It's an entirely new approach. It affects housing, the development of a national museum, the preservation of open space and wetlands, protection of a long established sports venue and it addresses transportation concerns. It's the overall impact of a community at-large.
This is the essence of community planning in towns and cities across the United States. Now, it applies to the military bases as well.
That was the message at Fort Belvoir's Real Property Master Plan Scoping Session held last week at Mount Vernon High School.
The primary purpose was to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for updating the base's Real Property Master Plan, which is required by the Environmental Protection Agency. Planners at the session presented scenarios for future development at the post, both from the standpoint of living facilities and planned additions both within the confines of military control and outside that will impact the overall economy of the area and lives of citizens, and to solicit and encourage public input on the various scenarios presented both visually and verbally by military and private contractor representatives.
All of this was accomplished over a three hour period, structured to provide 20 minute commentary sessions during each hourly segment. To compliment those sessions, a court reporter was present to record comments from anyone wishing to offer more detailed or private opinions.
ATTENDEES WERE also urged to submit written comments on any and all aspects of the various proposals displayed around the cafeteria on charts, graphs and color-coded maps.
"We want your comments. They are very important to us," said Donald N. Carr, director, Fort Belvoir Public Affairs.
The Real Property Master Plan is Fort Belvoir's strategy for the orderly management and development of its real property assets, including land, facilities, resources and infrastructure. The EIS will evaluate potential environmental, transportation and socioeconomic effects that may occur upon implementation of the revised and updated Plan.
It is composed of long-range component, capital investment strategy, short-range component and mobilization mission planning component. It is this last element that has had, and probably will continue to have, the greatest impact upon the surrounding community.
"Over the past decade, numerous developments have resulted in a need for Fort Belvoir to provide support to a growing number of Army and Department of Defense entities," Belvoir officials noted. The latest of these was the relocation of the Army Materiel Command from its home of 30-plus years in Alexandria to inside the base.
THE SCOPING MEETING also provided an opportunity, in line with the National Historic Preservation Act, for interested parties to submit their views on issues of historic preservation raised by the proposed Master Plan.
Section 106 of that act requires federal agencies to define the effects of proposed actions on such things as archeological and/or architectural resources listed or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
This is of particular significance at Fort Belvoir in light of the recently initiated Residential Community Initiative. It not only provides for the upgrading and reconfiguration of existing military housing, but also for the renovation and preservation of many historic buildings, residential and otherwise, on the post.
THE EIS WILL INCLUDE studies of air quality, surface water quality, environmentally sensitive areas such as Chesapeake Bay Protection Areas, biological resources, site topography and soils, and community facilities, services and cultural resources.
Currently, three development scenarios are being considered to accommodate Fort Belvoir's vision for long term growth, according to the Scoping agenda. Each is designed to provide up to three million square feet of new office space for both potential new tenants and existing tenants.
However, depending on future mission assignments, this could increase to six million square feet, according to Belvoir planners. In addition to potential new development, each scenario provides for redevelopment, infill and remodeling.
THE DEVELOPMENT PLAN scenarios presented at the meeting were designated by the location where the majority of new construction would occur.
* North Post: Majority of new development would occur in the vicinity of the North Post Golf Course, which is proposed to be relocated to the Southwest Area.
* South Post: Includes redevelopment and renovations to facilities on both North and South Post. New development would be in area of relocated gold course.
* Southwest Area: Redevelopment and renovations would occur to facilities on North and South Post. The majority of new development would occur in Southwest Area.
THERE IS ALSO the "No Action" option, according to the planners.
"The no action alternative, which represents no revised master plan, provides a baseline for comparison with other alternatives," they explained.
In addition to the recently completed meeting, the public will have two additional opportunities to comment, according to Carr. They will be Summer 2004, when the EIS draft will be completed, and Fall 2004, when the final EIS will be completed and made available to the public.