Storm accelerates sale of fort housing

FMERA moves up plans to solicit proposals from developers for officers’ housing

Staff Writer

EATONTOWN — Plans to privatize permanent housing at Fort Monmouth are being expedited to meet the needs of residents displaced by the Oct. 29 superstorm.

Members of the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA) unanimously approved a resolution during the Dec. 12 meeting to begin soliciting requests for offers to purchase (ROFTP) for the officers’ housing located in the Oceanport area of the Main Post.

According to Bruce Steadman, executive director, plans to sell the housing for private development have been part of the fort reuse and redevelopment plan but are now being given priority.

“The plan has always been to take the officers’ housing and put it out to bid,” Steadman said in an interview following the meeting.

“This doesn’t change the plan. We are just trying to do it a little quicker because of the storm.”

The officers’ housing is located on approximately 37 acres of the fort’s historic district and consists of 120 residential units that are a mix of single-family homes, duplex and quad townhomes.

In 2009, the U.S. Army agreed to nominate the fort’s historic district for listing on the New Jersey and national registers of historic places.

The district consists of Gosselin Avenue noncommissioned officer residences and officer family housing units on Russel, Carty and Allen avenues, the latter ranging in size from 3,700 to over 6,000 square-feet.

In addition to the officers’ housing, FMERA is scheduled to issue ROFTPs for the Howard Commons housing site in Eatontown later this month.

“We will be issuing an ROFTP for the Howard Commons area in the next few days,” said Rick Harrison, director of facilities and planning, adding that several developers have expressed interest in the Howard Commons property.

“In light of superstorm Sandy, it will accelerate the introduction of additional permanent housing stock to the region.”

He added that all residential ROFTPs carry an obligation and require a commitment to provide affordable housing, which has been set by the reuse plan.

Prior to the vote, Eatontown Mayor Gerald Tarantolo, a member of the FMERA board, asked what the process is for transitioning from military housing to private housing.

“This is going to be the first situation where we run into the gray area,” Tarantolo said, “the transition of military housing to municipal housing, and how do we go about providing services. Is it FMERA providing services or is it the municipalities providing services to this particular housing since it resides in Oceanport? Has that been given any thought on how that transition takes place?”

Steadman replied that discussions are ongoing to resolve those concerns.

“Given the importance after the storm to provide permanent housing, I have committed, and [Oceanport Mayor Michael Mahon] has committed, to continue to work together very closely over the next several weeks as we get the ROFTP process moving and we begin to attract interest,” Steadman said.

Mahon added that the once the housing is occupied, the borough is prepared to provide services to those residents.

“We have already begun discussions as to when and what level of services that we assume, but once there are residents in place and our obligation is clear, it changes distinctly,” Mahon said.

“We are prepared to represent and provide services to the borough of Oceanport whenever and however they reside in our borough.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is in the process of converting U.S Army lodging buildings, adjacent to the historic district in Oceanport, into temporarily house residents displaced during the storm.

Work has been under way in Building 365 since Nov. 29 to convert 60 one-bedroom units into 45 housing units consisting of 15 three-bedroom units and 30 one-bedroom units.

Gov. Chris Christie announced on Dec. 10 that the temporary housing would be expanded to include the seven additional buildings in the lodging area as well as the 21 duplexes at McGill Commons in Eatontown.

FEMA will decide which residents will be placed at the fort based on specific criteria, including the amount of damage to their residences, proximity of the damaged dwelling to the fort, and the school districts that children attend.