A BIT LATE, FAIR HAVEN GIRL TESTS TREE LAW

zoe-gallagherZoe Gallagher, 12, in front of the Poplar Avenue property where trees are being cut down to make room for two houses. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

By last Wednesday, Zoe Gallagher figured it might be too late. By 7:30a Saturday, she was sure.

That’s when she was awakened by sound of trucks and chainsaws. Looking out her window, the 12-year-old knew that there was no chance she’d be able to save the dozen trees that were about to be cut down across the street.

Zoe, who is the president of the environmental club at Knollwood School, was a step behind in her fight for the doomed trees on Poplar Avenue. She hadn’t learned of their impending demise until Wednesday, the day after the home builder, Spencer Foxworth, won an appeal to cut down the trees in order to make room for two new homes on the property. He had previously been denied permission by Elizabeth Lilleston, chairwoman of the shade tree commission and Fair Haven’s code enforcement officer.

“So what’s the point of having a tree ordinance?” Zoe asked, as she watched workers load trucks with tree limbs and brush. “It’s like there isn’t any. You just waste a day presenting the case because you’re going to get it anyway.”

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FAIR HAVEN HOUSING PLAN DRAWS BACKLASH

senior-housing1Developer Kevin Hughes, right, watches Fair Haven’s council meeting as neighbors voiced complaints over his proposal to add age-restricted housing in town. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

It’s facing kind of a conundrum, says Mayor Mike Halfacre, of the Fair Haven council’s role in weighing an informal proposal for age-restricted housing in the borough.

On the one hand, the council has been asked to create an overlay district to allow higher densities in a neighborhood just off River Road, a move that might in turn fill a longtime need in town for more housing for the borough’s senior population.

But doing so carries the potential of leaving a bad taste in the mouths of neighbors.

Even though the proposal from builder Kevin Hughes is in what Halfacre called “step A, minus one,” some neighbors are already hoping to derail it. At a Tuesday morning meeting specifically relocated to the borough’s youth and senior center in order to accommodate the older population, area residents obliged with a solid half-hour of bristling to the council.

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BUILDER COMPLETES HISTORICAL CONVERSION

leroy-houseA nine-month renovation project on LeRoy Place has just wrapped up. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Charlie McCague wasn’t looking for a fight or a hassle from anybody. Even standing well over six-feet tall, he comes across as a benevolent guy, his soft Irish brogue offsetting his intimidating stature.

But a hassle of sorts what he got after he bought a long-vacant Victorian at 28 LeRoy Place in Red Bank last year and presented plans to convert it into office space, McCague admits, hesitantly.  Some neighbors griped about the idea, and the planning board, which had to approved the change in use, wasn’t uniformly in favor of it, either.

The argument was that the home should stay strictly residential and maintain its historical qualities. A conversion, opponents said, would promote “creeping commercialism” into the area, which is partially  zoned for residential and professional office use. Councilwoman Sharon Lee called it “an assault on our historic homes.”

Still, McCague narrowly won approval to make the conversion, and now that work has just wrapped up, the only sign of creeping commercialism appears to be in the back, where a handicapped parking sign is staked in the ground.

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YMCA SUES BOROUGH OVER PLAN DENIAL

ymca1The Community YMCA says the zoning board rejection was capricious. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

As expected, the Community YMCA has filed a lawsuit against Red Bank’s zoning board for its decision to not allow the Y to nearly double the size of its Maple Avenue facility, putting the nonprofit at odds with the town on two legal fronts.

The suit, filed on May 18 in state Superior Court in Freehold, says that the board’s resolution denying the Y’s expansion plan “lacks a factual basis for its negative findings and provides nothing more that conclusions unsupported by fact or applicable land use law, ” and therefore makes the board’s decision unreasonable.

The Y is seeking to reverse the zoning board’s decision and win approval of the variance applications and site plan. It is also asking for compensation for the cost of the suit and whatever other relief the court deems just.

