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.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

GAO study into Laurelwood, Section 8 military housing due in September

Responding to a brief email query this morning, our contacts within the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative wing of the U.S. Congress, inform us that late-September is the target to release a much-anticipated (at least by NOPE, anyway...) study into Laurelwood housing and the status of seven other "Section 8" housing complexes on domestic military bases.

The GAO findings, in our view, will not only shed light on why it was a good idea for the Department of Navy to withdraw its so-called Record of Decision to convert 300 Laurelwood houses at NWS Earle into civilian rentals (and construct the ill-fated unimpeded access road through the base), but also prove valuable to the Congress in its oversight of military base housing nationwide. As we have railed for 2+ years, and the GAO has uncovered in other reports, oversight of military housing (and the outsourcing of construction and management of this privately-built and owned housing) is extremely lacking and needs to improve - to prevent situations elsewhere in the U.S. similar to what we have gone through with Laurelwood.

Meanwhile, in the days ahead we will follow up with our elected officials to see whether:
  1. the DoN/Earle and Laurelwood Homes, LLC have made progress in buyout negotiations and a Laurelwood teardown schedule;
  2. A2014, the Assembly measure to have New Jersey's Treasurer probe the financial impact (to the State) of the Laurelwood housing conversion, will make it through committee (Military and Veterans Affairs, which has not met publicly since May) or this companion measure to Senate-approved S762 is dead because of the impending Laurelwood buyout.  In our view, it is still important for the Treasurer to conduct this study, if nothing more than to establish a precedent by which NJ's leadership can handle potential other unfunded federal mandates (i.e. to protect New Jersey's interest in the event that Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, Picattiny Arsenal, etc. seek to convert other underutilized privatized military housing or facilities into civilian enclaves); 
  3. the supposed offering of underutilized Balfour Beatty housing at NWS Earle will, indeed, be made available to tenants other than active military (i.e., vets, civilians), as we reported here last week; this is clearly a case worth watching, particularly as Earle's host towns grapple with proposed property tax caps, school budget cuts and reduced state aid, to name a few constraints. The DoN's earlier actions surrounding proposed civilian Laurelwood housing and impeded access through Earle clearly showed the DoD clearly has little concern about how its decisions impact local stakeholders.
Supporters, rest assured that NOPE is alive and well and will not disband until our mission is complete - to ensure the official dissolution of the Laurelwood housing contract and demolition of the 300 vacant homes.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Military housing "waterfall" policy

Following up on yesterday's posting about the possibility of the Department of Navy meeting with Colts Neck officials about supposed plans to outlease underutilized Balfour Beatty housing at NWS Earle, NOPE supporters should know at least a little about the U.S. military housing "waterfall policy." The description is footnoted in this May 2009 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), pertaining to the challenges the Department of Defense is facing with privatized military housing (pg. 25):
DOD has established a tenant “waterfall” that (military housing) projects can use if occupancy falls below a certain rate. Generally, after military families are accommodated, the order of the tenant waterfall is unaccompanied military personnel, active National Guard and Reserve, military retirees, federal government civilians, and lastly civilians. (GAO inspectors) have been told some installation commanders have expressed reservations to private developers about having civilians living in military privatized housing, which at some installations, had resulted in the developer’s reluctance to rent to civilians that can potentially further constrain generating revenue.
To reiterate, it appears that the DoN in Washington has another quandry on its hands in terms of underutilized, privately-owned military housing at NWS Earle, and that it may look to impress upon local constituents another unfunded mandate, along the lines of what it had proposed (unsuccessfully) with privately-owned Laurelwood housingThis time around, it involves homes owned by multinational corporation Balfour Beatty; the company's website shows there are 82 Stark Road townhomes (2-4+ bedrooms), 7 Green Drive single-family homes (3-4 bedrooms each) and 40 Green Acres townhomes (2-3 bedrooms each).  However, BB's website also suggests that the company will demolish 38 of these housing units this month.

Back-of-the-envelope math suggests this will leave roughly 90 homes for occupancy, or less than half of the 2004 inventory (when, according to BB's website, the company demolished 100 homes; it is hard to extract from this data, however, whether these were mandated demolitions, i.e. homes reached the end of their 50-year useful lives, or BB realized many homes would simply lay fallow with the DoN continually shrinking the military workforce at NWS Earle).

Let's venture a guess that half of these 90 or so homes are occupied by active military or others who work inside NWS Earle. That would leave about 45 (or 90-180 bedrooms, depending on which units are vacant) to "outlease," or rent to another population. Assuming the DoN is considering letting Balfour Beatty rent the homes to non-attached military (i.e. veterans) or civilians, and that NWS Earle will process all of these people regularly (i.e. background checks, in/out of the main security gate on Rt. 34 in Colts Neck) through the duration of BB's contract, considerable strain could still be placed not only on base force protection (i.e. round-the-clock policing of an "outsider" community), but the host municipalities such as Colts Neck (i.e. municipal services) and Tinton Falls (i.e. schooling).

We would encourage our supporters to contact your municipal and state legislators (i.e. Senator Beck, Assemblyman O'Scanlon and Assemblywoman Casagrande) concerning this matter, and of course to stay tuned here as we attempt to flesh out the details, following word of a supposed Navy meeting this week with Colts Neck Township officials.

