Red Bank Braces for Potential Third Hotel Suit
Ordinance could clear the way for new hotel to locate riverside in Red Bank.
Red Bank is currently facing two lawsuits concerning the interpretation of height ordinances in relation to development along side the river in its waterfront development zone. Number three may not be far away.
At a recent council meeting, the governing body sought to clarify ambiguous ordinances relating to the allowable height of construction along the waterfront. According to past zoning regulations, buildings in the zone were restricted to as little as 50 feet and as much as 140 feet. Borough council, aided by its engineer, decided the most appropriate height restriction falls at 75 feet.
The clarification is positive news for a developer looking to build a six-story Hampton Inn and Suites on a parcel of land a little over an acre in size at the base of the Route 35 bridge entering Middletown. Though RBank Capital’s application for the hotel project was dismissed by the Planning Board months ago based on the cloudy height restriction, the clarified ordinances allow for development on the site as tall as 82 feet without the need for a variance. The proposed height of the hotel project: 82 feet.
The hotel project has been criticized by many for a number of reasons, including the parcel’s small size and the pollution at the site caused by decades of use as a gas station. Red Bank Mayor Pat Menna has even noted the likely difficulty of entering and exiting the site just feet from an always busy, and often dangerous, intersection.
In an effort to sway the council’s decision, Ron Gasiorowski, the attorney currently suing Red Bank over its ordinances on behalf of borough resident Stephen Mitchell, came to the meeting armed with charts and maps and an engineer of his own. Though salient as his points may have been – many of his props were rejected by board solicitor Dan O’Hern, who said they weren’t relevant – Gasiorowski was largely shut down by council throughout his testimony.
The issue for Councilman Mike DuPont is the apparent duplicitous nature of the pending lawsuits. Where Gasiorowski says they’re at the behest of Mitchell, he has admitted — after months of prodding — that his fees are being paid by the owners of several hotels, including one just a couple of miles away right in Tinton Falls.
DuPont declared his role as an elected official to Gasiorowski saying his responsibility is to represent the neighborhoods, their residents, and the borough’s business community.
“You’re basically here to represent a business interest,” he said, his voice rising in one of several tense moments throughout Gasiorowski’s testimony.
Gasiorowski’s courtroom-esque histrionics during Planning and Zoning Board meetings have confounded board members and applicants alike. But, it was DuPont’s open defiance of Gasiorowski’s objection to the ordinances that led the attorney to request that the record show that DuPont had been argumentative throughout the proceedings and had not allowed him to present his case. O’Hern told him, however, that he wasn’t presenting a case and that all council meetings are recorded anyway.
On several occasions, Gasiorowski was told to refocus his efforts on the new ordinances, not on the hotel project. O’Hern explained that the clarification of the zoning ordinances are global changes, and that the council meeting was not the venue for discussion about the Hampton Inn and Suites.
“We want to give you as much leniency as we can,” O’Hern said. To which Gasiorowski replied: “No, you don’t.”
Eventually, as Gasiorowski continued to press the issue, Menna put an end to the discussion – and argument – saying it could continue in court where it would likely be headed as part of lawsuit number three. That remark wasn’t enough as DuPont added another quip to cap things off.
“Bad things always come in threes,” he said.