Even as some residents remain angry, county and local officials are holding up a recent negotiation over a former Fort Monmouth property as an example of collaboration verses parochialism.
On Wednesday the board of the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority approved a resolution to lease the former Fort Monmouth motor pool as the new home of the county's department of public works.
About a dozen Eatontown residents came to voice their anger over what they see as a quality of life issue in their backyards.
Despite the opposition, a resolution to award a lease of the property to the county was approved by all members of the board, except Eatontown Mayor Gerald Tarantolo, who abstained pending environmental concerns raised by residents at the meeting.
College Avenue resident Rosalie Steed, who has lived in her home for 35 years, told the board that she was angry and disappointed about the lease. "The trucks, diesel fumes, pumps, the tower, are all too close to our homes," she told the FMERA board. " You're downgrading our properties for future sale. Maybe many of you don't live here but we do."
The matter was first introduced at the board's August meeting. After Eatontown's mayor and a council member spoke out against the proposed lease, the county met with the town officials on three occasions to hammer out an arrangement that would better suit the borough, but still give the county access to the site, which the county DPW Director John Tobia told Patch would save the county $15 million in its work to serve this portion of the county.
The meetings between county and Eatontown officials resulted in the following changes to the plan:
- Bermed landscape buffers along the boundary with residential block and side yards;
- Deed restrict boundary lines to preclude any additional streets or pass-throughs;
- Remove and transform specific currently asphalted areas to green space (Tiros Avenue);
- Direct county vehicle traffic away from the Nicodemus Avenue neighborhood;
- Set aside additional green spaces;
- Not allow commercial truck washes or sharing of facilities with other entities (except other local municipalities);
- Move the 911 tower's proposed location to the northeast corner of the property away from residents;
- Normal business hours will be from 7 a.m. - 3:30 p.m., except in emergencies;
- A vacant lot on Rose Court will be deed restricted to open space.
A large portion of Wednesday's meeting was the public comment period regarding this lease, centered largely around environmental concerns raised by an intermediary between the Army and residents regarding environmental clean-up of Army installations.
In his comments to the board, Dlugosz alleged that years of contamination by the Army at M-2 landfill and Building 1122 CEA sites (adjacent to the motor pool site) have lead to the contamination of the underground plume that has traveled into residential neighborhoods. He alleged that this has lead to health problems to those neighbors and that the truck traffic that the DPW center poses would be a further undue burden for those neighbors.
Freeholder Lillian Burry asked FMERA board Chairman James V. Gorman to allow county DPW director Tobia, who was at the meeting prepared to speak, to address residents' concerns about the site, but he demurred saying that environmental concerns would be considered outside of the lease.
This angered Eatontown Council President Anthony Talerico, who was in the audience. In his comments to the board following the vote, Talarico acknowledged that county had been "very accommodating" to Eatontown's concerns, though he was not happy with the lease moving forward. He saved his sharpest criticism for the board, which he felt should have allowed for the county's presentation of revisions to the plan. He said the board had made "a grave mistake and hopefully not a precedent in denying something that was offered by a board member... The public is desperate for information. We'll sit here for 10 more minutes to get it."
After the meeting Gorman told Patch that there was "ample opportunity" for a county presentation to have been put on the evening's agenda and that he didn't move to allow Tobia to make a full presentation because the matter being discussed was environmental and not the logistics of the site.
"That's Mr. Talarico spinning," he said.
Following the meeting Tobia remained to talk with residents about the county's plans for the site and to explain a map of the site. Tobia told Patch that at all of its facilities the county endeavors to be a good neighbor and has never received resident complaints.