Va. Beach, Oceana ink economic development deal
An agreement between the Navy and Virginia Beach could give the city much-needed breathing room for economic development expansion while lowering the cost of operating the East Coast’s master jet base.
Under a concept called Future Base Design, Naval Air Station Oceana would lease about 400 acres of land to private businesses in exchange for up to $3 million worth of in-kind infrastructure projects and maintenance. The base, which is home to 17 F/A-18 fighter jet squadrons, has partnered with the city as the economic development driver for the project.
“We’re running out of space in terms of land development, but this just gives us a plethora of opportunities that we can take forward,” says Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer. “This is a win-win for everybody.”
Oceana Commanding Officer Capt. Bob Holmes says the idea has been in development for three years. In addition to the agreement with Virginia Beach, the base is also looking to reduce expenditures for non-core services — like managing the base’s golf course and other recreational facilities — by finding partners to take on those tasks.
“That money could then be directed toward much-needed building maintenance and other infrastructure projects on the installation,” Holmes explains.
While portions of the base could become publicly accessible under the plan, the flight line and essential military activities would remain secured behind a fence.
Oceana was threatened with closure nearly two decades ago after a Pentagon commission targeted it because Virginia Beach failed to rein in development too close to the base. The city subsequently partnered with the state to purchase encroaching properties from willing sellers and agreed to zoning changes.
Craig Quigley, a retired Navy rear admiral who leads the Hampton Roads Military and Federal Facilities Alliance, says the new plan gives Oceana the ability to pay for underfunded needs while the service has prioritized “the pointy end of the spear” — activities such as ship maintenance and training.
“If you’re the base commander of NAS Oceana, over years you have seen your needs for real property maintenance be underfunded year after year after year,” Quigley says. “So, you’re literally watching your infrastructure crumble around your head. So, you can either keep doing that and hope that someday magic will happen and you’ll get a boatload of money to catch up, and that’s not going to happen, or you can go about things a different way.”