Monday, July 5, 2010

More NWS Earle housing nonsense to keep our eye on

NOPE business case analyst Fulton Wilcox informs us after attending the June 30 Township Committee meeting in Colts Neck that Mayor Florek casually mentioned the Committee is scheduled to meet Thursday, July 7, to discuss the Navy's intent to rent non-Laurelwood base housing at NWS Earle to non-service members, such as military veterans.  Stay tuned here for more details as we uncover them.  Tinton Falls (the host for school-age dependents from NWS Earle for the past two-plus decades and a major stakeholder in what happens at the base) should be a party to such a meeting, though we have yet to track down whether Mayor Skudera has been notified or will be a party to the gathering.

The housing in question is managed (and perhaps the leasehold improvements owned) by U.K.-based Balfour Beatty ( The declining population at NWS Earle as well as the impending closure of Fort Monmouth apparently has left vacancies in the Balfour Beatty managed housing, leaving the Navy again to pay for vacant housing unless Balfour Beatty “outleases” the homes, much as the Navy had hoped to do with Laurelwood housing. 

NOPE will keep a close eye on this turn of events this week, considering the potential ramifications (i.e. security, financial, educational, environmental) to all stakeholders in Colts Neck, Tinton Falls and Monmouth County, and in light of the ill-fated and now-defunct Laurelwood civilian housing conversion at NWS Earle.

As much as NOPE objects to letting civilians live on an active military base like NWS Earle, we have little say regarding the pecking order of potential tenants in military base housing, since that is determined by federal law. The fatal flaw of the proposed Laurelwood conversion was that the Department of Navy sought unimpeded access to the base (i.e. no security gate, no background checks on prospective renters), which was clearly a horrific idea -- one that the Navy admitted in retracting the Laurelwood civilian housing plan.  In the case of the 40-60 unused Balfour Beatty homes, we assume for now that renters will need to qualify for credentials to pass through front-gate security at the Rt. 34 entrance.

In short, with privatized military housing contracts, if there are not enough active-duty military to live in the homes, there is a pecking order of available tenants the Military can seek to occupy the homes (i.e. military bachelors, contractors, military retirees, veterans, etc.), with civilians the renter of last resort (and we have found many base commanders in the U.S. opposed to civilian housing on their bases).  We can only guess at this time that local veterans groups (i.e. proponents of the Accettola Plan, Neptune Housing Authority) are somehow involved in the Balfour Beatty issue, but will track this case closely.

This is just one example of why, NOPE feels, the District 12 legislative team needs to see through the passage of S762-A2014, mandating a State Treasury study into proposed housing conversions at NWS Earle, since housing decisions have a far reaching impact on New Jerseyans, whether they know it or not. To understand the true financial impact of federal/military mandates and conversions such as Laurelwood (and now, potentially, Balfour Beatty homes at NWS Earle) would give the State Legislature the ammunition it needs to protect the interests of the state and host municipalities. We will again contact Assemblywoman Casagrande and Assemblyman O'Scanlon for an update on whether their bill will pass in Trenton.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Nothing new to report on buyout discussions

Approaching the July 4 holiday, we are somewhat surprised that the news flow has been dead quiet regarding the Department of Navy's impending buyout of Laurelwood Homes, LLC, considering the parties are near (or past) a supposed 60-day deadline to settle after owner Teri Fischer lodged a complaint with the DoN's contracting officer; in essence, a technical maneuver to expedite a settlement. 

NOPE has yet to hear anything about the talks, but will continue to track back with our legislators to see whether they have any new information for us, so please stay tuned.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Brief Lockdown Today @ Lakehurst Military Base

The Asbury Park Press reports that the Lakehurst section of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst was locked down this morning. There are very few details, and we'll follow up if there is something critical, but point to this as the type of incident that raised red flags to NOPE in terms of logistics of the U.S. Navy's early plan to convert Laurelwood military housing to civilian rentals from 2010-2040 and, by contract, grant unimpeded access thru the federal base to civilians.

Separately, NOPE continues to track developments in the Navy-Laurelwood Homes, LLC buyout negotiations, as well as the stalled NJ Treasury legislation in the Assembly in Trenton, and will post updates once we learn anything new. Again, thanks to those that continue to support our cause and visit our blog as we see through the conclusion of the buyout and demolition of Laurelwood homes.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Man seized at Ga. Army base has land mine, laser scope

Ok, accuse us of piling on.   If ever there was evidence that anyone outside of active military should live on active military bases, please read this story on an Anthony Todd Saxon, a civilian arrested in uniform at Fort Gordon (near Augusta, GA). Mr. Saxon had a land mine in his vehicle along with several grenades, night vision devices and a military laser targeting device, according to charging documents filed Wednesday.

This is not to pass judgment on the man or come to any false conclusions about this particular situation, but the evidence continues to mount that not everyone is equipped to on a military base, nor live on one full time, as proponents of Laurelwood civilian housing at NWS Earle have suggested. Remember, the personnel at the Naval Weapons Station are there to do a job, not to play cops 24-7 to a civilian town within its boundaries for the next 30 years -- an opinion validated by the Navy's decision to buy out the Laurelwood housing contract.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Weapons found in SUV trying to enter Tampa AFB reports on two individuals (a man and a woman) who were apprehended after trying to enter MacDill Air Force Base without proper identification late Monday afternoon with 13 loaded rifle magazines, two pistol magazines, military clothing and other "military-style equipment" hidden in their SUV. (Video on this from

Yesterday's incident is yet another example of the need for intense security at domestic military bases and why, fortunately, common sense ruled in the Navy's decision to reverse course on its initial ill-hatched plan to provide civilian renters (and their visitors) unimpeded access to Laurelwood housing and through the heart of Naval Weapons Station Earle through 2040. Anything that would put U.S. service members or regional and perhaps national security at risk makes no sense whatsoever.

