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Pax Joint Land Use Study now underway
Lexington Park, MD - 10/2/2013
By Dick Myers
Four public meetings are being held this week all around the region to launch public participation in a Patuxent River Naval Air Station (Pax) Joint Land Use Study (JLUS). According to the consultants hired to do the study, “A Joint Land Use Study (JLUS) is a cooperative land use planning effort conducted as a joint venture between an active military installation, surrounding cities and counties, state and federal agencies, and other affected stakeholders. The NAS PAX JLUS is an 18-month study funded through a grant from the Department of Defense (DOD) Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA) and contributions by the local sponsor, Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland.”
A meeting Monday at the Bay District Volunteer Fire Department in Lexington Park is being followed by three additional public meetings on the Northern Neck of Virginia and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The area encompasses the footprint of activities at Pax River.
The lone holdout in the process is Somerset County on the Easter Shore, where several commercial wind powered operations are proposed. The Navy and defense contractor community are concerned that the windmills will affect air operations.
According to Mike Hrapla, vice president of the consulting firm Matrix Design Group, Somerset will be part of the study even though their government is not participating. The wind turbines are seen as an economic development issue in the poorest county in the state.
One of the challenges of the planning process is convincing the public and government entities in the areas beyond Southern Maryland of the advantages of establishing policies to protect the valuable (economically and for the country’s defense) national and regional asset
According to a website for the plan www.paxjlus,com “The primary objective of a JLUS is to reduce potential conflicts between a military installation and surrounding areas while accommodating new growth and economic development, sustaining economic vitality, and protecting the general public's health and safety, without compromising the operational missions of the installation. JLUS programs have three core objectives:
·“UNDERSTANDING. Increase communication between the military, local jurisdictions, and stakeholders to promote an understanding of the strong economic and physical relationship between the installation and its neighbors.
·“COLLABORATION. Encourage cooperative land use and resource planning between NAS PAX and area stakeholders so that future development is compatible with the training and operational missions at the installation, while at the same time seeking ways to reduce operational impacts on adjacent public and private lands.
·ACTIONS. Develop and implement strategies and tools designed to address the compatibility issues identified during the JLUS process.”
There are two dozen man-made factors potentially affecting the base that will be studied if they apply: interagency coordinator/communication; land use; safety zones; vertical obstructions; local housing availability; infrastructure extensions; anti-terrorism/force protection; noise; vibration; dust/smoke/steam; light and glare; energy development; air quality; frequency spectrum impediment/interference; public trespassing; cultural resources; legislative initiatives; water quality/quantity; threatened and endangered species; marine environment; scarce natural resources; land/air/sea spaces; frequency spectrum capacity; and roadway capacity.
The consultants used voting devices to register opinions of the audience of about 50 people and many of the potential man-made factors. .The overwhelming majority of people at the Lexington Park meeting were from St. Mary’s County, with just a few from Charles and Calvert.
The attendees were then broken down into smaller groups to look at the map of the base’s footprint and register their concerns.
In addition to the public participation a policy group has been established made up of representatives from the jurisdictions being studied. There also is a technical, group made up of staffs from the counties and the Navy.
There will be more rounds of public meetings as the process unfolds.
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