Friday, August 12, 2011

Laurelwood demolition in progress

NOPE has obviously been quiet publicly since the announcement of the federal government buyout of the Laurelwood housing complex on Naval Weapons Station Earle in Colts Neck, but continues to track any new developments until the 300 homes are demolished.

Capt. D.J. (Fuzz) Harrison yesterday informed NOPE Communications Director Diana Piotrowski that the demolition phase is in progress and is scheduled for completion by October 13.  We appreciate the Captain's quick response and open communication with the community on this front, and will communicate any new info with our followers through that period.

Completion of the demolition will, for all intents and purposes, mark the end of NOPE's three-year-plus mission, which could not have succeeded without the support of so many residents of Earle's surrounding communities and a number of elected officials locally, state-wide and federally.

Please stay tuned for any new information on this and the eventual dispersal of the group's remaining funds (around $1,400 - all garnered through local donations at NOPE community briefings), which will be directed to two military veterans-oriented causes the NOPE leadership has identified.

Monday, January 31, 2011

USS Bataan completes ammunition on-load at NWS Earle

As we await word on our request for a copy of the Laurelwood military housing buyout agreement and demolition schedule from our elected officials, NOPE's objectors should take a look at this story, which gets to the root about our group's initial objection to proposed civilian housing at NWS Earle -- the base is still active and has a mission-critical job to perform.  The last thing that the base commander and forces needed was to serve as a police force to a civilian housing community inside its boundaries.

According to this piece, NWS Earle personnel helped the ship load nearly 1,000 pallets of ordnance during a recent four-day mission. Among the products loaded...and typically stored within 300 or so bunkers at the expansive 11,000-acre-plus weapons facility in Monmouth County -- were "bombs, aircraft missiles, ship-launched missiles, rockets, small arms ammunition, demolition materials and the ship's defense ammunition."

Kudos to the individuals who completed this mission to the benefit of our national defense, and again to the elected officials and members of our communities who banded together in objecting to a civilian housing proposal at NWS Earle that would have endangered the base itself and its continued mission as a vital ordnance hub to the U.S. Military.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

One can never fault people for their passion and persistence...

In the aftermath of the Navy's wise decision to buy out unused (Laurelwood) military housing at NWS Earle, a handful of objectors have written to the editors of the Asbury Park Press to voice displeasure.  To be sure, letter writing is an approach that NOPE and its supporters used to present a valid and logical case that letting civilians live (without background checks or going through the main security gate) for the next 30 years inside an active and highly critical military weapons base was an obvious recipe for disaster.

In reality, though, the objectors remain oblivious to the facts of the case and would rather point fingers at responsible individuals such as NOPE and the political leaders we elect as some sort of callous anti-housing faction, which could not be further from the truth.  NOPE's core leadership comprised people from all walks -- from distinguished military veterans to individuals with backgrounds in social causes -- and merely saw through the nonsense thrown our way by the DoN.

The latest letter, from a Jim Carton of Highlands (December 29), charges the feds with wasting taxpayer money and "accommodating the residents of Colts Neck and Tinton Falls".  Indeed, the feds regularly waste our money, as NOPE detailed the past 3 years from a military housing perspective.  To be sure, Laurelwood should have never been built; the DoN went ahead with construction on a 50-year contract, even as local leaders objected and the DoN knew it would relocate Laurelwood's residents and their ship.

The Navy's decision to buy out Laurelwood Homes LLC merely validates NOPE's argument that the Department should not compromise base-force protection on account of a bad housing deal. And the $32 million Laurelwood buyout is NOT about accommodation.  It is entirely about correcting a bad military and business decision, and being a responsible neighbor to Earle's host towns.

It was obvious to anyone who read our extensive research (most of the anti-NOPE faction did not want to read our findings, and instead fired insults our way in an effort to discredit our mission and supportive elected officials, such as Congressmen Smith, Representative Holt, Senator Menendez and the 12th District team) that the proposal put forth by Navy leadership would have cost the DoN itself and NWS Earle's good-standing neighbors roughly a half-billion dollars over the next 30 years.

Perhaps Mr. Carton has this kind of pocket change, but we do not...