Civilian housing, no matter how you slice it, has no place on an active military base, PERIOD - particularly one that has 300 bunkers full of ammunition and has a vital role in storing, moving and providing ammunition to the U.S. Navy fleet. NOPE will remain on alert through the conclusion of the Navy's buyout of the Laurelwood housing contract and demolition of the homes. Supporters, please stay tuned.

Friday, June 4, 2010

NOPE requests more documents from the Navy

Once again leveraging the Freedom of Information Act, NOPE yesterday requested documentation from NAVFAC, pertaining to a) any new supplemental lease agreements between the Department of Navy and Laurelwood Homes, LLC, since January 2008, plus b) any communications to determine whether the Navy has contacted or hired any third-party players, either to fund a buyout or teardown of Laurelwood.  We are fairly certain that "request a" can be fulfilled, but are taking a longshot on "request b".

The FOIA was extremely vital to NOPE in uncovering the original 1988 lease between the DoN and builder Dick Fischer Developments #3 (the operater today, and as of 1996, is Laurelwood Homes, LLC, run by Teri Fischer of Seattle, WA) and 64 subsequent supplements through January 2008.  Recall that Supplemental Lease Agreement 43 proved the real rationale for the Navy's vigorous pursuit of civilian housing at NWS Earle and proved NOPE's view that the Laurelwood EIS was a cursory, half-truthed document.

(We knew from the get-go that proposed civilian housing and unimpeded access to a Naval weapons depot was a bad idea, and the DoN withdrew its official decision, i.e. Record of Decision, in April; we now await a contract buyout, because the Navy, within a year of 9/11, signed away its right to revoke the contract when duped into allowing Laurelwood to refinance its mortgage.)

This time around, we hope to piece together whether Laurelwood is still receiving rental money from the DoN (recall that Supplemental Lease Agreement 43, as we reported in May 2009, also might have obligated the Navy to pay upwards of $20 million in additional rents to Laurelwood through 2017, based on certain housing occupancy provisions...though Laurelwood's attorney refutes this).  Still following the paper trail, NOPE would like to verify what has gone on more recently with the lease.

Regarding the documents pertaining to the Navy's involvement of a third party (and THIS is why it is vital for the NJ State Assembly's Military and Veterans Affairs Committee to pass A2014 once and for all and move it to Gov. Christie's desk for approval), NOPE is concerned that the Navy could look to fund the buyout of Laurelwood Homes, LLC, with an outside party's money and then perhaps re-use the houses in some other fashion.  It is sad that, as a community, NOPE is so distrustful of DoN leadership in Washington, DC, but remember that the Department's attorneys have misled us for years about the true motives for the Laurelwood housing complex (i.e., to get out of a bad housing deal and put the estimated $500 million mandate on New Jersey taxpayers), so we must be sure that the property is bought out and the homes leveled, so as to prevent any kind of security, financial or environmental hardships down the road.

We will shed light on any details of each FOIA request in the weeks ahead.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Follow-up to APP letter to the editor

The Asbury Park Press headline to my "letter to the editor" response to the newspaper's May 5 editorial "Navy waves the white flag" is a bit misleading (i.e. "NOPE" got plenty of credit from our elected officials at the April press conference to announce the Navy's impending buyout of Laurelwood), but I am appreciative that the Press ran the letter.

Please read each piece side-by-side. The moral of my letter (for anyone who misunderstood the context) is that the APP editors missed the boat on how literally thousands of members of the public (i.e., citizens who came out to rallies and briefings, signed petitions, called their elected officials, went out on 10-degree winter mornings to distribute leaflets and lawn signs, etc.), through a nonpartisan NOPE grassroots vehicle comprised of citizens and politicians alike, were vital in the outcome over Laurelwood housing.

Nothing more.

NOPE cannot thank the MEMBERS OF THE COMMUNITY enough for coming together in a crisis, and you deserve your due. The Asbury Park editorial missed this point.

Yes, Rep. Smith, the District 12 leadership and Colts Neck Township politicians' efforts were beyond vital (Mr. Smith's on Capitol Hill, in particular) as the editorial noted, but the APP failed to balance that by noting the efforts on the "other side of the aisle" from Congressmen Menendez and Lautenberg, Rep. Holt, and the Tinton Falls nonpartisan government who also were significant contributors to NOPE's sole mission to bring everyone to the table for a responsible solution to proposed civilian housing at NWS Earle.

The overriding theme is that the conceptual "NOPE"--a combination of the organization's leaders, the entire citizenry of the surrounding area and elected officials--came together and worked as one.

"Community" in the truest form.

Bill Holobowski, Chairman

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Judge dismisses CN suit vs. Navy, Laurelwood

The Department of Navy's promise to buy out Laurelwood Homes, LLC and reverse its own plans for unimpeded access and civilian housing at NWS Earle reportedly prompted dismissal of Colts Neck Township's lawsuit over the plan, according to the Asbury Park Press. Otherwise, we await the termination notice from the Navy and will keep NOPE supporters posted on any new developments.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Intelligence expert: No way to eliminate crime at military bases

In the wake of the fatal shooting of Vietnam veteran Ronald Bullock last Wednesday by an off-duty FBI agent at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, Tampa Bay Online ran an interesting story about military base security that resonates with NOPE's concerns about unimpeded civilian access and housing at NWS Earle.

