Monmouth St. project fight goes beyond Zoning Board

Opponents, builder produce fliers about problems, merits of development

By Sandi Carpello
Staff Writer

Monmouth St. project fight goes beyond Zoning Board

Opponents, builder produce fliers about problems, merits of development

By Sandi Carpello

Staff Writer

RED BANK — They haven’t been getting anywhere with the Zoning Board, so opponents of Buildings and Land Technology’s Monmouth Street project have taken their issues elsewhere.

Gerald Haggerty posted an "It’s Too Big" sign in front of his Oakland street residence. Residents mailed pleading letters to borough officials, and Michael Reeps distributed a flier throughout the borough’s downtown area, urging residents to protest the "supersized" construction proposal.

"The project will eliminate transit parking at the corner of Oakland and West, sending the commuters, as well as Juanito’s and armory patrons, into our community in search of parking," it read. "Demand a more sensibly scaled project … not these monstrous structures."

In retaliation Danny Murphy, one of the principals of Building and Land Technology, distributed a flier of his own. Titled "It Fits Red Bank: The Other Side of the Story," the three-page flier says that the "monstrous structures" are "only three stories high — smaller than town hall, Oakland Street School, and the five-story building on the north side of Monmouth Street." It also says the project would "reduce traffic and congestion" as well as bring the borough’s west side "to its full potential as a place to work and play."

Saying that the Zoning Board was treating residents unfairly during the application hearings, many of the project’s protesters showed up at the Aug. 26 Borough Council meeting to state their case.

"From the minute we started the application process, you could tell the Zoning Board [members] had already made up their mind and are advocates of this project," William Myer of Monmouth Street told the council.

While Mayor Ed McKenna deemed discussions on a zoning application during a Borough Council meeting "inappropriate" and "illegal," Councilwomen Jennifer Beck and Betty Thompson as well as Councilman John Curley urged residents to air their concerns.

"Sometimes when people are rejected and not listened to by one group, they appeal to the next group that will hear them," Thompson said. "We are the elected officials. We are the elected ones. We have a responsibility to them and they have come to us."

"The residents are here because they want to be heard," added Beck, who has regularly attended hearings on the pending application. "Our Zoning and Planning boards have not treated the public well. Our residents have been disrespected. "

Though her comments were well received by council meeting attendees, Beck’s assessment of the borough’s Zoning and Planning boards were not as well received by McKenna.

"I am sick and tired of you criticizing the Zoning and Planning boards," he told Beck with his voice rising. "Especially when they put more hours in than you put on the council," he told her. "Our municipality has received a number of awards for planning and zoning. I was Planning Board Official of the Year in the state of New Jersey. I find it amazing how you constantly criticize our board."

Residents, outraged by McKenna’s outburst, lashed back.

"I am so personally offended by the way you spoke to my representative," said Marie Haggerty, an Oakland Street resident and first-time council meeting attendee. "I’ve read about you, Mayor McKenna. I’ve never known your face, and now I am embarrassed by the way you treated Ms. Beck. … Sometimes people have been around a little too long."

Saying he didn’t know much about the pending application, McKenna urged residents to take their concerns to Zoning Board Attorney Kevin Kennedy,

Then, he apologized for his behavior.

"I’ll eat my crow when it’s time to eat it," he said.

Beyond the fliers and public meeting efforts, the neighbors of the project have raised concerns about the integrity of the process.

In a letter outlining the chronological list of events at the Zoning Board meetings, Gerald Haggerty pointed to the fact that board member Marie Murphy, the owner of Murphy Realty, who voted for the density variance of the bifurcated application in January, maintains a business relationship with Nulle’s wife, Alexis.

Alexis Nulle is listed as an employee with Murphy Realty, according to Murphy Realty’s Web site.

"There appears to be some conflict of interest here with builders and Realtors on the Zoning Board," Gerald Haggerty wrote.

However, Alexis Nulle, who has signed checks for Building and Land Technology, said she began working for Murphy Realty in April — months after the density variance was approved.

"I didn’t even have my Realtor’s license when [the variance was approved]," Alexis Nulle said. "I never even met Marie Murphy."

Murphy has recused herself from the hearings now taking place on the proposal.

At the start of last week’s board meeting, Kennedy told residents that the board always conducts its application hearings impartially.