Meanwhile, "converting the units to senior housing", as Mr. Carton and other writers to the Asbury Park Press, including a Paul Schneider (apparently a former Planning Board official in Howell) suggested, sounded nice in theory, but the DoN in its Environmental Impact Statement never specified the housing for a particular tenant; the developer had the contractual right to rent to whomever she pleased, so long as they could pay the $2k-plus per month open market rent.  However, the logistics of such an idea were as nonsensical as the rest of the ideas put forth in the Laurelwood EIS.  Either of these letter writers could have attended our briefings or read our research to see why, but evidently did not and chose to spew nonsense about Laurelwood as panacea for veterans housing.

Again, everyone is entitled to an opinion, but after three years of mudslinging it is time for this band of anti-NOPE individuals to put this battle to rest and focus their energies on finding new ways to advocate for much-needed veterans housing.  Laurelwood is simply not the place.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

APP editorial applauds the Laurelwood buyout

The Asbury Park Press ran an editorial Tuesday, supporting the Department of Navy's announcement last week of the buyout and impending tear-down of the 300-unit Laurelwood housing complex at NWS Earle. The editorial echoes what NOPE has argued publicly the last three years and highlights that, indeed, Earle's "neighbors can breathe a little easier." Once the demolition is complete, the issue will be put to bed.

A key point, however, that critics of the buyout (and the media at large) keep missing is that the Department irresponsibly threw away its ace in the hole in 2002 and endangered itself and our national defense. This is not to pick a fight, but to present the facts, as NOPE has done since late 2007.

The original Laurelwood pact with builder Dick Fischer Developments (the predecessor to Laurelwood Homes, LLC) in 1988 included provisions whereby the Navy could terminate the agreement in the event of any National Emergency (i.e. 9-11), presumably at no cost to the government and taxpayers. However, there was clear language showing the Navy surrendered the termination clause in a controversial supplement (No. 43) to the original lease. Of course, the Laurelwood Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS (meant to be, but clearly not, an honest public study of the topic, presented by Naval Facilities Engineering Command), conveniently did not mention this or the more than 60 subsequent supplements to the lease.

NOPE argued from its beginning that the Navy should have invoked this termination clause -- justifiable in the wake of 9-11 and the strategic significance of one of our military's largest munitions storage bases and the deep-water ports accessible from the base opposite Sandy Hook, but Navy "suits" in Washington steadfastly argued the Department would not invoke the clause for fear of being perceived a "bad business partner" to developers and its endeavors for needed military housing. Conversely, we argued that any builder willingly assumed risk of revocation by taking on what are otherwise handsomely profitable housing contracts.

Interesting, we thought. So, using the Freedom of Information Act, we uncovered documents that gave the real reason the Department would not void the deal: shockingly, within a year of 9-11, our Department of Navy signed away its right of revocation under National Emergency order to let Laurelwood Homes, LLC refinance the mortgage at a better interest rate!  (Read the letter attached to our March 5, 2010 post from Laurelwood's attorney William Shook to the Navy, explaining why the Navy needed to revoke the clause...a real eye-opener).

Bottom line, and let us be clear that NOPE never held ANYONE at Earle responsible for this: SOMEONE at the Department of Navy in Washington called the shots and put money ahead of national defense and tried to squirm out of a bad business deal, without the public's knowledge. Simple as that.

Certainly we are ecstatic with the outcome, whereby Laurelwood housing will disappear. However, pundits and objectors of NOPE's mission alike need to be aware that higher-ups within the Department of Navy were the ones who brought this case upon the neighbors of NWS Earle, not the other way around. This case was spawned by horrific financial mismanagement at the Department's top level, and the Pentagon's failure to monitor a Military Housing Privatization Initiative (MHPI) rife with mismanagement and overspending.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Monday Morning Quarterback