From the start, NOPE cautioned that the Department of Navy's ill-fated intentions to open 300 unused "Laurelwood" homes to civilians, whether run-of-the-mill civilians or esteemed military veterans with military IDs (as one local advocacy continues to push), was an extremely flawed and dangerious idea for a number of reasons; namely, the distraction to Earle's core mission to provide ammunition to the U.S. fleet, and the obvious overhanging security threat of allowing anyone inside a military base property line without background checks or passing through the main security gate.

The most telling observation about the Bullock tragedy comes from intelligence expert Fred Burton of Stratfor, whose commentary to Tampa Bay Online underscores NOPE's core concern that operating a 300-unit civilian Laurelwood would have been the equivalent of Earle running a small city, and that, as Mr. Burton observed, "there is no way to eliminate crime at military bases any more than you can in a small city."

In short, the Bullock tragedy highlights precisely why even veterans with military IDs (a component of the mysterious "Acccettola Plan" referenced in a recent Asbury Park Press letter to the editor) are not suited to live on an active military ordnance depot such as NWS Earle. There are clearly better venues for housing civilians, veterans or whomever than a place where explosives are handled 24/7.

Most citizens and elected officials (and, implicitly, the Department of Navy itself, in withdrawing the civilian housing plan and agreeing to a Laurelwood buyout) recognize this, but in light of recent off-kilter commentary from veterans housing advocates, we reiterate our view that the NJ legislature needs to pass S762-A2014 for the protection of our State's interested, and the Department of Navy needs to move forward on an expeditious buyout and demolition of the Laurelwood EVERYONE's benefit, namely its own.

Friday, May 21, 2010

NOPE Analyst Fulton Wilcox's response to Manning letter to the Asbury Park Press

NOPE is extremely fortunate to have an individual of Fulton Wilcox's character and professionalism. For those unfamiliar with Fulton's work or who are new to our case, Fulton spearheaded NOPE's business case for why the Navy's proposal for Laurelwood civilian housing and unimpeded civilian access through NWS Earle to the homes made zero fiscal (and mission-critical) sense.

Not only that, but Fulton had dutifully served in our armed forces and has a wealth of experience in military intelligence matters, and at times was confronted disrespectfully (namely, during our trips to testify in Trenton, by veterans housing advocates who we might add were reprimanded by Senate committee members for inappropriate conduct during testimony).  Our community is lucky to have such an upstanding citizen and is blessed by Fulton's leadership. He is a significant catalyst for why NOPE works.

Here is Fulton's perspective on why a recent "letter to the editor" from a Mr. James Manning was again out of line, and we hope his thoughts will appear on the Press' commentaries page in the days ahead.


"As a lifetime member of VFW as well as a business case “number-cruncher” supporting NOPE (Neighbors Opposed to the Privatization of Earle housing), I want to correct a misapprehension regarding the merits of renting Laurelwood housing located within Naval Weapons Station Earle to civilians and, more specifically veterans and homeless veterans.

Mr. James Manning in his recently published letter was mistaken in writing that “politicians did not know what is stake,” because the Navy very rigorously defined what was at stake note only for “Politicians,” but for citizens in NOPE. The Navy’s framing of the options did not invite nor permit any broad-based examination of a social or political nature. One reason NOPE itself was bipartisan (as was Congressional opposition to the Navy’s preference) was because the choices that the Navy defined simply defy conventional political categorization.

There is a misapprehension that because Laurelwood housing is “surplus” to Navy needs that, like other military surplus, it therefore must be “free” or at least “affordable” for use by veterans or in some other charitable context. Not only is Laurelwood housing not free, but because of its location within a working munitions handling facility it is burdened with extraordinary costs and risks compared to similar housing located outside such a military reservation. The Navy, out of worthy motives in the 1980s, inadvertently created a “money pit” from which it is presently trying to extricate itself, and it is hard to see the advantage of veterans groups jumping in.

The Navy described three options with respect to its “money pit,”, which perhaps can be thought of as Plan A, B and C. The Navy did not entertain the “Accettola Plan” as a Plan D., so what was at stake were the consequences of the Navy’s choice among these three options. Plan D could not win the Navy’s approval because the Navy defined what was in play.

To review briefly the Navy’s Plans A, B, and C.

Under plan A, known in the Navy’s jargon as the “Inlease” arrangement, the Navy contracted for the 300 Laurelwood rental units on a “take or pay” basis. After early full occupancy, for more than a decade under the “or pay” commitment the Navy has paid rent on hundreds of empty housing units. For both the Navy and the taxpayer, continuing to pay rent under Plan A for empty rental units made no sense. By the Navy’s account, it had investigated and satisfied itself that there were qualified and interested tenants for this “surplus” housing, so there was no prospect of occupying the 300 units. Although the Navy was determined to end paying rent under Plan A, it could not simply stop paying, so it wanted instead to implement Plan B – the “outlease” as described in the Navy’s terminology.

Under plan B, the private owner of the housing units would rent the 300 housing units within the civilian residential housing market. The Navy would therefore no longer have to pay rent to the owner, because the civilian tenants would do so. However, civilian tenants, their guests, tradespeople and others cannot access the secured base, so as a necessary part of plan B, the Navy had agreed to provide “unimpeded access” via an insecure entrance and access road from State highway 34. To isolate the insecure tenants from the secure base, the Navy at its expense would fence-in the 1.4 mile-long new road and the housing to create a civilian enclave within the otherwise secured base. The Laurelwood complex as well as what would be an extraordinarily expensive driveway all would remain under Navy/federal jurisdiction.

