At a recent Horsham GOP committee meeting an update was provided on Horsham Land Reuse Authority (HLRA) activity regarding development of plans for land that will be made available by the closing of JRB Willow Grove.
Horsham Township has taken actions to ensure that Horsham residents maintain control over decisions that must be made before the U.S. Navy will turn the base over to the township for redevelopment. The first crucial decision was action taken by the township when it filed an application to become a Land Reuse Authority (LRA). This action was taken shortly after it became known that U.S. Government’s Base Realignment And Closure (BRAC) process resulted in the decision to close the Joint Reserve Base (JRB). As a result of the township’s proactive filing, Horsham – as opposed to Montgomery County or any other regional entity – was named as the LRA, and therefore maintains control over decisions on the development of the required land reuse plan.
Recent news reports indicate that airport proponents tend to show up for all HLRA meetings, regularly offering their opinions in favor of a municipal airport facility. This results in the erroneous impression that audiences are evenly split between those who support an airport facility and those who oppose it. It’s in the townships best interests that residents attend as many meetings as possible. Most HLRA meetings have been scheduled for 3:00 PM, making attendance more of a challenge. However meetings recently have been scheduled at 7:00 PM to make local attendance easier. It’s important to try to get more residents to the meetings whenever they occur.
In January, HLRA approved a contract with RKG Associates, Inc., a national planning firm, to help with developing the required land reuse plan. At the February meeting of the HLRA, RKG addressed the process and milestones in developing the plan. A presentation on the master plan and implementation strategy was provided, and general public comments were sought. RKG will present a review of present JRB site conditions at the April meeting. And in May it is expected that interactive workshops will be held to allow for direct public input.
A final reuse plan is expected to be presented in November.
Hatboro-Horsham School District filed a Notice of Interest in acquiring acreage at the base in case land is required for new school construction. Although no plans are in the works for construction of a new school, the BRAC process requires that interest in land acquisitions be made now. Otherwise such opportunity could be lost.
In addition, Montgomery Township has informed the HLRA of its intention to file an NOI on 450-550 acres related to the existing runway and surrounding acreage. This action was taken in an attempt to preserve potential interest in developing a municipal airport on the site. However, the County has expressed no desire to operate an airport. If no operator can found – and none has come forth so far – it makes no difference who wants an airport, it could not happen.
The Delaware Valley Historical Aircraft Association (DVHAA) is seeking a lease from the Navy for its existing property on Rt 611, and the association in interested in acquiring anywhere from 18-50 additional acres on which to develop a newer, larger aviation museum. DVHAA is receiving assistance from Montgomery County, although the County can only request space for parks land, not museum space.
The base consists of 892 acres. It is critical for the township to develop realistic plans for the property, because land is money, especially in the form of taxes. Horsham Township needs to replace federal offset funding (about $700,000. paid to the school district) that will cease a year after the Navy halts operations no later than September 15, 2011. Actual flight operations are expected to cease by April 1.
The next meeting of the Horsham LRA is scheduled for April 20, 2011 at 7:00 PM at the Horsham Township municipal building on Horsham Road.