rent, if you can even find” an available spot, he said.

A change in the ordinance to restrict sales within 250 feet of playgrounds, open spaces, schools and churches, as adopted in Montclair, would allow the business to operate in Red Bank, Marchetti said.

Marchetti said projected sales of $10 million annually at the shop, which would generate $200,000 in tax revenue for the borough, he said.

Without a change, he said, Scarlet Reserve Room would most likely have to take its license to another, more welcoming town.

“We do not want to do that,” he said. “We want to be in Red Bank, we want to be part of this community, we already are business owners in this community.”

• Another ordinance, up for discussion and possible introduction, would authorize two days of early, in-person ballot-casting in advance of the May 9 special election.

Planning for the election is underway following overwhelming voter approval in November of a referendum that called for changing the town’s form of governance and initiating nonpartisan elections.

A new mayor and six council members are to be chosen. They’ll take office July 1 and reorganize under the “council-manager” form of government available under the New Jersey Faulkner Act.

Because Red Bank is the sole municipality in Monmouth County to hold a May election, election costs normally borne by the county must be absorbed by the town, Clerk Laura Reinertsen said last month.

An estimate Reinertsen prepared January 23 puts the costs of early voting at $14,514; an additional $6,280 would be required to pay for six poll workers and two supervisors over three days, bringing the total to $20,794.80. [Correction: the original version of this post erroneously include the worker expenses in the $14,514.] Non-early-voting expenses of $25,249.50 would bring the overall election cost to $66,839.

The early voting option would enable voters to cast ballots in-person at borough hall only from Friday, May 5, through Sunday, May 7.

Also on the agenda:

• Authorizing borough engineer T&M Associates to conduct a boundary and topographic survey of the Senior Center property on Shrewsbury Avenue, a step toward including the property on the town’s Recreation and Open Space Inventory, or ROSI roster.

• Implementing gender-neutral language in borough communications.

Here’s the full agenda, with proposed text of the ordinance included. The council meets at 6:30 p.m. at borough hall, 90 Monmouth Street. Remote participation is also available, via Zoom connection.

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