Says New Law is Next Phase in Transition to Civilian Use at Fort Monmouth
TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Raymond J. Lesniak which would set up the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority to oversee the transition to civilian use of the fort’s property was signed into law today by Governor Christie.
“This new law represents the next phase in the transition of Fort Monmouth from military base to economic powerhouse of eastern Monmouth County,” said Senator Lesniak, D-Union. “There’s no question that the fort has been an integral part of the Monmouth County economy for years, contributing not only cutting-edge technology to our country’s military efforts oversees, but also contributing millions of dollars to local businesses and employing thousands of military and civilian employees. This law sets the stage for the future of the communities hosting Fort Monmouth, to make sure we capitalize on this opportunity to expand Monmouth County’s economy.”
The new law, S-917, will establish the 13-member Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority to oversee and regulate the redevelopment of the Fort Monmouth property, which sits on land in Eatontown, Oceanport and Tinton Falls. The Authority will be responsible for implementing the provisions of the redevelopment plan which was submitted to the federal government in 2008, pursuant to the rules and regulations governing the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. Among the powers which will be invested in the authority are the ability to undertake redevelopment projects, enter into an agreement with the State Economic Development Authority (EDA), adopt development and design guidelines and land use regulations for the Fort Monmouth property, and acquire, including by condemnation, properties within the project area where necessary in connection with the provision of public utilities, streets, roads or other infrastructure.
The Authority would be responsible for designating three special districts within the Fort Monmouth Property: a special improvement district, in which a special assessment on property could be imposed to finance improvements that would promote the economic and general welfare of the area; a transportation planning district, in which development fees could be imposed to fund transportation projects within the district; and a infrastructure district, in which the authority would be permitted to reduce the sales and use tax collected by the State to 50 percent within the district, with the other 50 percent going to a franchise assessment to provide for loans, grants or debt service to finance or re-finance on-site or off-site infrastructure improvements, including parking, transportation facilities, environmental safeguards, or any other project which provides a public benefit within the infrastructure district.
“We wanted to give the Fort Monmouth Revitalization Authority all the tools we could to help them facilitate a seamless and economically beneficial transition from military to civilian use,” said Senator Lesniak. “There’s no question that the Fort has been a big part of the Monmouth County economy since it opened its doors in the early part of the 20th Century. While many Monmouth County residents will be sad to see it go, the base closure could be a boon to the Central Jersey economy, so long as the transition takes place in an economically responsible way.”
Fort Monmouth, which rests on 1125.44 acres, was approved for closure by the BRAC Commission in 2005, with a bulk of the base’s operations being relocated to Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. Under the BRAC guidelines, the base must close no later than September 15, 2011, at which point the Fort Monmouth property will be used entirely for civilian purposes.
Senator Lesniak noted that the development financing tools granted to the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority have been successful in other areas of the State, but have never been used in conjunction with each other. The special improvement district is modeled on the special improvement districts which may be currently designated by municipalities; the transportation planning district is modeled on the Hackensack Meadowlands Transportation Planning District; and the infrastructure improvement district is based on the “Large Site Landfill Reclamation and Improvement Law” which was used to finance the infrastructure improvements related to Jersey Gardens Mall in Elizabeth.
“We’re taking proven financing and refinancing strategies and putting them in place at Fort Monmouth because this site is too important to fail,” said Senator Lesniak. “Whatever the future use of the Fort Monmouth property, we have to recognize that the site has been, and must continue to be, a vital part of the local economy. Through the combination of public financing tools, we can hopefully implement a development plan which will create jobs, stabilize the economy, and encourage private investment in eastern Monmouth County.”
The bill was approved by the Senate by a vote of 39-0, and by the Assembly, by a vote of 76-1 with one abstention, in June.