RED BANK, NJ - There was no mistaking who the big dogs were with Planning Board members Michael Leckstein and Louis DiMento verbally dressing down the attorney for the Visiting Nurses Association (VNA) redevelopment project.

The developer, Saxum Real Estate, has proposed demolishing the building and constructing a new five-story mixed use structure with 210 residential apartments including 9,000 sf of commercial space.  

This meeting was for a preliminary site plan approval continuing from their August 5th meeting.

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The contentiousness boiled over when the two members of the board tired of hearing the developer’s lawyer’s response, "...they were in compliance," to every question/objection asked by the board or the public.

It began with Red Bank resident Susan Woodward questioning the removal of a 150+ year old tree located off Bodman Place and on the former VNA property.  See the carousel for a picture of the massive tree and a written inspection report by a licensed tree expert.

Said Leckstein, “We understand that there is no variance, a couple of waivers, but nonetheless you’re here for a purpose, because there’s a site plan.  If everything is, “We complied, we complied, we complied,” then go get a building permit.  You don’t need us…., the public needs certain facts, and the answer can’t always be, “we comply.””

Also responding to the lawyer’s tactics, board member DiMento took an even harder tack, saying, “That leaves a bad taste in my mouth with that response.  I think you should take some accommodations with what the town requires, the town would like, and what the board would like.  And your dismissal of (presenting it), is the wrong way.  Next (meeting), I want that tree to be precisely located on this plan.”

To watch the video with Ms. Woodward questions and hear Leckstein and DiMento dress down the applicants about their attitude, click HERE and go to the four minute mark.   

But wait, there’s more.

On the August 5th meeting, the applicant’s architect being questioned was unavailable for tonight so they brought in landscape architect, Dave Lustberg, CEO of Montclair, NJ based Arterial, LLC.

To watch the video of Dr. Ron Costa question the landscape architecht about the dangers of proposed shrubbery that will block site lines to traffic, click HERE.

Lustberg spoke to several topics including the planting of replacement of trees in the southeast portion of the property that will have public access.  Board member Barbara Boa asked several questions about the trees and shrubs impeding the site lines of vehicle and pedestrian traffic.  Lustberg agreed that the applicant will work with the borough’s traffic engineer to ensure that site lines are clear.

Lustberg also presented graphic renderings of a rooftop streetscape that will include a dog run, and a third-floor outdoor space with a BBQ area, a gas fireplace and small pool.  See the carousel for pictures of these renderings.

Board member David Cassidy asked that the applicant consider a “Green Roof,” noting that the borough recently passed an ordinance, but that they would be grandfathered in.

Lastly, the board approved a resolution for the Taylor Taco Shop.  To read a previous TAPinto Red Bank article on the taco restaurant, click HERE.

To watch a video of the entire meeting, courtesy of Suzanne Viscomi, click HERE.

The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, September 16th, Borough Hall, 7:00pm.

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