Base Reuse Alternatives FAQs
The following has been prepared by the HLRA and RKG Associates, Inc. to answer some of the most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) regarding the three Base Reuse Alternative plans.
Must the HLRA Board chose one of the three alternatives presented during the August 2011 HLRA Meeting?
No, the three alternative plans presented by the HLRA's consultant, RKG Associates, show concepts that, in their opinion, best respond to the input from the residents and the site's reuse potential from which the Preferred Reuse Plan will evolve. The Board will direct the consultant to prepare a Preferred Reuse Plan which may include concepts shown on the three Base Reuse Alternative Plans.
TRAFFIC AND ROAD QUESTIONS
Will development of NAS-JRB cause traffic and congestion to get worse?
As stated at the presentation on August 17, 2011, the planning team's travel demand projections do not account for any potential improvements (e.g., roadway widening, synchronized traffic signals, etc.) or mitigation measures to reduce congestion. Once a preferred reuse plan has been prepared, the transportation engineers will examine those options to mitigate congestion. However, as stated at the public meeting, as the property evolves from no current use to full redevelopment over 20 years, additional traffic at the site will be unavoidable. How that new traffic is managed in the future will be critical in the redevelopment process.
Can we limit through traffic in all alternatives?
The public has consistently requested that the NAS-JRB property be integrated into the surrounding area. Limiting through traffic has never been identified as a public goal for this project, but rather people have asked for access through the site to shorten travel distances and facilitate the movement of traffic through the Township.
All 3 plans route traffic onto Keith Valley Road which is subject to flooding, wouldn't it be better to re-route Keith Valley Road?
All three reuse concepts specifically attempt to limit traffic volumes onto Keith Valley Road to and from the site for exactly those reasons. This point was stressed at the presentation and we hope to be able to correct many of the current problems in the future. Over 100 acres of open space is being proposed for the north end of the site. This may create an opportunity to construct a storm water retention pond or take other measures to reduce local flooding.
Will the new traffic will be overwhelming?
It's too early at this stage to make specific transportation or roadway recommendations that will address the existing and projected traffic problem areas. However, as stated at the public meeting, more details will be provided once the final Preferred Reuse Plan is developed. At this stage, the HLRA is closely evaluating the various plan elements (e.g., residential, retail, town center, corporate/university park, etc.) to determine what will be carried forward into the final Preferred Reuse Plan.
Did you look at traffic on Horsham Road, when school was in session?
Yes. Traffic counts were taken when school was in session. Also the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission traffic counts will be utilized to help identify the needed road improvements.
What improvements will be made to the intersection of Meeting House Road, and Easton Road, etc. and who will pay for the improvements?
It is too early to prescribe solutions such as intersection improvements. At the present time there are no plans to acquire additional right of ways at any intersection. The cost and responsibility of future road improvements, land acquisitions, and similar matters, will be determined once the final Preferred Reuse Plan is in place. It could be a combination of public (federal, state, county and local government) or private entities depending on the purpose and need for the improvements.
Is it possible to use as much of the airstrip for roads or other uses to defray the cost of demolition?
All three reuse concepts assume utilizing some of the existing runway and apron surfaces as part of the road network. At this stage, wholesale removal of this infrastructure improvement is not planned. Although selective demolition is likely going to be required, depending on the final reuse plan, it is anticipated that the materials from all sections of the runway and aprons that are not utilized as roads, will be recycled and used at the site.
RESIDENTIAL HOUSING QUESTIONS
Is the proposed housing out of balance for Horsham?
It is the consultant's opinion that given the location of the property and what is trying to be achieved on 862 acres, a mixed-use, higher density development is a more efficient and financially viable use of the land. As was stated in previous public meetings, some measure of density is required to make the Town Center concept work successfully.
Is there an architectural overview to the plan?
The HLRA and the Township will ultimately have regulatory control over zoning and may also choose to adopt guidelines to control architectural quality. This will likely be a recommendation in the final plan.
Should apartments and rental units be favored until the economy improves?
The plan alternatives are designed to address a variety of different development needs over a 15 to 20 year period that's why a variety of different housing types have been proposed. Whatever the current market needs, they will likely change many times over the life of the project. The reuse concepts are designed to allow enough flexibility to accommodate different market needs as they arise in the future.
Is age restricted housing for the 55+ population being proposed?
