Curator divided on next steps for century-old home

Downtown Investors plans to demolish the house at 26 Wallace Street for parking. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)


hot topic red bank njMembers of the Red Bank Historic Preservation Commission split Wednesday night over its next steps regarding a developer’s plan to demolish a century-old house for parking.

The HPC also approved renovation plans for a building at a key downtown intersection after the landlord reviewed plans that were rejected a month ago.

The black “tower” panels proposed for 1 Broad Street would now be stucco, rather than metal, as part of a design change. (Rendered by Stephen Raciti Architect. Click to enlarge.)

• Lawyer Sean Byrnes has offered to resign as the board split over interim chair Chris Fabricator’s request that the commission hire outside counsel to advise on its authority.

The problem was 26 Wallace Street, where Downtown Investors plans to demolish a house believed to be 132 years old. The site would be used to provide parking for an office building the company plans to erect on Linden Place.

The HPC rejected the proposal in October. The plan is now pending before the planning board, with a hearing set to resume on March 21.

Commission members insisted in November that the developer should not be allowed to move forward with its plans, then before the zoning board, without a formal appeal of the HPC’s decision.

But Jay and Todd Herman, father and son directors of Downtown Investors, both attorneys, said no appeal is required under state law when an underlying claim is made for zoning. or planning. This interpretation was later endorsed by zoning board attorney Kevin Kennedy.

Manufacturer, however, said this raises questions about the impact of CHP decisions, in light of a Amendment to the 2018 Borough Ordinance intended to give “teeth” to preservation efforts.

Asked by Maker if he considers himself an “expert” in historic preservation law, Byrnes, an experienced city attorney, said that while he’s been knowledgeable about case law since becoming HPC’s attorney last March, he did not consider himself an expert.

Manufacturer then quickly proposed that the HPC “seek an outside consultant”, as permitted by the order, “to give us their opinion” on a “confusing” legal situation, he said.

“There is a lot of confusion regarding the order and regarding the powers of the HPC,” he said.

But HPC member Barbara Boas, who also sits on the planning board, pushed back strongly. Referring to the Downtown Investors plan, she said: ‘We’re done with them, I don’t know what else we can do. They don’t come back.

The borough’s Director of Community Planning, Shawna Ebanks, suggested that the HPC reach out to the New Jersey Historic Preservation Office for free advice instead of hiring an additional lawyer, for which no funds are budgeted.

Byrnes, meanwhile, offered to “make it easier” for the board by stepping down so “you can retain whoever you want.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about in terms of confusion,” he said, “and I certainly don’t want to continue to be here and represent the board if there’s no trust. There is obviously some discontent here.

The matter was tabled for discussion in the closed executive session at the end of the meeting, and the outcome was not immediately available.

• A month after rejecting a plan for exterior alterations to 1 Broad Street, where pizza and specialty restaurant Sally Boy’s is under construction, council has approved a revised proposal.

The previous design called for dark gray metal cladding panels on the Broad Street and East Front Street sides of the building, reaching from the ground to several feet above the roofline. Board members found them objectionable in January.

Architect Stephen Raciti and restaurant designer Jeff Cahill came back with a new plan that changed the signs, called “towers” during the hearings. Those elements would now be stuccoed, they said.

They are needed to help conceal rooftop ventilation, heating and cooling systems, Raciti said.

As it did in January, Fabricator argued that the shoehorn-shaped building had value as an example of the Art Deco style. He read a history of the property he had prepared – unaware and uninformed by board members, that the images he was referring to were not displayed on the Zoom broadcast.

The towers, Manufacturer said, were “frivolous…inconsistent with the building’s history and less consistent with the clean modern style.”

Boas, however, repeated her assertion from a month earlier that the building had never had an architectural distinction in her “many, many” years as a resident.

“It was a building of nothing, because no one really took the time to make it look like anything,” she said.

“It sounds like something,” she said of the new plan. “This building has never looked so good.”

The vote was 3 to 1 to approve, with Boas, Andy North and Paul Sullivan in favor, and Maker opposed.

• Council also approved signage for house salada restaurant that plans to open at 130-132 Broad Street, near Peters Place.

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