October 11, 2015 – Killeen Daily Herald, By Jacob Brooks
Could commercial or other nonmilitary development going up around the outskirts of Fort Hood’s borders adversely affect Army training and readiness? That’s just one question a $255,000 study will attempt to answer over the next year.
The Fort Hood Joint Land Use Study, or JLUS, will “identify and mitigate compatibility and encroachment issues that may impact training, operations, testing and power projection missions at Fort Hood,” according to a Killeen government document outlining the need for such a study.
“We’re doing it on behalf of all Central Texas communities that are impacted by Fort Hood,” said Killeen City Manager Glenn Morrison.
City staff proposed North Carolina-based Benchmark conduct the 13-month study, which could begin as early as next month.
The aim of the study, officials said, is to protect Fort Hood from outside encroachment issues that could lessen the post’s military value or even threaten public safety.
“Pressures from incompatible civilian development can create restrictions on use of installations, ranges and training corridors,” according to the Killeen document. “Incompatible civilian development can also threaten public safety, exposing adjacent communities to artillery fire, aircraft noise, dust and even accidents.”
Killeen officials said there are currently “no known encroachment issues.” However, some potential concerns do exist.
Those concerns include residential development near Copperas Cove, not far from Fort Hood’s western maneuver area; future development of land owned by Parrie Haynes Ranch near Fort Hood’s southern border; future development near the east and west sides of Fort Hood; and air quality and light and glare from civilian activities that can impact how Fort Hood conducts night training.
Ken Cox, the executive director of Heart of Texas Defense Alliance, a Killeen-based organization that analyzes government information regarding future plans affecting Fort Hood, said the study is very important for the way Fort Hood trains soldiers and, in turn, the defense of the nation.
“The concept behind the whole joint-use land study is to ensure that as the metropolitans experience growth — which is a good thing, mind you — they don’t find themselves in a situation where they potentially are going to construct something, build infrastructure or even use land that could potentially reduce or impact the military’s ability, specifically the soldiers on Fort Hood’s ability, to train and prepare themselves to fight and win our nation’s wars,” said Cox, a retired major general and former deputy commander of Fort Hood.
Concerns with military noise — such as tanks on the move or weapons being fired — can occur when homes are built right along an Army post’s fence line, Cox said, adding high-rises or wind turbines can infringe on military aircraft flight paths.
When officials conduct the study, they will interview training leaders from Fort Hood’s land and air units about how and where they train, as well as what their needs are, and how development near the post could hinder training.
Benchmark officials will need to fully understand the Army’s training requirements at Fort Hood, Cox said. “They need to understand the equipment that they use, and then understand what that then means in terms of the available property and space, whether it’s air, ground, whatever it might be that’s necessary to facility their training.”
With the Defense Department’s backing, Fort Hood approached Killeen in 2014 about doing the study, Morrison said, adding about 100 similar studies were done in other parts of the nation.
“Fort Hood is just now up for a study, which surprised me at first. But I’m glad the opportunity is there,” Morrison said.
Cox said Fort Hood is one of the last installations to conduct such a study due to “continuous, sustained conflict” many Fort Hood units have faced in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Fort Hood has had their focus elsewhere fighting wars for 14 years,” he said. “This is long overdue, so it’s much needed.”
Fort Bliss and Joint Base San Antonio, which includes Fort Sam Houston and Camp Bullis, have completed or are in the final stages of a similar land study, Morrison said.
“Fort Hood is the only Army installation with a warfighting corps or division headquarters that does not have a completed JLUS,” according to a Killeen document.
The city manager said he expects the study to begin in late November, “and then it’s about a 13-month process from there.”
Morrison said the study could be helpful in a future base realignment and closure process or other types of processes concerning Fort Hood.
Fort Hood’s garrison command will play a pivotal role in the study, said Brian Dosa, Fort Hood’s director of public works.
The study “is very important to Fort Hood, which is why we requested it to be completed,” Dosa said in a statement to the Herald. “It will address several issues that affect the future viability and growth of Fort Hood, including encroachment, effects of projected population growth, natural resources (water, power), transportation and potential impacts on training.”
The study is part of a program under the wing of the federal Office of Economic Adjustment program.
“So all funding comes from the federal government,” Morrison said.
Most of it, anyway.
“It takes an outside entity, a municipality, to be the sponsor of a study like this,” said Morrison, and there is a 10 percent required cost from the sponsor.
