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No 'show-stoppers' in Navy's draft report on Brunswick Naval Air Station reuse plan

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No 'show-stoppers' in Navy's draft report on Brunswick Naval Air Station reuse plan

BRUNSWICK — The U.S. Navy has released its draft review of the reuse plan for Brunswick Naval Air Station, a significant step in the base's civilian transition. 

Federal law requires the Navy to review the plan for the 3,200-acre facility before it can begin transferring property to the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, the agency marketing the property to future tenants.

The base is scheduled to close in May 2011.

The federally mandated Environmental Impact Statement is essentially another check on the projected impacts of the reuse plan that in 2007 was adopted by the MRRA's predecessor, the Brunswick Local Redevelopment Authority.

The EIS evaluates everything from traffic increases and aircraft noise, to impacts on the local school system and population.

Base planners have anxiously awaited the Navy's review, which is required before the MRRA can begin using the airport and taking over property.

Originally MRRA officials had hoped the EIS would be completed sooner. Steve Levesque, the authority's executive director, said the release of the draft is indication that the final EIS should be adopted in October.

The process requires the Navy to solicit public comments on its draft findings until June 28. There are hearings scheduled for June 2 and June 3. In addition, the Navy is accepting written comments.

Levesque said there don't appear to be any significant red flags in the draft findings. If there were, he said, the MRRA could be forced to revise the reuse – an issue the redevelopers of South Weymouth Naval Air Station encountered about 10 years ago.

Highlights of the Navy's executive summary include increased demand on health-care facilities and the town's public safety and recreation departments.

The reuse plan would lead to the development of about 1,630 acres of property. Another 1,570 acres would be devoted to recreation, open space and natural areas, including the re-establishment of the Brunswick Town Commons trail system.

The plan states the developed portion of the base would increase traffic on adjacent roadways from more than 1,200 trips during peak hours to nearly 6,500 trips.

The report also outlines mitigation strategies that appear to align with projects MRRA has proposed, including widening sections of Bath Road, moving the base entrance to align with Merrymeeting Plaza and direct access to the facility from Route 1.

The report also addresses aircraft noise, a concern that has periodically been raised by some residents. According to the draft findings, the proposed civilian airport would increase air traffic by about 45 percent. However, noise impact is supposed to decrease because the aircraft will likely be smaller and quieter than those used by the Navy.

Vernal pools are also addressed, some in the proposed area for an office and business park. But Levesque said planners hoped to incorporate the pools into the design of buildings.

"We envision a natural look to the properties," he said. "We don't think the redevelopment would benefit from a sea of asphalt and parking."

Overall, Levesque said he was encouraged by the draft findings.

"There don't appear to be any show-stoppers here," he said.

A draft of the Navy's more than 1,000-page report, including a 13-page executive summary, can viewed at brunswickeis.com.

Steve Mistler can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 123 or smistler@theforecaster.net