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.