RED BANK — A proposal to construct a six-story hotel at the borough’s northern entrance, which has seen its share of wrinkles, developed ano encountered another on Monday when Ron Gasiorowski, an attorney representing an objector to the application, said that the height of the proposed structure exceeds what is permitted under borough ordinances.
The planning board had been scheduled to continue hearing the application by RBank Capital LLC to construct a 76-room Hampton Inn, at the Highway 35 and Rector Place intersection, overlooking the Swimming River.
But after a discussion between representatives for the developer, the objector and the planning board attorney the hearing was adjourned until January.
The hearing was placed on hold when a representative for the objector discovered a provision in a borough ordinance that restricts a building’s height to 50 feet in the zone if it falls halfway between the river and the nearest parallel roadway, with the ordinance pertaining to such roadways as Front Street, Riverside Avenue, Rector Place and Shrewsbury Avenue.
According to prior testimony, the height of the proposed hotel is approximately 80 feet.
Following the adjournment, Planning Board Attorney Michael Leckstein said that when hearings resume, the attorney for the developer, Martin A. McGann Jr. will have to show that the project does not violate the ordinance.
“I’m not aware of that section,” (of the applicable ordinance) and would have to review it, Leckstein said. Board Engineer Christine Ballard agreed, noting that the language of the ordinance was not clear. “It’s very fuzzy,” she said.
McGann said afterwards that the issue at hand is “a very technical point,” but one “I think we’ll be able to address it at the next meeting,” on Jan. 18.
This is the latest development in the long hearings on this matter, which over the months has seen a debate over whether it should be heard by the zoning board or planning; over the zoning of the property, and if this would be deemed a permitted use, and the borough council’s decision to change the zoning in hopes of clarifying the issue. A borough resident also brought a lawsuit against the board and developer seeking to block the project, expressing concerns over the size and scope of the plan and arguing it should go before the zoning board to seek a use variance. There also was considerable debate over who is actually the objector, with the objector’s attorney, Ron Gasiorowski, acknowledging there is another party that is paying for the lawsuit, but the lawyer refuses to name that additional party.
If the application does violate the ordinance provision, it could mean the application would have to go before the borough zoning board of adjustment (as the named objector, borough resident Steve Mitchell, has maintained in his suit) to seek a variance for a non-permitted use, which has a considerably higher burden of proof than would be required before the planning board. That would mean the process would have to start from the beginning before the zoning board.
The developer would like to construct the hotel on the site of a former Exxon gas station, which has been vacant for approximately 14 years. Mitchell, the objector, has argued the project violates existing zoning, is too large for the site, as well as raising issue with contamination of the property.