By John Burton
RED BANK — The Borough Council has weighed in on pending litigation opposing an application to construct a hotel that is now before the borough Planning Board.
Prior to their regular meeting last Wednesday, the council held an executive session.
After the closed discussion, Mayor Pasquale Menna announced that the governing body agreed to formally amend an ordinance stipulating that the tract on which the hotel construction is proposed was never intended for residential use.
“The ordinance in question has some very vague language,” that this amendment would try to clarify, Menna explained.
The property, which overlooks the Navesink River at the intersection of Highway 35 South and Rector Place was formerly used as a gas station, but has been vacant for about 14 years.
The prospective developer appeared before the zoning board last May to present his plan for a six-story, 76-room Hampton Inn at that location, and to argue that the site shouldn’t be considered part of the residential zone that encompasses the remainder of Rector. In support of that position, the borough council sent a letter to the board indicating that the site should not be considered residential because it faces a busy highway and because of its previous commercial use.
The zoning board concurred and handed off the application to the planning board.
However a planning board hearing on the application was suspended after a borough resident filed suit opposing the application.
Steve Mitchell, Prospect Avenue, filed a complaint in Superior Court, arguing the application rightly should go before the zoning board as the developer would need to win a variance for a non-permitted use given the area’s zoning as residential. Mitchell had also appeared before the zoning board to express his opposition to the project.
When informed about the council’s action, attorney Ron Gasiorowski, who represents Mitchell, responded, “They can pass whatever ordinance they want to pass. That doesn’t mean it’ll stand up.”
“The planning board will continue to hear this application,” said Menna, who sits on that board.
The board is again scheduled to hear the application on Nov. 7.