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.

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