Implementation of redevelopment plan is the next step

FREEHOLD, NJ – Freeholder Director Lillian G. Burry has been appointed to the new Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA), the state panel that was created to advance economic development at the fort when it closes next year.

The panel replaces the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Planning Authority (FMERPA) and was created to implement FMERPA’s redevelopment plan for economic development and planning, with a focus bringing technology-based industries to the 1,125-acre base. Burry had been the freeholder representative of FMERPA since 2006 and vice chair of that panel since 2009.

“With as many as 15,000 jobs lost to the county’s economy, the mission of FMERA is both vital and challenging,” said Burry, whose appointment is for three years. “The prospect of developing 1,125 acres has breathed new life into Monmouth County’s economic development program, and we are working diligently to stimulate job growth with a special focus on the Fort Monmouth area.”

Fort Monmouth, which straddles Eatontown, Oceanport and Tinton Falls, was approved for closure by the federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) in 2005. Most of Fort Monmouth’s military operations will be moved to Aberdeen, Md., as well as some of its 5,000 civilian jobs. Most of the base employees are civilians. Under BRAC guidelines, the base must close no later than Sept. 15, 2011, at which point the Fort Monmouth property will be used for civilian purposes.

The redevelopment plan calls for the promotion and development of the area, encouraging and maintaining employment, conserving natural resources, and coordinating the effort with surrounding towns. Specifically, the plan calls for $1 billion in construction and renovation, including two hotels, a medical facility, office space, new homes, reuse of recreation facilities and preservation of open space.

Throughout the process, Burry has advocated for a continuation of veterans services at the fort, specifically with regard to the VA clinic. The Army had wanted to relocate the clinic south to McGuire Air Force Base, but through the efforts of Burry and FMERPA Executive Director Frank Cosentino a decision has now been made to keep the clinic in the immediate area.

“Our veterans can rest assured that they won’t have to travel an hour and a half to get the services they have been receiving at the fort,” Burry said. “The clinic will be moved out of the fort, but nearby, on a temporary basis until redevelopment occurs at the fort. We have a commitment from the Veterans Administration to relocate the clinic back to the fort after redevelopment and keep it there.”

Under the FMERA legislation, the panel has a multitude of tools to revitalize and redevelop the Fort Monmouth area. Among these are the ability to undertake redevelopment projects, adopt development and design guidelines and land use regulations in connection with the provision of utilities, streets, roads or other infrastructure required for the implementation of the revitalization plan.

The state Economic Development Authority will staff FMERA, which is also authorized to enter into an agreement with the EDA to act as the designated redeveloper.

The authority’s voting members will include the mayors of the three adjacent municipalities, a member of the Monmouth freeholders (Burry), a member chosen by Gov. Christie from a list of five candidates who are Monmouth County residents selected by the freeholders, two additional gubernatorial appointments, plus a member of the governor’s staff and the EDA chairman.

The authority also will have non-voting members, comprising the commissioners of the state departments of Transportation, Labor, Environmental Protection and Community Affairs. Five of the   nine-member board must be residents of Monmouth County.