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Chesapeake Eyes Larger Safety Zone for Fentress

The Virginian-Pilot - October 23, 2013, By Jeff Sheler

The city will seek up to $2.5 million in state matching funds next year to expand the safety zone around Fentress Naval Auxiliary Landing Field.

The money would be used to buy land and development rights around the 2,560-acre airfield on the city's eastern edge. Officials also plan to ask lawmakers to approve $10 million for preliminary engineering work on a proposed replacement of the High Rise Bridge.

Approved by the City Council on Tuesday, the proposals are part of a wide-ranging wish list for the General Assembly's upcoming session.

The city's legislative agenda also stakes out positions on issues as varied as education and transportation funding, uranium mining and payday loans.

The Fentress proposal would mark the first time Chesapeake has asked for state money for encroachment protection.

In recent years, it has spent $4.3 million to buy hundreds of acres near the facility. It has recouped about $1.8 million of that under a cost-sharing agreement with the Navy.

Virginia Beach, meanwhile, has received $7.5 million a year in matching funds from the state to buy land around Oceana Naval Air Station to address concerns raised by the Base Closure and Realignment Commission in 2005. Officials in that city say they're finding fewer voluntary sellers and, as a result, will ask for $2.5 million less next year. Chesapeake officials say they hope to get that money.

In other action, the council gave permission to the city's Economic Development Authority to spend $5.7 million on about 53 acres for an industrial park in Greenbrier. The land is part of a 75-acre tract Armada Hoffler is negotiating to buy from the state. The deal is expected to be closed by the end of the year.

City officials said the Virginia Beach-based developer, acting on behalf of an unidentified tenant, plans to build up to 700,000 square feet of office and industrial space at the site occupied by the Southeastern Virginia Training Center.

The tenant is not interested in the entire parcel, and the state does not want to sell the property piecemeal, officials said. So the city will acquire the remainder of the land and market it to other tenants.

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