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LITTLE PROJECT, BIG IMPACT, BUILDER SAYS

roger-mumfordRoger Mumford has plans that he says will transform part of the West Side. (Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

On the corner of Bridge Avenue and Cedar Street sits a tan-colored, nondescript building that, if not for a couple of cars parked in the lot, could easily be mistaken for another one of Red Bank’s vacant spaces.

With just a couple of windows and minimal signage, 247 Bridge doesn’t at all look like the nerve center of an operation that might spark a transformation of the rundown area that adjoins it.

But Roger Mumford, a 54-year-old home builder who commands the happenings inside the office, has big plans for the stretch of Bridge from Cedar to Drs. James Parker Boulevard. The Little Silver resident has approvals to knock down four existing homes, plus a corner bodega, and rebuild the site from the ground up with a new bodega and five luxury homes.

You read that right. Luxury homes.

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SILVER LINING AT LITTLE SILVER CORNER?

wicker-rose-texaco-lsBoth the former Wicker Rose building,  foreground, and the abandoned Texaco station in the background have “substantial” environmental issues. (Click to enlarge)

Three adjoining Little Silver properties with the taint of fraud and pollution go on the auction block tomorrow.

The whiff of financial chicanery comes from their connection to Solomon Dwek, the Ocean Township real estate investor-turned-federal-informant, who acquired them as part of a massive $400 million real estate roll-up scheme studded with allegations of bank fraud. That was before Dwek agreed to wear a wire and bribe elected officials snared in a statewide public-corruption sweep last year.

The underground pollution is literally traceable to one of the three properties, a former Texaco filling station, as well as from other sources, says real estate marketer Ray Smith, whose firm will conduct the auction.

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HOV POSTS ANOTHER QUARTERLY LOSS

Img_9341Hovnanian’s headquarters overlooking the Navesink River at Maple Cove. (Click to enlarge)

The misery isn’t over at Red Bank-based national homebuilder Hovnanian Enterprises, despite a brief return to the black two quarters back.

The company reported a net loss of $28.6 million in its second fiscal quarter, which ended April 30,  compared with $118.6 million loss a year earlier.

In its first quarter, the company was profitable for the first time after more than four years of losses. Hovnanian has now lost money in 14 of the last 15 quarters.

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COAL & FEED BUILDING DEMOLISHED

26_shrewsburyThe former Hance Coal & Feed building on Shrewsbury Avenue, seen above in 2008, was razed earlier this week, below. (Click to enlarge)

galleria-coal

A landmark barnlike structure on Red Bank’s West Side is no more.

The former Hance Coal & Feed building on Shrewsbury Avenue was taken down earlier this week by Sourlis International, owner of the Galleria at Red Bank, which plans to expand a surrounding parking lot on the site.

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PLAN TO TRANSFORM WEST SIDE BLOCK OK’D

lincoln-sq-050610Roger Mumford discusses his plan at Thursday’s zoning board hearing. Below, a view of the homes to be built along the east side of Bridge Avenue; the current site of a bodega on the corner of Drs. Parker Boulevard is at right. (Click to enlarge)

A sweeping plan to overhaul one of Red Bank’s most dilapidated blocks won approval from the borough zoning board Thursday night.

Builder Roger Mumford’s plan calls for bulldozing four run-down houses on Bridge Avenue between Cedar Avenue and Drs. James Parker Boulevard, plus a corner bodega.

In their place, and stretching east along Parker to the existing Bergen Square condo complex, will come five spanking-new luxury residences — and a new corner storefront that may house the same bodega, assuming the tenant wants to return, Mumford says.

“Bridge Avenue is a great place,” he tells redbankgreen, noting the presence of the Two River Theater, the Galleria at Red Bank and other attractions nearby. “Now, more of Bridge Avenue is going to be part of that excitement.”

bridgeave-050710

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BANK SAYS STORES WOULD DOOM PROJECT

courtyards-at-monmouthRobert Cogan, architect for the Courtyards At Monmouth proposal, gives his segment of the three-hour testimony to the zoning board Thursday night. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Representatives of the bank looking to build 57 residential units on a desolate corner of Monmouth Street have no doubt that if they get borough approval, their project will be a success in Red Bank.

