September 15, 2015 – The Baltimore Sun, By David Anderson
Improving communication and coordination of activities between Aberdeen Proving Ground and the surrounding communities are key factors in implementing a regional Joint Land Use Study for the Army post, a consultant who worked on the draft of the study said.
The study, which addresses a variety of issues that currently impact the installation and its neighbors – as well as many that are likely to do so in the future – has been released in draft form and was the subject of another in a series of public workshops held Monday evening at the University Center in Aberdeen. Just 16 people attended the 90-minute session.
“A lot of the emphasis of the project is on communication and coordination,” Patrick Small, planning leader for the study, also known as JLUS, said. Small works for the Matrix Design Group, of Crofton, a firm hired by Harford County to prepare the study.
The study includes 95 strategies to address compatibility issues affecting APG, Harford County, the cities of Aberdeen and Havre de Grace and Cecil and Kent counties.
“It’s really the playbook that each of the jurisdictions and APG will use when they go to implement the actual project,” Small said.
He also said, however, that the study is not binding upon the various communities or on APG, describing it as a “living document that each of the jurisdictions and the installation will use moving forward.”
More than 20,000 people, including about 2,600 soldiers, work at APG, which is Northeastern Maryland’s largest employment center. Thousands of other jobs connected to contractors involved with APG activities are concentrated at several locations in Harford County. The post, which has substantial frontage on the Chesapeake Bay, covers more than 72,500 acres of land and water.
The JLUS recommends that the strategies be implemented between 2016 and 2021, with a priority assigned to each strategy, Small explained.
A top priority is creating a coordination committee made up of APG officials and community representatives, he said, “to make sure that momentum that was developed over the course of the project continued through the implementation.”
On the communication and coordination front, the draft JLUS strategies include improving communication from APG to the community about what happens at the key Army research and development, electronic warfare and chemical warfare installation.
The study also recommends that APG officials improve their reporting of security issues to law enforcement agencies in surrounding areas and notes the Harford County Sheriff’s Office “is not regularly informed about events that happen on the installation that affect the outside community.”
Patrick Small, planning leader for the Aberdeen Proving Ground Joint Land Use Study, shows an in-depth draft report prepared for the study during a public workshop held Monday evening at the University Center in Aberdeen. (David Anderson, Aegis Staff / Baltimore Sun)
APG and area law enforcement agencies, the study recommends, should sign a memorandum of understanding “to formalize protocols and points of contact for the coordinated and timely dissemination of security and safety information reciprocally...”
The JLUS also says better coordination is needed between the post and its neighbors on infrastructure improvements. It also recommends that APG officials improve their process of handling and documenting complaints from neighboring property owners about noise and vibration damage from ordnance and other testing activities.
Other strategies include finding permanent reliable water sources for the post’s Aberdeen and Edgewood areas, currently provided by the City of Aberdeen and Harford County, respectively. The study recommends decreasing the use of Deer Creek to supply the Aberdeen Area and Winters Run to supply the Edgewood Area but does not recommend specific alternatives.
The study also contains strategies for addressing the use of radio spectrum for APG activities and the impact on spectrum use in the community and vice-versa; post environmental protection issues – wildlife, water quality, the impact of federal and state regulations on APG testing and other missions; housing availability for military and non-military personnel connected to APG; traffic management and highway improvements; and the construction of vertical structures such as cell phone towers near the post, which has two airfields.
“The closer you are to a runway, the greater the potential for something to be construed as a vertical obstruction,” Small said.
Forest Hill resident Brian Simmons said strategies on noise and other impacts on APG’s neighbors should cover the 200-plus acre Churchville Test Area satellite campus used for vehicle testing, located about 10 miles north of the main post.
Simmons, who works for a defense contractor, said the CTA off Route 136 has been the subject of noise complaints. He noted that he grew up near there, too.
“I want to make sure that they don’t forget the off-the-major campus piece of it,” he said later.
Monday’s workshop was the third held in Harford County on the JLUS during the past year. Workshops are planned Tuesday in Cecil County and Wednesday in Kent County, two other jurisdictions affected by activities at APG.
“I think this assessment, this study, can help us understand how we can work more effectively with APG, and I think for the Army Alliance, it’s also how we can help ensure that the community is aware of the issues that are impacting APG so they can stay militarily strong,” Jill McClune, president of the Army Alliance, a local nonprofit that advocates on behalf of APG to government, business and civic entities, said afterward.
The JLUS draft was developed with input from an executive committee made up of current and former elected and appointed officials serving the jurisdictions in the study area, representatives of APG’s Army garrison and one of its main tenants, the Aberdeen Test Center, plus representatives of the DOD’s Office of Economic Adjustment. Funding for the study is through a grant from the Department of Defense’s Office of Economic Adjustment, according to the APG JLUS website.
A draft of the main JLUS report, which is 110 pages, has been posted on the study website, http://www.apgjlus.com.
Visitors to the website can find an additional 286-page draft background report on the present conditions of the post and the community and the “compatibility issues” where APG and the community could come into conflict over issues such as noise, infrastructure use and water quality.
McClune suggested narrowing down the list of strategies, which comes with comes with a brief description of each and covers 36 pages, to a shorter version, so a reader could get a better sense of the priorities and timelines.
See related video “Aberdeen Proving Ground Joint Land Use Study Meeting,” here.
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.