All three base reuse concepts are proposing a 55+ residential community as part of the plan. Those communities were assumed to be located within the CCRC (congregate care retirement community) land use category. The plans envision nice, reasonably-sized homes for active adults, which will allow them to age in place through their independent living years.
If doing residential development, how many single family homes per acre?
The Alternative Development Scenarios assumed a low range (four units per acre) and high range (10 units per acre) of single family units/acre. The average is 7 units per acre.
TOWN CENTER / RETAIL / OFFICE BUILDING / HOTEL QUESTIONS
Do we need a Town Center?
Based on previous public input, the top land use concept most desired by Horsham residents is the town center. Horsham residents do not feel that they currently possess a central gathering place, or town center, where community activities can occur. The Town Center being proposed for Horsham will be considerably different and will have a stronger community/civic focus. Also, with the creation of new residential neighborhoods on the property, the demand for convenience goods and services will likely increase as the property is being developed.
Do we need retail stores on the former base?
The plan is intended to meet the needs of the community 15 to 20 years into the future. The fact that there is current retail vacancy in the region will not impact the proposed development; especially when the conveyance of the property from the government may not occur for several years. However, the retail vacancy rates present in the market at the time the base is being redeveloped should be factored in at that time. Also, keep in mind, with the addition of new residential neighborhoods on the property, the demand for retail goods and services will increase over time. Each person that has to travel off the site to purchase basic goods and services will ultimately add traffic on the current road network. As such, keeping some of those retail trips contained within the property becomes one element of the traffic management strategy.
Do we need a business park or corporate office on the property?
The plans propose a corporate/university research and development park, which will set it apart of other nearby business parks.
Can we redevelop the base as a Park or Drive-in movie theater or arts center so there is diversity and plenty for adults and kids to do without going in the City? Will the needs of baby boomers be addressed?
Between 20 and 25% of each reuse concept sets aside land for passive open space, natural areas, recreation fields and similar park facilities. In addition, many of the major uses (i.e., school, corporate office park) typically incorporate large open spaces into their own developments. This combination will make this a very open and "green" development. Regarding the "baby-boomer" generation, the entire development would serve that population, particularly the open space, walking trails, the age restricted residential community, and in future years, the assisted living and nursing facilities.
Is the property too densely used on all three options?
As stated at the public meeting, the plans seek a balance between development quality, open space, development density and future revenue potential. Suitable levels of development are necessary in order to pay for the infrastructure investment required to redevelop the site.
How high are the buildings going to be allowed to be? Can we limit number of floors?
The current assumptions are that all the new buildings will be no higher than 4 stories. One exception might be the proposed hotel, which could conceivably be higher, but it is premature to make those decisions at this early planning stage. The continued operation of the FAA radar tower on Horsham Road will likely limit building heights in the vicinity of the tower.
Have you considered a major medical office/clinic/therapy complex?
Each of the three reuse concepts call for a medical office complex related to the assisted living and nursing complex.
Has anyone contacted local hospitals to see if they would be interested in relocating to this site?
We are currently making preliminary contacts with members of the business, retirement, education, non-profit, university, and development community to gauge their reaction to the reuse concepts currently being considered. Depending on the future decisions of the HLRA Board regarding the final Preferred Reuse Plan, this input may be used to refine various plan elements.
Is the objective to make the biggest taxable development for the most revenue?
No. The HLRA's objective is to create a reuse plan that proposes a high quality, mixed-use development that incorporates many of the elements that Horsham residents said they would like to see at the property. Currently, the property does not produce any measurable taxes for the Township, and one of the community's top planning principles was to create new employment and a tax base at the property. In addition to these economic development principles, we must balance them with all the other planning principles adopted by the HLRA Board in July.
Is there a way to simplify the development by just showing development of the first phase and not showing how the remainder of the property will be developed?
The final plan must represent the community's preferred reuse strategy for the entire property. In other words, the HLRA must disclose how it intends to utilize the entire 862 acres and over what time period. The final plan will be reviewed by the Navy and ultimately will be the basis for the transfer of the property to other owners. If conditions change in the future, modifications will be made to the plan, but the final plan must include all surplus property.
Is there room for athletic fields, community pool, etc.?
There is room for athletic fields and recreational facilities in all three plan concepts.
How are the military enclave functions going to impact neighboring housing?
The Preferred Reuse Plan will show sufficient set back and buffering between the new development and the military enclave. The current guard/reserve training operations will be well contained within their 220 acre property.
