Eight Historic Buildings At Fort Hancock Have Suitors

February 15, 2017
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Building 27 in the Fort Hancock section of Sandy Hook is being eyed by the Alliance for Affordable Housing, which has applied to lease the building for housing. Photo by Nikole J. Ghirardi

By Liz Sheehan |

MIDDLETOWN – After issuing the first lease on a building in historic Fort Hancock on Sandy Hook in Gateway National Recreation Area last year, the committee formed in 2012 to plan for the fort’s future now has letters of intent to lease eight other buildings at the fort.

At its meeting Friday at the Thompson Park Visitor Center, Lincroft, members of the Fort Hancock 21st Century Advisory Committee received a report from National Park Service (NPS) officials detailing the issuing of letters of intent for the buildings, the process by which potential lessees and the park service enter into discussions on lease terms.

The leases for five of the buildings, which were previously used by the U.S. Army as a gas station, bakery, mule barn, and sergeants’ and officers’ quarters, are now being discussed by the NPS with Joseph Kachinsky Jr. and Rudolph Wobito, according to the park service.

Kachinsky is a construction official in Middletown who conducts building assessments on Sandy Hook, but will not inspect the buildings he is involved in leasing. Instead, an inspector for Atlantic Highlands or another nearby town will do those inspections.

Neither Kachinsky nor Wobito could be reached for comment about the buildings.

The project manager and architect for the nonprofit Affordable Housing Alliance advocacy group, serving Monmouth County, have met with the park service concerning the building that was formerly bachelor officers’ quarters to discuss the NPS approval process and historic preservation and interim preservation plan, the park service said. Meyer Pincelli, director of capital projects at the Affordable Housing Alliance, said they would use the house to create several one-bedroom affordable housing units.

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Representatives for The Monmouth County Vocational School District, which operates the Marine Academy of Science and Technology (MAST) high school, have also met with the park officials. They are interested in a former mess hall and barracks, according to the park service.

The leases for the buildings run for 60 years and the park service would charge a fair market monthly rate, which would be offset by the funds which the lessee invests in renovating the building. A fee would also be charged by the park service for road maintenance, garbage collection, landscaping and other services. The first five lessees will not be charged the fee, according to the NPS. Lessees would pay taxes to Middletown.

At the public portion of the meeting, Dan Ferrise of Monmouth Beach said he had looked at some of the properties offered for a lease. The main issue concerning the leases, he said, are the taxes, which the lessee would have no control over. He asked what services a lessee would receive from Middletown for taxes paid.

Committee member Anthony Mercantante, the Middletown township administrator, said the lessees would be able to use the township’s schools, police emergency services, library, recreational and other services. He said the assessments of the buildings at the fort were a third or less than comparable properties in the rest of the township because they would not include the value of the land.

Mercantante said there would be other considerations in the assessments such as the traffic problems at the fort when the roads were congested during the summer season.

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He also said state law mandated taxes be placed on the properties.

A table provided by the NPS listing the assessed value of the properties and the fair market rent for them showed the assessed value for the officers’ quarters included in the letters of intent of Kachinsky and Wobito was $15,400 with a monthly rent of $1,100. But the assessed value for the noncommissioned officers duplex that was leased last year and has been renovated is $238,400 with a rent of $2,100.

In 1999, the park service issued a 60-year lease to Jim Wassel, a developer from Rumson, to renovate and commercially develop more than 36 buildings at the fort. A local group called Save Sandy Hook was formed to oppose the plan. The NPS cancelled the Wassel lease in 2009, after the developer was not able to show he had the financial ability to rehabilitate the buildings.

The advisory committee was formed in 2012 to plan how to restore the buildings at the fort. Twenty-three members, including local officials, were appointed to the committee.

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