Norfolk, Va. — If you were to take a tour of the perimeter of Naval Air Station Oceana with Virginia Beach officials today, they would be able to point out the empty lots where hundreds of dwelling units and several dozen commercial ones once stood.
They also would be able to show you the thousands of acres that have been rezoned to prevent new development from sprouting up. Finally, city officials could spotlight a handful of parcels where conforming businesses plan to relocate.
Add up the smorgasbord of zoning changes, purchases of residences built too close to the ends of the air station’s runways, incentives to spur nonconforming businesses to move out of Oceana’s Accident Potential Zone-1 (APZ-1), partnering efforts with the Navy to curtail new development and other planning changes and you end up with an innovative plan that has not just saved Oceana from closure by the BRAC Commission but that has succeeded in significantly rolling back encroachment at the Navy’s East Coast master jet base.
Six years ago the BRAC Commission urged Virginia Beach to purchase and condemn all incompatible property adjacent to Oceana. Instead of destroying much of the surrounding community, though, the city came up with its own plan to ensure the air station could continue to fulfill its mission for the coming decades.
The city devised a three-pronged plan to protect Oceana, relying on zoning changes, property acquisition and a conformity program to reduce incompatible development in APZ-1. Virginia Beach and the commonwealth of Virginia agreed to jointly contribute $15 million a year to carry out the plan.
In late 2005 and early 2006, the city adopted a series of policies and ordinances that prevented new incompatible development within areas most vulnerable to potential aircraft accidents. One of the measures immediately froze incompatible development in APZ-1, precluding the development of more than 900 residential units and 400 commercial units that would have been incompatible.
The city and Oceana’s commanding officer also agreed to jointly evaluate land use applications early in the development review process to ensure they comply with the Air Installation Compatible Use Zones (AICUZ) footprint.
Under the voluntary residential property acquisition component of the plan, Virginia Beach has eliminated 471 dwelling units from APZ-1 and the airfield’s clear zone. The program reduces density and incompatible development, but also strives to preserve the integrity and economic stability of surrounding neighborhoods.
The third leg of the city’s plan is an incentive program intended to recruit and retain conforming businesses — such as wholesale trade, distribution and manufacturing — to APZ-1 and relocate nonconforming businesses from that zone elsewhere in the city. The city launched www.YesOceana.com to reach affected businesses.
Incentives include rebates of the business license tax or real estate tax, the economic development investment program for qualifying properties, and reimbursement of fees for building permits, site plan applications and water and sewer connections.
While the city’s multi-pronged plan has succeeded in reversing incompatible development around NAS Oceana, the effort continues. Last year, ADC recognized NAS Oceana as the Active Base Community of the Year for its partnership with Virginia Beach to combat encroachment.