Public housing at naval base will be discussed

The U.S. Navy has entered into a scoping period as the preliminary process to drafting an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in order to evaluate the potential impacts of creating an access route to the Laurelwood housing complex at Naval Weapons Station Earle, Colts Neck, in 2010, as required by a 1988 contract between the Navy and the housing developer.

During this scoping period, members of the public are invited to attend an open house any time between 4-8 p.m. Nov. 27 at the Donald D. Warner Student Life Center on the campus of Brookdale Community College, Route 520, Lincroft.

There will be no formal presentation by the Navy. Instead, there will be individual poster stations describing key elements of the project and the EIS process.

According to a press release, this format encourages one-on-one communication and each person will have the opportunity to give written comments during the open house. The public’s comments are invited and welcomed as they help to refine and improve the analysis of the proposed action, according to a press release.

According to the press release, in 1988 a 52-year lease agreement was executed between the Navy and the developer, Laurelwood Inc. The developer constructed 300 homes at no cost to the taxpayer.

Within the lease agreement there were two phases stipulated.

During the first phase, which expires in 2010, only military personnel and their dependents are allowed to occupy the Laurelwood homes.

The second phase runs from 2010 until expiration in 2040. During this time the Navy is not obligated to pay rent to the developer and does not intend to rent the units, so the developer can rent the units to civilians.

The lease requires the Navy to provide “unimpeded access” between the Laurelwood housing area and adjacent state primary or secondary roads by April 2010 to allow the developer to make the units available to the public.

When the lease expires in 2040 the developer is required to demolish the 300 housing units and restore the property to its original condition, according to the press release.

Over the years, due to unforeseen changes in homeporting, the Navy’s need for military housing has diminished. The current occupation level of Laurelwood is at 4 percent.

Where the children of Laurelwood residents attend school will be a decision for New Jersey state and local officials to make, according to the press release.

According to recent published reports, the options for those children appear to be either the Tinton Falls school district or the Colts Neck school district.

At the present time the children of military personnel stationed at NWS Earle attend Tinton Falls elementary and middle schools and Monmouth Regional High School, Tinton Falls.

In a recent presentation to the Marlboro Township Council, James Wasser, the superintendent of schools in the Freehold Regional High School District, discussed the potential impact of public housing at NWS Earle.

Wasser said if children who live in the public housing on the military base are assigned to attend Colts Neck elementary and middle schools, the FRHSD would be responsible for those youngsters when they reach high school age. He said that decision could have a significant impact on the high school district’s enrollment. Wasser indicated that he would continue to monitor the situation.

According to the press release, the provision of unimpeded access to the Laurelwood housing will not affect the security of NWS Earle. Because of the sensitive nature of the mission at NWS Earle, robust security of the base and its assets is the highest priority, according to Capt. Gary Maynard, commanding officer of the base.

Tenants of the housing will not have access to any other areas of the base. This housing area will be isolated from the remainder of the base by security fencing, according to the press release.

The public comment period began Nov. 9 and will last until Dec. 9. Written comments may be given at the open house, mailed, or entered on the Navy’s public Internet Web site for this action. Comments may be mailed to NAVFAC Atlantic, Attn: Code EV21LR, 6506 Hampton Blvd., Norfolk, VA 23508 or visit www.laurelwoodeis. com.