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Changes to Fort Plan Raises Ire of Housing Advocates

Former Patterson hospital in Oceanport could get new life while planned housing would be moved.

Changes to Fort Plan Raises Ire of Housing Advocates

Oceanport may become home to a new health care facility and "wellness campus," if a former Army hospital is converted.

But the change will not come without an alteration to the plan that residents and stakeholders have come to know.

The board of the took an official step on Wednesday toward changing its reuse plan to accommodate the reuse of an Army medical clinic once slated for the dumpster.

The board wants to amend the 2008 Fort Monmouth Reuse and Redevelopment Plan in order to reuse the 118,000 square foot space instead of planned residential development on the 16-acre parcel.

If a resolution to amend the plan is approved by the board, the housing will be relocated to other parcels within the Oceanport confines of the fort.

Change not set in stone yet.

Before that can happen the amendment will go into a 45-day public comment period during which it will head back to the three boroughs - , Tinton Falls and Eatontown - to be reviewed by planning boards and councils. 

Oceanport Mayor Michael Mahon, a member of the FMERA board, told the public that the amendment will come before his planning board on Sept. 19 at 7:30 p.m. and will be on his council's agenda on Oct. 5. The public will have an opportunity to comment at both meetings.

Reuse of clinic could add to current plans

The Patterson Army Health Clinic property was originally slated for 85 housing units - 48 mixed income apartments, 22 townhouses and 15 small detached houses. If the change is approved, those units will be relocated to three different Oceanport locations along the Main Street side of the fort (the clinic is also located in this area).

The townhouses and apartments would go to the "wellness campus" as already designated by the reuse plan, which would include a 60,000 square foot veterans and community health care clinic and a professional medical office building. The detached small lot homes would be relocated to the townhouse area north of Anson Avenue and south of Oceanport Creek, according to the amendment.  

According to the reuse plan, Oceanport will get 720 residential units along with businesses in hi-tech, education, retail and service industries.

FMERA is in the process of negotiating a lease for the clinic and has plans to sell it to AcuteCare, which promises to invest $15 million in the building and create 200 new jobs in a plan to serve elderly, veteran and other patients at the facility.

Housing advocates wary of FMERA's moves

During the public comment period of Wednesday's FMERA meeting three members of the Monmouth Advocacy Team (Monmouth A-Team), a housing advocacy group, spoke out about their concerns that this is the second amendment to the plan to reallocate housing, the first being in Tinton Falls.

Linda Zucaro, resident of Tinton Falls and member of the Monmouth A-Team, questioned the meaning of the word "apartments" in the plan, wondering if these would be rentals or owner occupied. Executive Director Steadmand said that would be determined by the real estate market and that developers would have "leeway" on how they respond to request for proposals in such instances.

The 45-day public comment period ends on Oct. 12. Steadman said his board would then consider all the public comments given and take a vote on the matter at either the October or November FMERA meeting.  Click here for meeting dates and locations.

Amendments to the resuse and redevelopment plan require a super majority vote of seven of nine board members.

Questions about future of reuse plan

FMERA officials regularly make the point that the 2008 reuse and redevelopment plan was drawn up under very different market conditions and that some uses which were planned may not be viable in the current depressed market.

This is the logic the board uses in justifying the possibility of future changes to the plan.

John Yaecker, executive director of Western Monmouth Habitat for Humanity told the board that he was deeply concerned to see another housing plan be moved.

"To watch it [the reuse plan] be hacked at bit by bit makes me nervous," Yaecker said, "that we won't have a comprehensive plan in the end." 

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