20 Aug 2014
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Bargains at Fort Monmouth?

Local governments, schools and non-profits stand to benefit from a new formula.

Bargains at Fort Monmouth?

Everybody loves a discount, especially in a down real estate market. Locals are keeping a keen eye toward Fort Monmouth and it's wealth of possibilities, not just for business, but for education, government and the non-profit sector.

Local officials will have one more chance to influence a formula for acquiring fort properties for public use when they meet next week with the head of the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA).

At FMERA's annual meeting this week the board attempted to pass a resolution that would change the way properties are transferred to public entities -- like a former child development center that could go to the Tinton Falls school system -- which would ultimately affect how these properties are priced.

Tinton Falls Mayor Michael Skudera asked that the mayors and the freeholder on the board have another month to examine the resolution, since the amount of money at stake with the weighting formula could be great.

Executive Director Bruce Steadman offered host a working group with the mayors and the county about their concerns but it isn't clear yet if this meeting will result in further changes to the resolution. In the meantime the board withdrew the resolution.

Things to keep in mind:

  • The Army continues to own all of Fort Monmouth.
  • Towns, the county and non-profits put in Notices of Interest (NOI) about four years ago for specific properties that would make good public use.
  • The Army is requiring properties be sold for fair market value.
  • Redevelopers and local officials are pushing for discounts on individual properties because many require updating to meet local building codes and key infrastructures, like roads and utilities, need major upgrades.
  • Estimates for necessary redevelopment costs have been tagged at up to $100 million, which FMERA wants trimmed off property prices.
  • In the case of NOIs the Army agrees to take no money for their sales and FMERA would get the proceeds to reinvest in the property.

Recently the real estate committee, on which Oceanport Mayor Michael Mahon sits, tweaked the previous evaluation system for NOI's to make it better reflect the purposes of the public entities and non-profits making the applications.

The evaluation is based on a weighting system with seven categories:

  • surrounding area (neighborhood) continuity
  • job creating use
  • services to municipality
  • regional fiscal impact
  • use enhances ability to attract jobs to adjacent tracts
  • public good, public safety or public education
  • reduces FMERA infrastructure or demolition costs

Mahon told Patch that the real estate committee reduced the weight of the jobs category, since non-profits and public entities by nature don't create a lot of jobs, and moved those points to public good. This reflects a give-and-take between the authority, whose mission it has said is, "jobs, jobs, jobs," and local officials who are concerned about quality of life and municipal needs.

Mayor Skudera, who is not part of that committee, called the weighting "arbitrary" and called for "a more quantitative approach."

Discounts and method of payment decided case by case.

The resolution presented at the FMERA meeting calls for a discount of no more than 90 percent of the fair market value, so a property that is appraised at $1 million can be sold for as little as (but no less than) $10,000. The Army has agreed not to get paid on these properties. The proceeds of that sale will go to FMERA which will reinvest the money back into the footprint of the fort.

The buyer of a particular parcel can "pay" for the property in cash, in-kind services delivered over a 5-year term or through infrastructure improvements.

It was not discussed at the meeting, but it is possible to see how this might play out in NOI properties currently being considered. In the case of the possible county DPW station, it would be reasonable to assume that the county could provide in-kind services, like plowing and road maintenance to other fort properties.

According to FMERA, there are about 20 NOIs being considered. You can read more about the NOI process here.

NOIs and price of properties has been a hot topic surrounding the fort. There have been misconceptions about how much it would cost Brookdale to get Armstrong Hall, questions about whether Trinity Hall, a local private school start up, could snag a building, and controversy about how local governments can aquire prime space for their municipal needs.

The results of this resolution governing the weighting formula will first have an impact on the school Tinton Falls is requesting and the pool and teen center, which the county wants. Both are in Tinton Falls. The board will likely reintroduce and vote on the resolution at its Oct. 17 meeting, 7 p.m. at the Tinton Falls Municipal Center.

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