Councilman Michael Ballard, seen here in 2022, said the ordinance was the subject of 15 hours of “impassioned” debate. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

See UPDATE below


hot topicRed Bank Mayor Billy Portman “blindsided” most of the borough council when he vetoed controversial limits on short-term residential rentals, Councilmember Michael Ballard said this week.

Mayor Billy Portman in his borough hall office in January. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

Portman, just seven weeks into his term, announced the rarely used mayoral veto late last Wednesday, following a council meeting that ran for three and a half hours without any hint of his intention.

The veto nullified, at least temporarily, an ordinance championed by Ballard that “effectively” banned short-term rentals, Portman said in a press release.

The ordinance, adopted February 8 by a 5-1 vote, allows short-term rentals in all zones except strictly residential zones.

“In an effort to appease a few people in complete opposition to short term rentals, Councilmembers Ballard, Jackson, Sturdivant, Mirandi, and Zipprich ignored the simple and widely acceptable solution – to require that short term rentals are owner-occupied,” Portman said in announcing the veto.

Responding Sunday, Ballard said the ordinance was discussed over 15 hours at three council sessions in 2022 and two in 2023, when the governing body “heard a variety of impassioned pleas from residents to stop the spread of STRs into residential neighborhoods, and equally passionate rejections of such limitations from STR owners and real estate brokers, most of whom do not live in Red Bank.”

“Two weeks later, on February 23, Mayor Portman blindsided all five yes-voting members by issuing a press release announcing he would, for the first time in Red Bank in over 40 years, veto a properly adopted Borough ordinance,” Ballard said in a statement. “He did this after a three- and half-hour public meeting and subsequent 30-minute executive session the previous night where the Mayor never mentioned his intent to veto the STR ordinance to the public or the Council.”

Ballard also took aim at Portman for sharing his plan for the veto in advance with the Asbury Park-based triCity News, which reported on it in its weekly edition last Thursday.

From the statement:

This means that Mayor Portman provided his press release to an out-of-town publisher days before the public and the Council were informed of this unprecedented rejection of norms and public opinion,” Ballard wrote. “The Council was not officially notified of the veto until late morning, Thursday, February 23, when the Borough Clerk forwarded the same release which had already been splashed across newspapers and websites around Monmouth County.

Despite his campaign promises of transparency, civility and common-sense council interactions, Portman did the opposite by engaging in what I believe is nothing more than a political stunt aimed to slow down Borough operations and serves as a wink and a nod to the demands of the money-based, non-resident political influencers and donors.

As Council President, I view the Mayor’s desire to govern by press release unacceptable and a disservice to his office, the public, and the Council. I maintain that his actions have violated the trust of the voters and expose him as a Politician eager to resort to secret, backdoor shenanigans for political gain. I am requesting that a Special Meeting be convened by the Red Bank Council to discuss the timeline and processes by which Mayor Portman issued his veto, and whether the Council is open to taking up a vote to override the veto that the Mayor issued.

UPDATE: The council has scheduled a special session, scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday, solely to consider a resolution to overturn the veto.

Asked for comment on the Ballard statement, Portman told redbankgreen, via email: “I did what I thought was best for the residents of Red Bank, and I will continue to do what i think is best for red bank.”

Under borough code, a veto can be overridden by a two-thirds supermajority of the six-member council, or four votes. Councilmember Kate Triggiano, long at odds with the five-member majority led by Councilmember Ed Zipprich, cast the lone “no” against adoption of the ordinance.

With the entire governing body up for grabs in the May 9 special election, Portman is running to retain his seat on a slate that includes Triggiano. Ballard, Councilmember Jacqueline Sturdivant and Councilmember John Jackson are on a separate ticket, aiming to keep their council spots.

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