Trinity Hall High School Seeks to Expand on Fort Monmouth

October 30, 2017
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Trinity Hall, an all-girls high school in the Catholic tradition, now in its second school year occupying the former Child Development Center on Fort Monmouth, is seeking an expansion. Photo courtesy FMERA

By Laura D.C. Kolnoski |

FORT MONMOUTH/ TINTON FALLS – Trinity Hall, the all-girls high school which relocated from Middletown to the Tinton Falls section of Fort Monmouth in 2015, has received unanimous approval from the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA) to proceed with expansion plans. The school’s application can now go before the Tinton Falls Planning Board.

Trinity Hall’s 7.4-acre fort site at 101 Corregidor Road includes a 19,600-square-foot, single-story building, constructed in 1996 and previously used by the U.S. Army as a child development and day care center until the base was closed in 2011. The parcel was sold to Trinity Hall by FMERA in February 2015 for $2 million. Following a renovation, the school opened for the 2015-16 school year.

According to the FMERA agreement approved on Oct. 18, school officials plan an expansion “to accommodate growing enrollment by constructing a two-story addition with a footprint of 11,230 square feet and a total area of 22,460 square feet.” Classrooms, office and administrative space, a multipurpose room, a chapel, and a new entrance lobby will fill the new addition. Improvements should commence no later than Jan. 31, 2018 and be completed within five years.

“We could not be happier in our new home,” said Theresa Kiernan, the school’s director of advancement and admissions, adding that current enrollment is 201 students in grades nine through 12. “Our students come from over 45 different sending schools throughout Monmouth, Middlesex and Ocean counties. Our location in Tinton Falls has allowed us to reach a diverse, academically-focused group of young women, providing them with a single-sex option for high school where none existed before.”

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Approval of the school’s expansion plans by FMERA marked the first time a sold former fort property returned to the authority for additional formal action, prompting Tinton Falls Mayor Gerald Turning to question the statutory process. As each fort parcel is sold, it is turned over to Eatontown, Oceanport, or Tinton Falls, depending on its location.

“The school is in Tinton Falls and subject to our Planning Board. We’re doing duplicated effort here and work we don’t have to do,” the mayor said. “It should be looked at because it’s going to come up again.”

“The statute doesn’t terminate us overseeing the re-use plan just because the property was sold. We’re responsible,” replied FMERA Executive Director Bruce Steadman. Added FMERA Chairman James V. Gorman, “The main intent is so that after the property is sold, the new owner will comply with what they told us. The example of Trinity Hall is a good one. I think we have identified a very important issue. I support your (Turning’s) position.”

Citing additional costs for property owners, Turning also mentioned how long FMERA will remain in existence. Originally scheduled for a 20-year time span, it’s now estimated the fort could be fully redeveloped in ten.

“This is precedent-setting,” said Timothy Lizura, president and chief operating officer of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and a voting FMERA member. “We don’t want to hold up approval.” Steadman asked the state Attorney General’s Office for a full interpretation of the existing statute requiring FMERA to approve changes to sold fort properties.

“Under the law, we have a responsibility or obligation for seven years after last title is passed,” Steadman said. “We can’t sunset until seven years after the last sale.”

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This article was first published in the Oct. 26-Nov. 2, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.

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