Public urged to help plan new uses for old fort

This update on Ft. Monmouth was in Sunday’s papers. With the need for affordable and supportive housing for the homeless, the planning process becomes even more important.

Sunday, June 10, 2007
BY ALLISON STEELE, Star-Ledger Staff

When the gates close at Fort Monmouth in September 2011, the 1,100 acres that make up the base could become a state university, new neighborhoods full of housing developments or one big park. Those are just three ideas, but Monmouth County officials are hoping residents will start coming up with more.

Eatontown Mayor Gerry Tarantolo, Oceanport Mayor Lucille Chaump and Tinton Falls Mayor Peter Maclearie are urging people who live in the communities surrounding the base to attend a series of upcoming meetings seeking input on its future.

“We have a unique opportunity to participate in this process and shape this property,” Maclearie said yesterday at a news conference in Wampum Memorial Park in Eatontown. “The members of the public are stakeholders in this.”

The Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Planning Authority has until Dec. 8 to submit a proposal for the redevelopment of the site, which is scheduled to close in 2011. Between now and then, the organization is hoping community feedback can help them come up with a plan that will be met with as little opposition as possible, Tarantolo said.

“We have a major challenge in putting that plan together,” he said.

The first public meeting, scheduled for Tuesday night at 7 at the Pollak Theater at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, will be a public forum in which residents can say what they would like to see happen to the base.

“Think about what happens when you go from a dead-end street to a through street,” Tarantolo said, offering examples of how redevelopment of the site could affect its neighbors. “Residents should think about participating in these meetings, because this could have a major impact on their quality of life.”

In addition to housing and office buildings, Fort Monmouth has a golf course, a bowling alley, a former school, its own recycling center and a marina. Its closure is part of a recent nationwide consolidation of domestic military bases, and over the next four years the communications research work done at Fort Monmouth will be moved to the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. About one-third of the 5,500 civilians who work at Fort Monmouth are expected to move with their jobs.

Phil Welch, an adviser to the board of a Monmouth County housing initiative named New Creations in Christ Inc., attended the news conference and said he would like to see some affordable housing on the base.

“I think there’s probably a need for over 10,000 affordable housing units in Monmouth County over the next few years,” he said. “I know that it would probably have to be a mixture of market housing and affordable housing, but I guess we’re just looking for a reasonable share of that to be for working people who can’t find good housing around here.”

For more information on the meetings, go to http://nj.gov/fmerpa/

Allison Steele may be reached at asteele@starledger.com or (732) 404-8083.

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