Wednesday, April 7, 2010


According to the Asbury Park Press, the Navy has approached Laurelwood Homes, LLC about buying out the remainder of the 50-year "privatized" lease for 300 homes at NWS Earle that the Navy wanted to turn into a civilian housing complex. This is HUGE news for NOPE supporters and the efforts put forth by committee leadership for 2+ years.

NOPE will not rest on its laurels or declare a victory until the wrecking ball literally meets these homes, but this is a MAJOR development and shows that grassroots organization does work. Our voices in the community do matter.

Of course, NOPE will continue to track this development in the days ahead, but upon first glance, a big piece (missing from the APP report) that people cannot overlook is that the U.S. Department of Navy got itself into this mess in 2002 (less than a year after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001) by signing away its right to revoke the lease under certain conditions (i.e. a declared National Emergency) that Laurelwood could refinance its mortgage! How nice!

At the same time, the Navy misled the public in the Laurelwood Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and (a Navy attorney) later lied in a direct meeting in Washington, D.C., in the summer of 2008 to NOPE, a U.S. Congressman and other local officials, about why the Navy just couldn't simply exercise its contractual right of revocation to end the Laurelwood housing mess and the stress on NWS Earle and us.

Why the Navy would have signed away its right in the first place to revoke the Laurelwood lease and compromise national security is beyond NOPE's understanding, since there was no evident mission-critical, defense-oriented reason for allowing Mrs. Fischer (Laurelwood's owner) such leniency and to potentially cash out some equity from the properties.

At that time, documents show the owner's attorney groveling to the Navy about poor initial mortgage terms, and evidently the Navy's counterpart to the request to refinance bought this pleading, because the move not only gave Laurelwood the opportunity to profit more from its contract (remember, the Navy has paid Laurelwood about $70-$75 million since 1990 for these largely-unused homes), but caused the current huge mess requiring community action, lawsuits, buyout negotiations, etc.

In the end, no matter how the parties resolve this mess, today's APP story is excellent news for the NOPE movement. However, in the days and weeks ahead - and with Congressional investigators (the GAO) evidently in town briefing local officials this week - NOPE will follow up on this case and re-introduce some findings about our discoveries about the actual value of the property and why, contrary to today's published report, the "buyout" parameters are more transparent than face-to-face bargaining or the Navy making its "best" offer or what Laurelwood's attorney thinks his client should get for the homes in question.

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