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Eatontown Mayor Says FMERA Should Demolish Howard Commons

EATONTOWN: The news that Hovnanian has pulled out of its deal to develop the Howard Commons property is a big blow to Eatontown officials who were hoping to see the project begin in the next few months.

Eatontown Mayor Gerald Tarantolo said his main concern is the “blight” that currently exists on the property as the buildings are old and unoccupied and the vegetation in the area is overgrown.

“I’m very concerned that the blight is increasing and getting worse as time goes by,” Tarantolo said at the Aug. 13 Eatontown Council meeting. “We were banking on Hovnanian to move on the site plan and to demolish the 486 units of military housing that exists currently. We wanted those units all turned down and to get this project moving. Obviously with them pulling out, it’s going to delay anything happening with the buildings.”

Tarantolo said children that live in nearby apartment buildings have to walk by the property when they go to school and that parents have become apprehensive.

He said he feels that the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority should now take steps to remedy the blight.

“I have petitioned informally and verbally to FMERA that I think it’s FMERA’s responsibility to do something about it,” he said. “They have to come up with some funds and maybe undertake the demolition themselves. I don’t know if that’s going to be successful or not but that’s what I’m proposing.”

He said FMERA should do the demolition before another developer is chosen for the property as that process will take some time.

“Obviously there’s going to be a delay and we have to go out with another RFOTP (request for offers to purchase) for that site, they are in the process of preparing it and we discussed some of the details of what the new RFOTP should contain so through the(Fort Monmouth) Ad Hoc committee we’ve got some of our input to them,” Tarantolo said.

The ad hoc committee stressed having owner-occupied units as opposed to the last language that called for a “strong preference” for owner-occupied units.

Council President Dennis Connelly said he was frustrated with the fact that Hovnanian was able to pull out of the deal at such a late hour.

“I’m extremely frustrated that the process, after a year of waiting just gets the plug pulled on it and we just start over,” Connelly said. 

Tarantolo said Hovnanian left the project because the water table in the area adversely affected their project. 

“Hovnanian pulled out because they claim that the units that they wanted to build all had basements and that the water table in that area would not permit basements,” Tarantolo said. “And so the sale for each of the units would be impacted and they couldn’t get as much as they anticipated.”

Council members said they hoped FMERA would take the borough’s suggestions for the number of units that will eventually be placed on the property and that early demolition would be stressed in the new RFOTP. 

Tarantolo agreed and said that although he is not on the FMERA Real Estate Committee, which crafts the RFOTPs, that the board will consider the Eatontown Council’s wishes. 

“Let’s stay the course, we will do the best we can to get the units demolished because of the blight, that’s number one on my priority list,” Tarantolo said. 

To read Word on the Shore's original article about Howard Commons, click here.


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