Colony House challenges expansion

Staff Writer

By john burton

RED BANK — The proposed addition to the Molly Pitcher Inn is too substantial for the site, at least according to the professional planner representing those opposed to the application.

Roger DeNiscia, a professional planner with Bertin Engineering of Glen Rock, testified at Monday’s Planning Board meeting that what the hotel, marina and banquet complex is proposing would eradicate the river view, affect the quality of life for those living in the vicinity, and violate the borough’s master plan.

"The intensity of uses proposed exceeds the capacity of the site," DeNiscia testified when questioned by James E. Berube, the lawyer representing the applicant’s opposition.

"The site is being overdeveloped," he said. "It is not consistent with the master plan."

According to the borough’s master plan, DeNiscia said, which was revised and updated in 1995, the preservation of access to the river and the view of the waterway is a paramount concern for the borough.

"This would change the character of the area and be detrimental," he said. "Waterfront areas have been specifically addressed in the Red Bank master plan. The proposed building would eliminate the water view from Riverside Avenue."

The Molly Pitcher Inn, 88 Riverside Ave., has applied to the board for permission to construct an addition that would almost double its size.

The 70,200-square-foot addition would consist of two floors dedicated to banquet facilities and meeting rooms, and five floors of guest rooms.

Also proposed is a three-story parking garage with two of the floors located below ground.

James Barry, general manager of the hotel and a principal in MPI Holdings, the company that owns the hotel, has maintained through the months of hearings that the addition is necessary for the complex to remain competitive in the current marketplace.

The application has been opposed by the owners and residents of the Colony House, a 68-unit apartment complex located on the northern side of the hotel’s property.

The owners and residents of the Colony House have said the addition would have a dramatically negative impact on the quality of life by increasing traffic and noise and blocking the view of the river.

Martin A. McGann Jr., the attorney presenting the hotel, disagreed with DeNiscia. And, in a sometimes pointed cross-examination, attempted to chip away at the planner’s assertions.

"The ordinance doesn’t say we have to provide a view of the river for everyone in Red Bank, does it?" McGann asked. "This is a permitted use in that area and does conform with the master plan in that result."

McGann also seemed to indicate that the impact on the Colony House has been exaggerated.

"The folks in the Colony House, when they look out their windows they’re looking at a parking lot," McGann said. "When this is built they’ll be looking out on a building and a parking lot."

McGann also said the hotel will provide public access to the river where none currently exists.

Board member Mayor Edward J. McKenna Jr. seemed to agree that the impact this addition would have on the view of the river was overestimated.

When this application was first introduced, McKenna said, he inspected the area by walking and driving in both directions by the site. He said he could not see the river from the street.

"One of the first concerns I had was, would this block off the river?" McKenna said. "I couldn’t see the waterfront from any of those locations. I went into the parking lot to the second and third row, and I still couldn’t see the river."

McGann also disagreed with DeNiscia’s contention that the addition is too large to be built on the proposed site.

By way of comparison, McGann noted the Colony House has 68 apartment units on approximately one acre.

McGann asked DeNiscia if he knew how many were permitted on that size lot by borough ordinance.

DeNiscia said he did not. McGann said it was 14 units per acre.

Berube objected to the questioning.

"The Colony House is not in question," Berube said.

The meeting was adjourned before testimony was completed.

Berube said he has about three additional witnesses to call including an architect, and a noise and traffic expert.

The board will once again address the application at its Jan. 8 meeting.