Air Base Infrastructure Costs Projected at $145 Million

Of that, runway demolition is expected to cost $17 million.

The Horsham Land Reuse Authority is closing in on the homestretch for approval of a redevelopment plan for 862 acres of shuttered Willow Grove air base.

On Wednesday night, the board’s consultant, RKG Associates, presented a final view of what the property could look like dotted with 1,416 mixed-use residences, a 13-acre aviation museum, a 40-acre middle school, a robust town center and regional recreational area, an estimated 70 housing units for the homeless and a 133-acre office park expected to create more than 7,000 jobs – and a $457 million annual payroll - upon build out.

The culmination of a “close to final” plan, according to HLRA Chairman William Whiteside, has led the board to its last hurdle before approving the reuse blueprint at its March 21 meeting: Public comment. For the next 30 days, the community can share their comments with the HLRA via email or by calling Horsham Township at 215-643-3131.

A handful of the several dozen in attendance Wednesday questioned why the seven-acre parcel proposed for the homeless was situated near recreational space and the area adjacent to the middle school.

HLRA Executive Director Mike McGee said it was important to “integrate” the homeless into the community and consultant Russell Archambault said the area near the main gate, off of Privet Road, is the only parcel with access to public transportation.

The question left unanswered is how the nearly $145 million in combined public and private infrastructure costs – including $10 million for roads, $15 million to raze buildings, $17 million to demolish the runway and $60 million for water and sewer lines – will be funded.

“How this all gets paid for is yet to be determined,” Archambault said.

The bigger question perhaps is if area taxpayers will be saddled with the cost of removing the runway for an airport it firmly rejected. McGee said a military base redevelopment project in Glenview, Ill. was expected to cost $23 million for runway removal, but was whittled down to $3 million because the materials were used to construct new roads.

“The taxpayers will pay – federal taxpayers,” McGee said.

Typically, McGee said the cost of necessary improvements is deducted from the land value paid to the government upon property acquisition.

“I firmly believe the value of the property is a negative number,” McGee said.

Ultimately, the purchase price for the land will be negotiated between the HLRA and the government with upgrades and environmental impacts all factored in, he said.

HLRA board member Steven Nelson said he was concerned that the cost projections were estimated too low and would be much higher.

"My fear is that this is going to go to the Navy with sort of half of the information," Nelson said. "I think this lacks some critical information."

While the board took no action Wednesday, McGee reaffirmed his hope that the HLRA’s intent to acquire the property through an economic development conveyance be included in the plan set to be approved and submitted to the federal government by March 31. The Navy will decide how the property is transferred, McGee said, noting that the government could sell the land at a public sale, meaning that Horsham could only "control" the final development outcome by virtue of its zoning.

An economic development conveyance, on the other hand, would require “some sort of upfront payment,” as well as a commitment of future revenues, but would give the community “maximum flexibility,” according to Archambault, who, along with his firm, RKG Associates, has overseen 50 military base redevelopment projects.

Described previously as a type of “layaway,” McGee said the notion of an economic development conveyance – in which the HLRA could serve as the site’s master developer – in no way encumbers future boards or local government to follow that protocol.

“Right up until the deeds are transferred,” McGee said of the two- to five-year process, “we can always back out.”

