Suit Aims to Put Brakes on Possible 8-Story Garage

February 8, 2017
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The White Street parking lot in Red Bank.

By John Burton |

RED BANK – Still in an early planning stage, a possible downtown garage that could be a tall as 8 stories faces a legal challenge from former Borough Councilwoman Cindy Burnham.

Burnham, who lost her re-election bid last November, has hired Red Bank lawyer Ron Gasiorowski, noted for his work in representing objectors to various real estate development projects, and established Residents for Responsible Development, LLC. This week she filed suit in Superior Court in opposition to a December 2016 ordinance.

“This is a big deal, not just for businesses but for residents,” she said. The tall structure would contain a parking deck, with possibly as many as 700-plus parking stalls, as well as possibly containing retail or residential space. This would be on the White Street property, which is owned by the municipality and is currently used as a metered parking lot.

After approximately a year of debate at both Borough Council and Planning Board meetings, the council late last year adopted the ordinance that formally declares the White Street property as a site in need of redevelopment, as permitted under current state law. The council’s action came following the planning board’s formal approval of the redevelopment plan, with the board citing the plan would be consistent with the municipality’s master plan – the document that provides a roadmap for town’s planning and zoning.

The redevelopment designation allows the council to begin Michael Whelan, held none of Cannon’s reservations. He called Burnham a “fearmonger” and called her “shortsighted.” Her actions “shows her lack of knowledge regarding land development law,” Whelan said.

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Whelan, who has been leading the charge on establishing a garage in some form, stressed the process is at the “early conceptual stage,” with no consideration given to any single idea. And to look to derail the process at this stage, “it’s infuriating,” he said.

Burnham has established a GoFundMe page for borough residents and businesses, as “a vehicle for people who are against this to come out and support it financially.” She aims to raise $15,000.

Mayor Pasquale Menna has been consistent in his position on any garage. He has said it “would have to make sense for the taxpayers,” and has long supported the idea of a public/private partnership that would mean a mixed-use development to attract private developers.

Red Bank RiverCenter, which manages and advocates for the commercial Special Improvement District, has long lobbied for a municipal-owned and operated parking facility. But Menna has countered that would cost conservatively $20 million and voters would never support that expenditure.

The Red Bank Business Alliance, which operates independently from Red Bank RiverCenter, has planned a public meeting to discuss different options for a garage, scheduled for Monday, Feb. 6, at 7 p.m., at the Red Bank Middle School, 101 Harding Road.

This story was originally published in the Feb. 2-9, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.


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