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New Vision for Fort Belvoir

Local leaders meet with planners for Belvoir's BRAC impact.

Fort Belvoir's impending explosive growth and the impact that will have on the surrounding community was outlined to local political leaders this past Thursday during a briefing at the base headquarters by the Belvoir New Vision Planners.

A conglomerate of land use planners, architects, environmental and transportation specialists and development managers, the team was selected by the U.S.Army to create a comprehensive plan addressing the impact of the Base Realignment and Closure Report on Fort Belvoir and southeastern Fairfax County. They will work with the BRAC Board of Advisors established by Col. Brian Lauritzen, Garrison Commander, Fort Belvoir.

Included on that Board, in addition to a variety of military and civilian representatives, are Mount Vernon and Lee districts supervisors Gerald Hyland and Dana Kauffman, respectively, along with Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald Connolly. Each attended the April 20 initial briefing.

"We need you, the individual stakeholders, to make sure that you are communicating your issues and concerns to the planners. Don't sit on issues until the next meeting of this group. Make sure you and your staffs are bringing issues to the developer as they come up," Lauritzen said.

That next meeting is now scheduled for June 22, just eight days prior to the initial submission of recommendations by the planners to the Department of Defense at The Pentagon. That report will kick off the process of merging an estimated 21,500 additional personnel into the base's workforce as a result of BRAC.

"It is the intent of those BRAC recommendations that Fort Belvoir become the lead installation for the Washington Metropolitan area. It is envisioned as a world-class facility in every respect," said Donald Carr, public affairs officer, Fort Belvoir.

HYLAND, KAUFFMAN AND CONNOLLY expressed concerned that the June 30 report would be delivered to The Pentagon without further input and review by the stakeholder group."The consultants gave us the initial impression they were on a fast track," Hyland said.

"There was no indication that their preliminary recommendations were coming back to the group before the submission. They finally agreed to and additional meeting for that review purpose on June 22," he said.

"This report is a very important first step and we definitely wanted to involve our staffs in the review process. I raised that point and they agreed," Hyland said.

"After the June 30 report there will be other opportunities for input by the area stakeholders. The New Vision Planners will have a Web site, www.belvoirnewvision.com, for ongoing input," Carr said.

The two lead firms for the New Vision Planners group are PBS&J Architectural/Engineering and Skidmore Owings & Merrill Architectural and Engineering. "They are both very familiar with transportation, air quality and other environmental issues in Northern Virginia," Carr said.

Their work will compliment Belvoir's Environmental Impact Study now underway and the new base master plan that is scheduled for completion a year from now, May 2007, according to Carr.

Top priorities for the planners in achieving that "world class" status for Fort Belvoir include:

* Produce a new standard of excellence for Federal urban design and development.

* Develop and implement a new vision for Fort Belvoir that is "creative, achievable, and lasting."

* Create a program for integration and development that is structured and proactive.

* Support the Army in meeting its mission for the base

* Meet the BRAC completion date Sept. 15, 2011

"Our vision is to build a high quality urban environment. To create a design that will bring this installation together, strengthen neighboring communities, and leave the environment stronger," said Philip Enquist, master planner for the project.

Enquist envisions post-BRAC Belvoir as a high-density, mass transit oriented community. "We want to reduce reliance on vehicles," he told the group. Establishing a mass transit capability for the Route 1 corridor has been a long-time goal of both Kauffman, who recently completed a one year term as chair of the WMATA Board, and Hyland.

The focal point of the June 30 Pentagon submission by BVNP is a preliminary siting report. It will present initial recommendations to the Office of the Army Chief of Staff, Installation Management, for locations of major agencies moving to Fort Belvoir as a result of BRAC.

That office is the approval authority for all recommendations by BVNP. Director of the Northeast Regional Army Installation Management Agency, Diane Devens, is a member of the Board of Advisors.

Other members of that Board, in addition to Hyland, Kauffman and Connolly, include: Elaine McConnell, Springfield District Supervisor; Sean Connaughton, chair, Prince William County Board of Supervisors; Daniel Storch, Mount Vernon District Representative, Fairfax County School Board, representing Fairfax County public schools; Dr. John Templin, chair, No.VA. BRAC Working Group; John Cogbill, chair, National Capital Planning Commission; Cord Sterling, Military Affairs Assistant to U.S.Senator John Warner (R-VA); Maj. Gen. Guy Swan, commanding officer, Military District of Washington; Pierce Homer, secretary, Virginia Department of Transportation; and four representatives of the U.S. Department of Defense and agencies slated to relocate to Fort Belvoir.