Oceanport mayor preaches patience with fort development

    By KENNY WALTER
    Staff Writer

    FORT MONMOUTH — Newly minted Oceanport Mayor Jay Coffey III said he wants the economy to dictate how Fort Monmouth is developed.

    Coffey, who took office last month and now sits on the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA), said the board must examine the market in deciding how each parcel on the 1,100-acre fort should be redeveloped.

    “The plan has to be a living, breathing plan,” Coffey said. “It has to adapt to the market. It is market-driven; I know FMERA is working hard to pursue that avenue.”

    Coffey said despite being in office less than a month, he is trying to get caught up on Fort Monmouth and has had extensive conversations with FMERA Executive Director Bruce Steadman about the direction of developing the Oceanport section of Fort Monmouth.

    “I am brand new to the game, I’m the new kid in town and I’m cognizant of the fact that FMERA has to be acutely aware of market factors,” Coffey said. “We can’t have a myopic approach to developing the fort; as opportunities present themselves, we need to react quickly and adapt to the conditions.

    “We are the last section to be developed, Oceanport is the last of the three sections that we will be concentrated on.”

    The development of Fort Monmouth must currently fit within the Fort Monmouth Reuse and Redevelopment Plan, which was printed in 2008. If a project is not included in the plan, the FMERA board may pass a plan amendment to allow a different usage to move forward.

    Coffey said while the plan was officially released in 2008, it’s likely that it was drafted in at least 2006.

    “It is essentially 10 years old at this point, and most plans like that are outdated by the time they get printed,” Coffey said.

    While most of the decisions regarding the Oceanport section have not been made yet, the county is currently utilizing building 901, which is located between Murphy and Main streets, as a temporary homeless shelter. While it is a legal requirement that a homeless shelter be placed in Oceanport, borough residents have long fought to have the shelter pushed farther away from residential neighborhoods and be built in the back end of the fort.

    “We’ve always had a homeless shelter in Oceanport,” Coffey said. “I’ve had discussions with the county and I’ve had discussions with FMERA, I think going forward we need to have the lines of communication open a little bit better.

    “We need to figure out what is in the best interest of all three entities and establish something that benefits all three entities over the long-term. Right now they are in building 901, and it is something that predates my tenure here and we have to work around that fact.”

    While the FMERA meetings are generally sparsely attended, Oceanport residents crowded an August meeting to voice concerns over the shelter and the impact it would have on property values, At least one resident said he is considering moving from the borough if the shelter is located near his neighborhood.

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