R.B. planners approve Monmouth St. project

Board requires two affordable housing units


RED BANK- The deliberation over at the development of a tract on Monmouth andWest streets has finally come to an end with the Planning Board unanimously approving a mixed-use project for the site on March 3.

The RB Monmouth and RB West project was approved with certain conditions involving the number of affordable housing units to be built on site.

Based on the borough’s Growth Share ordinance, borough Planner Richard Cramer, of T&MAssociates, said the applicant should be required to provide two onsite affordable housing units and provide a monetary contribution for the nonresidential portion of the project.

The applicant’s attorney,Wayne J. Peck, of Freehold, disagreed with Cramer’s interpretation of the Council On Affordable Housing (COAH) regulations.

“The ordinance is silent but the COAH rules that remain in effect … provides that if you eliminate a residential unit and then replace that residential unit, that one-forone exchange does not create an affordable housing obligation,” said Peck. “So that we would be required to provide one [affordable unit] under the existing ordinance … [which] has already been determined as not being constitutional, but under that particular ordinance we would be required to provide one onsite.”

Peck and Board Attorney Michael Leckstein continued their debate from the previous hearing, where they differed on the new round-three COAH regulations, which were proposed in January.

The applicant is proposing to build three four-story 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 Kosenski’s Jan. 4 review of the project.

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.

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

“This is a total state of flux,” said Peck referring to the round-three COAH regulations, which are currently up in the air. “We will commit to whatever units we are required by regulation and ordinance to provide at whatever is the applicable time.”

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

“This application has a number of bulk variances without which you could not build the project. You could not build the project without providing the parking spaces. You couldn’t build the project without the setback approvals. Without granting those bulk variances, the project couldn’t be built at the size that it is. There are additional circumstances to warrant the addition of two affordable units being built on site,” said Leckstein.

He said granting the variances is a benefit to the applicant, likening the bonus of the board granting the variances to an incentive for the applicant to provide affordable housing units.

“It’s not the obligation of the private developer to provide [affordable] units; it’s the obligation of the municipality,” said Peck after the hearing.

Acondo/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.

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, withmotions 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 the board chairwoman.

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

The next step for the applicant is to apply for an exemption from the sewer moratorium imposed by the Two Rivers Water Reclamation Authority.

Luoma said after the hearing that there are existing hookups on site but more are required for the project to move forward.

“We’re hoping to break ground in the summer,” said Coffenberg, adding, “I’m happy with the outcome so far. At least it’s finally done.”