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WALL TWP., NJ-Monmouth County officials had been trying for more than a decade to buy the 645-acre Monmouth Executive Airport on Route 34 here from its private owners, the Brown family. Previous negotiations fell through, and now the property is apparently being sold to another suitor, the Woodbridge, NJ-based Onyx Equities.

County officials say they have been informed by attorneys for both the Brown family and Onyx Equities that an agreement has been reached for the transfer of title to the sprawling site. Terms, including the sale price, have not been released. The most recent assessments of the property put its value in the $40-million to 45-million range, and industry sources say it likely traded for a number above that range. Members of the Brown family could not be reached, and a spokesman for Onyx declined to comment.

County officials thought they had a deal to buy the property two years ago, having amassed $36 million in state and federal funds to help pay for it. But the family patriarch, the late Edward Brown, vetoed the deal over concerns of more flights, larger planes and longer operating hours with public ownership of the facility he created in 1938 on a former gravel pit.

County officials have expressed concerns over the site’s continued use as an airport, as well as environmental issues. “When the county began taking a hard look at acquiring the airport, the board of freeholders made a commitment to address the community’s concerns,” says freeholder director William C. Barham. “We worked with the township to ensure that the airport remains an airport and used as an executive airport. The board is extremely disappointed that the airport will not be a county asset.”

In terms of the environmental issues, which include a Superfund site and such other problems as buried fuel storage tanks, “it is my understanding that the seller will cure any and all pollution problems as a condition of the sale,” Barham says. “But as a public entity, the county does have a right to continue participating in discussions over the cleanup of the property. We want to make sure the environmental remediation is fully carried out in a proper fashion.”

At 645 acres and with some 7,500 sf of runway, Monmouth Executive Airport is said to be the country’s largest privately held airport. Pending the environmental cleanup, the site also has some ancillary development potential. The airport already houses two flight schools and a number of other businesses, some of them unrelated to aviation.

Onyx Equities is a three-year-old private real estate company related to the Woodbridge-based Schultz Org. In its three years to date, the firm has amassed nearly $650 million in assets, including a portfolio of more than 3.5 million sf of commercial real estate.

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