That sentiment aptly sums up where things stand with various matters surrounding the redevelopment of the shuttered Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove.
The Navy has hired a consultant to carry out the 12- to 18-month-long process of providing an environmental impact statement of the property, Horsham Land Reuse Authority Executive Director Mike McGee informed the board during last week’s meeting.
“We’re hoping that they do actually get their work done in 12-18 months,” McGee said, adding that the consultant is expected to come on board the second week in July.
Yet, even with what could potentially be a year and a half process about to begin, McGee referred to it as a “short fuse for us.”
“We need to have an entity in place to accept that property,” he said. “The movement on the part of the township council is timely here.”
Members of the new entity – an implementation authority that would replace the HLRA – are expected to be appointed during tonight’s Horsham Township Council meeting. In essence, the new authority would pick up where the HLRA left off and would see that the locally approved plan for the 25-year development moves to fruition.
The federal government has not yet weighed in on the redevelopment plan, or the separate application for 70 townhomes planned as permanent supportive housing for homeless - disabled veterans in particular. Both were submitted in April. McGee said he expects to hear back from the Department of Housing and Urban Development by month’s end.
In tandem with the creation of an implementation authority, HLRA staff are working on a grant application, which, if approved by the federal government, would allow the new authority to hire a consultant to provide guidance on a “significant amount of work” related to a transportation impact study, as well as stormwater, public water and sewer and a pro forma business plan and how it would progress. The consultant would offer guidance to the new authority as it seeks to serve as the master developer of the former air base.
That, like the other aspects of the site’s redevelopment, could take some time, as the federal government would need to review the application and determine if funding should be provided.
After the waiting is over and when, in several years, it's time to begin redeveloping the air base property, McGee said officials would know how much of the total 1,100-acre parcel is up for grabs. A recently completed survey indicates that 861.13 acres are designated as “surplus.” Originally, officials had said 862 acres were available, then, more recently, referenced the developable land as 892 acres. McGee told Patch that the mixed-use redevelopment plan that the HLRA approved in March accounts for 862 acres.
The available land includes “a lot of right of ways,” McGee said.
One of the few remaining remnants of the base’s history as an airfield is the 93-foot FAA tower. Originally, the FAA had requested a 1,500-foot easement, McGee said. The FAA has since withdrawn that request.
In its place, McGee said the FAA has asked that new owners of property within 1,500 feet of the tower document the fact that they are not above the sea level of the tower and would not project radio frequencies that would interfere with the FAA’s radar.
“The net impact of the federal law is insignificant,” McGee said. “No building can be higher than 93 feet. Zoning in Horsham doesn’t allow for that to take place anyway.”
Despite the need to wait for various reviews and, ultimately, federal government approval, McGee said progress is being made.
“We’re on course,” he said. “Four years behind, but we’re moving forward.”