ROCKAWAY TWP., NJ-A portion of the Picatinny Arsenal, a weapons R&D center occupying 6,500 acres here and in neighboring Jefferson Twp., could be redeveloped as a high-tech business park under a proposal currently being studied by officials of the facility, along with the Morris County Chamber of Commerce and the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology. A first phase study, which the two groups paid $230,000 to have done, projects an initial 300,000-sf facility, expandable to 1.2 million sf, on 500 acres.

The proposed development has been given the working name Picatinny Park, and would add to the 2.7 million sf of building space the U.S. Army already owns on-site. The arsenal itself has been targeted for closure in past military cutbacks, but has managed to survive. Despite some personnel reductions in recent years, the facility still employs more than 4,000 civilians and 150 U.S. Army personnel.

According to the phase one report, “Picatinny Park is a feasible and…commercially attractive concept.” The report also lays out a timeline of first-phase occupancy by 2005 and build-out by 2025. Under the proposal, the park itself would lease the land from the Army, which would help the latter cut the cost of running its own on-site operations. According to county officials, businesses locating in the park wouldn’t pay property taxes because the land is federally owned, but that some payment in lieu of taxes would likely be required.

The study also turned up several issues that would have to be addressed before the project could proceed, according to officials. Chief among those issues are environmental questions, beginning with the remediation of existing ground contamination, including an underground “plume” that has been drifting toward nearby wells. Also, portions of the sprawling site are environmentally sensitive wetlands that would have to be protected.

The next step for the proposal is a second phase study, which would focus on developing a conceptual design. After that study is completed, perhaps as soon as late summer, according to officials, the next step would be to pitch the proposal to U.S. Army officials in Washington.

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