In the aftermath of Thursday night's announcement of the Department of Navy's $32.7 million buyout of the Laurelwood housing agreement at NWS Earle, it was interesting to read the (seemingly negative) reaction of anonymous armchair QBs the past few days to the Asbury Park Press story in Friday's edition.
  • "An American Tragedy(!)", wrote hthegerman, a frequent NOPE basher on the APP boards who added that "the Navy was forced into this predicament." 
    • (Provocative, but 100% incorrect; the Navy created its own mess. We brought it to light and provoked the only rational outcome.) 
  • "Another colossal waste of taxpayer money...this is why our taxes are so high," wrote LocalGuy77
    • (Wrong again. Local taxes would have been WAY higher with NWS Earle operating a civilian "town" inside its property line; i.e. educational expense, no local tax on federal property, added cost to NJ to process any legal matters of prospective tenants for the next 30 years before the mandated 2040 tear-down date, etc.)
  • BlueOrchid chimed in with a suggestion to use the Laurelwood homes "for the mentally ill...they could have a stable place to live and social services could help them." 
    • Quite an interesting plan -- putting the mentally ill in the middle of Navy base where the military stores bombs and often sets off explosions as part of its regular routine.
  •  "Fence it and sell it to the builder to rent out," suggests EastCoast, perhaps new to the scene and unaware that this was the Navy's plan ( from Day One. 
  • Plus, the usual mudslinging toward any objector to proposed civilian housing at Laurelwood as "snobs, merry morons (NOPE), etc." 
These charges are fine, considering we've never been thin-skinned at NOPE or hid from our mission - to prevent a security disaster from ever happening at NWS Earle that could have resulted because of a civilian housing plan that was entirely an economic -- rather than a beneficial military or strategic -- decision by Navy leaders in Washington.  Our mission was NEVER personal (i.e. anti-Navy, anti-veterans, anti-affordable housing, etc.).  NOPE merely stood up to the DoN about a force-fed, detrimental proposal.

NOPE recognized from the outset in late-2007 that a handful of charged-up local affordable housing advocates would ignore the facts of our case (i.e. that opening unused NWS Earle housing to anyone who could cut a rent check was an extremely toxic and expensive venture to the surrounding community and the DoN itself) and turn a ridiculous housing conversion proposal by the Department of Navy into a class battle to promote their own forum.  That's fine, but extremely misguided and the crux of the above criticisms from the APP message boards.

In short, NOPE proved the merits of the community's case through extensive research, gathering of government and military documents through the Freedom of Information Act, high-level discussions with local, state and federal bipartisan elected officials as well as meetings with the Department of Navy, and articulated the facts to thousands of residents in the surrounding communities through door-to-door contact, the digital media (i.e. our blog and website), on the ballfields, letter writing and town hall-style briefings and presentations that, in some cases, were attended by 300-500 area citizens. 

And this was done by passionate, open-minded volunteers and servants (three respected veterans of three branches of the U.S. Military among us) who gave freely of their time to the benefit of their community and in the face of naysayers. NOPE was never smoke and mirrors. Respectfully, responsibly and resolutely, we gathered and presented the facts. Bottom line. Our detractors have every right to continue to ignore those facts, but turning the outcome of our case into a personal attack does nothing good for anyone.  

Friday, December 3, 2010

Navy, developer reach buyout agreement on Laurelwood

Congressman Chris Smith's office informed us last night that the Navy reached agreement with Laurelwood Homes, LLC, and its owner Teri Fischer on a $32.7 million buyout and demolition of the 300-unit housing complex at Naval Weapons Station Earle.

Needless to say, this is tremendous news for the surrounding community vis-a-vis NOPE and the service members who work and live on base and have a job to protect our nation and the base itself, for reasons that NOPE has detailed ad nauseum here and in public briefings over the past three years.

The road for our grassroots organization has been long and filled with speed bumps, but responsibility and common sense prevailed in the end.  Responsible and respectful community opposition, combined with the support of bipartisan elected officials on the federal, state and local levels, to an ill-drawn and dangerous plan from the Department of Navy itself to house civilians (without background checks) and grant unimpeded access through a strategic, high-security Naval ordnance storage facility proved the decisive factor, in our view.

The $32.7 million includes roughly $2 million for a demolition phase that will be overseen by Mrs. Fischer, though we lack details on the timeline for the tear-down. Obviously we hope it happens quickly. We will keep our audience posted on the progress in the days ahead.

