A decade-long effort to derail a redevelopment plan that would transform Sandy Hook‘s Fort Hancock into a convention facility notched its biggest victory to date yesterday.
The National Park Service, which oversees the history-rich property, yesterday canceled a lease agreement with Sandy Hook Partners, finding after a review that the firm, headed by Rumson developer James Wassel, didn’t have the financial wherewithal to make the project happen.
Opponents of the redevelopment plan hailed the decision as a victory of public interests over private ones, but lamented that it was overdue. The Wassel group was repeatedly given extensions over the past eight years to secure sufficient financing, and the issue has been heavily litigated.
“Hallelujah. What took so long?” asked Peter O’Such of Fair Haven, as quoted by the Star-Ledger. O’Such is a member of Save Sandy Hook, which sued Wassel’s agency and the National Park Service over the contract.
According to the Asbury Park Press, Wassel has 10 days to appeal the decision to an arbitrator. He told the newspaper he was surprised by the decision and is weighing whether to appeal.
“You never expect something like this to happen,” Wassel told the Press.
The Wassel proposal calls for a mix of commercial, community, conference and educational uses for more than 30 buildings at Fort Hancock, located at the northern tip of the Sandy Hook peninsula.