Eatontown Mayor Gerald Tarantolo and other borough officials are worried that the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority's (FMERA) call to developers to purchase the Howard Commons area may bring more permanent rental units to the region.
Howard Commons is an aged, dilapidated housing development off Pinebrook Road in Eatontown ready for demolition because it's homes don't meet current building safety codes. It consists of 486-townhouse style residential units in 52 buildings built in 1952 that may contain non-friable asbestos and lead-based paint.
FMERA issued a request for offers to purchase (RFOTP) in December for the property, which states that the Fort Monmouth Reuse and Redevelopment Plan calls for 275 apartments and up to 15,000 square feet of commercial use for Howard Commons.
Eatontown officials stated at Wednesday night's council meeting that they are concerned that the RFOTP allows for rental units to be built. This is not something they wish to see because about 50 percent of the borough's population lives in rental units.
"This is the first major project for Fort Monmouth outside the golf course lease and the county DPW so I think we should just discuss it," Councilman Anthony Talerico said. "We have some wording issues in the (RFOTP), it makes reference to apartments and the language is extremely inconsistent and I just wanted to clarify it."
Borough resident Bob English of Sand Spring Drive said he has read the RFOTP and said he considers apartments to be rentals and the language seems to encourage the building of rental units.
"The scoring system seems to offer very little reward to companies that would build owner-occupied housing," English said. "Highest price or best price gets 20 points, so in theory they could propose a plan for apartments, get 20 points and maybe not do as well as other parts of it."
Talerico said the RFOTP claims to reference consistency with 2008 Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Planning Authority (FMERPA), the authority that existed before FMERA, by stating that the area should be redeveloped to contain 275 apartments. However, Talerico said the FMERPA plans calls for 275 apartments or town-homes.
"It seems that the very first page of the (RFOTP) left out the owner-occupied part," Talerico said. "Later on it says 275 dwellings, apartments and townhouses so it's different on each page."
The RFOTP does state that Eatontown has, "expressed a preference that development of the residential component be fee ownership/condominium units as opposed to rental units."
Tarantolo said the borough's original plan for Howard Commons has opposed rental units and encouraged owner-occupied buildings
"I've gone on record at FMERA meetings that we adamantly oppose any type of rental properties in that area," Tarantolo said.
English agreed and said roughly 50 percent of Eatontown's tax base comes from commercial businesses, 42 percent comes from homeowners, and eight percent comes from rental properties.
"Even though roughly half of our dwellings are homeowners and half are rentals, homeowners are picking up a tremendous amount of the services," English said.
The RFOTP also states that 20 percent of the units must be developed as affordable housing.
The developer that ultimately purchases the property will be required to demolish the buildings currently on the site, "at its sole cost and expense," according to the RFOTP.
Tarantolo said this could cause developers to shy away from the project, because it means more work for them.
"The properties that are destined to be within Eatontown's geographic bounds... including Howard Commons must be demolished to meet the concept of the plan," Tarantolo said.
The RFOTP also states that the developer will also be required to dedicate Pinebrook Road as public right-of-way at no cost or expense to FMERA or Eatontown.
FMERA is expected to issue an additional RFOTP for the Officers Housing in the Historic District, which contains 120 housing units, in Oceanport soon.
“Moving these parcels into the marketplace demonstrates FMERA’s commitment to providing new housing opportunities for the region, which has been adversely effected by the closing of Fort Monmouth and most recently by Hurricane Sandy,” FMERA Executive Director Bruce Steadman said in a FMERA's latest newsletter.
Developers have until Jan. 28 to submit proposals for Howard Commons.