Monmouth St. project stalls on COAH issues

Board balks at lack of affordable housing units


RED BANK – Planning Board hearings on an application for a mixed-use project at the corner of Monmouth and West streets hit a snag Feb. 4 when talk turned to affordable housing units.

The applicant, RB Monmouth and RB West, is proposing to build three, fourstory buildings each with 3,356 square feet of retail space and four apartment units, and two, three-story buildings each with 2,697 square feet of retail space and four apartments, according to Borough Engineer Richard Kosesnki’s Jan. 4 review of the project.

The applicant’s attorney, Wayne J. Peck, of Freehold, argued with Planning Board Attorney Michael Leckstein about the new round-three Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) regulations, which were proposed in January.

“The Appellate Division has said as of right now there is nothing and therefore as an applicant, I don’t have to do anything until the COAH tells us what we have to do,” said Peck.

Peck said there should be an incentive to provide affordable housing units in the three, four-story buildings and two, threestory buildings that are being proposed.

“The Appellate Division voided the rules that were adopted by the COAH specifically providing that to require the developer to meet the municipality’s obligation to provide those units some form of incentive is required,” said Peck.

In total, the applicant is proposing to build five buildings with 20 apartments and a retail floor area ratio (FAR) of 16,787 square feet, according to the applicant’s engineer Bryan Luoma of Cairone & Kaupp, Philadelphia.

The site, which currently includes a gas station, masonry building and parking lots, is located in the BR-1 and BR-2 zone and fronts Monmouth, West and Oakland streets.

“Providing affordable housing is important to the borough and we obviously have an obligation to make sure that given the opportunity, that we legally see to it that applications provide their necessary share,” said board Vice Chairman Daniel Mancuso, who filled in as chairman at the Feb. 4 Planning Board meeting.

He added, “I can’t see new development without some aspect of affordable housing being considered one way or another and onsite for me personally is the preferred way to do it.”

Leckstein said the new COAH rules are currently in the comment phase and it is not known at this point if they will be adopted or not.

“I really think on this issue, which is so critical, that we need testimony on this specific point. We’re going to impose conditions. We certainly don’t want to impose conditions on the applicant that are illegal. It is really an open sore right now,” said Leckstein, recommending the application be carried until a report or testimony could be heard from professional planner Richard Kramer of T&M Associates.

The application requires a “c” variance for parking, with 87 parking spaces proposed and 107 required, creating a defi- ciency of 20 spaces. The applicant is proposing to provide 40 of those spaces for residents in an underground parking garage.

Other variances are sought for minimum front-yard setback and minimum rear yard setback and several design waivers that include a design waiver for a proposed access drive of about 80 feet from the intersection of Monmouth and West Street, where 100 feet from the nearest right-of-way line of an intersecting street is required.

Leckstein said the variances that need to be granted by the board could act as incentive for the applicant to provide some affordable housing.

Kathy Colmorgen, Oakland Street, spoke about the number of facilities that already dominate the available parking on Monmouth Street, which include Juanito’s restaurant, Count Basie Theatre and the Red Bank Armory ice rink.

“Parking is an issue in that area; I know it’s an issue everywhere. Peak is at night. You’re not going to have any business either because there is no place to park because all those other places take all the parking spaces,” said Colmorgen.

Eugene Graman, owner of Queen Vacuum and Sewing Machine Co. on Monmouth Street, spoke about a flooding problem before West Street was repaved.

Testimony was also heard at the meeting from the project’s architectAnthony J. Ercolino, of Passman-Ercolino Architects in Ocean, and planner Andrew W. Janiw, of Beacon Planning and Consulting Services, Colts Neck.

A condo/townhouse project was first proposed for the site by BLT, Bodman Place, and approved by the Zoning Board in December 2003.

The approval granted variances for density, design waivers and several bulk variances.

The application was opposed by residents, who objected that the density of the project was too great.

A lawsuit was filed the following March on behalf of several borough residents who claimed conflicts of interest existed between Zoning Board members and the then-contract purchaser of the property, Palatial Homes.

The plaintiffs claimed a conflict of interest resulted from the fact that then Zoning Board chairwoman Lauren Nicosia’s father was of counsel to the former mayor’s law firm, McKenna, Dupont, Higgins and Stone, which had represented Palatial Homes.

In February 2005, state Superior Court Judge Lawrence Lawson ruled that the Zoning Board’s approval of the project was proper.

His decision was appealed, with motions filed by William E. Meyer, attorney for the plaintiffs. The state Court of Appeals disagreed with Lawson’s decision, stating that the “of counsel” relationship constituted an appearance of conflict, even if an actual conflict did not exist.

The Appellate Court ordered that the application be reheard by the Zoning Board without the participation of Nicosia.

Since that time, George M. Coffenberg, Rumson, of Prudential Premium Properties, has taken over as principal in the project.

The application, which was carried to the March 3 Planning Board meeting, will continue with a report from Kramer on round-three affordable housing regulations.