Here is the Asbury Park Press' account of the announcement:

Remain posted here for any additional details on the buyout and tear-down and other sidebar perspectives as NOPE closes the book on this long-running saga and moves forward.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

No New Updates

The Department of Navy and Laurelwood Homes, LLC, as far as we know, remain in negotiations over the impending buyout figure and demolition of the Laurelwood homes at Naval Weapons Station Earle, and we will do our best to keep everyone posted until there is an ultimate conclusion to this case.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A heartfelt "Thank You" to our Veterans!

In addition to thanking the current forces in our nearby military bases and Veterans who have settled in our communities, on this Veterans Day we wish, in particular, to recognize the military service to our nation of Jim Sfayer, Fulton Wilcox and Ernie Janssen - three key members of NOPE's leadership. It has been an honor for many of us to have gotten to know these fine men and countless other veterans in our community.

We would like to note, too, that Col. Sfayer runs the Veterans Transition Initiative, a nonprofit organization providing legal assistance, benefits counseling, mentor support and workforce entry and adaptation to the private sector for all honorably discharged veterans. Please visit the VTI website about how you can become involved in what is proving to be a great grassroots endeavor.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

NWS Earle $6.27m main gate upgrades underway

Lost in our disappointment over a vanilla GAO probe of "Section 8" military housing (focusing on the controversial Laurelwood complex at NWS Earle and a half-dozen others) was a release from Congressman Chris Smith on the October 29 groundbreaking of vital security enhancements to the Rt. 34 main gate in Colts Neck. However, this release should not be lost on NOPE supporters who saw the logic of our grassroots case from our beginnings 3 years ago and continued humble existence. The cases were intertwined.

Security at NWS Earle was the headline NOPE objection to the Department of Navy's ultimately ill-fated plan to rent, through 2040, 300 vacant Laurelwood townhouses to civilians, without any sort of background check or secure access. The DoN's plan necessitated construction of a new, unguarded access route of nearly 2 miles through the base, where anyone could come and go as they pleased.

NOPE saw this (i.e. a civilian free-for-all access route) as an obvious conflict to the Navy's stated need to fortify the main gate (i.e. making it harder for anyone...service personnel, contractors, delivery people, etc. to get on base) as an obvious conflict to its civilian housing proposal. 

Intriguingly, the civilian housing plan flew in the face of common sense as well, particularly when at the same time the Inspector General in early 2009 reported that Earle had a hard time keeping track of outsource guards responsible for supplementing military policing of the 11,000-acre ordnance base.  Admitting the error of its ways in planning to let 1,000 or more civilian residents live at a mission-critical military base housing high-powered munitions (all for the sake of getting out of a badly designed housing contract obligation), the DoN ultimately (to our satisfaction) withdrew its "Record of Decision" on this plan in April 2010. 

Now we merely await the parameters of the buyout and demolition of the Laurelwood complex.

In short, the Navy recognized the necessity of upgrades to the main gate access, and Congressman Smith helped secure the funding ($6.27 million) designed to "provide better anti-terrorism and force protection for the base, the personnel and the community," according to Mr. Smith.  The project is finally underway, with work scheduled for completion by October 2011, and perhaps signals NOPE is that much closer to closure over a long-running grassroots effort to protect the interests of our communities. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Nearly 10 months of waiting...for this?

Granted, the Laurelwood housing matter is evidently a buyout and teardown agreement (between the Department of Navy and Laurelwood Homes, LLC) away, putting to an end nearly 3 years of hard work by the NOPE grassroots contingency, but the GAO's exhaustive research on the pitfalls of Section 801 on-base housing contracts yielded little numeric fruit in terms of corrective action or data that the U.S. Congress can use to help fix obvious and unforeseen flaws in privatized military housing deals.

GAO Study 11-60, "Military Housing: Installations Need to Share Information on Their Section 801 On-Base Housing Contract", released today, may indeed prove useful in some capacity to legislators, but really the report comes to the conclusion that the DOD should do a better job of sharing relevant info about on-base Section 801 housing contracts between U.S. Military branches. That's it?

