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