First MRRA forum fields range of questions
BRUNSWICK — Just over 30 people showed up for a Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority community forum Wednesday night to learn about what will happen next at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station.
The forum, held in the Crooker Theater of Brunswick High School, was the first event designed to keep people informed about developments at Brunswick Landing, according to Dave Markovchick, MRRA economic development manager.
Attendees included Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, Rep. Alex Cornell du Houx, D-Brunswick, Town Manager Gary Brown, and other town staff.
MRRA Executive Director Steve Levesque began the evening by outlining in detail the group's organizational structure and funding.
The authority, created by the L legislature, is a public, municipal corporation charged with redeveloping the former Navy base. It has no taxation or zoning authority, but may purchase, sell, and enter into leases on property, as well as issue bonds.
MRRA is funded primarily through the Department of Defense's Office of Economic Adjustment, although Levesque said that funding will phase out over time. In its place, MRRA is expecting to fund itself through property leases, sales, airport revenue and special events.
MRRA has identified six sectors to target job growth: aviation and aerospace, information technology, advanced composites, alternative energy development, education, and resort hotel and conference center.
The authority has already secured leases with eight companies, ranging from local manufacturers like New England Tent and Awning to multinational corporations like Molnlycke Health Care, which broke ground this week.
MRRA is still awaiting completion of the Navy's economic development conveyance, the process by which the Navy sells land to the organization. At that point, MRRA will control more than 800 acres of former Navy land and approximately 200 buildings.
Levesque said one of the authority's challenges is to protect the vacant buildings from vandalism. The Brunswick Police Department patrols the base.
In order to maintain security, Levesque said a perimeter fence around the property would likely stay up until at least next summer, and access would be limited to the main entrance on Bath Road.
While MRRA has been charged with redevelopment at both the former Navy base and the Topsham Commerce Park, Levesque said progress is slower in Topsham. The military retains a presence there until September, which Levesque said constrains the pace of redevelopment.
Perhaps the most public feature of Brunswick Landing is the Brunswick Executive Airport, which has been open since April.
Only one of the airport's runways is in use because the airport has nontraditional signs that MRRA officials feared would confuse pilots accustomed to FAA signs, according to Marty McMahon, MRRA's aviation service manager.
Following the presentation, people asked Levesque questions that ranged from who maintains the roads on the base (MRRA) to whether large commercial jets would land on the runway (only if they are being serviced by an airline maintenance company on the base).
Some still had basic questions about MRRA's structure and authority, while others simply wanted to know if they could ride bikes on the base.
One man wanted to know what he had to do to have a friend fly into the airport and pick him up.
"Just have him fly in and pick you up," Levesque said, because the airport is open for business.