In its brief response, the DOD agreed, hitting that grapefruit out of the ballpark!

No comment about the types of unfunded mandates that NOPE uncovered or how civilians at Laurelwood would have cost local towns X amount of dollars over a proposed 30-year civilian rental phase...(other than GAO would not do the calculations, since the Navy had terminated the contract)...

No mention of the Fort Hood massacre as part of its security discussion on 801 housing there, or at other DOD installations...

No citation, or admission from the NWS Earle, that, even after an Inspector General report from January 2009 pointing out stark pitfalls in outsource security monitoring of the base, that security could have been compromised with a 2-mile civilian access road running through its ordnance storage base...

...or (tongue firmly in cheek) that local loudmouths (i.e. NOPE) shed enough light on the Navy's clandestine unfunded mandate to scuttle the deal (instead, they cite difficulty in obtaining road permits from the state and conflicts with Laurelwood Homes, LLC, over the interpretation of the contract as the two reasons for backing out of the civilian-rental phase).

In short, nothing tangible to our case, really.

The GAO gave few data points for Congress to sink its teeth into, along the lines of analysis (whether on the money or off the mark) NOPE provided about the conversion of the military use phase of the Laurelwood contract into the civilian use phase and costs to the DOD and surrounding communities. Nor is there much discussion on the security ramifications of privatized housing, since the report focuses specifically on 7-8 Section 801 developments, half of which are on outpost bases (i.e., in Alaska and South Dakota).

In any event, the GAO was directed to review rental housing on DOD bases and reports on "the cost, potential security risks, and other impacts of transitioning use of Section 801 on-base military family housing to the general public's use," much as Congressman Smith requested a year ago in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010.  However, we found GAO-11-60 thin, unfortunately.

We appreciate the GAO briefing us for a few hours back in January (the officials could not have been nicer, more professional, more communicative or more understanding of our situation), but perhaps we were overambitious in expecting a revealing expose pertaining to Laurelwood housing.  Nonetheless, we would venture a guess that others may find this 42-page document disappointing in terms of hard data that shows that the DOD oftentimes neglects to understand, address or acknowledge local citizens' concerns pertaining to military base housing and the unfunded mandates that could arise and devastate military base neighbors.  Feel free to chime in with your thoughts.


NOPE learned moments ago that the Government Accountability Office's report on Laurelwood and Section 801 on-base military housing has been published. You can find the report here:

We will read through the report and hope to issue a response within the next 24 hours.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Worth watching this week...

Absent confirmation from our political contacts that the Department of Navy and Laurelwood Homes, LLC, reached a buyout and demolition settlement of the Laurelwood contract at NWS Earle by the supposed Oct. 8 deadline, we continue to watch for any media updates (i.e. newspaper, military press release) on the topic.

Meanwhile, we expect the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congress' investigative branch, to release this week a long-anticipated report on privatized military housing vis-a-vis Laurelwood housing. Our supporters may recall that NOPE, at the advice of Congressman Chris Smith (to GAO investigators), was the first to be briefed on the Laurelwood matter by GAO back in January. Congressman Smith, for background, requested the GAO study as part of last year's Federal Defense Authorization.

NOPE is confident that the GAO's findings will validate what our grassroots organization has argued for nearly three years now (unbelieveable...) - that privatized military housing, designed with good intentions to save the military a lot of money and oversight responsibilities for housing its servicemembers, has run amok in terms of private contractors' fleecing the government on housing deals and the unfunded mandates to local taxpayers that often get lost in the discussion. But we expect to learn this week what the GAO investors determined in the end. Please stay tuned.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


NOPE has learned absolutely nothing new regarding the progress of buyout discussions on the Laurelwood housing at NWS between the Department of Navy and Laurelwood Homes, LLC, owner Teri Fischer.  We will try to track down a status update by week's end, as we are now beyond the negotiations deadline of Friday, October 8. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

No word yet on Laurelwood buyout talks

Greetings to everyone on Columbus Day!

Well, still no word on whether the Department of Navy and Laurelwood Homes, LLC, cemented a buyout agreement by Friday's supposed deadline, so we can only assume that the parties reached a deal but did not want to make noise over the long weekend, the parties have again extended the talks, or that the talks have dissolved and Laurelwood will foolishly sue the federal government.

