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VF-213 & VF-31 conduct a flyover of NAS Oceana

Military Mission

Air operations were initiated in the Hampton Roads region at Chambers Field during World War I and have increased significantly since then. At the time of the JLUS nomination, Chambers Field at Naval Station (NS) Norfolk was home to the E-2 Hawkeye and C-2 Greyhound aircraft squadrons along with a variety of helicopter units. Chambers Field also serves as an air logistics hub for airlifting military personnel and material from other U.S. bases and abroad.

Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana was carved out of 328 acres of swampland in 1940 as an Auxiliary Airfield. By 1957, it was designated a Navy Master Jet Base, growing to one of the Navy's largest air stations and home to the F/A 18 Hornets and F/A 18 E/F Super Hornets. Naval Auxiliary Landing Field (NALF) Fentress, which is seven miles southwest of Oceana, is primarily used for Field Carrier Landing Practice for NAS Oceana aircraft.

The Navy's primary concern is residential development in or near the Clear Zones (CZ), Accident Potential Zones (APZ), and high noise contour areas surrounding NAS Oceana, NS Norfolk Chambers Field, and NALF Fentress.

Joint Land Use Study Planning Process

The Navy nominated NAS Oceana as a candidate for the Joint Land Use Study (JLUS) program in FY 2000. The nomination included the air facilities at NAS Oceana, NS Norfolk Chambers Field, and NALF Fentress. The JLUS was completed in April 2005 based upon the Navy's 1999 Air Installation Compatible Use Zone (AICUZ) study. The JLUS was the direct result of a nomination by the NAS Oceana Commanding Officer to address compatibility concerns for the Hampton Roads region. Day- and night-time noise from NAS Oceana, NS Norfolk Chambers Field, and outlying NALF Fentress flight operations directly impacts the three cities of Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Chesapeake.

In 2004, the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission led the Cities of Chesapeake, Norfolk, and Virginia Beach, in partnership with the Navy, to conduct the Hampton Roads Joint Land Use Study to explore opportunities to reduce noise impacts upon communities surrounding NAS Oceana, NALF Fentress, and Chambers Field, while accommodating necessary growth and maintaining regional economic sustainability. The Commission, one of 21 Planning District Commissions in the Commonwealth of Virginia, is a regional organization representing 16 local governments.

The Commission formed two committees, a Policy Committee and a Technical Committee, to oversee development of the JLUS. The Policy Committee was comprised of elected officials and city chief administrative staff from the three participating local governments, the Commander, Mid-Atlantic Navy Region, and the Commanding Officer, NAS Oceana. A Chesapeake City Council member served as the Policy Committee Chair. The Technical Committee included technical representatives from each city's planning departments, military installations planners, and the Policy Committee Chair. The Commission's Executive Director chaired the Technical Committee. In February 2005, a JLUS Subcommittee was formed to focus on AICUZ and land use issues specific to the City of Virginia Beach, primarily around NAS Oceana. This Subcommittee produced a Statement of Understanding between the City and the Navy with a number of suggested actions to reduce potential conflicts.

Implementation Strategy

The JLUS effort focused on development of specific policies to address land use, noise, and economic concerns of the surrounding communities with the primary goal of balancing long-term compatibility between military operations and the economic and social growth of the surrounding communities. The objective of the Hampton Roads Joint Land Use Study is to provide recommendations regarding land development policy and implementation in response to the Navy's mission in the region. The study's intent is to address, at a minimum, the following:

  • community impact from noise exposure and accident potential zones resulting from aircraft operations;
  • land uses in each jurisdiction that adversely impact air operations;
  • limitations on tall structures that interfere with flight operations;
  • operational measures to mitigate community impacts; and
  • local government approaches to developing and implementing land use policy and development controls to reduce the impacts associated with air operations.

The Commission formulated a set of regional recommendations acceptable to the Policy Committee members, and each city drafted a set of recommendations to independently address compatible use issues within their individual jurisdictions. The Navy also presented a number of operational recommendations, many of which they already had implemented during the course of the JLUS. The approach was to seek a balance among diverse interests by stressing:

  • feasibility of implementation;
  • ability to sustain the economic health of the region and protect individual property rights;
  • protection of the critical military missions performed by NAS Oceana, NALF Fentress, and Chambers Field; and
  • protection of the health, safety, welfare, and overall quality of life of those who live and work in the Hampton Roads region.

The JLUS recommended that tools, at both the regional and local level, are grouped into eight primary categories that represent issues related to protecting quality of life and military operations.

  • Coordination/Organization;
  • Communication/Information;
  • Sound Attenuation;
  • Real Estate Disclosure;
  • Planning and Public Policy;
  • Land Use Regulation;
  • Acquisition; and
  • Military Operations.