John Simpson February 24, 2012 at 05:00 AM
housing is going to rasie your taxes that all it will do once they are built the jobs are done and as far as office building how many jobs to you see being created now zero and do you think if they put a company or two in their the jobs will be for the locals think again people and the people should vote on what goes in there not the politicians they just want to line their pockets
Marc Lombardi February 24, 2012 at 11:33 AM
John: There are not "zero" jobs being created now. Where are you getting those "facts?" Are you aware that since October 2010, every single month has seen an increase in the number of workers in America. The unemployment rate has been decreasing (down from 9.1% in August 2011 to 8.3% in January 2012). And don't say "Well, it's just government jobs" because it's not the case. Government Employers have actually decreased their workforce while the private sector has increased steadily over the past year. So while you may be against the ideas laid out in the plans for your own reasons, please don't try to pull the wool over anyone's eyes under the false pretense that new office space would be wasteful because zero jobs would be created. That's not only foolish but it's also irresponsible to say. Any why in the world would new jobs go to anyone else than a majority of local Montco area residents? Do you think a company that moves in and creates 2,000 jobs is going to find all of their employees elsewhere?
Mike Shortall Sr February 24, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Yeah ... But do YOU live near that "nice neighborhood industrial park"?!?
Suzy Q February 24, 2012 at 02:52 PM
My point is, the airport is quiet. Regardless of whether I live there or work there or hang out there......the airport is NOT a nuisance.
Suzy Q February 24, 2012 at 02:58 PM
How about if that company moves into an existing, unoccupied building?? How about if we first fill the empy buildings that are already there?? If there was a shortage of these, then I might be more inclined to want to re-develop the base. But there is NOTHING that we are short of, except maybe an AIRPORT!!! (I know, I know.....it's too late)
Marc Lombardi February 24, 2012 at 03:06 PM
Geez...with this economy being as bad as it is, who can afford to fly anywhere. Right?
Mike Shortall Sr February 24, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Exactly, Suzy ... An airport is not a nuisance when you get to "hang out" there; take a flying lesson or two; then go home to your nice quiet 'hood. In the meantime, we're the ones living next to an industrial park and an airport.
Mike Shortall Sr February 24, 2012 at 03:28 PM
How about if Horsham simply seeks a way to replace the $700K plus property tax offset paid by the USG while the airbase was operational, and which will be lost in the next 2-3 years? Did you know that the Bucks County Airport Authority offered Horsham Township $5000 per year (No, that's not a misprint!) to operate their airport?!? $5000.00!! That's it! And for kicks and giggles, public airport operations pay NO LOCAL TAXES directly to host municipalities. Not a dime! So explain to us how Horsham maintains its schools, its operatiing budget - which would be required to provide police, fire and EMS services to any muni airport - and its current tax base in the face of a $700K hole in its tax stream???? ANSWER: a larger and constantly growing airport operation, which would be the only way to generate sufficient tax revenue from ancillary airport operations like fees and business/sales taxes. Cargo operations, maintainence facilities, passenger fees and taxes, car rentals, terminal operations, etc., etc. etc. Now ... How's that nice, quiet industrial park looking? Does it look good to you, because you're just "hanging out" then going home to peace and quiet?? How do you think that would look, sound, and smell to those of us living here in Horsham??? Let me guess ... You couldn't care less.
Mott1 February 24, 2012 at 03:57 PM
Just as an FYI...HH may lose that impact aid sooner as Theresa reported: http://horsham.patch.com/articles/h-h-could-lose-650k-in-federal-impact-aid
Mike Shortall Sr February 24, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Heard Hatboro-Horsham School District will get the impact aid this year and next year. After that we lose it.
Suzy Q February 24, 2012 at 04:53 PM
I didn't mean hanging out AT the airport, Hatboro Mike. Why can't you just admit that developing the base is going to be the biggest fiasco that Horsham Township has ever encountered. I can't wait to watch this pan out......I'll be laughing for the next 20 years.
Mott1 February 24, 2012 at 05:02 PM
That is unfortunate. Not to switch gears or take away from this article about the base, however is .77 cents of every tax dollar spend at the district for salaries and benefits seem high? It does to me, but in defense that may be the norm for a "service" such as school districts.
Bucks-Mont Steve February 24, 2012 at 08:37 PM
It would have been nice to arrange the marriage between Horsham, the Airport Authority, and the DVHAA museum. In a dream world, it would be a great revenu maker for the local area to have an air show every summer/fall. So many people came to the shows at the base...and brought their money too. The museum could continue the rich historic aviation history that Horsham has. Something I feel too many residents and officials are willing to forget. But, I know this isn't a dream....and reality will leave us with not a single shred (other than the museum) of evidence that NAS WIllow Grove was ever there, or the Pitcarins for that matter. Instead we will have houses that people from this area (especially the younger group) can't afford to buy.
