No Public Notice? No Meeting
Over concerns that the Red Bank Planning Board failed to notify the public about a meeting to discuss a proposed hotel, the board votes to adjourn the meeting.
A Planning Board meeting intended to discuss a hotel proposal and its developer’s request for nearly 20 variances Monday was adjourned at the start over concerns that the board failed to provide adequate public notice.
Martin McGann, representing a developer looking to build a 76-room hotel at the site of a former gas station in Red Bank, told the board that it consider postponing the issue in order to avoid any potential legal conflicts following the cancelation of last month’s planning meeting.
The issue, McGann said, is that in response to the cancelation of last month’s meeting the board failed to post notice in local publications and inform residents living within 200 feet of the project, instead taping a piece of paper to the wall of the council chambers telling anyone who stopped by that the meeting was off. Though none of the lawyers present – McGann, board attorney Michael Leckstein, and Ron Gasiorowski, representing a resident suing to prevent the build – could present case law defending the adjournment, Leckstein recommended that the board put it off for a month, just to be sure.
“The purpose of these notices and announcements is to let the public know what’s happening. The fact that Mr. Gasiorowski is here is testament to that,” he said, followed shortly by an assurance that the board had made no attempts to try and deceive the public by failing to provide adequate notice.
RBank Capital, LLC is looking to build a six-floor Hampton Inn and Suites on a 1.04-acre piece of land at the foot of Route 35 at 80 Rector Place. The parcel of land is surrounded by a river and a busy intersection that has created traffic issues for as long as anyone can remember, Mayor Pat Menna said previously. In order to construct the hotel on the parcel the builder, Old Bridge resident Larry Cohen, needs several significant variances, including front and side setbacks.
The issue the board must consider is whether this hotel, which isn’t a good fit for the property, is a good fit for Red Bank. For now, and pending public notice, the discussion on that issue must wait until the Nov. 7 meeting at 7 p.m.
The board is being especially cautious with the proposal, not just because of the larger number of variances need to build it, but because of the lawsuit filed by borough resident Stephen Mitchell. Mitchell, an alternate on Red Bank’s environmental commission, claims that the issue should be a zoning, not planning board one.
According to Mitchell’s lawsuit, developers failed to follow regular procedure when they filed for an interpretation of a zoning rule after an imposed 20-day deadline. An ordinance says that only a single-family home can be built along Rector Place and the builder, the lawsuit claims, tried to circumvent the rule by filing for an interpretation instead of seeking a use-variance from the zoning board.