"I was anticipating a huge, overflow crowd," Red Bank Mayor Pat Menna said as the Borough Council unanimously approved what has been referred to as the revised sex shop ordinance, having heard no public protest at its meeting last night.
In fact, there were no comments from the public at the sparsely-attended meeting.
The ordinance limits strip clubs, sex shops, adult video stores and related businesses to an existing zone on a strip of land located on a section of Newman Springs Road between New Jersey Transit's coast line and the westerly freight line.
The zone, which allows sex stores and businesses, was not created by the ordinance, Menna has stressed, but only more clearly defined. The area is primarily occupied by car dealerships and other businesses, but it is also within 200 feet of Shrewsbury Borough, where officials have recently taken issue with the its proximity.
But, Red Bank is not creating the zone where the adult establishments are allowed — the Highway Business Zone. It’s always existed, Menna stressed at the Dec. 5 meeting.
“If we were, in fact going in there and creating it, it would be a different story from something that’s already there,” the mayor had explained. “It’s actually something that has been quietly there but could be challenged if somebody were denied an application, because it’s so vague.”
So, the borough tightened up, via the ordinance what can be allowed and exactly where, the "where" happening to be across the street from Shrewsbury residences.
Red Bank introduced the ordinance at its Nov. 20 meeting, officials saying its intent was to close up those loopholes that did not previously specify exactly what in the realm of adult businesses is permissable and that the zone that permits the establishments operate closer to other businesses, rather than residences.
The ordinance's introduction, nevertheless, caused quick opposition from officials in neighboring Shrewsbury, who said it allows adult stores to open up shop too close (within 200 feet) to some residences in their town.
The ordinance was held and revisited due to a lapse in noticing technicalities to the neighboring town. Menna had pointed out at the Dec. 5 meeting that Red Bank wanted to ensure it was a "good neighbor" to Shrewsbury and that those residents' and officials' concerns were vetted.
While no one from Shrewsbury spoke at last night's meeting, two days before, Shrewsbury Borough Council members discussed their issues with the ordinance at their own meeting on Monday night.
"From a practical matter, aren't they really creating a legal 'catch 22' for anybody that might apply?" Shrewsbury Councilman Tom Menapace asked, going on to say that businesses looking to move in to that location might not legally be able to do so due to Shrewsbury being nearby.
Shrewsbury officials have argued that their land use ordinance prohibits sexually-oriented businesses from operating within 1,000 feet of residences, public parks and houses of worship. Red Bank officials have countered that their ordinance is in line with the state's lesser requirement of 200 feet of separation from residences.
Shrewsbury officials have maintained that should adult businesses open on the land specified in Red Bank's ordinance, they could very well be be in violation of the Shrewsbury law.
Shrewsbury Councilman Anthony Pellegrino, who had on the feet of separation issue, the two governing bodies disagree on the land use interpretation.
He pointed out at his own borough's meeting, prior to Red Bank's, that "I truly believe that we need to be represented there."