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Hampton Wants State Help to Buy Land Around Langley AFB

dailypress.com - December 7, 2011, By David Macaulay

HAMPTON – The City of Hampton is likely to seek $6 million in state assistance to buy land around Langley Air Force Base to protect the base from another round of possible defense closures.

If successful, the city also would have to come up with $6 million in matching funds.

The request is contained in Hampton's draft of its 2012 request for legislation from the state. The package has not been finalized.

Laura Bateman, the city's lobbyist, outlined the request for property in the "safety zone" around the base at the Oct. 26 city council meeting. More than 40 percent of military aircraft accidents occur in the safety zones around airfields, also known as clear zones.

The recommendations were outlined in the Joint Land Use Study (JLUS) study that the city and neighboring authorities finalized in 2010.

"It's an economic development issue that's a huge driver in the local economy," Bateman said.

She said with future closures looming under the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission, land around Langley should be brought into a more compatible use.

The city made a $3.5 million federal aid request last year. Bruce Sturk, Hampton's director of federal facilities support, said Tuesday the city hoped for federal funding but policies on earmarks have changed.

Sturk said in December 2010 Hampton was looking at purchasing land valued at $10 million to $12 million in the "safety zone" around Langley.

"The city is now working a similar approach to obtain state funding, in the same way Virginia Beach worked to secure land around the Naval Air Station Oceana," he said. The land would remain in public ownership.

Virginia Beach recently bought nearly 800 acres of farmland and woods to protect Naval Air Station Oceana from encroaching development.

Virginia Beach recently purchased 792 acres between Indian River Road and the North Landing River for $5 million from Rock Ministries, Navy Times reported. The deal represents the largest single land purchase in the city's six-year program to protect Oceana, six years after the city informed BRAC it would spend about $15 million a year to stop new development around Oceana.

Sturk said last year Langley has not seen the same kind of encroachment issues experienced in Virginia Beach, where aircraft noise became a major issue with local residents.

Over the next few years, Hampton will seek to convert 19 parcels of privately owned land into public ownership to protect both the base and people living and working in or near the clear zone, Sturk said. The parcels include undeveloped, commercial and residential land and include a portion of a trailer park to the east of North Armistead Avenue and a concrete crushing plant.

"Some of them are outside the clear zone but are in close proximity. Some of them are 100 percent in the clear zone," Sturk said. He said the city is not considering condemnation.

City Manager Mary Bunting said the city will have to match the funds if it is successful in its request. "If we were able to get these I would prepare a budget that would show you how we would match that," she told the city council in October.

But the request comes at a time of further cuts at Richmond. Bateman pointed out Governor Bob McDonnell had ordered agency heads to draw up spending reductions.

The city has also called for restrictions on the use of devices that turn red lights green for emergency vehicles. Bateman said under the current law private ambulance companies can buy these signal preemption devices on the Internet and use them.

"Currently under Virginia law there's no way to regulate who gets these signals, who's using them," she said.

See the Hampton Matters blog at dailypress.com/hamptonmatters

 

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The information above is for general awareness only and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of Economic Adjustment or the Department of Defense as a whole.