Office bldg. approved for Schwartz triangle

Planners balk at approving parking variances for project



RED BANK — After animated discussion of parking deficiencies and traffic impact, the Planning Board, at its Nov. 22 meeting, approved an amended site plan for the development of the triangular lot at the junction of Riverside Avenue and West Front and Pearl streets.

Applicant SRA LLC will construct an 18,561-square-foot professional office building on the former Schwartz auto dealership used car lot.

Plans call for most of the first floor of the structure to house parking spaces. Sixty-eight parking spaces will be available to tenants and visitors.

The leasable office spaces will be located on the second and third floors. Due to limited parking on the site, neither medical offices nor general business usage will be permitted.

SRA previously received site plan approval for an 85,000-square-foot project across West Front Street.

Officials of affiliate PRC Group, West Long Branch, have said construction is pending signing of a major tenant.

In order to win approval for development of the triangular site, SRA agreed to make a contribution to the Red Bank Municipal Parking Improvement Fund for a 10-space deficiency and promised to provide parking for four vehicles on the site of the larger structure when it is constructed.

Jennifer Beahm, a professional planner with LGA Associates, Eatontown, testifying for SRA, offered that in conjunction with the planned project on the south side of West Front Street, the proposed office building would create “a gateway into this part of Red Bank.”

She testified that the overall aesthetic, architectural and landscaping appeal of the planned construction outweighed the detriment that would occur from the development and its resulting deficiencies in parking, loading-zone size, signage location and setbacks. The proposed 68 parking spaces are sufficient for the type of usage planned, in her view.

Councilman John Curley, a board member, argued in favor of enforcement of the parking requirements in the borough’s zoning ordinance and an end to

acceptance of payment in lieu of compliance.

“I hate that contribution,” he declared. “It’s a shame it’s on the books.”

Board member Daniel Mancuso asserted that with their small turning radii, some of the proposed parking spaces would be unusable. Based on the traffic volume of the intersection, Curley offered a motion to defeat the application. Mancuso seconded the motion and prodded the developer’s attorney, John Guinco, to reduce the size of the building.

“Given you have a clean slate, couldn’t you have made the building smaller?” he asked.

Board engineer George Whelan estimated that a 2,300-square-foot reduction would result in compliance with the borough’s parking requirements. Guinco contended that with a 2,300-square-foot reduction “over the lifetime of the building, rents make a difference.”

Curly, Mancuso and Leonard Calabro voted to deny approval due to parking deficiencies but were overruled by a majority of the board members present, including chairman John Cash, Samuel Balacco, Louis DiMento, John Goode, Dr. Guy Maratta and Stanley Sickels.

Guinco offered to confer with his client, and board attorney Michael Leckstein chided board members that “generally the board tries to work with developers.“

The board adjourned to allow the applicant to consider its options in light of the pending motion.

Upon returning, Guinco reported that the applicant would reduce the proposed building by 1,000 square feet, pay a deficiency contribution for 10 parking spaces, and commit to make available four parking spaces from its yet undeveloped adjacent site.

Maratta moved for approval of the application as modified, and Cash seconded the motion.

In a discussion before the second vote, Curley was clearly frustrated by the proposed development’s worsening of Red Bank’s parking deficiencies.

When the vote was taken on the site plan as amended, once again Calabro, Curley and Mancuso voted to reject the proposed development, while all others voted to approve the site plan as amended.

The project as approved was 1,000 square feet smaller than originally submitted. The planned development will have 68 parking spaces, where 74 are required. Of the 68 parking spaces, 33 will be 9 feet by 18 feet, in compliance with the ordinance, while 32 spaces will be only 8.5 feet wide.

As originally presented, many of the planned spaces would have been a mere 7.5 feet wide. Variances were also approved for front yard setback and loading-zone size.