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City moves to safeguard Langley AFB
By David Macaulay, firstname.lastname@example.org | 247-7838 | December 7, 2010
HAMPTON — Hampton is seeking state legislation to protect Langley Air Force Base from the threat of future closure while at the same time aiming to ensure that Fort Monroe doesn't become a drain on city taxpayers.
The city is seeking $600,000 to buy properties in the clear zone around Langley in the hope that removing potential conflicts will help safeguard the Air Force base from future closures.
Hampton also submitted draft legislation Monday that would create a special assessment to be paid by the Fort Monroe Authority to reimburse the city for services such as police and fire protection that would be provided when the Army vacates the post next September.
Laura Bateman, Hampton's lobbyist in Richmond, outlined the city's legislative request at a special City Council meeting on Monday.
Bateman said the recently completed Joint Land Use Study should "strengthen Langley Air Force base's position in any subsequent BRAC round that may occur." The decision to close Fort Monroe was made following a 2005 Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) recommendation.
Bateman said the request for $600,000 would assist with property purchases around the post. In line with the Joint Land Use Study, the city is also asking for the Code of Virginia to be amended to enforce commercial sound regulations to include any military air facility.
"There's no word yet of additional or upcoming BRAC rounds," Bateman said, "but everybody expects it will be coming, so we are trying to be proactive and do everything we can do to protect our military."
The finalized legislation on Fort Monroe, which was submitted later in the day, was not available at the morning meeting.
But it sparked a critical statement by the Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park that said it will "cede to the city of Hampton a significant measure of control over the level and nature of economic development and land use at Fort Monroe."
Under existing legislation, sale of property at Monroe would be possible with the consent of the governor, the attorney general and the General Assembly. City Manager Mary Bunting said the city would not be directly seeking land sales. "We always anticipated if that were to be a path the FMA wanted to go down, that is something that would require General Assembly approval. At this point our legislation would only seek to have the National Park Service transfer available," she said.
Bunting said the city has been working with the Fort Monroe Authority and the state on the legislation to make sure additional services at Fort Monroe "did not come at the expense of existing taxpayers."
She said under the existing legislation the authority would govern Fort Monroe, a "commonwealth-owned village," but the residents would vote in Hampton City Council elections.
"The FMA was an unelected board of government for this commonwealth village," she said.
The new legislation would clarify the fact the city "is the government for the purposes of services delivery — police, fire, emergency provision, voting, schools, public works, all the typical things you would expect of a local government," she said.
Under the legislation, the Fort Monroe Authority would pay the city a service charge which would give Hampton the "equivalent of the real estate taxes that would otherwise be available to us were it private ownership," Bunting said.
Councilman Ross Kearney said there has been little discussion of job losses. "In September we are going to lose 4,402 jobs that are going to be walking off that post … the economic devastation that's going to occur, especially in the Phoebus area and the downtown area is going to be monumental."
Kearney said the city would have to ask the state for help to finance economic development in lieu of the loss of Fort Monroe.
Other provisions in the package
In Hampton's legislative package, the city is also asking state legislators to: