Environmental Study of Air Base to Begin

The environmental impact study is expected to take 12 to 18 months to complete.

Still waiting.

That sentiment aptly sums up where things stand with various matters surrounding the redevelopment of the shuttered .

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 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 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 - 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 .

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 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.”

Mott1 June 25, 2012 at 05:57 PM
Thanks Theresa!
Bob June 25, 2012 at 06:28 PM
If the original farmer who owned the land before Harold Pitcairn or the Navy had "dumped" a quantity of arsenic/nicotine pesicide, would it be the governments responsiblity? Since it was there originally?
Mike Shortall Sr June 25, 2012 at 06:30 PM
No surprise here. The federal government moves very, very slowly. It was known for some time that this redevelopment effort would takes YEARS, perhaps even a decade to start seeing real progress. Still overjoyed that it will NOT be an airport!
Gregory Marston June 25, 2012 at 10:57 PM
BRAC law has changed. If a business buys land or a building in Willow Grove, THEY are fully responsible for any environmental cleanup. Not Uncle Sam or the Navy. Who will take the chance when there are plenty of business properties for sale or rent? NO ONE. Environmental cleanup can absorb millions of dollars and involve you or your business in a decade of litigation. Think "Love Canal" or "Superfund site". Which is why the initial attempt was made to keep the runway open and bring in Government agencies or NGO's (non Gov't Organizations) who wanted to get onto a secure, open runway in a strategic area. Government agencies aren't bound by the BRAC restrictions. FEMA wanted to fill the hangars with emergency supplies for a multi-state region, etc. FEMA wanted to move Philadelphia's COOP (Emergency Command Post) to WG. Vaccine makers, old aircraft restoration, etc. to name a few others. Horsham had a Golden Goose ready to lay THOUSANDS of jobs, tax revenue, etc. It has amazed me to see how easily Horsham residents were manipulated with FALSE reports of FEDEX, UPS, Southwest Airlines and now the ridiculous "Philadelphia Airport overflow". Horsham cast off its' Golden Goose and its' contrary "Economic Plan" will yield hundreds or thousands of low income housing residents who will soak up much of the township's taxes for additional schools, police and emergency services. Col Gregory Marston (ret)
KWRUB June 25, 2012 at 11:41 PM
Bob June 26, 2012 at 12:47 AM
At least the runway can be dumped off the Jersey Shore as an artificial reef.
Dick Puller June 26, 2012 at 02:37 AM
Just think that was dumped 40 years ago long before the laws we have now. Hey Mc dummy have fun.
Mike Shortall Sr June 26, 2012 at 02:41 AM
Can you provide where you found the environmental change in BRAC law? Because what you state is exactly the opposite of what's on the HLRA website (http://www.hlra.org/nas-jrb-willow-grove/redevelopment-plan-faq.aspx). I'd like to research this myself. I never heard this as a reason for the "Rendell Plan" that pushed the FEMA/HSA concept. That - by the way - fell apart because the Governor couldn't pull it together financially. Horsham and the HLRA had nothing to do with it. Yeah, yeah, yeah .... Horsham had the Golden Goose, which was going to pay the Township a whopping $5000 a year!! Geez, how did we not grab THAT marvelous opportunity?!? The only way Horsham or anyone else in the area would have benefitted financially from an airport was to develop it into a HUGE air operation. And we didn't want it. Love Bob's reef idea though! ; ^ /
Dick Puller June 26, 2012 at 02:43 AM
Hey ever see Doylestown Airport right in the middle of town no problems Mcdummy
Dick Puller June 26, 2012 at 03:02 AM
Hey Mike How long have you lived in Horsham a lot less that the Base as been around. Horsham can not even afford to bust up the runway 3 feet thick.
Mike Shortall Sr June 26, 2012 at 02:27 PM
What's your point, Dick? I moved to Horsham in '94. Not only that, I WORK for the Navy supporting the very aircraft and systems that flew out of JRB Willow Grove. I never had a problem living near a relatively sleepy little airbase, used by reservists and occasional active military drills. LOVED the airshows! But a commercial airport? No thanks! I would have supported Rendell's option, provided it would have been self-financing. It simply didn't work out. and ended up costing Horsham several years in response time.. The $5000 per year figure that Horsham would have been paid under the BCAA proposal was ludicrous. And since public airports DO NOT PAY A DIME IN LOCAL TAXES, the ONLY way the Township would have profitted or been able to ensure the property was tax-neutral for the residents of Horsham was to see it developed into a full fledged commercial airport. I don't know where you live, but I don't want to live near a commercial airport. And the overwhelming majority of Horsham residents who cared enough to show up for HLRA meetings and deliberations felt the same way. No, breaking up the runway is not a feasibale option. I was just admiring the reef concept as a way to dispose of the runway and put the matter to rest once and for all..
Bob June 26, 2012 at 03:02 PM
A $5,000.00 check each year might be better than paying $3,000,000 in debt service each year and trying to regain that in "economic development"
David Pitcairn June 26, 2012 at 03:56 PM
