RB Council Changes Waterfront Development Zoning

August 3, 2012
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By John Burton

RED BANK — The Borough Council has approved a set of ordinances that will directly affect a proposed hotel on Highway 35 and Rector Place.

The July 25 meeting was the latest round in the convoluted and protracted battle over a proposed hotel. The council voted 4-0 to approve three ordinances that modify the zoning of the Rector Place area. Officials said the new ordinances clarify what they maintain was ambiguous language which had led to confusion for the planning board, zoning board of adjustment, their attorneys, the borough engineer, and the town’s planning and zoning officer.

The ordinances now specify such items as a formula for height requirements and permitted uses for property located in the waterfront development zone. One ordinance makes clear that the property at the edge of Rector Place and state Highway 35 is not part of the same exclusively residential zone as the remainder of Rector. The parcel is now zoned like other riverfront areas that permit high-rise development and hotels, much like property aong Riverside Avenue, across Highway 35.

Borough Attorney Daniel J. O’Hern Jr. called the work on the new ordinances “a tremendous struggle,” and a torturous time for the zoning and planning boards and officials to come to terms with what the existing ordinance actually allowed and detailed. O’Hern said the changes involved the entire water development zone and not simply the proposed hotel property.

The corner property, which overlooks the Swimming River, has long been vacant and deteriorated. It attracted public attention as RBCapital, LLC, a development group, sought to build a six-story, 76-room Hampton Inn. That application has spent more than a year before the zoning and planning boards because officials had difficulty deciphering the intent and restrictions in the original ordinance as it related to the hotel project.

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The borough engineer, zoning board attorney and planning and zoning officer, “looked at this ordinance and came up with three different ways of looking at this,” said Christine Ballard, the engineer. “It was entirely too complicated.”

Complicating matters even more are two lawsuits brought by a borough resident and paid for by Tinton Falls hotel owners, looking to derail the application. The suit argues that the application should be before the zonng board, rather than the planning board, for a variance because of the expected height of the hotel.

Red Bank lawyer Ron Gasiorowski, representing the opposition, appeared before the borough council, arguing during his more than an hour presentation that the ordinance was being changed to accommodate the application.

The proposed hotel is designed at a height of about 80 feet, Gasiorowski reminded audience and council.

Mayor Pasquale Menna and Councilman Michael DuPont contended Gasiorowski was getting his objections on the record because, “this is going to be part of the third lawsuit that’s filed,” Menna said.

After months of hearings before the zoning board, moving to the planning board and back to the zoning board for its determination, the zoning board in March decided the plan exceeded the maximum permitted height and the planning board dismissed the application without prejudice.

DuPont said he was voting for the ordinances. The measures “preserve the neighborhoods, which I think is very important.”

Larry Cohen, the managing partner for RBCapital, told the council, “I think having a unified height in a uniform zone will bring clarity.”

Cohen would not say if his group planned to resubmit the hotel plans.

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