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Depot looks to lease land it once owned

February 07, 2006|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Looking toward future expansion, Letterkenny Army Depot wants to lease from the Letterkenny Industrial Development Authority approximately 260 acres that the Department of Defense declared excess property a decade ago.

On Monday, the board of directors of LIDA approved a motion to establish a Defense Support District in areas requested by the depot at the authority's January meeting. The property would be available to the depot through a long-term lease at no cost to Letterkenny and no expense to the authority, the motion stated.

Conditions for the lease include a 500-foot buffer zone along the district's perimeter; that all local and state land use regulations be applicable; that projects in the district be approved by the Army's Office of Installations and Housing and the Army Corps of Engineers; and that the land not be marketed or sold for private sector development without the agreement of both parties.

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At that January meeting, depot officials asked for a 50-year, no-cost lease that would be perpetually renewable at the depot's request. The motion approved Monday did not spell out those details.

"All those things need to be ironed out," said LIDA Executive Director John Van Horn. "Getting the Department of the Army and the Army Corps of Engineers to buy off on this will somewhat dictate the terms."

"We're agreeable to long-term leasing and it allows the Army to do its planning," Van Horn said. LIDA and the depot still have to work out a final agreement, he said, but putting the land at the depot's disposal puts Letterkenny in a stronger position when the next round of BRAC decisions is made in 2015.

Last week, the depot announced it had signed a contract with H.F. Lenz Co. of Johnstown, Pa., to develop a long-term master plan for the installation. The company will review the depot's projected mission requirements through 2025 to develop a plan for future construction, according to the statement.

The depot provided LIDA with an aerial photograph showing where some new buildings might be needed, but depot spokesman Alan Loessy said that was "conceptual," showing what Letterkenny's facility needs could be in the future.

In 1995, the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, or BRAC, decided to transfer some missions and tenants out of Letterkenny, resulting in the loss of several hundred jobs. The Department of Defense subsequently identified about 1,500 acres of the depot as excess property, and LIDA was created to manage the development of what is now the Cumberland Valley Business Park.

The land is being transferred to LIDA in phases and Van Horn said some of the parcels being considered for leasing have yet to actually change hands from the Army to LIDA.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Letterkenny has seen a resurgence in missions and workload. Last year, in the latest round of BRAC decisions, Letterkenny was spared the ax and the Defense Department announced that more work would be consolidated there.

The presentation to LIDA at last month's meeting projected employment to approach 2,900 federal government, tenant and contract workers this year, up from less than 1,800 prior to 2001.

Letterkenny does have major construction projects already planned for its land, according to last week's announcement. Those include construction of a $6.1 million ammunition shipping facility later this year; a $7.2 million staging and deployment facility and $11 million BRAC-related construction in the 2009 military construction budget; and a $14 million Army Reserve Center in the 2010 budget.

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