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.