The US Army has determined that an in-depth Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is not required for the expansion of the Rivanna Station Military Base on Route 29 north of Charlottesville. However, the
draft Environmental Assessment
released by Fort Belvoir last month does shed new light on the Army’s plans for the current home of the National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC).
It also raises a number of issues related to sewer capacity, the ability to use leased space off-site, and the future of nearby land owned by local developer Wendell Wood.
COUNTY REVIEWS ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT
Albemarle County officials are just beginning their review of Fort Belvoir’s 130-page Environmental Assessment this week. The County’s Natural Resources Manager, Tamara Ambler, tells Charlottesville Tomorrow that the County has requested an extension beyond the January 9, 2008 deadline to provide written comments to the Federal Government. Ambler is collecting feedback from numerous County departments about the issues raised in the Army’s report.
Susan Stimart, Albemarle’s Business Development Facilitator, says the Federal Government has been a good listener to the County’s feedback on Rivanna Station thus far. “They are taking a pretty good attitude in listening to our requirements for design standards and erosion/sediment control standards,” said Stimart. She also noted, the Federal Government can decide on its own to not comply with any of Albemarle’s standards for new development.
Among the most significant items raised in the report are the following:
Charlottesville Tomorrow was the first to report last month
that the North Pointe development near NGIC was stalled in part because of inadequate sewer capacity at the Camelot Waste Water Treatment Plant. The current NGIC facility also uses the Camelot facility and the Army’s recent Environmental Assessment estimates that sewage discharge from the site will double as the result of the base’s expansion. While the Army concluded the “increase in demand is well within the capacity of the [Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA)],” their report was completed before the Albemarle County Service Authority (ACSA) could weigh in with specific recommendations on sewer infrastructure requirements.
Peter Gorham, ACSA’s Engineering Director, told Charlottesville Tomorrow that the authority wants to eliminate the Camelot treatment plant and replace it with a regional pump station. Gorham is trying to schedule a meeting by the end of January for area property owners and other interested parties. Invitations will be extended to the University of Virginia Foundation (North Fork Research Park), the US Army, developer Wendell Wood, and those involved with the North Pointe development. The meetings will review timing, costs, and engineering options for the pump station project. The RWSA is expected to weigh in on the downstream impacts on their sewer network which is also having its capacity studied.
The ACSA is providing written feedback for inclusion in Albemarle County’s response to the Army’s report. In the meantime, Gorham says the ACSA is working on an interim solution that can boost the capacity of the Camelot plant, however that solution will not be able to accommodate all the potential new users in the area.
BASE EXPANSION AND BUFFER
The existing NGIC facility sits on about 29 acres at Route 29 North and Boulders Road. The Federal government purchased an additional 47 acres from developer Wendell Wood in 2006. The expansion of the base of this combined 76 acres includes an addition on the NGIC building, construction of a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) facility, a warehouse and delivery facility, additional surface parking, and a new parking garage.
The Environmental Assessment also reveals the Army’s intention to further protect a zone around the base by purchasing an additional 50 acres on the north side of Boulders Road. According to County records, this land is currently owned by Wendell Wood’s Next Generation LLC. The report identifies the following purposes for the buffer:
“The purpose of the purchase of the land north and southeast of Boulders Road is to provide protection against encroachment on the Rivanna Station by industrial or residential development, and to allow for future expansion, if needed. It is critical that the Army provide sufficient buffers to meet [antiterrorism/force protection (AT/FP)] requirements and to prevent land uses that could eventually conflict with missions of the U.S. Government. Rivanna Station is currently located at the edge of a developing industrial area, which could ultimately lead to AT/FP and hostile intelligence risks to the facility and personnel through electronic eavesdropping and observation.”
In August 2007, local developer Wendell Wood received approval from the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors to have 15 acres near the NGIC facility rezoned for commercial offices and residential barracks. According to the General Services Administration, on November 30, 2007 Wood was awarded a $14.76 million lease for non-residential buildings. The Environmental Assessment notes that nearby land has been rezoned “for the construction of office buildings to support NGIC operations.”
During the County’s review of this rezoning in 2007, Wood was told water and sewer services were available and, according to ACSA’s Peter Gorham, Wood’s project will be grandfathered into the Camelot treatment facility until the regional pump station is available. ACSA’s interim sewer capacity measures will only help a limited number of new users, and only those accessible by gravity feed to the existing Camelot facility. Other buildings and developments not already tied into Camelot will have to wait for the new pump station.
The Federal Base Relocation and Closure (BRAC) program which is moving jobs from Bolling AFB to Charlottesville prohibits any of those jobs to be located in leased space. Thus, the expansion of NGIC and the construction of the new Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) facility will take place entirely on the federally owned land at the site and not on the recently rezoned 15 acres which is expected to house other support facilities.
Since he sold the 47 acre parcel to the government in 2006, Wood has also been expecting the Board of Supervisors to carry through with a resolution of intent that would move yet another 30 acres nearby into the County’s designated growth area. Wood’s Next Generation LLC owns almost 1,000 acres near the military base.
The 30 acres of land were proposed to be removed from the rural area to allow for more intense development such that Wood could recoup money he felt he lost on the original deal with the government. Wood and a number of Supervisors believe this deal ensured NGIC would not leave Charlottesville as it looked for room to expand. That matter will be considered by the Board of Supervisors as it reviews the Places29 Master Plan in 2008. The County Planning Commission has already recommended against adding Wood’s land to the growth area.
WIDENING ROUTE 29
The Environmental Assessment suggests the widening of Route 29 to 6 lanes (3 northbound and 3 southbound) is desirable to bring relief to congestion expected to result from increased traffic at the facility. The Route 29 and Boulders Road intersection is projected to go from a level of service (LOS) C in 2007 to level of service F in 2015 during peak evening traffic. According to the report, “LOS F is used to identify that point where the facility has reached maximum capacity and a complete breakdown of service occurs.”
The Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) recently approved the use of over $2 million to begin preliminary engineering on the widening of another section of Route 29, the area between Polo Grounds Road and Airport Road. The US Army’s report suggests that widening should continue at least another 2 miles North to Rivanna Station and possibly all the way to Greene County. Between Rivanna Station and Airport Road is the proposed North Pointe development which will add an estimated 30,000 vehicle trips per day to that portion of Route 29.