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Dahlgren, K.G. agree on need for smart growth

October 11, 2012 12:10 am


Current residential and commercial growth around the Dahlgren area hasn't impacted operations at the Navy base.

But future growth could, especially because King George County's Comprehensive Plan designates Dahlgren as a growth area.

That's why government officials, including Capt. Peter Nette, the commanding officer at Naval Support Activity South Potomac, want to be sure people at the base are talking with people in the county.

"For us, encroachment is an action that can infringe upon the base and the community," Nette said Wednesday night. "You can encroach on us, and we can encroach on you."

The best way to avoid encroachment, officials said, is to have a dialogue among those involved. That's why Nette and a Department of Defense representative met with King George supervisors Wednesday to start looking at the impact the community has on the base--and vice versa.

Supervisors agreed to move forward with what's called a Joint Land Use Study. The study is a planning effort between a military installation and the communities that surround it.

"This is not an anti-growth program," said Rich Tenga, a project manager with the DoD's Office of Economic Adjustment. "We know cities and counties have to grow."

The point of the study, Tenga said, is for the community and the military base to know what the other is planning, whether it's a new military mission or a hotel and pier across from the Navy's test range.

Nette put it this way: If a builder wants to put up a 15-story building at the end of the Navy base's runway--and the Navy has plans to reactivate the runway--the location may not be ideal. But if the builder knows of the Navy's plan and moves the project away from the runway, both parties could be satisfied.

"It's just understanding each other's concerns," said Nette, who added that he knows the county's growth plan calls for more settlement around the Navy base:

"All I ask is that consideration should be given to the missions at the base to see if they are compatible."

Board of Supervisors Chairman Cedell Brooks Jr. said the joint study "seems like a win-win situation." He initially asked about the point of the study, if it was to keep the base people happy so operations would stay there.

Nette said it was more like "smart development for both of us."

Supervisor Joe Grzeika pointed out that the Navy was putting up the money for the study, which might cost about $200,000, "because they have a vested interest in making sure we do this."

King George would contribute 10 percent of the cost--not in money, but in staff time.

The Navy base requested funding for the study in January 2009, and it was approved in July 2011. Then, Navy officials asked county representatives on their COMREL, or Civilian-Military Community Relations Council, when the study could get started.

Grzeika, King George's representative on the group, said he preferred to wait a year or two because the county was updating its Comprehensive Plan.

His action drew criticism from Robert Fuscaldo, a former King George supervisor and base commander. At a town-hall meeting held by Supervisor Ruby Brabo in June, Fuscaldo said the county should have acted as soon as funding was made available.

Two months after that, the Navy sent a letter to the Board of Supervisors, formally requesting the study. Supervisors decided last week to have a work session with Nette and Tenga on Wednesday night.

They didn't vote on the study, but instructed the county administrator to draw up a resolution for them to approve.

Tenga will work with King George as the project manager "from cradle to the grave." He'll help the county form committees, decide what issues to address, apply for funding from the federal government and hire a consultant.

It will take about a year from the time a consultant is hired to put together a report of recommendations, Tenga said.

Some jurisdictions add the recommendations mentioned in such a joint study to their comprehensive plans.

"You guys are way ahead of most places, you've got the COMREL, you've got great rapport with the installation," Tenga said. "Some communities are communicating with the base for the first time because of this study."

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425

ENCROACHMENT: The Navy identified five types of encroachment that have potentially high impacts on the base at Dahlgren: urban development; people not being able to use the Potomac River when the base is doing testing; keeping a safe distance from exploding devices; threatened and endangered species; and competition for air, land and sea. WHAT ABOUT THE RUNWAY? The Navy base has a runway, which is used by helicopters but little else. In the future, the Navy may explore the use of unmanned aerial systems at Dahlgren, said Capt. Peter Nette. STUDIES that look at the relationship between communities and military installations have been done at 94 bases since 1985. Another 60 are in the works, mostly on the East Coast. WHEN MOST of the military's 500 bases in the United States and its territories were built, they were located in rural areas, according to a video called "The Base Next Door." Zones that were kept clear to protect civilians from noises and potential accidents are now filled with homes, businesses and places of worship, according to the video. A SIGN on one military base reads: "The noise you hear is the sound of freedom."

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