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Feds may study development's effect on depot

November 27, 2003|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

As residential development around Letterkenny Army Depot increases, the U.S. Department of Defense's Office of Economic Adjustment is considering an encroachment study to see how current and future depot operations could be affected.

Col. Wendell L. Taylor of the Office of Economic Adjustment on Wednesday told the Franklin County Council of Governments that the U.S. Army has nominated Letterkenny as a site for a joint land-use study in 2004.

Taylor said he has met with Col. William Guinn, the depot commander, and identified two possible areas of encroachment, the detonation of ammunition and a radar testing site "oriented toward a part of the depot that was realigned."

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"We get complaints from Greenvillage-area residents about detonations ... it goes in spurts," said Rob Kauffman, a Greene Township supervisor.

Kauffman said those complaints could become more of a problem in the future with a 545-unit housing complex, the Highlands of Greenvillage, proposed for construction in that area.

An ammunition storage facility since it was established at the beginning of World War II, part of the depot's mission is to destroy out-of-date ordnance. One of the depot's other missions is tactical missile maintenance, for which the radar testing site is used to gauge tracking and guidance systems.

"Radar frequency interference is a concern and that's something that's not uncommon," Taylor said. At this point, he said, there were no serious encroachment issues for the safety zones around either the test site or the ammunition detonation area.

In 1995, the Base Realignment and Closure Commission declared about 1,500 acres of depot land as excess property. The business park created from that land is run by the Letterkenny Industrial Development Authority.

"The radar test range goes across hole No. 5 of the golf course," which sometimes has to be closed off while the site is in use, said John Van Horn, director of the authority. The range is not in use all the time, so it is not a serious disruption, he said.

A joint land use study could prove important in preserving defense jobs at Letterkenny when the Base Realignment and Closure Commission meets in 2005 to decide on another round of base closings, said L. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Corp.

"I don't see a lot of current encroachment issues that need to be addressed," Taylor said. Airbases, he said, usually generate the most complaints from communities.

More important is looking to future operations at the depot, such as an expansion or addition of missions, which could be affected by development outside its gates.

The outcome of a study could be recommendations for revisions in land use and development regulations, zoning ordinances and real estate disclosure rules, Taylor said. The object is for military bases and the communities that surround them to peacefully co-exist while allowing normal military operations and training.

The council of governments passed a resolution endorsing a study. If the Office of Economic Adjustment determines one is justified, it provides half the funding and technical assistance, with the rest of the money coming from a local sponsor.

Taylor said that is usually a governmental body with regulatory oversight of land development, such as the townships that border the depot. A council of governments or state agency also could act as a sponsor, according to an OEA summary of the program.

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