LITTLE SILVER: OFFICE BUILDING PLANNED

ls smith site 070615A warehouse-style office building is planned for the vacant lot on Willow Drive near Branch Avenue. Below, council members examining developer Ray Smith’s plans Monday night. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

LS council 070615After years of contamination, bankruptcy and idleness, one of Little Silver’s most troubled properties may finally be getting a makeover. But first, the owner wants a zone change.

A plan for a “warehouse-style” office structure to be built on Willow Drive by commercial real estate broker and developer Ray Smith got a warm reception from the borough council during the workshop portion of its meeting Monday night.

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LITTLE SILVER: CORNER RAZED. NOW WHAT?

ls willow dr 122214wicker-rose-texaco-lsThe former site of Wicker Rose furnishings, foreground below, and a Texaco station on Willow Drive near Branch Avenue in Little Silver was cleared of its vacant structures earlier this month. Property owner Ray Smith tells redbankgreen that that buildings “needed to go, and now the property is cleaned up and ready for development.”

And what’s he got planned for the site? Smith says he’s “weighing several options” but has no definite plans yet. What would you like to see there? (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

LITTLE SILVER: SHELL TAKES EX-EXXON SPOT

ls shell 041314The former Exxon station at Branch Avenue and Willow Drive in Little Silver, vacant for several years, is about to reopen as a Shell station. Owner Rafi Awan could not be reached for comment, but a borough employee said the station had applied for a certificate of occupancy and appeared ready to open.

The intersection once boasted four filling stations. Only a Citgo station remains. (Click to enlarge)

INDICTMENT IN SHOOTING, RED BANK HOLDUP

authorities2aA one-man, 24-hour crime spree that included a holdup of a Red Bank gas station and a shooting in Asbury Park got  a Monmouth County man indicted on federal charges Thursday, authorities said.

Quam Wilson, 23, of Neptune Township, started the blitz by shooting an Asbury Park cab driver in the head during a robbery, an indictment handed down by a grand jury in Trenton alleges.

The driver survived.

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RED BANK: ZONERS REJECT SHELL 7-ELEVEN

By SARAH KLEPNER

The likelihood of Red Bank getting a third 7-Eleven anytime soon melted like a Slurpee left on a dashboard Thursday night.

After 10 months, extensive testimony and textbook-quality legal briefs on zoning law, the borough zoning board unanimously denied an application for a 7-Eleven to replace an inactive car wash at the Shell gasoline station on Newman Springs Road at Shrewsbury Avenue.

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RED BANK: NO VOTE YET ON SHELL 7-ELEVEN

Red Bank resident Tracy Khonstam implores the zoning board to reject the planned convenience store on Newman Springs Road. (Photo by Sarah Klepner. Click to enlarge)

By SARAH KLEPNER

All the evidence is finally before the Red Bank zoning board in the matter of a proposed 7-Eleven that would replace a self-serve car wash at Wasseem Chaudhary’s Shell gas station at Shrewsbury Avenue and Newman Springs Road.

But after eight months of hearings, including one Thursday night, there’s been no up-or-down vote on whether to allow the store. The full board is expected to consider the application on August 1.
In the interim, two board members who were not present for concluding testimony and comments are expected to listen to a recording of Thursday’s hearing, said board chair Lauren Nicosia.

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RED BANK: EXXON V. SHELL ON 7-ELEVEN PLAN

The plan calls for a the convenience store to be built in the northwest corner of the property. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

It’s Shell v. Exxon in Red Bank, and not just over the price of gas.

A proposal by the owner of the Shell station at Newman Springs Road and Shrewsbury Avenue to build a 7-Eleven store where it now has a self-serve car wash has drawn opposition from the Exxon station at the same intersection as well as nearby residents.

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RUMSON GAS STATION RUNS ON HAND PUMP

CBS News ran this story Monday about Richie Dodd, owner of the Rumson Exxon station. Still without electricity following Hurricane Sandy eight days ago, Dodd and his employees have been pumping gasoline from the West River Road station’s underground tanks by hand-cranked pump into canisters his customers have lined up with.

“You have to do it for the people,” Dodd says. “People have to get their generators going.”

HOTEL LAWSUIT III: THIS TIME, IT’S PERSONAL

Lawyer Ron Gasiorowski clashing with Councilman Mike DuPont last week, above, and relaxing at Zebu Forno on Monday. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

As an attorney, Ron Gasiorowski is used to verbal conflict. It’s inherent in the adversarial work of representing a client’s interests against someone who’s doing the same.

But as he prepares to file his third lawsuit against Red Bank over a proposed Hampton Inn, Gasiorowski is stewing over the reception he got when he appeared before the borough council last Wednesday.

Not the way he was treated by borough Attorney Dan O’Hern, who challenged him on procedural points at nearly every turn, but did so respectfully, Gasiorowski told redbankgreen last week. And likewise not by Mayor Pasquale Menna, who despite his resistance to Gasiorowski’s point of view, “is always a gentleman,” he said.

No, Gasiorowski said, he was put out by the the third lawyer up on the dais: Councilman Mike DuPont.

“In 40 years of practicing law, that was the most unprofessional and rudest I’ve ever been treated,” said Gasiorowski, a 71-year-old former Marine captain.

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COUNCIL RAISES HEIGHT LIMIT AT HOTEL SITE

Attorney Ron Gasiorowski, with a rendering of the proposed Hampton Inn hotel he opposes, awaits the start of Wednesday’s Red Bank council meeting. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Two months after the Red Bank zoning board ruled that a proposed hotel on the site of a former Exxon station exceeded the height limit for its zone, the town’s governing body boosted the limit Wednesday night.

After a contentious hearing that was widely seen as a prelude to a third lawsuit over zoning changes affecting the site the of the proposed Hampton Inn, the borough council gave unanimous approval to a trio of ordinance amendments, one of which would allow a building 82.4 feet tall, or seven stories, in the zone.

Though characterized by council members and council Attorney Dan O’Hern as an attempt to clarify rules affecting the town’s entire waterfront development zone, the most immediate impact of the change is eliminate the most significant obstacle to the proposed hotel, eyed for the juncture of Route 35 and Rector Place at the foot of Cooper’s Bridge.

“I, too, am of the opinion that we need another hotel here, one that is affordable,” Councilman Mike DuPont said after sparring repeatedly with the attorney representing the hotel’s foremost objector.

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BUILDER PLANS TO RAZE TROUBLED CORNER

The former home of Wicker Rose furnishings, foreground, and the Texaco station at Willow Drive and Branch Avenue are slated for demolition, the new owner says. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

You might call it the most accursed corner of Little Silver.

Once the location of four gas stations and other businesses, the juncture of Willow Drive and Branch Avenue has been beset by pollution problems and financial chicanery in recent years, with the result that a swath of its properties have sat idle and unproductive.

An attempt to auction off  a block of the properties two years ago bombed. Investors wanted nothing to do with them, said Ray Smith of the commercial real estate brokerage Stafford Smith Realty.

Now, however, Smith himself is ready to take a chance on redeveloping one stretch of the corner, he says.

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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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