The Navy also possessed but did not admit to plan C - buy-out, meaning that the Navy would buy the 300 housing units (it never had relinquished ownership of the land). The buyout was always an elective option, but under the Navy’s contract, if by April 30, 2010 it had not put in place “unfettered access,” the Navy and the property owner both became obligated to end the relationship through buy-out. After buy-out, the Navy no longer has to pay rent under the “Inlease” terms nor will it incur the security risks and many costs associated with the “Outlease” and the unimpeded access road into the base.

NOPE’s primary objections to plan B - outlease and its reasons for preferring buyout were 1) security and safety advantages, and 2) the avoidance of many lifecycle costs, environmental impacts and complexities which made Plan B so expensive. For example, to meet Department of Defense and Department of the Navy security requirements, the Navy had to pick the longest, least convenient and most expensive of its access road options, increasing costs for both itself and the property owner and ultimately to prospective tenants. Consequently, the start-up cost of Plan B were quite large, beginning with a $10 million investment in the access road, roughly half to be paid by the Navy and half paid by the property owner.

Nothing that the Navy incorporated into its contract or into its public hearings regarding its preference for plan B was friendly to charitable endeavors, and at the time of the debates as to which option the Navy should choose all parties were struggling with how to reduce costs as opposed to having anything surplus to offer for “free” or at a discount. It appears that the Navy switched from its stubborn insistence on plan B – outlease to adopting plan C – buyout only because the complexities and startup costs of Plan B caused it to run out of time. Meanwhile, chronic terrorist interest in U.S. military facilities made it clear that meeting unavoidable security requirements is not an option, while Plan B added avoidable security obligations and competed for resources with mission-focused security.

In his letter, Mr. Manning expressed “shock” that NOPE or “politicians” encouraged the Navy to turn away from the “Outlease” option, but as the brief summary above highlights, the “Outlease” option itself was not deserving of NOPE’s support. What we know about the financial implications of “Outlease” does not suggest that it is friendly to the Accetolla Plan. For example, if the property went onto the rental market at market rates, for those interested in veterans housing it becomes just another commercial 300 unit rental property, except that it is disadvantageously situated in a military weapons handling facility.

If one looks at this situation from, for example, a HUD (Housing and Urban Affairs) perspective, the question becomes did it make sense for HUD to invest “fresh money” into a housing complex sitting in the costly and risky environment of a Naval munitions handling facility. Unlike the Navy, HUD has no prior commitments or accountabilities, so it can invest where its money produces the greatest good for the greatest number. It certainly seems doubtful that HUD or some other agency would want to put $5 million of “fresh money” into building an access road to a 300 unit complex. The same amount of HUD money invested in rental facilities and tenants not burdened with military and security complexities and costs might provide more housing for more veterans. Further, if HUD funded tenants and perhaps some necessary property improvements, that help tenants and perhaps the property owner, but also requires the Navy to pay the many “below the waterline” costs that in our view made “Outleasing” a net loser to the Navy.

NOPE took a bipartisan (and non-partisan) view of the options that the Navy created, and I believe that our preference for buy-out was consistent with the best interests of the Navy and other stakeholders such as State and local government."

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Anyone who has been involved with NOPE can attest that our effort to prevent the Department of Navy from turning NWS Earle into a civilian free-for-all has been a lesson in patience (three years and counting). To be sure, dissecting the layers of local, state and federal bureaucracy remains a Herculean task and one that serves as a good lesson in civics and patience.

Those of use who continue to lead NOPE have fielded a host of questions, namely: "when is this whole Earle mess going to end?" Great question...but, remember, this is your government at "work."

Here are a three "short" answers, touching upon what NOPE would like to see:
  • Expeditious completion of the Laurelwood buyout: From what we gather between media reports and updates from Congressman Smith's office, Mrs. Fischer, owner of Laurelwood Homes, LLC, filed a complaint with the Navy's Contracting Officer in April, setting the wheels in motion for a 60-day review in which the DoN and Laurelwood will discuss buyout terms. It is our understanding that Laurelwood would pursue legal action if the talks stall or fail to yield a settlement.
    • (Remember, the buyout is solely the result of the DoN's incomprehensible decision in 2002 to give up its contractual right of cost-free contract termination when it allowed Mrs. Fischer to refinance her mortgage.  [Someone needs their head checked, having signed off on such a provision less than a year after 9/11].  And DoN officials lied to U.S. citizens and a Congressman about its motives for shirking our call for simply terminating the deal; officials told us they did not want to be "bad business partners" mention of a relinquishment of its "ace in the hole" - we had to OPRA documents to learn this.)
  • Demolition of the Laurelwood homes: The NOPE effort will not rest until the homes are leveled immediately after the contract buyout and the land is "restored to its original state," as spelled out in all privatized military housing agreements. Our biggest concern and overhanging mistrust of DoN leaders in the Pentagon is that some "new" decision maker or military commander will have ulterior motives that compromise local security, environmental and business-case interests, and that we could find ourselves engrossed in another Earle housing mess once again.
  • Passage of S762-A2014 by the NJ legislature and Governor Christie by the end of this legislative year (i.e. January 2011): It seems that the District 12 legislative team, amazingly, is implicitly declaring victory in the Laurelwood housing case by keeping mum that their legislation still sits idle in an Assembly committee that passed the measure this year (but seemingly had a change of heart this year). By that, we mean the committee, which simply needs to "post" the measure to the full Assembly for a vote (the same exact measure passed the Assembly unanimously last year) before the Governor can sign S762-A2014 into law, had two shots at posting the bill but punted. Sources tell us that there is a small caucus of newer Assembly members that now questions the measure, which is ridiculous, considering the bill is merely to do a cost-benefits and security impact study on the state level, which would complement the federal GAO study already underway. We would recommend you call Senator Beck, Assemblyman O'Scanlon and Assemblywoman Casagrande (732-933-1591) and ask why they are silent on the Assembly committee's failure. It is important that this legislation pass, to not only assess the impact to N.J. of the current unfunded mandate (i.e. Laurelwood housing), but also to set a precedent for future military decisions that could have an obvious adverse impact on our state's taxpayers.
As always, we welcome your feedback and questions, whether or not they our consistent with NOPE's mission. Feel free to post your thoughts here or via email at

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Getting Hammered?...Huh?