Bpv February 26, 2012 at 01:44 PM
This plan is filled to the brim with holes. The fact that Montgomery county has no need for homeless housing and Bucks has all the need, and there is a border share with bucks is incredulous. You can find the report on the HLRA website. The BRAC requires consideration for homeless housing, however Montgomery County was found to have adequate amounts of beds and housing for families and individuals. They could have fought against. Not to mention the type of housing. I am all for disabled veterans or a home for disabled homeless. But please keep out with the low income, detox facilities, and possible sex offenders and criminals. This is why we overpay to live in the suburbs. So these people aren't our neighbors.
Marc Lombardi February 26, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Yet another person who sees the word homeless and, for some reason, instantly thinks of sex offenders and criminals. The two are not remotely the same and your bigotry is offensive.
Mike Shortall Sr February 26, 2012 at 06:50 PM
A clarification or two ... The reason Bucks homeless were considered as part of the JRB Willow Grove proposals was because a small part of the JRB BRAC package was military housing located in Ivyland. Bucks and Warminster didn't want to bother with their own LRA treatment, so it was thrown into the Horsham LRA process. The homeless vet application included a detox center. But that application was rejected early because they did have the required "endorsement" or partnership from a required Government agency. (At least that's how I remember it.) I thought the homeless vet conveyance would have been ideal, detox center and all, simply because it would have been a perfect way - in my opinion - to give back to these warriors. I was much disappointed in the rejection of that particular application. Other than that the HLRA has a very good strategy for ensuring the homeless conveyance - if workable (something still under evaluation and negotiation) - will fit in with the rest of the surrounding development. And that conveyance is not a done deal yet.
Bpv February 27, 2012 at 12:52 AM
Marc has no argument and resorts to name calling. A simple google search can yield many results to back up the homeless/criminal connection. Please take the time to check out these two: http://largo.wtsp.com/news/news/homeless-shelter-neighbors-frustrated-sheriff/70048 www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2007-11-18-homeless-offenders_N.htm
Marc Lombardi February 27, 2012 at 01:31 AM
Actually, it's very clear that I DO have an argument. And saying that your remarks are based on bigotry is not name-calling. I find it interesting that you need to find an article from Florida from 8 months ago to help your "argument." Would posting an article from a recent crime in Horsham help show you that crime already exists? Why, that's no different than calling Penn State a home of pedophiles because of one perpetual criminal. Not all homeless people are criminals, and not all communities intended to re-home the homeless would become havens of crime. You use of "these people" in reference to "low income" families is what is particularly insensitive and offensive.
Mick February 27, 2012 at 10:10 PM
Marc, your "argument" is clear that you believe Bpv to be a bigot. But you use that only to dismiss the valid evidence presented. What do you find interesting about the Florida article? are you trying to say because it happened a mere 8 months ago means it's irrelevant to the conversation. You did not comment on the Wendy Koch - USAToday article, I believe USAToday normally fact checks their articles it would be hard to dismiss this. Here are Horsham Crime stats I am posting them for everybody. http://www.usa.com/horsham-pa-crime-and-crime-rate.htm Unfortunately you can only get data from 2009 back. (This is way longer then 8 months back so you may deem it also irrelevant) As we can see these are pretty low, if we compare them Philadelphia http://www.usa.com/philadelphia-pa-crime-and-crime-rate.htm I presume this is why Bpv "overpays" to live in the suburbs. It turns out that they are not the only person to leave the big city for safer pastures. http://marclombardi.wordpress.com/about/ I can't speak for Bpv but I am concerned about my property value decreasing, even with no crime increase, it is peoples perception of an area that drives house prices. But if crime does increase and it is a factual possibility, no matter how slim, that increased crime, is a risk to my children's safety. Marc as you clearly live in Abington and have no children attending school in Horsham, I find the weight of anything you say to do with Our township severely reduced.
Mick February 27, 2012 at 10:20 PM
