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EATONTOWN, NJ-Plans to redevelop the 1,100-acre Fort Monmouth after its intelligence-gathering and related operations are moved to Aberdeen, MD in 2011–as mandated by the Pentagon’s Base Realignment and Closure Commission–took a major step forward this week when the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Planning Authority voted 6 to 2 to accept current plans for the site. FMERPA is a state agency formed in 2006 to figure out what to do with the soon-to-be-vacated base.

Formal plans were rolled out in March, and during a series of contentious public hearings, were revised. The latest version, just approved by FMERPA, was unveiled in July.

Carrying an estimated price tag of $1 billion, the redevelopment plans call for 1,500 new residences including 400 classified as “affordable,” two hotels, office space, a medical facility and other uses. With the installation sprawling across three towns, the plan’s approximately 1.5 million sf of total building space would be focused on three “town centers.” Approximately 450 acres would be set aside as open space.

And as members of FMERPA, the mayors of the three towns were split on the plan in this week’s vote. Local Mayor Gerald Tarantolo voted in favor of it, while Peter Maclearie and Michael Mahon of Oceanport both voted against it. Under the state law that created the authority, support from at least six of the eight FMERPA commissioners had been required for the plan to move forward. It now goes to Gov. Jon Corzine’s office for approval before being submitted to the US Department of Defense and other federal agencies for a final sign-off.

“Is it perfect? No, but it is a good plan,” says FMERPA commissioner and Monmouth County freeholder director Lillian Burry, in a statement. FMERPA members did not comment further on the vote. Burry cast the deciding vote, and this week’s action came as a Monday deadline–imposed by the Department of Defense–loomed. Had FMERPA not acted by that deadline, DOD itself would have taken over the redevelopment process.

Altogether, it’s expected to take about 20 years to fully carry out the redevelopment plan. FMERPA also estimates that it will take at least that long to replace the 5,000 jobs lost when Fort Monmouth closes. Once final state and federal sign-offs are in place, the next step will be to find developers for the plan’s various components, with FMERPA, headed by long-time development executive Frank Cosentino, as master redeveloper.

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