Return to story
RICHMOND--In Virginia Beach, encroachment of development around the Oceana naval station has helped put that base on the list of possible closures.
Sen. Bryce Reeves, R-Spotsylvania, hopes other localities with military bases won't make that mistake. He's proposing legislation that would require local governments to take the base's needs into consideration when making land use and planning decisions.
Reeves' bill will require local planning commissions to "cooperate with the installation commander of any military installation that will be affected by potential development within the locality so as to reasonably protect the military installation against any adverse effects that might be caused by the development."
The bill also would let--but not require--local planning commissions add a representative of an area military installation as a non-voting member.
Reeves said his bill stemmed from discussions on the Virginia Military Advisory Council, of which he is a member, as well as the National Conference of State Legislatures Task Force on Military and Veterans Affairs.
Local encroachment on military installations is, Reeves said, a national problem. It's not always as visible a problem as it is at Oceana, where last year a Navy jet crashed into a nearby apartment complex. Instead, Reeves said, the issue can be things like ambient light coming from development near the base, hampering night-vision training.
He said the Base Closure and Realignment Commission would be more likely to choose for closure bases where the military's training programs are hindered by encroachment, especially if federal budget cuts end up requiring the Department of Defense to cut more costs.
The loss of a military base would mean a loss of jobs and a blow to a locality's economy, Reeves said.
His bill is intended to push local government leaders into having conversations and relationships with the commanders of military bases in their localities.
"Most localities don't want to boot out the military. But they need to include them," Reeves said. "It forces dialogue and input."
But one local government official says localities already have that dialogue.
Stafford County supervisor Susan Stimpson--also a candidate for lieutenant governor--said Stafford regularly includes military leaders from Quantico in their land use and planning discussions. The county also has a formal Joint Land Use study with Fauquier, Prince William and Quantico.
Quantico covers about 20 percent of the land in Stafford, she said.
Stimpson said she thinks Reeves' bill has a good goal, but that it essentially asks localities to do something they already do.
"We've communicated on our comprehensive plan, we asked Quantico for their feedback when we were doing our comprehensive plan and when we have any changes that border Quantico," Stimpson said. "It's something that localities are already doing, and this is just an example of a growth in government that's not necessary. Of course I want to preserve the mission of Quantico and I assume all local legislators want to preserve the mission of the base that's housed within the community."
She said officials in King George and Caroline counties are also active in talking with leaders at Fort A.P. Hill.
She said she thinks the legislation is redundant and adds an unnecessary mandate to local governments.
"With over 60 percent of the state budget going to localities, it is very important for the General Assembly to understand the impacts of their legislation," Stimpson said. "Whenever we think government can 'fix' a problem, we often find there are added costs and layers that make the problem worse."
Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028