Either way, the neighbors of NWS Earle deserve an answer and an expedient buyout resolution.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


One can look favorably upon Friday's announcement that the parties will remain at the bargaining table for another week, but the Laurelwood housing situation at NWS Earle remains a microcosm of federal red tape, ineffective government and outsource contractors wagging the dog. These issues hopefully will be detailed (and solutions recommended) fully when the Government Accountability Office (GAO) releases its study on the Laurelwood situation, and privatized military housing in general, in late-October.

Until then, we scratch our heads as to why this darned matter is not yet resolved.

To reiterate, NOPE learned late Friday that Laurelwood Homes, LLC, and the Department of Navy have extended the original October 1 deadline to October 8, presumably to agree upon parameters for a buyout and teardown of the 300 fallow "Laurelwood" homes at Naval Weapons Station Earle.  An extension could be good, or bad, depending on the eventual outcome.

Perhaps the delay is in keeping with the DoN's penchant for major Laurelwood news releases; recall, if you will, that the "draft" Laurelwood Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, was issued on Black Friday 2008, and the "final" EIS came out on Good Friday 2009.  Maybe the Pentagon prefers issuing news at times when people have their minds on plans for long-weekend getaways (Columbus Day is observed next Monday).

Perhaps it is a sign that the parties are extremely close on a buyout tally but need another five business days to dot the i's and cross the t's. Or, perhaps the sides are at such loggerheads that another week is a prayer to avoid a protracted and expensive lawsuit by a privatized housing contractor against the federal government.

In all cases, area citizens who remain as baffled as our group by the parties' failure to hammer out a speedy resolution need to be aware of the ultimate outcome of this case.  We certainly will stay on top of it, and can only direct Laurelwood's owner and the DoN to the "buyout summary" put forth by NOPE in November 2008, which offers an independent, equitable buyout and demolition tally that will make this mess go away. 

The gamesmanship has gone far enough already.  Hammer out a deal, and let us move on already.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Laurelwood buyout deadline extended 1 week

NOPE has been informed this afternoon that the deadline for the Department of Navy and Laurelwood Homes, LLC, to reach a buyout agreement has been extended one week to Friday, October 8.

Whether the extension portends a buyout or a protracted lawsuit remains to be seen, but please stay tuned here for details and some discussion this upcoming week, largely to remind both parties to the discussion how ludicrous this whole process remains and why an expedient buyout and teardown of the Laurelwood homes at NWS Earle is clearly the best outcome for all parties involved.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Nothing like waiting until the last minute

As is par for the course with the Department of Navy's good neighbor policies, we still have yet to learn of confirmation of a buyout agreement between the DoN and Laurelwood Homes, LLC, regarding the 300-unit Laurelwood complex at Naval Weapons Station Earle. Please continue to stay tuned here as we await an announcement on a settlement that was supposedly to occur by September 30.

Meanwhile, we eagerly anticipate the release (believed to be in October) of the Government Accountability Office's study into the matter, and will continue to dig for information on the opening of other houses (owned by Balfour Beatty) on the base to people that do not work at NWS Earle.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

15 Days Remaining, Still No Word

NOPE has nothing new to report regarding the buyout negotiations between the Department of Navy and Laurelwood Homes, LLC. As far as we know, the deadline to reach an agreement remains September 30th, and we will follow up with our legislators on any developments. As soon as we learn anything, we will pass it along here and via email to our supporters.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Laurelwood not the end of NWS Earle housing concerns

NOPE heightened awareness about proposed civilian housing at NWS Earle, but unbeknownst to many area residents, the Department of Navy is now offering a cluster (separate from Laurelwood) of underutilized homes, owned and operated by U.K.-based military contractor Balfour Beatty, at Mainside Earle.

As we noted on July 30, the DoN has decided that it is good policy to offer rentals to people (i.e. military contractors, military retirees) with no direct affiliation to NWS Earle, presumably to get the most out of vacant housing, financially. (From what we understand, upwards of 50%-75% of the 100 or so Balfour Beatty houses are vacant.) What other rationale would there be to invite outsiders on and off one of the nation's largest weapons storage bases through the main gate on Rt. 34 in Colts Neck?