Mike Shortall, Just like the false HLRA claim that the Hanger would be useless to the museum, the $5000.00 per year claim is also false and misleading (self serving), as is the claim that the airport would not be economically viable. All three Bucks County airport Authority run airports are economically viable and the authority believes that the Horsham location would be the most viable. Put another way, if a business (non airliner) airport in Horsham would not be viable given the prime location, no business airport in the country would be viable. If you go to the www.savewillowgrove.org website and download the airport feasibility study and read it you will see that the payment in lieu of taxes and community contributions line items add up to $15,000 in year one. By year three it is up to $106,000. That is money directly from the airfield and does not include the additional revenue from wage taxes from airport employees.
David Pitcairn June 26, 2012 at 04:05 PM
That tax revenue from airport operations alone is a small part of the picture. The big revenue numbers would come from the business and wage taxes from businesses supporting airport operations and businesses that locate on or near the airport because they need to be near an airport. That includes aerospace or aviation related companies and business headquarters that use business aircraft to visit out of the way manufacturing facilities. There is high demand for an airport in Horsham from those entities as evidenced by the BCAA and Montgomery County interest in the property. An example of a peripheral business that serves the airport is a rental car agency. Far from that implying a large airliner airport, rental cars are rented by business aircraft users and pilots as well as private pilots visiting the area (I have rented cars many times when flying places in private aircraft). Nowhere near the number of cars rented at Philly international but still a source of revenue for Horsham.
David Pitcairn June 26, 2012 at 04:14 PM
Now contrast all that tax revenue with the HLRA's publicly stated objectives for the base redevelopment. "Tax Neutral" Not only does the HLRA expect redevelopment to take 15 to 25 years with no tax revenue until then, the HLRA is "hoping" that the property will be tax neutral after that, in other words, zero tax benefit compared to today. In addition, the HLRA says that housing would likely be built first and that it needs to be high density to make the redevelopment economically viable for a developer. Businesses are proven to contribute more taxes than they get in return and high density homes are proven to contribute less. So, it appears that for at least a few years if not more, there will likely be a negative tax consequence for Horsham residents. Enjoy!
David Pitcairn June 26, 2012 at 04:31 PM
Mike Shortall, Lastly, I agree that most people that showed up against the airport were afraid of a full fledged commercial airliner airport. I absolutely do not want that either but I am very comfortable that it would not happen for the many reasons I have stated before. It was the perfect scare tactic for Horsham Township officials to use to get people to show up and it worked. They got their way thanks to all the people they mis-informed including yourself. The main stated reason for the HLRA wanting housing is that they want more kids, presumably to offset the decline of kids and or revenue to the school district. Between the high density housing on the base property and the precedence it will set for high density housing off the base property, there should be plenty of kids and the need from more schools. And guess who gets to pay for all that?
Mike Shortall Sr June 26, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Even at $106K that leaves the Township well short of the $800K per year paid to it and the school district as Impact Fees by the Federal Government. So the only way Horsham can end up in the black or even "neutral" is to allow for a larger and larger airport presence and level of activity. I have NEVER seen an airport that stayed the same size or operating at one level of service. Just check out what's happening at PHL now .. and for decades before. I can remember standing on the roof of the terminal at PHL - a single building terminal as I recall - to watch the planes takeoff and land. Not quite the same now ...
Mike Shortall Sr June 26, 2012 at 06:00 PM
How many airports are within an hour of Horsham? We really need another one to foster business growth??? Not buying it ... I suspect the only businesses that would be attracted to the JRB site would be those wanting to actively use the airport for operational reasons, not convenience. Montgomery County had NO INTEREST in running an airport now or in the near future. They wanted Horsham to sit on the property - with no promise of financial support - until "someday in the future" when the County might feel like running one. BCAA was the only entity seriously interested. Peripheral business and even wage tax benefits to offset the revenue shortfall for the Township again assumes a rather robust airport operation. No one is going to open a car rental operation near an airport limited in use to day-trippers and hobbyists. That's the danger many of us saw in a "limited airport operation". They only get BIGGER. And personally, I'm very suspicious of the potential for the shunting of excess PHL traffic eventually being sent to an 8000 ft runway sitting just 20 (?) miles away.
Mike Shortall Sr June 26, 2012 at 06:06 PM
