March 9, 2015 – The Free Lance-Star, By Cathy Dyson
FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (Tribune News Service) — Just as the Navy base in Dahlgren has a big impact on the communities around it, new homes and businesses around the base—and the traffic they generate—could interfere with the mission of the military installation.
Naval Support Facility Dahlgren (Photo credit/ U.S. NAVY).
Nothing new there.
But a Joint Land Use Study, or JLUS, of the Naval Support Facility Dahlgren suggests ways people on both sides of the table can keep each other informed of new projects and plans.
Committees working on the JLUS started meeting two years ago, and “we’re just getting to the beginning” of implementation, said Jack Green, King George County’s director of community development. He presented the JLUS last week to the Board of Supervisors, which unanimously adopted the plan.
“It’s a pretty detailed report, not a lot of surprises, right?” asked Joe Grzeika, a consultant who works at the Navy base. Fellow Supervisors Jim Howard and Dale Sisson Jr. also are employed there.
Grzeika said he looks forward to continuing to work with the base on compatibility uses, but said he believes the county already does “a pretty good job” of staying aware of military issues.
Proponents have said the JLUS is important because communities have much to gain from having a military installation in their backyards.
As of January 2014, the base employed 7,600 workers and is one of the largest employers in the Fredericksburg region. Annually, it pumps about $1.1 billion into the regional economy, according to the latest economic profile.
A 2014 study by the National Association of Counties looked at top industries in localities across the country. The federal government was tops in three counties in 2013: Caroline, King George and Stafford.
It accounted for 19 percent of the economy in Caroline and 20 percent in Stafford, but made up 45 percent of King George’s economy.
Yet the JLUS suggests that many new residents, business owners and tourists don’t even know the base is in Dahlgren, much less its purpose as a weapons research and development facility.
“Tourists have been escorted off of the water when range activities are planned,” the report states. “Tourists have also complained about noise resulting from range activity without knowing the source or that they were visiting an area with heavy military use.”
Likewise, there’s no mechanism in place for Navy officials to review proposed developments planned around impact areas. Projects in places where there is increased noise levels from Navy operations have been approved without the base knowing anything about the proposals, according to the report.
That’s why the JLUS includes 77 recommendations on ways the Navy base and communities around it can stay in the loop and avoid problems before they start. Each recommendation cites ways potential problems can be fixed and often includes more studies, memorandums and evaluations.
Several of the 77 points address communication. The Navy base could create an outreach program that would describe activities at the facility, the report suggests.
The Navy also could develop better signs that would alert boaters on the Potomac River about the base and its operations, as well as hold regular open houses to give the residents a chance to ask questions or voice concerns.
As for keeping base officials informed of proposed developments, the study recommends that Dahlgren be one of the agencies that would review development applications in the affected areas.
Many of the recommendations pertain to King George, but some also affect other stakeholders, such as Westmoreland County and Colonial Beach, as well as Charles and St. Mary’s counties in Maryland. Those localities also are asked to approve the study.
Other recommendations focus on avoiding potential interference from everything from construction equipment to the growing number of garage-door openers and remote controls, baby monitors and wireless modems.
Several points focus on housing availability — or the lack of it. Growth policies of localities around the base “do not fully address military workforce housing needs,” which results in workers driving up to 45 minutes from Fredericksburg to get to the base.
The study suggests a possible partnership with localities, the Navy and private developers to get more housing, especially rentals, in place.
And, on the topic of housing, the study suggests that local Realtors develop a more thorough disclosure statement that tells prospective homeowners about the potential noise and vibrations caused by weapons firing and explosive operations on the base.
The study also recommends an implementation coordination committee to monitor how its suggestions are put into place. That committee has not been formed.
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.