Killeen is sponsoring the study and paying 10 percent of the cost with in-kind services, he said.
The OEA approved the study’s budget to be $292,200, and will provide 90 percent of that — about $262,000 — to Killeen, enough to cover Benchmark’s bid of $255,860.
“Our match, it is a 10 percent requirement, and we’ll do that with in-kind staff time,” Morrison said.
The staff time will be a value of about $30,000, with staffers helping to set up interviews, research and other tasks, Morrison said.
Two other bids came in for the project: one for $612,000 and a low bid of $222,000, but that bid didn’t meet all of the specs for the study, Morrison said.
The study process will be overseen by a “policy committee” consisting of mostly representatives from the communities surrounding Fort Hood “that will help guide the process,” Morrison said.
Policy committee members will in turn inform their respective city councils on how progress is going, and Benchmark will hold some public meetings on the process.
“So it’ll be very visible,” Morrison said.
Killeen has already selected Mayor Scott Cosper and Councilman Jim Kilpatrick to be on the committee. Heart of Texas Defense Alliance Board Chairman Pete Taylor, a retired lieutenant general and former Fort Hood commander, also will be on the committee. Other cities are still deciding who will be on it, Morrison said.
“This is another great opportunity for the city of Killeen to further position ourselves for success and to cooperate and work with Fort Hood looking at the future,” Cosper said at last week’s City Council workshop meeting.
A separate “technical committee” will have city managers and city staff “that will help the consultants as they make their way through the study,” Morrison said. Cox was named to the technical committee, which will also include local and Fort Hood staff members from public works, planning and zoning or similar offices.
Copperas Cove City Manager Andrea Gardner said she has participated so far in two planning meetings with other local representatives to discuss the potential implications of the study.
“I certainly think it’s a good opportunity for us to look at the region, and make determinations on what’s going to best benefit the region and in particular the focus on Fort Hood,” she said.
A Killeen document outlining the need for the study references development by the city of Copperas Cove as a “potential encroachment” concern.
Gardner said she thinks it is too early to know whether the study’s findings will impact plans for future Cove development.
“I think it’s a little early to tell, but I’m not anticipating that it would. We would just have to address that when it comes up throughout the study’s process,” she said.
In his former role as executive director of the Heart of Texas Defense Alliance, Bill Parry initiated the coordination of the JLUS.
As the Gatesville city manager, Parry said the study will likely have implications for Gatesville’s future growth, as well as the entire community outside the installation’s gates.
“I am very aware of the necessity to ensure that future development in Central Texas does not create an encroachment issue and remains compatible with the very important mission of Fort Hood. All of the communities around Fort Hood will be affected by the growth along the (Interstate 35) corridor,” he said.
As a result of the JLUS, Parry said Gatesville officials also are “initiating the development of a long-range comprehensive plan.”
The comprehensive plan will include components such as demographics, land use, transportation, community facilities, drainage, public utilities, public safety and economic development.
“My intention is to work the city plan in parallel with the JLUS. Hopefully the JLUS will help identify specific areas in the city’s (extraterritorial jurisdiction) where development in accordance with the future land use plan might be potentially incompatible with Fort Hood’s mission,” Parry said.
“The JLUS actually provides an impetus for our comprehensive planning process — both will inform the other if we do this correctly,” he added.
Although the study appears ready to begin next month, a final vote of approval is still needed from the Killeen council.
The council agreed to participate in the study in early summer, and sent the study out to bid. Those bids were presented to the council during a city workshop meeting Tuesday, and the council is expected to vote on the city staff’s recommendation — the $255,860 bid from Benchmark — at an Oct. 20 council meeting.
The study, when completed, will be a list of recommendations that could recommend certain types of developments are not suited for particular areas, such as a large apartment complex overlooking an area where soldiers train.
“Just in Central Texas, with the robust and dynamic growth that we’re seeing, it’s really essential that it’s clear to all parties ... that we don’t negatively impact” Fort Hood’s training operations, Morrison said. “That’s what this is all about.”
For those who say the study could hinder commercial development around Fort Hood, Cox said that is simply not the case.
“It helps define what they can do,” Cox said. “Clearly, if you’re going to try to build something that’s going to go right up against the fence line on Fort Hood, then shame on all of us for not understanding the significance of national defense.”
From an industry perspective, developers always want to know in advance what the market requires and where the best place is to put something that will provide for community and for the industry, Cox said.
“I think it’s a positive thing as opposed to a negative thing.”
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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.