Zoning Board to hear plan for downtown condominiums Nearly twice as many units as permitted under ordinance sought

Staff Writer

By john burton

Zoning Board to hear plan for downtown condominiums
Nearly twice as many units as permitted under ordinance sought

RED BANK — A partnership based in Little Silver is seeking to build a nine-unit townhouse development on roughly a half-acre of property between The Bluffs condominiums and the borough’s library on West Front Street.

The plan for the development, put forward by 78 West Front Street Associates, is slated to go before the borough’s Zoning Board of Adjustment at its Jan. 4 meeting.

The principals of 78 West Front Street Associates are Tom Karagianakis, William C. Johnson, James Anderson and David McSweeney.

The lot currently contains a single-family home which would be demolished to construct the townhouses.

The application is before the Zoning Board rather than the Planning Board because it calls for a much greater density of development than permitted under the borough’s zoning ordinances and master plan.

Such a request falls under subsection "d" of the state’s municipal land use law which requires the applicant to show "special reasons" as to why such development should be permitted. A permit can only be granted by the local Zoning Board.

In addition to the "d" variance, the plan will require several "c" or bulk variances because it will not meet the borough’s requirements for buffers, front and side yard setbacks, or parking.

The applicant, represented by Martin A. McGann Jr., Middletown, is seeking to have the application heard in two parts. Before seeking a ruling on the lesser "c" variances, a ruling on the more significant "d" variance will be sought.

If the first variance is granted, there will be another hearing in which a site plan will be presented for approval .

As proposed, each of the nine condominium units will be 1,950 square feet, two-and-a-half stories high. The actual size of the lot is 24,569 square feet.

McGann de-scribed the project as something comparable to the adjacent Bluffs condominiums in both its planned density, architectural styling, and price.

Objectors to the plan have raised concerns about the size and density of the project on the small lot.

"We’ve been speaking to the people at The Bluffs all along," McGann said.

But the rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, 65 W. Front St., has put his concerns on paper.

The Rev. Kenneth D. Aldrich Jr., who presides over the church which is located across the street from the lot, sent a letter to the board stating he believes the project would have a detrimental impact on the church’s community and the community as a whole.

"The proposal, if adopted as requested, would add to the congestion and density of the area in an undesirable way and alter the character of the neighborhood negatively," the letter states. "In our opinion, nine units are simply too many for that small a piece of property."

The plan calls for a density more than double what is permitted by borough ordinance, according to Aldrich.

"You’re making it a city slum-type of density," he said.

Aldrich maintains that the proposal is designed to provide the maximum return for the investors, with no regard for those in the community. And, he added, the riverfront property and the community would be better served by using the property for a single-family home.

"Someone’s really overusing the property to make a killing," he said. "It’s a selfish thing."

Aldrich said a board member of the church will attend the Jan. 4 public hearing on the application, but the church has not yet retained a lawyer to oppose the project, and Aldrich said he doesn’t know of any plans to do so.

But, he added, that would be a decision made by the church’s board.

"I deal with the spiritual element," he explained, but added that the church’s resources would be better spent on helping the congregation and the community rather than for what could be a protracted, legal tussle.