Traffic, parking issues at West Side Lofts hearing

Engineer testifies project would have minimal impact


Staff Writer

A rendering showing the proposed West Side Lofts project fronting Edmund Wilson Boulevard, across from the new Two River Theater. A rendering showing the proposed West Side Lofts project fronting Edmund Wilson Boulevard, across from the new Two River Theater. RED BANK — Several residents attended the recent zoning board hearing on the West Side Lofts project to voice concerns about the borough’s two hottest topics: traffic and parking.

West Side Lofts, if approved, would be located on the northeast corner of West Front Street and Bridge Avenue on a portion of the former Blaisdell Lumber site.

The application seeks variances for mixed use and density not permitted in the BR-1 zone.

Red BankRed Bank The proposed mixed-use development would have 110 residential units, including six live/work, street-level units reserved for artists, 20,000 square feet of street-level retail space, and a brew pub/restaurant.

The 1.8-acre site would be developed as four separate but connected mid-rise structures and would include an 86,000-square-foot parking garage at the rear of the buildings.

At the Aug. 4 meeting of the borough Zoning Board of Adjustment, applicant MW Red Bank, a partnership between Metrovation and Woodmont Properties, Parsippany, presented its traffic expert, Maurice Rached of Maser Associates.

According to Rached, there would be two points of ingress and egress from the mixed-use, retail/residential development.

One point would be off West Front Street, where left turns would be prohibited when exiting the site.

The second point of access would be from Bridge Avenue via Edmund Wilson Boulevard, which also fronts the new Two River Theater.

Rached explained the benefits of a mixed-use proposal.

“There is less traffic due to trip capture,” he said, explaining that trip capture occurs when a shopper or diner parks in one spot for various activities.

He said that trip capture is expected to occur for the retail stores and brew pub that are part of the project, as well as for the theater and surrounding restaurants.

In addition, peak parking demand for the mix of uses would occur at different times, he said.

“There are varying [parking need] peaks,” Rached said. “Housing peaks differently than restaurants.”

Because residents are not home during much of the prime shopping time, the 238-space garage proposed for the site should be able to handle the parking demand for the development, he testified.

Kaye Ernst, West Street, said that she did not believe Rached’s projections for either parking or traffic.

“Have you driven in Red Bank? I drove today into Red Bank from the Middletown bridge to West Street and it took me 22 minutes,” said Ernst. “You cannot tell me that introducing 220 new cars will not impact this.”

Rached said that his projections are that each residential unit will not involve two cars, and that, in fact, he expects there to be only a little more than 110 new cars added to the roadway as a result of the application.

“I’m not saying there will be no impact,” Rached said. “I’m saying the impact will be minimal.”

Rached said there will be one parking space dedicated to each residential unit, half of which would be one-bedroom units and half would be two- bedroom.

If the residents of a unit have more than one car, they would then park in an undedicated spot in the garage, which would be shared with the retail shops and the brew pub.

There was also some discussion, although it is not part of the application, of extending Edmund Wilson Boulevard to intersect with West Street.

Ernst said she is worried about how the traffic on her street would increase with Edmund Wilson meeting West Street.

Borough Engineer George Whalen said he believes the traffic increase on West Street would be minimal.

“Like water,” he said, “traffic seeks its own level.”

W. David Tarver, West Front Street, said that when he moved to the borough in 1976, traffic was not a problem, but he sees the increased traffic as a result of the improvements in town.

“We have to balance the benefits with the detriments,” he said. “We have to creatively manage the traffic.”

Rached said that the traffic studies did not account for the train station on Bridge Avenue or the train tracks that cross Shrewsbury Avenue, near the intersection on West Front Street.

“During peak hours,” said Mark Arend, Rector Place, “the train significantly affects traffic. It’s very important to include that in any study you do.”

Ben Forrest, Locust Avenue, said that after attending many zoning board meetings and listening to traffic engineers, he’s heard many of the same arguments.

“All traffic engineers say that the project will have little or no impact on the community,” he said. “You’re not including the impact of the railroad.”

“Traditionally we don’t do that,” Rached said. “It’s an existing condition.”

The application has been bifurcated, or split into two parts. The first application being considered by the zoning board is the question of whether to

approve variances for mixed use, which is not permitted in the zone, and for density, which is higher than that allowed in the zone.

According to Borough Engineer George Whalen, of T&M Associates, the proposed density is 61 units per

acre where 12 townhomes or 14 garden apartment units are permitted.

If the board approves the variances, it will then consider an application for major site plan approval.

Attorney William Meyer, Monmouth Street, although absent from the Aug. 4 meeting, did attend the previous meeting at which he stated that he believed the bifurcation of the application should not be allowed.

Meyer said his concerns stemmed from a lawsuit in which he unsuccessfully represented a group of residents who sued the board to overturn its approval of an application by Building and Land Technology (BLT), Bodman Place, to build a condominium development at Monmouth and West streets. The board also bifurcated that application.

Board Attorney Kevin Kennedy said he discussed Meyer’s concerns with him and read aloud the decision by Judge Lawrence Lawson concerning the BLT decision. Based on that ruling, Kennedy said, he could find no reason that MW Red Bank should not be permitted to bifurcate the application.

Richard Brodsky, the applicant’s attorney, also addressed an issue brought up at the last hearing.

Steve Fitzpatrick, Chestnut Street, who was not present at the meeting, had requested that Brodsky and the principals in the application disclose any contributions made to political organizations over the past few years. Fitzpatrick said he based his request on provisions of the borough’s recently enacted pay-to-play ban.

“Although the ordinance does not require the applicant to disclose that information,” said Brodsky, “I do have a listing of contributions made to local parties over the last two years.”

That list is available at the zoning board office.

The hearing on the application for West Side Lofts was carried to Oct. 6 at 6:30 p.m.