HLRA Behind Schedule on Air Base Redevelopment

HLRA Executive Director said an extension may be needed.

It’s “doubtful” that the Horsham Land Reuse Authority will meet its December deadline for selection of a redevelopment plan for shuttered .

HLRA Executive Director Mike McGee shared with an audience of nearly three dozen members that because the HLRA board has not yet provided its consultants, , with feedback on the three potential redevelopment plans – and likely will not do so until its Oct. 19 meeting or later – the December schedule to submit a finalized plan to the federal government may “slip.”

If that happens, McGee said the HLRA would need to request a deadline extension.

As a best-case scenario, McGee said 2014 would be the earliest that any of the available approximate 860 acres of “surplus” land could be repurposed. The Horsham Air Guard Station will continue using roughly 200 acres of the 1,100-acre parcel. Following the HLRA’s plan approval, McGree said a required review from HUD could take up to six months and would precede the federal government’s 12- to 24-month-long environmental impact statement. , which has been ongoing, is expected to take 10 years, officials have said.

“This is a vision that will evolve over the course of many years,” McGee told the crowd gathered for the luncheon discussion. “We’re looking to the future.”

At the moment, the yet-to-be-defined vision is comprised of three separate, but in some cases similar, . All of which have a mixed-use focus and a network of roads running through the 1,100-acre property. Parks, open space and a town center are all popular inclusions, in varying forms, based on months of meetings and community input.

“I seriously doubt that the board, once they take action … you’ll be able to recognize the redevelopment plan that evolves from this process,” McGee said. “It will have components of all three.”

The business community assembled Wednesday quizzed McGee on everything from stormwater issues, the roughly $675,000 in annual impact aid the government pays to and who is responsible for the maintenance of the property.

Better stormwater management practices would be put in place, McGee said, adding that much of the would be used, in part, for this purpose. The impact aid is expected to continue “for the next several years,” McGee said, noting that it “will not stop until the property changes hands.”

A common misnomer, McGee said, is that the land is owned by Horsham Township, or the HLRA. In reality, the federal government owns the property and will continue to do so until a redevelopment plan is approved and the government opts to transfer parcels to a new owner.

“The LRA may act as a master developer for certain portions of the base,” McGee said. “Once the LRA is done, it’s the township that will control what goes on that property.”

And, since the government owns the property, at least for the time being, it is the government who is responsible for maintaining it, McGee said. The Department of Defense’s “mission,” he said is to “leave town and get rid of the real estate.”

“They’re going full steam ahead,” McGee said.

What the landowners are not keeping up with is regular maintenance- including grass cutting - since the base closed completely on Sept. 15.

“The township has been after them to maintain at least the perimeters and the outside of the fence line,” McGee said.

Since the military turned off all water, sewer and electric, McGee said the two people who handle grass cutting at the base work out of the Horsham Air Guard Station.

McGee said he suspects it’s only a matter of time before people illegally enter the property.

“Fences are designed to show nice people and nice neighbors where the property line is. Fences, by themselves, don’t keep anybody out,” McGee said. “It’s that are going to have to do the work of having their eyes and ears open.”

property. Even when it was in full operation, the local police department was given jurisdiction to make arrests for alleged crimes that occurred there, Repkoe said.

As is the case at HLRA meetings, questions about traffic and the possibility of an were raised several times.

“No matter what goes on the base, there’s more traffic coming,” McGee said, noting that Horsham Township charges developers traffic impact fees, which will help in funding improvements. Still, he said, more money will be necessary. “We need help from the feds. We need help from the state.”

McGee quelled concerns over the possibility that pro-airport groups would challenge and somehow overturn the HLRA’s decision not to include an airport in its redevelopment plan.

“What is the possibility? I say slim to none,” McGee said of an airport. “(Department of Defense) says slim to none.”

Each of the redevelopment options shows the 150-foot-wide runway being converted to a boulevard of sorts, he said.

Jo-Anne Zapata, Greater Horsham Chamber of Commerce co-founder, a regular at the HLRA meetings, said she likes the redevelopment options currently on the table. Officials took into account the public’s preferred uses – including road access and a town center.

And, since some of the businesses neighboring the base, including e and have, in some cases, been hit hard by the base’s closure, Zapata said there was even more reason to invite McGee to provide an update.

“I know of a lot of businesses that are having a tough time,” she said. “A lot of businesses have replaced that business (from military personnel) … But, some of them can’t. It’s hard when you have most of your eggs in one basket.”

Regardless of impacts to the business community, Zapata said keeping the pulse of the air base redevelopment is important to the Horsham community as a whole.

“It’s something we’ve grown up with and we’re very interested in seeing,” Zapata said.

Upcoming HLRA meeting dates

Oct. 19: HLRA board meeting with Horsham Township Council and Horsham Planning Commission, 7 p.m. , 1025 Horsham Road.

Nov. 16: RKG Associates will present the preferred redevelopment plan, 7 p.m. Horsham Township Community Center.

Dec. 21: RKG will make a final presentation of a redevelopment plan. Time TBA.


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