Update 8 December 2012: Actually, Houston County does have enforceable encroachment zones around RAFB.
Houston County hasn’t had a enforceable encroachment zone around Warner Robins Air Force Base (RAFB) and is now fixing the problem after the fact by using state money to buy up houses near the base. Houston County Commission Chairman Tommy Stalnaker labelled encroachment his number one priority, in stark contrast to Lowndes County Commission Chairman Ashley Paulk, who has put two items on the agenda for Monday and Tuesday related to a proposed rezoning next to Moody Air Force Base, and already at a previous Work Session invited the developer to speak without letting anyone else speak.
Gene Rector wrote for WRWR “10 months ago”, Stalnaker ‘ecstatic’ over state action on Robins encroachment issue,
In a word, Houston County Commission Chairman Tommy Stalnaker was “ecstatic” last week when he learned state officials will allocate $7.5 million to help resolve the encroachment issue affecting Robins Air Force Base.
State Rep. Larry O’Neal called and gave him a heads-up before Gov. Nathan Deal made the announcement on Friday.
“I felt like jumping up and down and screaming and hollering,” Stalnaker admitted. “But then I remembered we hadn’t done our part yet.”
Encroachment has dogged Robins for a number of years. Some 250 parcels — mostly private residences — spread over 1,600 acres in south Bibb and north Houston counties fall within the base’s noise or potential mishap zone.
That risk to homes in the designated region could restrict or limit current operations or force the Air Force to look elsewhere for future workload and mission growth.
Stalnaker has labeled resolving encroachment his number one priority.
Mike Stucka wrote for the Telegraph 31 May 2012, Interactive map: Robins AFB encroachment and property purchases,
Gene Rector’s WRWR story says Houston County is doing something that Lowndes County could do, now that the initial SPLOST VII vote failed: we could put encroachment buy-backs on the project list for SPLOST.
Chan Layson from the Central Georgia Joint Development Authority has suggested that some $20 million is needed to purchase the 250 parcels. Allocation of $6 million by Bibb County and additional funds from the Defense Department already have paid dividends. Some 33 parcels have been purchased with 60 additional properties expected to be added by March.
Now, the $7.5 million from the state and — if approved in the March SPLOST vote — $7 million from Houston County will complete the project.
Of course, since, as Richard Raines just reminded us, Houston County doesn’t have a zoning Activity Zone around RAFB like Lowndes County does around MAFB, maybe Lowndes County doesn’t need to allocate penny tax dollars to buy back houses it let developers build next to the base. If we just don’t change the zoning code or rezone to let developers build next to the base.
Why is Houston Chair Stalnaker so concerned about encroachment?
With the effects of defense budget cuts already being felt and the potential for future base and mission consolidation, the state decision couldn’t come at a better time, Stalnaker believes.
“It is critical that Middle Georgia and the state show their backing of Robins,” he pointed out. “We don’t need to go into any future (Base Realignment and Closure rounds) with the encroachment issue still looming.”
The two other Air Force logistics centers in Oklahoma and Utah have resolved their encroachment concerns.
“If we don’t resolve it, that sends a signal that we’re going to sit here and not do anything,” he said. “We need to be competitive with the two other ALCs.”
Hm, maybe Lowndes County needs to be competitive with other Air Force training bases.