Moving forward in the next phase of redevelopment for Willow Grove air base is not likely this year, an official told Patch.
The Horsham Land Redevelopment Authority–the local board tasked with overseeing the reuse of 862 acres of the former military base–had expected to submit an application to begin the land transfer process this year. But, Mike McGee, HLRA executive director, told Patch that while still possible, early next year is more probable.
The delay, according to McGee, centers around the fact that the Navy is still undertaking its Environmental Impact Statement., a 12- 18-month-long analysis of everything from traffic, noise, air quality, land use, to water resources, socioeconomics, hazardous materials and environmental cleanup and more, according to the U.S. Navy.
“That time frame has slipped,” McGee said. “They’re expecting now to have their draft EIS this fall or early winter … that kind of slows us up as well. We’re very anxious to see it.”
The Environmental Impact Statement, which got underway last fall, a few months after it was set to begin, is expected to conclude in spring 2014 with a record of decision. But, before then, a draft statement is expected to be forthcoming this fall, according to the Navy.
Open house meetings will be held to allow the public to review the draft Environmental Impact Statement and comment on it prior to its finalization early next year.
McGee said the HLRA had expected to have Matrix Design Group, the consultant the board hired in January, submit the HLRA’s economic development conveyance application to the federal government by year’s end. The application, McGee has said, would drive the land transfer discussion and negotiations for the roughly 862 acres of available land.
Originally, the plan was to submit the application in October or November. But, McGee said the application would not be submitted “until we at least see the draft EIS,” which pushes that time frame to November, December, or possibly January.
“They still can’t transfer any property until the EIS has the final sign off,” McGee said. “If we get our application in, that will give us a time to negotiate … until the EIS is done. We hope to be negotiating and coming to agreement prior to the EIS record of decision being signed.”
McGee said he expects that the HLRA could begin taking possession of portions of the property in early 2015. From there, at least some of the redevelopment plans that the local board approved in March 2012 as part of its massive mixed-use reuse plan could be carried out.
The last portion to transfer, according to McGee, is a roughly 30-acre property on Horsham Road from Commonwealth National Golf Club to Maple Avenue, where the base’s fire training center and a pair of landfills had been previously situated.
More radiological tests are needed and the Navy would need to determine if the landfills require capping, or if everything needs to be removed, McGee said.
That property is earmarked for open space and to house a portion of the 133-acre office park, he said.
“We’re not counting on that transfer to be in the next several years,” McGee said.