The JLUS emphasizes development that is compatible with flight safety. Recommended compatibility measures are focused on the following issues:

  • Lighting (direct or reflected) that would impair pilot vision;
  • Towers, tall structures, and vegetation that penetrate navigable airspace or are to be constructed near airfields (FAA notification);
  • Uses that would generate smoke, steam, or dust;
  • Uses that would attract birds, especially waterfowl;
  • Uses that would produce electromagnetic interference with aircraft communication, navigation, or other electrical systems;
  • Real estate disclosure;
  • Provision for acquisition or exchange of property or development rights in areas requiring critical protection of the flying and training missions; and
  • GIS maps for each jurisdiction that incorporate the proposed overlay districts, APZs, and noise contours in the local jurisdiction land use plans.

Both Virginia Beach and Chesapeake expressed interest in using conservation easements to promote compatible development around the installations. Several JLUS recommendations required state legislative authority, so the Technical Committee prepared expanded real estate disclosure and noise level reduction standards for Policy Committee consideration to forward on to the local state delegation and Virginia General Assembly during the FY2005 legislative session.

On April 23, 2005, the Policy Committee accepted the Final JLUS to forward to the respective cities for adoption by their legislative bodies. In May 2005, the City Councils of Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Chesapeake each adopted the JLUS and immediately began implementing the recommendations.

The 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) Report to Congress conditioned the ongoing mission of NAS Oceana upon the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Cities of Virginia Beach and Chesapeake enacting and enforcing legislation to prevent further encroachment of NAS Oceana by the end of March 2006. Failure to enact and enforce this legislation would result in the relocation of the East Coast Master Jet Base to Cecil Field, Florida. Additionally, no changes to flight operations could further degrade training at Oceana and Fentress. However, the citizens of Duval County, Florida voted against the November 7, 2006 referendum to reopen Cecil Field, Florida, negating the option of closing NAS Oceana and realigning it to Cecil Field.

In response to BRAC requirements and the JLUS recommendations, the City of Virginia Beach rejected the criterion to condemn property. Instead, their acquisition plan states that eminent domain would be used only to acquire undeveloped property zoned for residential use, and then only if the property has no other reasonable use and efforts to voluntarily purchase the property have failed. Additional actions include the following:

  • Virginia Beach adopted Navy AICUZ compatibility criteria into Zoning Ordinance – 70 dB DNL and greater;
  • Incompatible development prohibited unless no other reasonable use for the land – if no other reasonable use, development must proceed at the lowest density reasonable;
  • Oceana and Virginia Beach signed Land Use Memorandum of Understanding. (Staffs must meet to discuss proposal a minimum of 30 days before Planning Commission Builders must complete “Reasonable Use Exception Application” for all incompatible proposals.) Formally places the burden on developer to convince City Council that incompatible development should be allowed over compatible development;
  • Virginia Beach amended the AICUZ Overlay Zoning Ordinance for land within the 65 – 70 dB DNL sound contour. The overlay zoning was broken into three sub-areas, each with its own approval criteria;
  • Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) amended to capture ordinance changes; and
  • In the Inter-facility Traffic Area (ITA), Virginia Beach limited zoning to one unit per 15 developable acres, further limiting development potential of this critical area between Oceana and Fentress.

The City of Virginia Beach notes “Since September 2005, when the BRAC Commission determined that encroachment compromised the mission of NAS Oceana, the City of Virginia Beach has worked tirelessly to address encroachment in a bold and creative way. By enacting stringent land-use measures, the City, literally overnight, was able to freeze existing incompatible development and prevent all future incompatible development in the Clear Zone, APZ I, and the ITA."

The City’s Acquisition Program works in concert with the land-use measures to provide fair and just compensation to the affected landowners. The Acquisition Program has provided the opportunity to roll back existing encroachment by allowing the City to acquire and eliminate incompatible uses. The Acquisition Program encompasses APZ I, the Clear Zone, and the ITA, an area between NAS Oceana and NALF Fentress. Home owners are incentivized to sell their property by offering the City the higher of two appraisals, with most home owners accepting this Fair Market Value offer. Other incentives include rebates to businesses to move out of APZ I. The Navy has reimbursed the City 50% of the cost for some of the land acquisitions by requiring restrictive use easements and using their “encroachment partnering” authority. The Commonwealth and Virginia Beach each contribute $7.5M annually ($15M total) to acquire properties and property rights in the NAS Oceana Clear Zone and APZ I until encroachment is rolled-back to acceptable levels. APZ I/Clear Zone/ITA funding for FY07 through FY11 was approximately $90M. In accordance with Virginia H.B. 975 and S.B. 565, acquisitions shall continue until all reasonably available properties or development rights have been acquired in the designated areas.

Community Website: www.yesoceana.com

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