The fact that prospective new residents to the Balfour Beatty homes will require military IDs and routinely pass through security allays the primary base security concerns set forth by NOPE in the Laurelwood housing situation (i.e. via a proposed unimpeded access road, which the DoN ultimately scuttled), but should not be ignored by local citizens.

From a financial perspective, the introduction of tenants with zero affiliation to NWS Earle poses additional undue stress on host school districts Tinton Falls (K-8) and Freehold Regional (high school), which subsidize the education of school-aged Navy dependents now and get little to no federal aid to cover the costs. To be sure, the schooling issue has neighboring towns embroiled in litigation over a headache brought on by our DoN's wanton disregard for its neighbors...and now the Department's self-centered actions with Balfour Beatty housing add insult to injury.

In addition, there is no guarantee that prospective Balfour renters -- with no current affiliation with NWS Earle's mission to service our nation's Naval fleet -- will conform to the communal and security values of the Navy's personnel who work and reside at the base.  As a 2009 study from the Inspector General found that Earle already had a hard time following security mandates and reporting requirements, will introducing 50-70 new, unaffiliated families of tenants improve base security?

These are questions that the Department of Navy or Earle's base commander needs to address publicly immediately, and ones that NJ's state and local legislators should challenge in the wake of the Department of Navy's retreat from its ill-fated plan to open Laurelwood housing to tenants with no affiliation with Earle.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Apparently no interest in a third-party buyer for Laurelwood

Following up on yesterday's post pertaining to Laurelwood housing contract supplements, NOPE's secondary request for documentation (i.e. bids, discussions, email) from the Dept. of Navy pertaining to whether the Navy considered a third-party buyout of Laurelwood came up empty.

NOPE was concerned that the cash-strapped DoN could circumvent its withdrawn Laurelwood EIS and get an outside party (i.e. another privately-held military housing player, like Balfour-Beatty, which operates other housing developments at NWS Earle) to fund the buyout in exchange for the 300 homes, and repurpose them for other uses. That evidently is not the case, if our FOIA findings are legit.

Again, NOPE will remain active in this case until Laurelwood is bought out and the homes demolished.

Monday, August 16, 2010

New FOIA Documents from Navy on Laurelwood housing contract

Following up on our June 4, 2010 posting, NOPE late last week received copies of the most recent accessible (via Freedom of Information Act) supplements to the Laurelwood housing lease at NWS Earle.

Supplemental Agreements (SA) 65 through 71, from February 2008 through October 2009, at first glance, were run-of-the-mill changes to the 1990 privatized housing agreement between the Department of Navy and Laurelwood Homes, LLC, that pale in comparison to the controversial SA 43 that bolstered NOPE's case against civilian housing at Earle. Nonetheless, here is what we gleaned from the "new" documents:
  • SA 65 (February 2008): Perhaps the most interesting of the latest lot, appears to put to rest the "award fee payments" to Laurelwood Homes, LLC, which as we chronicled generally amounted to bonuses up to $15k semiannually, to reflect the Navy's satisfaction with upkeep of the homes.
  • SA 66 (April 2008): Amended the annual rent payment to Laurelwood Homes, LLC, to $3.59 million, reflecting the Consumer Price Index annual adjustment in the maintenance rent.
  • SA 69 (May 2009): Amended the annual rent payment to Laurelwood Homes, LLC, to $3.63 million, again reflecting an inflationary increase as specified in the original contract.
The aforementioned documents appear to validate our business case analysis through the May 1, 2010, expiration of the military use phase of the 52-year Laurelwood housing lease, but in the event the parties fail to reach a buyout agreement by the September 30 "whisper date," NOPE will request further documentation from the DoN (via FOIA) to see whether the DoN paid more rent money to Laurelwood at the start of the "outlease," or the time during which the houses sat idle ahead of proposed, and now scrapped, civilian occupancy of the Laurelwood houses.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Condolences to Kalbach family, Navy community of unexpected passing of NWS Earle's Public Affairs Officer

The constituents and leadership of Neighbors Opposed to Privatization at Earle express our deepest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Scott Kalbach, who served as the Public Affairs Officer at Naval Weapons Station Earle the past three years and unexpectedly passed away on Thursday, August 5, at age 46. Navy officials informed us this afternoon of this tragedy, and we remember Scott as an extremely kind man who always treated us graciously and attentively in matters pertaining to NOPE's concerns about the Laurelwood civilian housing proposal. Scott will truly be missed by our community.