There's nothing new to share on the Navy's impending buyout of the Laurelwood housing contract, which as we understand it is still being negotiated.  However, for the sake of fairness, we point NOPE supporters to a "Letter to the Editor" of the Asbury Park Press by a Mr. James Manning, of the VFW Dept. of NJ, whose misconstrued view of NOPE has always been as some sort of anti-housing advocacy.

This is entirely wrong, and Mr. Manning's contention that "veterans got hammered" because the Navy was alert enough to recognize that giving civilians, retired veterans or anyone able to cut a rent check unimpeded access and housing rentals through 2040 would have posed an utter distraction and potential threat to NWS Earle's core mission, which is to deliver ammunition to the U.S. Military fleet....PERIOD!

The commander and his team, plus private base security personnel and civilian contractors at Naval Weapons Station Earle, have an extremely important, specialized job to execute, and whether Mr. Manning and his group floating this mythical "Accettola Plan" (which none of us has seen, even though we've asked many times) agree with that logic frankly does not matter and hinges on being disrespectful, considering the two years of chronic bashing of NOPE, local politicians or others that do not share his cockeyed proposal of Earle as some sort of Department of Navy civilian-housing landlord as opposed to defender of our country.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Assembly Committee Trenton

Relying on the legislature in Trenton to see through good legislation regarding the Laurelwood housing situation, at this point, is useless, because the Assembly's Military and Veterans Affairs Committee once again kicked the proverbial can down the road and yesterday failed to post, let alone pass, A2014 - the cost-benefits and security assessment measure put forth by Caroline Casagrande and Declan O'Scanlon. At the same time, there is not a peep from the District 12 team about their own measure or why it continues to fail to pass through the full legislature for passage by Governor Christie. This is inexcusable.

The whispers that we're hearing are that perhaps the bill is moot at this point, what with the Navy's decision to pursue a buyout of the Laurelwood contract, and that now one of the caucuses within the legislature is all of a sudden not so keen on the measure...presumably for the same ridiculous and unfounded logic of some local housing advocates that view a Naval weapons depot as an appropriate venue for civilians to live.

Either way, here we have our elected officials in Trenton, once again, failing to see through a measure that a) already passed through this same Assembly committee last year, b) passed through Senate committee in the last legislative session and c) passed through the full Senate by way of a 37-0 vote earlier this year. Yet, now there the Assembly committee sees fit to put A2014 on ice, even when it's clear that New Jerseyans will not incur any extraneous costs for the State Treasurer to go in and simply assess the situation.

Ah...Trenton once again proving to be a debacle, and continuously clueless about how the Pentagon continues to play New Jersey as an utter fool, with the Laurelwood civilian housing proposal and the nearly-criminal closure of Fort Monmouth as our most recent guide. Shame on the Assembly committee for failing to pass a no-nonsense measure that could serve as a viable precedent on which future NJ legislators can act the next time the Pentagon comes in and want to run roughshod over our fine state.

Monday, May 10, 2010

NOPE Supporters - Pick Up That Phone Today!!!

According to the N.J. Legislature website, the Assembly's Military and Veterans Affairs Committee is scheduled to meet this Thursday, May 13, at 10 a.m. in Trenton. NOW is the time for NOPE supporters to call Committee Chairman, Jack Conners (856-461-3997), and Vice-Chair, Cleopatra Tucker (973-926-4320) with a simple message: "please post A2014 in committee."

Supporters may recall us lambasting the Asbury Park Press editorial last week for heaping praise on the District 12 legislators for introducing their Laurelwood legislation in Trenton, but failed to state that S762-A2014 has not yet passed. Yes, the Assembly committee approved A2014's predecessor legislation in the previous Trenton session, and, yes, S762 passed the Senate this current session, but the current assembly committee needs to move A2014 forward before presumed passage by Governor Christie.

Of course NOPE applauds Senator Beck, Assemblyman O'Scanlon and Assemblywoman Casagrande for presenting the legislation and backs this measure, but continues to wonder why Trenton continues to drag its feet on passing A2014. Now, we need our supporters to remind Chairman Conners and Vice Chair Tucker of the importance of this measure, regardless of the Navy's impending buyout of the Laurelwood housing development at Naval Weapons Station Earle.

Even if S762-A2014 appears moot because of the Department of Navy's decision to buy out Laurelwood, NOPE suggests the legislation could prove vital in terms of protecting New Jersey's interests (i.e. establishing a precedent) in the event of future civilian housing proposals on our State's military bases. This needs to be reiterated by our supporters to the Assembly committee members that we call. Please make the call!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

NOPE, Supporters Deserve Their Due

The Asbury Park Press editorial "Navy Waves the White Flag," published May 5, egregiously ignores NOPE and its supporters.