They’ll just have to wait to find out if they can even step on the path toward approval.

After three hours of testimony from a handful of lawyers and experts representing the property’s owner, Amboy Bank, the zoning board short-circuited the group’s pitch for the evening and continued the hearing until next month.

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BANK AIMS TO UP ITS RETURN ON MONMOUTH

courtyards-1-040710A subsidiary of Amboy Bank is seeking approval for an all-residential project at the corner of Monmouth and West streets, below. (Click to enlarge)

courtyards-2-040710On the agenda for a special meeting of the Red Bank zoning board tonight: yet another plan for a major development on the site of a former filling station on Monmouth Street.

Yep, that same place at the southeast corner of West Street that was the subject of not one but two prior approvals in the past seven years, neither of which resulted in so much as a shovel going into the ground.

Amboy Bank, which now owns the property, wants to build townhouse-style apartments there under the name Courtyards at Monmouth. So why not just dust off the approval won by Rumson’s George Coffenberg, who relinquished the project to the bank shortly after getting his approval for a project, also dubbed called Courtyards at Monmouth, in early 2008?

Because in the interim, Red Bank’s governing body changed the zoning laws and included the property in a so-called “train station overlay” zone that allows for buildings up to 50 feet tall and densities of up to 35 dwelling units per acre, up from the prior limit of 25.

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CORNER TALK WITH CROSSON

crosson1

Russ Crosson has submitted early plans to build a small strip mall at the corner of Shrewsbury Avenue and Drs. James Parker Boulevard. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Russ Crosson had reasons to give up on Red Bank’s West Side a long time ago.

Growing up on Chapin Avenue in the ’60s, a period of racial tension and civil unrest, his childhood wasn’t entirely the stuff of warm, fuzzy feelings.

“I used to get beat up almost every day,” he said. “I’d get held against the fence and get my lights punched out. I’d get snowballs shoved down my mouth.”

But some 40 years later, Crosson is still hanging around the West Side, and with plenty of fond memories of the area he grew up in. And it doesn’t appear he’s going anywhere soon.

The 52-year-old building contractor is on track to infuse some life into on one of the most underutilized corners in town: a grassy lot at the intersection of Shrewsbury Avenue and Drs. James Parker Boulevard, not far from where Crosson was force-fed snowballs as a kid.

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ATRIUM TRIMS HIGH-RISE PLAN

atriumA proposed addition to the Atrium, at left, would be built between the existing structure and the neighboring Riverview Towers, right. The parking lot in the foreground, bound by Riverside Avenue and West Front Street, is slated for upgrades by the Atrium’s owner. (Click to enlarge)

The owner of a luxury senior citizens’ high-rise in Red Bank has curtailed its plans to nearly double the size of the facility with a proposed 12-story addition on Riverside Avenue, redbankgreen has learned.

Instead, Springpoint Senior Living — formerly PHS Senior Living, and before that, Presbyterian Homes — will revert to an older, approved plan for just six stories, says Springpoint chief operating officer Chuck Mooney.

The move was driven largely by economics, Mooney said. But it was also taken to head off a battle with residents of the neighboring Riverview Towers high-rise, he acknowledged.

“We are concerned about having a protracted series of hearings” at the zoning board, Mooney said.

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Y ZONE CHANGE QUASHED BY COUNCIL

rb-councilCongregation Beth Shalom Secretary Sara Breslow speaks against a proposed zoning ordinance at Monday’s council meeting. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Red Bank’s borough council voted 4-1 against a contentious ordinance amendment that would have made the Community YMCA a permitted use at its longtime location Monday night, effectively ending the organization’s recent bid to expand the Maple Avenue facility.

