Towns want piece of Fort Monmouth pie

County also seeks facilities, open space after base closure


Staff Writer

The three towns that encompass Fort Monmouth have filed their Notices of Intent to seek fort properties within their jurisdictions.

In addition, the county also filed notices by the March 8 deadline, mainly for open space and recreation facilities and in some cases, is partnering with the three towns.

Tinton Falls approved a resolution to authorize the mayor to file a Notice of Intent for various properties.

Mayor Peter Maclearie said he has prepared an extensive list of properties that Tinton Falls is interested in on the fort property that includes eight parcels. He added that a Notice of Interest asking for Public Benefit Conveyance was delivered to FMERPA and the fort’s Garrison Commander March 8, the deadline for NOIs.

Maclearie said over the weekend that he compares the borough’s efforts to the establishment of Central Park in NYC in the 1850s.

“What they created is still vital to New York. We are fortunate that we have the opportunity to be involved in the acquisition of property that is equally important to Tinton Falls. We have the opportunity to create a town center that will allow the residents to identify this property as the heart of Tinton Falls,” he said

He explained that the borough is asking for 50 acres of vacant property adjacent to existing borough property that can be used for a range of opportunities: 10 acres for affordable housing mandated by the state Council on Affordable Housing; 5 acres for a library; 4 acres for a firehouse which will be needed to support the additional property that the borough will be responsible for.

In addition, the borough is asking for the fire training academy and shooting range that is part of the fort.

“The town could act as a lead agency to make this state-of-the-art facility available to both the borough as well as surrounding municipalities and perhaps even the public,” he said.

The borough is also seeking the child-care center that could be used as a natural extension of the current school system and a large office near the water tower.

“This facility could provide a range of opportunities for office and meeting spaces that could be used by both the town and/or the county or surrounding communities,” Maclearie said.

There are 419 acres of Fort Monmouth property in Oceanport. The Oceanport Borough Council passed three resolutions concerning that acreage, said Mayor Lucille Chaump on Friday. One is for the library, one for the fire house, and one for the police department and office of emergency management.

“As far as the police department is concerned, we need the space and the office of emergency management is looking for storage,” she said adding that the Oceanport library is housed in the borough hall which is too small.

Eatontown Mayor Gerald Tarantolo, said that Eatontown is interested in the former CECOM building that is located in Eatontown, in the main fort complex. He explained that it is not the building located in Tinton Falls. Right now, it is called the Life Cycle Management Center, he said.

Tarantolo said that Eatontown wants it for a new borough hall.

“I anticipate using it as a future municipal facility and this falls under the BRAC Federal Management Regulation which stipulates that a military department may dispose of property under limited circumstance.

“I did not have to seek a sponsor, nor meet a deadline, which is a requirement of the NOIs” he said.

Tarantolo cited Section c5.5.8, Negotiated Sales, of the Department of Defense BRAC Implementation and Regulations and Base Redevelopment and Realignment Manual.

The section stipulates that the military may dispose of property by negotiated sale only under limited circumstances. Negotiated sales to public bodies, as opposed to competitive sales, can only be conducted if a public benefit will result, such as a new town hall.

The section states that an explanatory statement detailing the circumstances of the proposed sale must be sent to the appropriate Congressional committee. There is a 30-day waiting period after notification before the property may be conveyed.

“My plan is to feel out the federal government on what I’m proposing and see how this will play out. We’ll see if the federal government agrees that this meets the criteria of the law,” Tarantolo said. He added that many of Eatontown’s departments are bursting at the seams in borough hall.

“We need more space,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons why this 50,000-square-foot building appeals to me.”

He noted that Eatontown is also in partnership with the county on open space and has also expressed interest, with the federal government, in Howard Commons.

Monmouth County Freeholder and member of FMERPA, Lillian Burry, said the county did file NOIs.

“We have federal sponsors, which is the criteria, she said.

Burry explained that after a number of meetings with the three towns since last spring, in addition to meetings with Faith Hahn, planner for the Monmouth County Park System, they came up with the final product, which consists of recreation and open space.

Burry said they looked at acquiring the marina in Oceanport and decided that, rather than make it a total acquisition, it would be better to collaborate on running the marina with Oceanport.

The other property discussed was the Suneagles golf course on Tinton Avenue in Eatontown.

“Everybody has an eye on it,” she said. “After much discussion and soul searching, we decided that rather than purchasing the golf course, we would prefer to put an easement that says it can never be developed other than a golf course. By doing that, the hope is that it will become a private course, with a convention center at Gibbs Hall, a large building on the property.

“The easement would also protect the sensitive aquifers there,” she added.

In addition, Burry said the county is seeking a teen center that is on the fort property, along Hope Road in Tinton Falls.

“It is an area that is being used as a teen center for the fort. It’s beautifully equipped with things like an indoor basketball court, computer rooms, outdoor facilities that include a swimming pool. This would really fill a void for summer programs for teens,” she said.

Burry noted there are also a number of trails the county would like to incorporate into the county trail system.

Aside from all of that, Burry said there are emergency services opportunities on the fort.

“We visited the fort and truly scrutinized it carefully,” she said. “Harry Conover, the head of Emergency Services [for the county], in conjunction with the Sheriff’s Office and the Prosecutor’s Office, came up with a shared services that would include 13 Two River towns and would utilize the fire academy, firing range and an antennae that the Sheriff’s Department is looking at for communications.”

Burry explained that the county has greater resources to acquire these facilities if it ends up that they will have to pay a discounted price for them.

“I like to think of us as facilitators,” she said.

On Wednesday, Gov. Jon Corzine was scheduled to appear at an open public forum at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft. According to the announcement of the event, the governor was going to outline his vision and updated plans for the economic revitalization of the Fort Monmouth property.