Army to review MOTBY BLRA signs 90-day agreement to review work

The Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority has negotiated a 90-day extension on the federal government’s requirement for infrastructure improvements at the former Military Ocean Terminal (MOTBY).

Under the original agreement that transferred the 430-acre base from the military to the BLRA, the BLRA must reinvest proceeds from any sale/lease/rental of land at the base back into the property for at least seven years.

In other words, when the city sells the property to developers, they can’t use the money for anything other than property improvements.

After seven years, the U.S. Army would review the situation to see if the city has done enough to justify allowing the city to access the revenue for other purposes.

Joseph Nichols, executive director of the BLRA, said some questions exist as to exactly when the Army was supposed to allow the city to access money.

While a frequently quoted date was July 20, 2008, he said others believe the date to be Sept. 20, 2008.

The 90-day extension would set a date for Oct. 19, allowing Army auditors to look over the actions of the BLRA over the last seven years.

Tried to use funds in budget

Last year, the Army told the BLRA to cease transferring funds generated from the sale of land on MOTBY as a means to balance the Bayonne municipal budget.

The BLRA has been in discussions with the Army since last year in an effort to convince the Army that the city has lived up to the provisions of its “2001 Memorandum of Agreement” with the Army.

BLRA Chairman Howard Fitch said the development of the MOTBY is poised to move on to the next stage.

“We have worked side by side as partners with the U.S. Army for many years on developing the MOTBY project, and we have accomplished a great deal,” Fitch said. “We are hopeful that we can build on these past accomplishments to reach a long-term solution acceptable to all involved.”

BLRA Commissioner and State Assemblyman Anthony Chiappone said he was encouraged by the progress that has been made with the Army, and is optimistic by the agreement to extend the deadline in order to discuss the matter further.

Since 2005, the BLRA has been transferring cash received from the deposit of land sales at MOTBY in an effort to get around a restriction imposed by the Army that all money gained from the base be either invested into the property or turned over to the federal government.

The BLRA hopes to make its case by Oct. 19 so that it can begin transferring $90 million that it got from the sale of the Maritime District. The district was sold to PortsAmerica for the development of a car import/export operation.

BLRA goes out to bid for new road

As part of its obligation to provide truck access routes to the car operations, the BLRA took another step toward the construction of a new truck route out of the MOTBY, authorizing the executive director to seek bids for the construction of the new Northern Access Roadway.

This road would connect the Maritime District to Pulaski Street, the current truck access to Global Terminals just north of MOTBY.

While the BLRA will have to see how high the bids are, Nichols said engineering estimates say the project should not exceed $6 million.

A second resolution approved borrowing $20 million to cover the cost of the construction of the North Access Roadway, sewerage and other infrastructure improvements to the Bayonne Bay development district on the MOTBY.

The bonding from the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust Fund would be at about a 1.1 percent annual interest rate over 20 years.

Leonard Kantor, a resident of Bayonne, raised concerns about the debt, saying that the BLRA would owe $70 million after this bonding.

Nichols, however, said the current agreements would cover the total debt of the BLRA.

New proposals sought

Held over from its June meeting, the BLRA voted to put out requests for proposals on the three remaining MOTBY development districts: the Loft, Landing and Bayonne Point.

The BLRA is hoping to receive proposals by October that would generate additional funds for the cash-strapped city and would reinvigorate development hopes for the MOTBY, which seem to have come to a halt partly due to the downturn in the real estate market.

Nichols said the BLRA is hoping to generate interest from around the world.

City Councilman Anthony Chiappone, who also serves as a member of the BLRA, said he is very excited about the possibility of renewed interest.

He also noted that changes to the requests emphasized job creation.

The requests would allow developers to propose nearly any idea, provided the idea provides jobs and revenue to the city.

email to Al Sullivan


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