Obviously, we've decided to take our chances in Horsham. I have no problem with that. These properties have been successfully developed before without an airport in any way connected to them. Keep in mind that Horsham doesn't have to make a killing here to make this work. As a minimum all that's required is to match the revenue stream once provided by the Fed and any other outlays related to developing infrastructure and increased services. And while the airbase sits empty, that $800K nut isn't the toughest one to swallow. No one ever said this was going to be pain-free.
Mike Shortall Sr June 26, 2012 at 06:16 PM
Your optimism about a commercial airport not becoming the end all here is commendable. But I KNOW you don't live in Horsham! I'm much more cynical and cautious when it comes to that potential future. No one needed to "scare me" into realizing what potential a public/commercial airport holds. And I have no doubts that Commercial would be an eventuality for the JRB if allowed to operate as an airport.. Between you, me and The Patch, I'm not a big fan of the density of the housing plan. But I also know that NONE of the HLRA plan for the base means anything until they actually start looking for developers. Personally, I hope it's a much more scaled down presence there. I've written quite a bit about what I expect to happen - with and without an airport - and what I want to see there instead. In the end, I'm probably going to be too old to care by the time the whole picture comes together. For now though, I'm glad it won't have achance to become Horsham International!
Bob June 26, 2012 at 07:12 PM
Maybe chain gangs of non-violent prisoners from Bucks and Montco could be used to break up part of the runway.
Captain Cancer June 27, 2012 at 02:16 AM
The problem with the cleanup is the word "Consultant". It should be an independent company with no obligations to the Air Base. The difference is the Consultant will only work as directed and provide advice which may or may not be used or made public. However an independent company with no obligations will tell you the way it is, like it or not. Thank goodness there will be no Airport. It would lower all our property values. Who needs the noise? Also the fact that exhaust from jet fuel is a carcinogen and would constantly rain on us. That fact is a well documented reason cancer rates are significantly higher in areas within 5 miles of an airport. Mr. Pitcairn why don’t you place the Airport in Bryn Athyn? Or would that ruin your beauty sleep. If you dont live here your opinion means nothing!!!
Bob June 27, 2012 at 07:42 PM
Lowering property values means lower property taxes
Bob June 27, 2012 at 07:58 PM
The airbase is in Horsham not in another township and the fate should be decided by township and no carpetbaggers allowed their
Bob June 27, 2012 at 07:59 PM
More Money June 28, 2012 at 12:34 AM
Dear Bob, Unfortunately Municipal taxes are supposed to be based upon Municipal need. However why does the Municipal need go up when I add a deck or addition to my house? They re-asses and get more money. I guess they need to add a cop or fireman whenever you improve your house. All this talk about money and none about the health. Well then again some rich local families in the past would actually inbreed to keep the money in the family. Money was and apparently still is more important to some.
LEM June 28, 2012 at 01:37 AM
Carbet baggers ? Please, did Horsham pay for the airport NOOOO, the US taxpayer did and that includes the Philadelphia area residents. You moved next to an active airbase your value of propertiy was based on location location location. Now that it is not an airport did your value go up 25%, NOOOO, why not ???? Location Location Location. You talk about losing 800K from the US Taxpayer, its gone, kiss it good by, do you own business and make payroll each week, do the math, you need jobs not funded by uncle sam, the well has run dry. An airport could have been up and running and you got on a soab box and yelled FIRE, CRASH, HOME VALUE. Frankly our highway system in the area kills over 200 people a Year, yes a year, lets shut down all the roads. Airports have nothing to do with Home Value, if so Horsham would be a getto next to a nosiy Navy base with afterburner jets.
FED UP June 28, 2012 at 02:35 AM
Lem, I dont need the money, but I need clean air and enjoy not getting my house buzzed by planes. When I initially moved to Horsham from out of state, they didnt mention the Airport on the home brochure and the house wasnt getting buzzed by planes that day. Though I guess I didnt do enough homework at the time, but when you get transferred you dont always have the time. Anyway I prefer health and quiet over money. If you enjoy airports that much, I am sure you can find a house near one.
Mike Shortall Sr June 28, 2012 at 02:46 AM
Look at it this way, LEM ... No one was able to make a compelling argument for turning it into an airport. (BTW ... There's a huge difference between what the JRB was and what an airport would be like to live next to.) All there was pleading by the pilots to keep it open - so they could enjoy it - with a vague promise of economic impact that most likely wouldn't be realized without turning it into a broad service commercial airport. No one else wanted the responsibility for making the decisions, so Horsham was the only government to ask for and get the authority to make the decisions. As a result we did what we thought best for Horsham. We'll live with the results one way or the other.
Bob June 28, 2012 at 02:05 PM
where was the oil or petroleum spill along Keith Valley Road that necessitated floating petroleum pigs in the ditch near the airbase fence last year?


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