m-brunBNAShousing-011609 Meeting planned on BNAS closure, housing impacts

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BRUNSWICK — The public on Jan. 22 will hear comment from officials involved in the 2011 closure of Brunswick Naval Air Station, including the United Kingdom-based firm that’s started marketing a third of the 702 military housing units it controls there.
The BNAS communications office announced the meeting this week. It will be held at 7 p.m. at Brunswick High School’s Crooker Theater and was described by BNAS Commanding Officer Capt. Will Fitzgerald as an expansion of ongoing dialog between residents and officials involved with BNAS closure and redevelopment.
In addition to Fitzgerald, attendees will include Steve Levesque, executive director of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority; Rick Baribeau, a representative of the Merrymeeting Board of Realtors, and Mark Lavin, of Balfour Beatty PLC.
Balfour Beatty is the firm that controls 702 military housing units on BNAS property. In December, Balfour Beatty told town and MRRA officials that it would begin marketing a third of its properties this year, a decision that prompted widespread concern among real estate professionals and redevelopment officials about the impacts on local real estate values.
Last week, Balfour Beatty officially announced its intentions in a press release distributed to several national and international news outlets, including Yahoo! Business and the U.K.-based Earth Times.
In the release Lavin described the BNAS housing as “a unique opportunity for real estate investors and developers to tap the future of redevelopment in Maine.”
“Redevelopment plans for (BNAS) include measures to transform the base into a vibrant live, work, play, and learn community,” added Lavin, “helping form the foundation of a stable economic future for the community of Brunswick.”
In December, Lavin responded to allegations that Balfour Beatty was dumping its housing units when housing values are declining by saying that marketing the properties could potentially attract buyers unaware of the base’s ambitious redevelopment plan.
Earlier this year, Balfour Beatty and the U.S. Navy formed a partnership called Northeast Housing LLC to jointly own the housing units. However, the U.S. Navy owns exclusive rights to the land. That means buyers would own the buildings, but not the land.
Balfour Beatty said it plans to market the units in blocks, not individually.
Regardless, town officials are concerned that any sale would mean that the new owners would obtain private rental properties currently exempt from property taxes. Interim Town Manager Gary Brown in December hinted that the town might pursue legislative action to collect property tax on military housing turned over to private owners.
So far, no such action has been taken.

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