Military, civilian communities discuss Novosel land use study
The importance of continuing communication between Fort Novosel and the surrounding communities was the common denominator as the third of three Compatible Land Use Study—CLUS-- public hearings held in the Wiregrass came to an end at the government building in New Brockton Wednesday morning.
Public meeting were held in Geneva, Dale and Coffee Counties this week as part of the information gathering process conducted by the Southeast East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission in partnership with Fort Novosel and representatives from Barbour, Coffee, Covington, Dale, Geneva, and Houston counties.
A 90-member CLUS Committee comprising federal, state, county, and municipal officials, along with economic development, real estate, and utility representatives, held four meetings this year to discuss issues affecting their respective communities, said Scott Farmer, SEARP&DC Executive Director. Representatives from the agricultural community, ALDOT-Aeronautics, chambers of commerce, developers/real estate, economic development authorities, Friends of Fort Novosel, local airports, county engineers, and planning directors were included on the committee.
The goal of the group was to educate public/elected officials, improve intergovernmental coordination and communication, identify/develop legislative options, energy security and sustainability for Fort Novosel, promote area-wide approach for land use decisions and continued evaluation of implementation.
Friends of Fort Novosel Chairman retired Brig. Gen. Tim Edens said that the process to conduct the updated survey began two years ago when the Friends of Fort Novosel were discussing what could be done to improve communications between the civilian and military communities.
Funding was provided by the office of Local Defense Community Cooperation with match provided by SEARP&DC.
The study encompassed 29,590 square miles of aircraft training area, including one Army airfield, four Army heliports, 15 stage fields, and 64 Remote Training Sites in Daleville, Dothan, Enterprise, Ozark, Clayhatchee, Level Plains, Midland City, Newton and Pinckard.
A first step was to gather public opinion about future development and land uses near Fort Novosel through a 17-question survey available online at the SEARP&DC website. The survey was also distributed by CLUS Committee members June 26 through July 10. There were 434 responses, said SEARP&DC Project Facilitator Tracy Delaney, who conducted each of the three public meetings. "This was non-scientific survey, disseminated by the CLUS committee to help gauge citizen response to living and working near Fort Novosel and its outlying airfields, stage fields, and remote training areas,” said Farmer. The second step was to hold public information meetings in Geneva, Dale and Coffee Counties. The meetings were advertised in six newspapers, 675 postcards were mailed, 160 emails were sent, and various news media and social media postings occurred, Delaney said.
The results of this survey and a draft summary of the Fort Novosel Land Use plan were discussed at the community meetings. Of the survey respondents, 44% were from Coffee County, 26% from Dale County, 16.6% from Houston County, 7% percent from Geneva County and 3.5% from Covington County. Fifty two percent said they currently are serving or have served in the military or were a military family member. Almost 53% of those responding to the online survey said they have lived in their home more than 20 years. Of the survey respondents, 268 said they did not work for the military installation, 108 said they did, 52 said they were retired and three were unemployed.
Ninety-three percent said that they thought that local governments supported Fort Novosel and 55.1% said they thought that local governments should regulate how land around Fort Novosel is developed.
Delaney said that while the majority of those who responded to the survey were strongly in support of the military installation that has a daytime population of some 22,000 people, that is the largest employer south of Montgomery and the fifth largest employer in Alabama, complaints about noise generated by the aircraft and artillery were noted. Those complaints fluctuate, she said, but approximately 66% of noise complaints each month are from repeat callers, said Delaney and the majority are from nonpopulated areas in the counties.
"The goal of the study is to improve the intergovernmental coordination and notification process by and between local governments and Fort Novosel about future development and land uses near the installation and landowners and residents," Farmer said. "Its purpose is to educate the public and elected officials about Fort Novosel's missions and promote a coordinated approach to making land use decisions."
Fort Novosel Air Traffic and Air Space Coordinator Paul Meissner agreed, stressing the importance of communications and two-way dialogues. “Fort Novosel could not do what they do day in and do out without the tremendous support from the Wiregrass,” he said, reiterating the importance of information sharing and communications. “We strive to be a good neighbor.”