Hatboro Mike, I find your clarification about Bucks involvement excellent, I was unaware of the ivyland connection. I did read the HLRA website to find out what Bvp mentioned. http://www.hlra.org/media/8039/draft%20homeless%20submission%20web%20(feb%2015).pdf If you scroll to page 6 on the PDF (actual page 8 I believe) you can see that for Emergency shelter and Transitional housing The report indicates no additional need in Montgomery County For Permanent Housing Montgomery County has 155 permanent housing beds for families and individuals, but only needs 148. Whereas Bucks County needs beds for all 3 categories. So Bucks gets to avoid the time and cost of it's own LRA process, but reaps the benefit of Horshams? Is this then not a clear case for proportional representation, of land to bed use? If Bucks has a small part of land, then they should get the same proportion of homeless housing. For example If 5% of the land was Bucks then only 5% of the homeless housing should be for Bucks. Also can you help with this question, will Bucks County Taxes-payers be chipping in along with Horsham ones? Mike, to me it seems like Bucks County is back to the same NIMBY tactic they did for the Airport. Bucks County Airport Authority wants a new Airport but not in Bucks County thank-you. Now Bucks County wants Homeless Housing but AGAIN not in Bucks County!
Marc Lombardi February 28, 2012 at 02:58 AM
I can assure you that I did not "leave the big city for safer pastures." Moving to Jenkintown (in the beginning) was due to my wife's employment and then, because I liked it here, we bought a home on the border between Roslyn and Crestmont. Additionally, I believe my message was clear -- that bpv's comments were bigoted remarks. Again, that's not name calling so I'm not sure the relevance of your comment -- and that fact that you can't understand that explains why you (and others) cannot understand that homeless does not equate criminal. My complaint was that drawing a parallel to an article about one instance of an uptick in crims in Florida was not relevant to the discussion here. They're not the same people and not the same place. Snobbery and class warfare are not easily disguised. If you want to dismiss the weight of my words based upon where I live you have that right. It doesn't make what I'm saying any less valid.
Joe Murphy February 29, 2012 at 09:40 AM
Hatboro Mike. You indicated where you live. What are your thoughts on having Norristown road connect directly through the base to Maple Avenue. I don't think the traffic studies ever included the impact on Maple Avenue of having that be a main thoroughfare for traffic to County Line Road. It will be the only direct route.
Mike Shortall Sr February 29, 2012 at 03:30 PM
There are other routes to County Line ... Keith Valley Rd. or Dreshertown/Meetinghouse ... But if you mean the only one through the base to County Line that's true. I'm not particularly crazy about the idea of Norristown Rd connecting directly to Maple Rd. The speed limit is already ignored by a lot of drivers already. But the road itself I think (but I'm no traffic expert) can handle a reasonable amount of additional traffic. As to a traffic study, I would imagine they would have had to include Maple Ave effects, just like they did for all the other roads. But I'm not really sure about that. However you can find that out by asking the question on the HLRA website. I've asked several in the past, and always got quick responses.
Jenn King February 01, 2013 at 06:04 PM
http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R40476.pdf. look at the PDF Mike... It is not a requirement to use land for the homeless. It must be applied for by HUD and CONSIDERED like everyone else.
tedtaylor February 01, 2013 at 06:30 PM
Not a dime is exactly the tax revenue being generated by the deserted NAS now. How obtuse.
Mike Shortall Sr February 01, 2013 at 08:04 PM
Well, actually Ted, presently the airbase is generating about $600K in Impact Fees. And the discussion of tax revenues is only relevant once the airbase property would pass into Horsham control. At that point - years in the future - an airport would generate ZERO in local taxes outside of what minimal wage taxes the airport operation would generate. So it's not very risky to assume that whatever redevelopment Horsham ends up putting on the JRB grounds will generate much more in tax revenues than an airport. Hope that clears up your obtusiness.
Mike Shortall Sr February 01, 2013 at 08:11 PM
You're right, Jenn. If a suitable Sponsor for the homeless conveyance isn't found (providing financial backing primarily), then the conveyance might not be made for that purpose. I was speaking of the BRAC requirement that you go through that process of seeking a homeless conveyance.
tedtaylor February 01, 2013 at 08:24 PM
The fact that this is still bubbling along - and nothing is really happening - should be disturbing to everyone. This will drag on for years. But the most vocal are the "I don't want an airport" crowd. They tell you what they don't want and why. But are kind of light on actual plausible suggestions. It's sad, I'm sorry to see the damage it is doing to the heart of Horsham.
Linda February 01, 2013 at 08:44 PM
Agreed!! Horsham Township feeds the residents fears of a commercial airport! Should keep the runway and keep it as an airport.
Mike Shortall Sr February 01, 2013 at 09:08 PM
The reason why the redevelopment process is still "bubbling along" is because Ed Rendell set the process back 2-3 years while trying to sell his plan to turn the JRB into an Emergency Response center, and because with anything connected to federal government, speed is NEVER a priority. Fact is, it will take the Fed another 18 months to complete their Environmental Impact Study, and probably another year before the plan gets formal approval. That process would have applied regardless of whether an airport was to be kept or the current plan under consideration was pursued. No one would be using the property at this point either way, and as stated, we are years from anything happening on the plans. Horsham can't even cut the grass there until the Fed's BRAC process runs its course.


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