The leaders of NOPE never got into the civilian housing fight against Naval Weapons Station Earle for self-aggrandizing or publicity, but the Press's editorial board did the thousands in Earle's host towns who came out to NOPE rallies or joined our mission a huge disservice by backpatting a select few legislators and entirely ignoring community pressure as the lynchpin of our unlikely victory versus the Department of Navy on the Laurelwood housing issue.

Candidly, had it not been for NOPE's involvement and tenacity since January 2008, bulldozers would be paving the proverbial road to nowhere, and civilians would likely be living inside NWS Earle by September at a half a billion-dollar cost to surrounding communities.  At the same time, the local towns would have been embroiled in lawsuits and finger-pointing over who did who wrong back when the houses were built in the 1980s, or where civilian Laurelwood residents would go to school for the next 30 years.

In short, the APP editorial is a huge slight to the community activists and grassroots leaders of NOPE who dedicated thousands of volunteer hours between work and family obligations to the battle, while at the same time heaping credit on Colts Neck's governing body, which cost its townspeople roughly $300k (for a suit whose text looked similar at times to free research and views published by NOPE), and the District 12 team's legislation in Trenton, where the measure still lingers in Assembly committee almost a full year after introduction and may never be signed into law.

Whoever wrote the editorial really took their eye off the ball, in that the community spoke loudly and clearly enough for the U.S. Navy to hear and, augmenting the efforts of those we've thanked ad nauseum (our U.S. senators and congressmen, state and local officials, area school district leaders, businesses, and the thousands of nameless supporters, etc.) in the wake of the DoN decision to buy out the Laurelwood contract, together we are on the cusp of victory.

Perhaps the biggest "monkey wrench" (to coin the Press's parlance), NOPE supporters deserve their due.

Bill Holobowski
NOPE Chairman

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

APP: Laurelwood owner seeking $42.5 million

Laurelwood Homes, LLC, can ask all it wants for the Navy to buy out the 30-year civilian-use phase of its housing contract at Weapons Station Earle, but the request for $42.5 million reported on by the Asbury Park Press is ludicrious. In short, the Department of Navy proved a decent business partner in signing away a vital contract provision regarding contract revocation in 2002, all for the sake of Laurelwood's owner, who practically begged to refinance the Laurelwood mortgage at a much lower interest rate.

Now, we have this private Washington-based contractor that owns the 1980s-era Laurelwood Homes attempting to fleece the U.S. taxpayer for a buyout of homes worth far less than Laurelwood's demand, and at the same time that the owner knows full well the Navy could have continued with its charade to open the homes to civilians and potentially sent Laurelwood to insolvency (remember, the owner would have had to construct a nearly 2-mile road, upgrade infrastructure, renovate the 300 homes and procure insurance...on an active Naval weapons storage facility), the owner comes forth with this nonsense.

Clearly, Laurelwood Homes, LLC is going to try to get the most out of its sinking ship as possible, but the dollar value appears insultingly high, and let us not forget that this contractor has already made $75 million on this housing deal (closer to $4 million annually in recent years, contrary to the constantly reported number of "a little less than $3.5 million.")  On the other hand, and assuming something prompted the letter and subsequent APP report, we can only imagine that the Navy's initial offer was insultingly low.

Come on, guys, get to the negotiating table and hammer out a fair deal already. Our community has been through more than enough with this Laurelwood headache. Arrive at a number, demolish the homes, and let's all move on with our lives already.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Revisiting one of NOPE's early themes against a proposed civilian town inside NWS Earle

By no means do we bring up this telling 2009 report from North County Times on crimes inside Camp Pendleton (Oceanside, CA) to disparage our military or to suggest this is comparable in any way to how military bases such as NWS Earle, etc. inside New Jersey operate from day to day.

To the contrary, we merely present it as an anecdote to one of NOPE's original objections to the Department of Navy's EIS-stated plan to provide unimpeded civilian access and housing to the Laurelwood complex at NWS Earle and how, functionally, opening the development to 300 new civilian families would have been the equivalent of running a small town inside an extremely secure Naval Weapons Station.

One of the notions lost on people who misguidedly charged NOPE as some kind of anti-affordable housing or anti-veterans contingent was that 24-hour policing of a civilian town inside a weapons facility, even to the layperson with no experience in military matters or law enforcement could easily see, would have been no easy task on Earle's commander and could clearly have compromised base force protection.

This is merely one reason why NOPE applauds the DoN's decision to buy out the Laurelwood contract, an outcome we eagerly anticipate and will keep supporters posted on in the days ahead.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Update on Status of Navy-Laurelwood buyout negotiations

As NOPE supporters know, April 30, 2010, was the contractual completion date of the military-use phase of the 52-year Laurelwood housing agreement, with May 1, 2010, marking the transition to the Department of Navy's original plan to provide unimpeded civilian access to housing through 2040. However, the Navy's announcement earlier this month of a buyout of the lease totally suspended the transition to the so-called "outlease" portion of the contract and civilian housing at NWS Earle.

In reaching out to Congressman Smith's office this morning for an update on the status of negotiations between the Navy and Laurelwood Homes, LLC, we learned that, likely a procedural move, owner Teri Fischer filed a complain last week with the Navy's Contracting Officer. In short, we are told that this gives the parties 60 days to figure out parameters of the buyout...and in no way marks a reversal from the expected outcome. We speculate failure to reach a deal in that time could spark a lawsuit by Mrs. Fischer against the Department of Navy, but that is merely speculation on our part.