How is the reuse plan being paid for?
The Office of Economic Adjustment (within the Department of Defense) provides federal planning grants to communities affected by base realignments or closures. This grant money is funding the work necessary to develop a reuse plan--including professional consulting fees. For NAS-JRB Willow Grove, the HLRA has hired RKG Associates, Inc., an economic, planning and real estate consulting firm experienced in military base closures. RKG will assist the HLRA with the economic and market analysis, public outreach, development of potential reuse scenarios and eventually a Preferred Reuse Plan that reflects Horsham' long-term goals and values.
Will the HLRA have to fund capital expenditures?
Not necessarily; the capital expenditures can be funded by the new private land owners however; it may be expedient to fund some improvements. Methods of property conveyance will be proposed in the final redevelopment plan.
Why can't we use the base and buildings while we decide what we are doing with it?
The short-term answer is that the HLRA and/or Horsham Township do not own the buildings. They will remain the property of the Navy, until such time the property is conveyed, which could be years from now. If and when the HLRA takes possession of the property, it will then be able to lease, sell, or otherwise utilize the existing buildings on the property if there is a stated need.
Why not reuse the property as an airport in the short term to generate revenue and to test whether or not the use would generate economic development for the Horsham area?
The expected build out of the property is between 15 and 25 years but the redevelopment of portions of the property could start as early as late 2013. The entire property continues to be owned by the US government and will not be transferred to any owner for any use until the redevelopment plan has been submitted and the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) has been completed. The EIS may be completed as early as late 2013 or early 2014. Only one organization has expressed an interest in actually operating an airport (Bucks County Airport Authority - BCAA) and in their NOI they listed their federal grants as their main source of funds to operate, convert and maintain the facilities to their use. Montgomery County has stated that they are not interested in operating the airport. Neither the FAA nor any other government agency would provide grant money without the assurances that the airport is needed and will be financially feasible. To reuse the property for any use to include an airport will involve many million dollars for utilities alone; since there are no longer any utilities to serve the property. It is not economically feasible to invest the needed funds to test the economic feasibility of a general use airport.
Will the redevelopment of the base affect my taxes?
The objective of the final reuse plan is to achieve a land use plan that meets the community's reuse goals but is also fiscally prudent and financially sound. Horsham Township, Hatboro-Horsham School District and Montgomery County do not currently receive any real estate taxes from the base and very little earned income taxes. The Hatboro-Horsham School District currently does receive impact aid from the Federal Government but considering the size and value of the property that aid is minimal compared to the revenue it will generate after redevelopment. In addition, Horsham Township will collect various impact fees to insure that the new owners will help fund improvements.
Who will finance the road improvements, etc. needed to redevelop the base?
Financing a large project such as redevelopment of the base will involve a complex series of steps including the developers and the new property owners. Also Horsham Township has been a leader within Montgomery County and the region in using impact fees paid by developers to improve the roads, traffic signals and to develop parks and open space. Future financing needs will become clearer after the Preferred Reuse Plan is approved.
Who cleans up contaminated land and to what level?
The Navy is responsible, under federal laws, to take response actions at contaminated sites which will permit transfer of the property. At NAS-JRB Willow Grove, an inter-agency team including the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has been overseeing the cleanup program since 1991. Current DOD policy recommends that cleanup decisions be based on current uses of the property.
Who makes final decision on how the land will be redeveloped?
The HLRA is confident that the Preferred Reuse Plan will meet all of the requirements of the BRAC process and will be approved by Navy.
What is the timing of the redevelopment? When will construction start?
It is expected that the HLRA's Preferred Reuse Plan and Homeless Submission will be submitted in December 2011 or soon thereafter. The Homeless Submission must be reviewed and accepted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD's review involves determining that the Plan properly addresses the needs of the homeless in the region while balancing the needs of the communities in the vicinity of the base for economic development. After HUD's review and approval, the U.S. Navy will prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the proposed reuse plan. Current estimates of the HUD review/approval and the U.S. Navy's EIS range from 18-24 months after plan submission.
Can the Reuse Plan be changed?
The Preferred Reuse Plan will likely contain flexible aspects which will allow future development to react to dynamic market forces. All parties agree that market conditions ten or fifteen years from now may be different than today. Successful redevelopment of the base will require flexible implementation of the Plan.
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