For further information or to send condolences to the family please visit or view Scott's obituary in the Asbury Park Press.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Clarifying a post last week on Balfour homes at Earle

The info we received and posted last week about the Department of Navy's intention to open vacant (and, again) privatized homes at NWS Earle was not too far off, but our earlier reference to civilians as a potential rental target was fortunately askew.

A postcard disseminated by Balfour Beatty Communities, owner-operator of some 100 houses unrelated to Laurelwood on NWS Earle, suggests that rental housing could become available to "full military retirees, DOD civilians, reservists and active military who have current base access." Nowhere does the postcard ID people unrelated to the military as prospective renters.

Outside of self-serving financial motives, one can only guess why the DoN, again, is being an inconsiderate neighbor and so eager to fill empty houses on an active Naval weapons facility and stress not only a vital Naval mission, but also the surrounding communities (i.e. educating dependents on the local taxpayers' dime, mounting fear that people that do not belong on an active weapons base are let inside Earle).

One can also guess that the DoN (i.e. decision makers at the Pentagon) wants to use NWS Earle as a test case for better-monetizing underutilized base housing, or to get its monies worth, so to speak, on $6.3 million of main gate security upgrades contracted in March to P&S Construction of Lowell, Mass. Either way, DoN leaders on the federal level continue to show little regard for the impact to the local communities of its ill-advised decisions and poor oversight and business planning on privatized housing.

Certainly we will continue to share any new information on this front with our supporters, and encourage federal and local representatives to keep tabs on the Balfour Beatty housing situation at NWS Earle, which is looking like another, albeit smaller-scale, unfunded federal mandate to the base's host towns.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

DoN-Laurelwood still negotiating

One of Congressman Smith's officials called us this afternoon with a brief update that the Department of Navy and Laurelwood Homes, LLC remain in negotiations and that September 30 is the deadline for the sides to reach a settlement on the Navy's buyout of the Laurelwood housing complex at NWS Earle. As soon as we get any new information on this front, we will be sure to pass it along, so please stay tuned.

Friday, July 16, 2010

An eerie silence

The silence remains deafening! By now, NOPE had hoped to learn of some breakthrough in buyout negotiations between the Department of Navy and Laurelwood Homes, LLC, since the parties are evidently beyond the 60-day deadline to address a complaint filed by Laurelwood owner Teri Fischer with the DoN's contracting officer over the Navy's reported initial $9 million bid. But still no word...

Meanwhile, based on first-hand accounts from NOPE sources, NWS Earle and Colts Neck Township Committee are seemingly doing nothing to foster goodwill toward their neighbors, with apparent clandestine meetings over the DoN's bid to rent 49 vacant base homes owned by Balfour Beatty (presumably the Stark Road complex) to either local veterans or civilians. This rumor, in and of itself, portends trouble with Tinton Falls over the decades-long fued over educational responsibility for residents at NWS Earle, as well as interested other stakeholders such as the thousands of resident supporters of NOPE.

It was wonderful for everyone to rejoice back in April when the DoN withdrew its Record of Decision on proposed civilian housing and unimpeded access to Laurelwood at NWS Earle, but the process must be seen through completion to satisfy a NOPE community that, for 30 months and counting, has acted in the best interests of NWS Earle host towns, and likely Earle itself. Maybe it is time for federal, state and local leaders to hold the DoN's feet to the fire again, so to speak, pertaining to poor infrastructure planning and obvious mismanagement of privatized housing deals at NWS Earle.

Housing issues at NWS Earle are causing nothing but unnecessary stress, headaches and, at times, infighting for the surrounding communities.