Wednesday, September 07, 2005

BRAC Tells Virginia Beach: Back Off Oceana

Virginia Beach has grown so quickly for so long, but now it's got to pull back, says the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, which is threatening to close the Oceana Naval Air Station if city leaders won't move development out of the base's crash zones.

Oceana employs 12,000 people, but the alternative to losing those jobs is buying and tearing down 1,800 homes and an unknown number of businesses, says the Times-Dispatch. Some city officials estimated the cost at about $500 million, says the paper. But city officials say they're not yet sure exactly what the commission wants; the formal documents outlining BRAC's terms may arrive this week.

I have a hard imagining that the council has much of a choice here - bulldozing homes and businesses is not really an option.


At 12:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course bulldozing homes is an option: the Supreme Court says so.

At 4:50 PM, Blogger Bob Burke said...

You're a troublemaker, anonymous. I believe the story includes some distate the VB City Council has about using eminent domain powers.

That's why I think it's not really a 'choice' for the council. And why the city might be smarter to (and probably already is) make plans for what it's going to do after Oceana clears out of town. I'll bet you that the major land-development firms are making plans.

At 7:00 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

Well, that kind of brings the matter to a fine point, doesn't it? Let's say that 12,000 people are worth anaverage of $50,000 a year add up to $600, million per year, and multiply that by the usual 3 for ancilliary effects, so we are looking at $1.8 Billlion per year.

Divide that by 1800 homes and you are looking at a million dollars per home, and you would create 450 acres of open space, which is invaluable in itself.

My guess is that if you offer the average homeowner a million dollars for his place, you would be a hero, and this is a project with a return on investment of ONE YEAR.

Sounds like a no brainer. If the paper is right and it only costs $500 million for the homes, then the ROI is what, four months?

At 7:35 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...


You are right about the distaste factor though, and it applies to developers as well as Government. The backlash against the Supreme Court decision has already put a number of urban redevelopment plans on hold.

Steve Walmsley has said we don't have room for more roads. But if we combined building roads with bulldozing homes our road dollars wpuld have a double effect: increase mobility and reduce congestion afforded by excess housing.

If numbers remotely similar to those above apply, then tearing down homes for highways is a no brainer too.

At 5:50 AM, Blogger Jim Bacon said...

I'm agnostic on the Oceana issue, and I'm just doing a mental exercise here... But what if the Navy did shut down the operation? Yes, the region would lose many, many jobs. That much is obvious. But what would the region stand to gain? Thousands of acres in the center of Virginia Beach would be thrown open to development. What an opportunity to do a number of things: (1) provide transportation connectivity to the developed areas all around the base, saving motorists the time and expense of driving around the base, (2) plan a balanced community with a balance of jobs, residential, shopping, services and amenities, and (3) design a community that's friendly to pedestrians, bicycles and alternate modes of transportation as well as automobiles.

Instead of spending hundreds of millions of dollars in a futile effort to keep the Navy in Oceana, we could spend that money on developing a truly functional place in which to live and work. My biggest reservation is the City Council of Virginia Beach. I have no intimate familiarity with Council, but basing a judgment on the basis of its handiwork so far, I am worried that the Council would be incapable of adopting anything but a Business As Usual approach to to re-developing Oceana.

At 2:42 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

How do you make thousands of acres bicycle friendly, let alone pedestrian friendly? Even most golf courses require you to use a car(t) nowadays.

Otherwise, Oceana does appear to be toast and the question will be what to do next. pefully we can do a better job with it than we have done in other places.

At 8:17 AM, Anonymous Terry M. said...

Ray, the golf course cart issue is one of revenue. Courses gain much more per player revenue from cart rentals than they do from green fees. Further, because too many Americans are fat and slow they believe it improves pace of play, thus allowing them to put more players on the course in a day.

At 10:26 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...


Exactly my point. The car vs pedestrian frindly issue is one of revenue, and for exactly the same reasons.

At 10:38 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

The Navy and Virginia Beach reached a compromise. NAS Oceana will stay in Virginia Beach for the time being. In exchange, Virginia Beach and the Commonwealth plan to invest $15 million a year to acquire developed properties and $182 million over 20 years to block additional development around Oceana.

It looks like bulldozing has become an option.

At $15 million a year it seems it might take a long time to acquire 1800 homes.

Commonwealth money is being used for this which has to translate to higher taxes somewhere. So once again we face the problem of who benefits and who pays.

In a perfect world, we would prefer not to pay 12,000 people to fly fighter jets, but this is not a perfect world, so we all benefit from this activity.

I guess we are all going to pay the price of the locational decisions of a few.


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