Don’t make the reservations just yet, but a new hotel could be coming to Red Bank.
Thursday night, the Red Bank Zoning Board ruled in favor of Rbank Capital LLC’s application to reinterpret an ordinance restriction, completing step one of their proposal to develop a new hotel on the Navesink River.
RBank Capital LLC, solely managed by Larry Cohen, has proposed to build a 76-room Hampton Inn and Suites Hotel on the corner of Route 35 and Rector Place (Block 1, Lot 1). The proposed job site is located on the one-acre lot where an abandoned Exxon station currently sits.
Although there are already six hotels located on the waterfront, this new project does not come with ease.
Before they can begin structural work on the property, RBank Capital has to submit a bifurcated (split) application to the Zoning Board. This application will include the request for three separate variances: use, density and height.
Because of an ordinance proposed in order to preserve the historical character of the neighborhood, RBank Capital ran into its first problem, but found victory, early on.
This ordinance restricts usage on Rector Place to detached single-family dwellings, meaning that the area is solely zoned for residences, not hotels.
As a solution, RBank Capital asked the board to reinterpret the ordinance.
RBank Capital presented expert testimony from developer, Roy K. Boer, during the meeting. Boer, who has a Bachelors of Science in Landscaping Architecture from Rutgers University, said the ordinance restriction should not apply to the area in question.
Strictly quoted, the ordinance restricts usage “along Rector Place.”
“It is unfortunate that it was not made clear, but I can’t imagine a planner that would have ever intended to include this commercial property with the balance of Rector Place,” Boer explained.
The property, which has 384 frontage feet on Route 35 (versus 44 frontage feet on Rector Place), receives a large amount of noise and light from passing traffic. According to Boer, this makes the property easily unfit for residential usage.
Despite the fact that residential usage is less than ideal, environmental factors of the area forbid it all together. Since the site was formerly a gas station, the Department of Environmental Protection has restricted the property from residential use for 50 years. Upon the transfer of title, a deed restriction was attached to the property stating the same.
Stephen Mitchell, member of the Red Bank Environmental Commission, however, hopes this won’t push the board into approving the plan.
“The deed restrictions and the fact that the site has been abandoned for 15 years are going to be pushing factors for the board. I just hope they don’t exploit them,” he said in an interview.
Despite three open public objections, the board unanimously agreed to exclude the property from the ordinance restriction.
This decision has subsequently completed stage one of the development project, which has some locals concerned.
“I do believe the site should be developed, however, the plan as proposed is too much – too big, and too tall,” Mitchell said.
In spite of the small victory, Mitchell plans to return as opposition to the second and third portions of the application.
“I figured they’d win tonight, but I’m not sure that they’ll succeed as a whole,” he said.
As for the applicants themselves, even they are unsure of success.
“I don’t know what the chances of success are. If I did, I’d live in Las Vegas,” said Martin McGann, Esq. counsel for the applicant.
The height and density variances will be heard by the board in the coming months. These two portions of the application will allow RBank Capital to construct a building larger and taller than what is currently permitted. If these are approved, the only thing standing between the area and a new hotel is site plan approval.