Rest assured, NOPE will continue to provide updates on this case and, as always, reminds supporters - negotiators for the Navy and Laurelwood as well - of our business case analysis that the homes are likely worth $17-$20 million when factoring a host of financial considerations. The sooner the better for a buyout, in our opinion, and ultimately the leveling of the Laurelwood development and restoration of the property to its initial state. In the meantime, we wish everyone a good weekend!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Request of ALL NOPE supporters to make a few more calls

After the NOPE leadership team met Tuesday night to discuss regular business, legislative liaison Elaine Mann recommends supporters make phone calls ASAP to ensure that legislation on the Earle housing issue (and on the verge of reaching Governor Christie's desk) gets thru the Assembly and protects the state in the event that contract buyout talks between the Department of Navy and Laurelwood Homes LLC collapse.

As you may recall, owing to widespread community support, NOPE has been instrumental in getting our legislators in Trenton to recognize the significance of the Department of Navy's Laurelwood civilian housing proposal at NWS Earle and the inherent security, economic and environmental detriments to NJ. Assembly measure A2014 is sitting idle in Trenton as we speak, months after the full Senate unanimously approved the companion senate version, S762, and needs to be signed by the Governor to have lasting impact.

The Assembly Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, which approved A2014's predecessor legislation in the previous Trenton session, needs to move A2014 forward, and we ask that you call the following committee members with the simple message - "please post A2014 in committee":
  • Chair: Jack Conners, 856-461-3997 (voted "yes" last session)
  • Vice-Chair: Cleopatra G. Tucker, 973-926-4330 (abstained last session)
And after the bill comes out, NOPE supporters should contact:
  • Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, 973-395-1166 (voted yes in the full Assembly last session)
We understand that our supporters have made a lot of phone calls, some of which may appear redundant, but remind the supporters that NOPE cannot relent until, as NOPE legal counsel Jacque Hoagland quoted to the Asbury Park Press a few weeks ago, the wrecking ball knocks the last Laurelwood house down.

We thank you for continued support, and encourage you to call Mr. Conners and Ms. Tucker.

Monday, April 26, 2010

5 Business Days until Expiration of Laurelwood "In-Lease"

Of course, we're well aware that the Department of Navy has agreed in principal to buy out Laurelwood Homes, LLC, averting a significant security, financial and environmental threat to itself and Earle's neighbors, but we remain unclear whether this means an agreement has to be struck before the military-use phase, or "in-lease," of the 52-year Laurelwood contract officially expires at midnight this Saturday (May 1).

NOPE's emphasis this week will be tracking down, presumably through our elected federal officials in Washington, the state of negotations between the Navy and Laurelwood, and whether any failure to reach an accord before the end of this week signals trouble from a contractual and legal perspective. Stay tuned, but do not hesitate to reach out to your representatives with questions about this situation.

Friday, April 23, 2010

NOPE has MANY within our communities to thank...

Clearly thousands of people in our communities and dozens of organizations were receptive to NOPE's message and instrumental in our successful battle against proposed civilian housing at NWS Earle, whether through event hosting, participation in our briefings and rallies, or handing out petitions and organizing, just to name a few of the tasks in our arduous effort.

The lynchpin of our published campaign was Charles Basile and his family's Wall Street Group. Charles' company not only fulfilled every printing need, but he served as a key player on NOPE's leadership team, and if memory serves, his daughter Ashley designed the NOPE logo in early 2008. Special kudos to the Basiles for stepping up for their community and personifying selflessness and grassroots participation. 

From a facilities standpoint, NOPE wishes to thank Colts Neck library, Colts Neck high school superintendant Ross Kasun, former Tinton Falls business administrator Bryan Dempsey and technology coordinator John Legere, Seabrook Village's Angie Crippen and Gary Engelstad, and Ed Russo at Trump National for liaising NOPE's briefings and rallies at their facilities. Along the same lines, we cannot thank the elected leaders of the two towns for supporting our mission through resolutions, plus emergency responders (i.e. police, fire and first aid), for participation in our events. And Monmouth Regional School district was a huge asset in NOPE's presence at a Navy presentation in late-2008.

Tinton Falls superintendant John Russo, business administrator Tamar Sydney-Gens and BOE president Peter Karavites were tremendous in their support of our mission to convey the educational detriments within NOPE's objections to civilian housing, from taking part in our Navy meetings in Washington, D.C. to letting us send rally flyers home to Tinton Falls families through school "kiddie mail." The parent-teacher groups in Colts Neck and Tinton Falls also deserve a great deal of credit for their outpourings of support.

Dozens of local proprietors involved in business associations of Colts Neck and Tinton Falls let us to distribute NOPE literature and advertise our events, plus civic organizations like area Scouts and our own neighborhood friends helped us extend the message by spending hours - often in bad weather - handing out leaflets outside Dunkin Donuts and even the Tinton Falls borough landfill. And groups like the Colts Neck Sports Foundation, Old Towne Day, Tinton Falls Day, and women's clubs of both towns came up huge, especially since we worked on a shoestring budget emphasizing volunteerism!

Who can forget the NOPE t-shirts provided by Roberta and Matthew Berdel and Family Tee's, the nonprofit organization of Staten Island that employees people with special needs! Plus, all of the fair and balanced media coverage that we received from outlets such as Channels 8, 9, 12 and NJN, radio stations The Breeze and WOBM, and print-media such as the Asbury Park Press, Greater Media and Nassau Journals (i.e. Colts Neck Journal).

Recognizing there are dozens more that we could name, we apologize in advance for missing anyone in the aforementioned list, but rest assured that your value to NOPE's success was invaluable!

Everyone enjoy the weekend, and please stay tuned here for updates as we await word on the Laurelwood buyout and subsequent contractual teardown of the homes.