Study on fort plan reviewed by NPS

Author acknowledges opponents of proposal were not contacted

Staff Writer

Staff Writer

SANDY HOOK — A case study cited by the government as supporting a National Park Service-backed plan for private development at Fort Hancock had input from an NPS official, the study’s author said Tuesday.

Jacqueline Rogers, author of the case study "Fort Hancock Reborn: Lessons from the National Park Service’s Historic Leasing Program," said Tuesday that the study was "vetted" by Sandy Hook Deputy Superintendent Richard Wells.

"The park service was very helpful to me when I was doing my fact gathering," said Rogers, senior fellow in the Office of Executive Programs in the School of Public Affairs at the University of Maryland, College Park. "They reviewed it for accuracy and for sufficient representation on their point of view."

Rogers’ study was cited recently by a branch of the Department of the Interior’s Office of the Inspector General as a favorable, independent study of a controversial proposal to lease historic buildings at Fort Hancock to a private developer.

"When you do a case study, you try to get the perspective of all the stakeholders," added Rogers, who acknowledged that she didn’t reach out to those lining up in opposition to the plan "because the controversy was just heating up" as she was wrapping up the 20-page study. "I tried to indicate in the case study that there were issues with environmentalists."

The study took what is described as an in-depth look at the NPS proposal to lease 36 historic buildings at Fort Hancock to a private developer for rehabilitation and adaptive reuse. It concluded that the Fort Hancock plan could be a model for privatizing other U.S. government installations.

"The NPS’ adaptive reuse of Fort Hancock’s historic structures models an opportunity for many installations which have historically significant quarters and other structures," Rogers said in the study’s conclusion. "Both the solicitation and draft lease for Fort Hancock include provisions worthy of consideration for inclusion in housing privatization transactions."

Former secretary of the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, Rogers said she develops case studies for classroom use and used Fort Hancock as a way to look at the issue of adaptive reuse of government properties.

"We do a lot of education in privatization," she said. "I was interested in the issue of how you can take a dead asset on the Secretary of the Interior’s list of the most endangered properties and convert it into something good for the community and the National Park Service."

Rogers said she teaches the Department of Defense and service branches, including the U.S. Army and US. Air Force, "how to think about housing privatization."

"One of the issues they have to confront is what to do about historic property," she said, adding that the options for best use include preserving properties as housing or adaptive reuse.

The study, she added, demonstrates "that another branch of the federal government had confronted the issue, come up with a partner and come up with a use that is respectful of the historic property and that is economically attractive."

Fort Hancock, Rogers said, "is a terrific model" in view of the way the federal government handles infrastructure issues.

"Congress never allocates enough money to preserve infrastructure," she noted. "The federal government is gradually moving to a model that encour­ages federal agencies … to look at un­derutilized properties not being ade­quately maintained and to seek an al­ternate leasehold reuse to repair the property, put it back into productive reuse and still retain the asset in public ownership over the long term."

"There is no foreseeable realistic po­tential that Congress will appropriate funds," she added. "I think it’s a very nice compromise between what’s there now and what will happen if nothing is done."

Rogers acknowledged the "classic tension that exists between people who favor adaptive reuse and active use of park lands and people who don’t.

"I happen to think that if you can do an adaptive reuse, remediate environ­mental problems that currently exist and bring an asset back to a condition it was once in," she continued, "that out­weighs the modest disruption to the road system and other things that occur."