The first of four public forums on the Joint Land Use Study for Naval Support Facility Dahlgren was held at the University of Mary Washington Dahlgren Campus on March 25. The JLUS is an ongoing project that brings NSF Dahlgren and neighboring communities together to enhance and preserve the communities’ quality of life, while preventing encroachment on base activities. The goal is to organize compatible land use in the region and create balance between the needs of the Navy and the localities that border its installations in Dahlgren.
Funded by the Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment and study sponsor King George County, the project includes Westmoreland County and the Town of Colonial Beach in Virginia, as well as Charles County and St. Mary’s County in Maryland.
The first public forum presented an overview of the study and surveyed citizens’ concerns on number of topics related to NSF Dahlgren, including traffic, noise, environmental issues and safety concerns. The topics related not only to NSF Dahlgren itself, but also to the base’s Pumpkin Neck Annex and Potomac River Test Range.
“I’d like to thank all of you for coming out,” said Dale Sisson, chairman (at large) of the King George County Board of Supervisors. “I look forward to the public’s input and involvement in the [JLUS] process.”
Public input will feature prominently in the study, along with guidance from policy and technical advisory committees comprised of community and military leaders.
King George County selected Matrix Design Group to conduct the JLUS. The firm has facilitated dozens of similar JLUS projects for communities and military installations across the country.
Mike Hrapla, vice president of Matrix Design Group and project manager for the NSF Dahlgren JLUS, discussed the study and emphasized the diverse issues that arise from diverse geographies and military missions. “There is no one study that looks alike,” he said. “[Every JLUS] is tailored and specific to the community.”
To help guide the Dahlgren study and identify specific concerns from the citizens in attendance, Hrapla asked attendees several questions and tallied their answers on electronic devices given to participants. The results showed that most participants were longtime residents of King George County, had lived there for several years and were generally familiar with NSF Dahlgren.
Among the other areas of concern the survey examined was the availability of affordable housing in the area. Thirty-three percent of respondents said there is a shortage of apartments in the area, with a slightly fewer expressing concern about a shortage of workforce housing.
Traffic and congestion were other issues the survey examined. Thirty-six percent said they are concerned about traffic at B Gate; 33 percent said the same for the Main Gate.
Twenty-seven percent of respondents said they are very concerned about safety in the vicinity of the base and its activities; 20 percent said they are somewhat concerned, 33 percent said they are slightly concerned and 20 percent are not concerned at all.
A majority concluded that noise was only occasionally a nuisance (35 percent) or not at all (39 percent).
While most respondents (45 percent) said they are unconcerned about the operation of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles at Dahlgren, 16 percent said they are significantly concerned.
During a question and answer phase, citizens discussed and expanded on those issues. Several worried that increasing development near the Potomac River Test Range near Swan Point, Md., could encroach on base operations. Another said that increasing traffic around the base was causing undue wear roads near the installation. Others discussed how base amenities, such as the pool, have been off-limits to the public in recent years due to increased security measures on base.
Hrapla thanked participants for contributing their thoughts and said their input would guide his team as they arrange the next public meeting.
The South Potomac Pilot will announce the next NSF Dahlgren JLUS public forum when the date becomes available. For more information, visit www.dahlgrenjlus.com.