Virginia Beach’s approach to protecting Oceana cited as a modelApril 29, 2011 6:00 AM
by Elizabeth Cooper
As Hampton Roads adjusts to the realignment of the U.S. Joint Forces Command and the loss of about half of the command’s 3,900 employees, business and political leaders are gearing up for the next battle.
In an era of base realignments and closures, leaders are warning that the region must have a united front in protecting other installations, Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach and Langley Air Force Base in Hampton.
“Encroachment” (commercial and residential development) has been a major issue at those installations for many years. In the wake of Oceana’s inclusion on the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission’s list of recommended base closures, Virginia Beach devised a plan to roll back encroachment in the surrounding area. The plan includes zoning changes, property acquisition and a program to reduce incompatible development. The city and state each allocated $15 million to buy property from willing sellers. Virginia Beach has acquired about 450 dwellings and eliminated about 385 residential units.
The rollback program has been so successful that the Association of Defense Communities, a group with 1,200 members, named Virginia Beach its 2010 ADC Active Base Community of the Year. The award honors active defense communities whose partnerships with military installations have enhanced military value as well as the community’s overall economy.
Craig Quigley, executive director of the Hampton Roads Military and Federal Facilities Alliance, attributes the program’s success to solid leadership and cooperation from the Navy, the city, and business and civic groups. “There’s a productive, cordial, professional atmosphere around the conference table when all the interested parties come together with a common cause,” he says.
Hampton is considering a similar program for Langley Air Force Base. The city plans to convert 19 parcels of privately owned property in safety zones around Langley airfields into public land.
Officials are also applying lessons learned from JFCOM as they prepare to protect other military operations from closure or downsizing. “You have to quickly bring in leaders at all levels to get involved and find ways to have your voice heard,” Quigley says. “And, you have to do this as a team.”
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