It very well may be the council’s most expensive vote this year, according to Mayor Pasquale Menna.

“My only admonition is that it’s going to be really costly for the borough. I can’t guarantee what happens,” he said.

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BANK EYES FORMER HOVNANIAN HQ

old-k-hov-hqIt’s been a few years since anybody’s operated in there, but a bank hopes to make the old Hovnanian home base its new digs. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

For the first time in four years, the former headquarters of home builder Hovnanian Enterprises has a serious candidate to take up residence in the Middletown building overlooking the Navesink River.

Neighbors don’t want it.

Valley National Bank, which is listed as the owner of the 27,000 square-foot, four-story building, has submitted plans to build a drive-through at the Route 35 location and use the other three levels for already-zoned office use.

The Wayne-based bank chain, with branches nearby in Red Bank and Middletown, is in the midst of zoning board hearings as it seeks a variance to use the property for bank purposes, said Jason Greenspan, Middletown’s planner.

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YMCA ZONE ISSUES HEADS BACK TO COUNCIL

ymcaMaple Avenue’s most famous non-conformer, the Community YMCA, will again seek permitted-use status. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The hottest potato in town is back in the hands of the Red Bank Borough Council.

A proposed ordinance amendment that would make the Community YMCA a permitted use on Maple Avenue is moving toward a final vote by the council, presumably at its meeting next Monday night.

But the council will be acting without the aid of a resolution that Mayor Pasquale Menna believes the governing body may need in the event that the amendment is shot down, triggering a lawsuit.

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MORE YMCA DISCUSSION? Y NOT?

poku-councilWilliam Poku of Bank Street addresses the council. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

What would a municipal meeting in Red Bank be these days without at least a little talk about the Community YMCA?

Shorter, for one.

The borough council, despite tabling a YMCA-related item on its agenda to a later date, gave attendees a chance to opine on the matter Monday night.

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SECOND BOARD REJECTS Y EXPANSION PLAN

menna-goldinMayor Pasquale Menna listens as Marvin Goldin of Temple Beth Shalom asks the planning board to reject the YMCA zoning request. (Click to enlarge)

Six weeks after a proposal to expand the Community YMCA facility came up one vote short at the Red Bank zoning board, an attempt to get the idea back on track ran into a brick wall at the planning board Monday night.

The outcome left Mayor Pasquale Menna isolated by two boards over which he has appointment control. Seven planning board members voted in favor of a resolution finding the Y plan not to be in conformance with the goals of the borough’s Master Plan. Menna alone voted ‘no’ on the measure.

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BASIE MARQUEE GETTING A FRESH LOOK

springsteen-basie-marqueeBy September, a new electronic marquee should be hanging over Monmouth Street, theater officials say. (Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The familiar sight of a man using a long pole to change the names of the acts on the Count Basie Theatre marquee will soon be a memory.

The Red Bank venue, which recently earned historic landmark status, is heading into what CEO Numa Saisselin calls the “Let’s Face It” phase of a multimillion dollar, multiyear renovation project.

It starts with an updated marquee and will finish with a new facade, one that will nod to the building’s past, he says.

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ZONING CHANGE FOR YMCA ADVANCES

ymca-facadeThe Community YMCA could get another shot at expansion if the borough council approves a proposed zone amendment. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The official opinion is in, and now it will be in the hands of the Red Bank Planning Board to determine whether a stretch of Maple Avenue should permit recreational facilities that already has one: the Community YMCA.

Borough Planner Richard Cramer writes in a report that the borough council’s recent introduction of an ordinance amending the borough’s zoning law to allow recreational facilities such as the Y to operate on Maple Avenue fits in with the borough’s Master Plan, said Mayor Pasquale Menna.

Currently, the YMCA is nonconforming and operates as a variance in Maple Avenue’s professional office zone. The nonprofit’s pushed for the zoning amendment after a losing bid to expand the facility last month.

“It is consistent with the master plan,” Menna said. “It makes sense to not discriminate against the Y.”

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