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November 08, 2007

Supervisors receive update on Rivanna Station Military Base expansion

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At their meeting on November 7, 2007, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors received an update on the U.S. Army’s expanding National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC) located on Route 29 in Northern Albemarle.  The NGIC site, expanded in July 2006 through the federal government’s purchase of 47 acres from developer Wendell Wood, will grow to include a new facility for 1,000 employees to accommodate defense jobs relocated from the Washington, DC area.  The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) estimates 650-800 jobs will be created in Albemarle, that figure includes jobs for related defense subcontractors.  The growing defense facility will be known as the Rivanna Station Military Base.  The Federal Base Relocation and Closure (BRAC) program indicates that the relocation of defense jobs to Albemarle will be completed by September 2011.

Watch the video below:

The staff report presented to the Supervisors included the following key facts:

  • An RFP was issued on September 24, 2007, for construction of the new Joint Use Intelligence Analysis Facility with a target award date of February 14, 2008
  • The RFP specifies a facility not to exceed 167,000 sq ft in the budget range of $61 - $62 million
  • Estimated construction start date is August 15, 2008, and estimated date of construction completion is December 8, 2009
  • DIA has expressed a commitment to constructing a “world class facility” and is intending for the new facility to be LEED compliant
  • The facility is being planned to accommodate the operations of approximately 1000 employees – this number will be a combination of approximately 200 existing NGIC employees to relieve overcrowding in the current NGIC facility and between 650 and 800 new DIA and National Geospatial Intelligence employees
  • The relocating workforce will be a mix of military and civilian employees
  • While there may be some small impact on the local job market, this should be viewed as a workforce relocation program and not a significant job creation opportunity – all jobs associated with the relocation require high level skills and education and security clearances and are currently filled by employees who will be offered the opportunity to maintain their employment
  • The majority of the subcontractors required to support the new operations are included in the 650 – 800 count
  • The specific work groups from DIA that will be relocated are in the process of being identified and notified after which a comprehensive survey will be conducted among those employees to provide more specific demographic data

Lee Catlin, County Communications Manager, explained to the Board that the jobs being added in the community were expected to largely be filled by new residents with specialized job skills. “It’s important to realize that, while there may be some small impact on the local job market, this is really being viewed by the federal agencies as a workforce relocation program and not necessarily a significant job creation opportunity for local residents,” said Catlin.

20071107bos3 Edward Nelson, an Intelligence Officer with the Defense Intelligence Agency, said “It is a highly trained, professional workforce that…will have advanced degrees and/or prior military experience.  There will be worldwide recruiting efforts.”

In their discussion, the Supervisors asked questions related to the project’s environmental mitigation measures, the demographics of relocated employees, and the need for more information to make local land use decisions. 

Supervisor Sally Thomas (Samuel Miller) commented that the Board did not have complete information from the federal government as to their needs for housing and office space when the Supervisors reviewed a rezoning request in August from developer Wendell Wood.  Thomas expressed surprise that the employment numbers presented included sub-contractors and contrasted that with information coming to the board in recent rezoning requests.  “Boy is that not what we are being told by some developers,” said Thomas. “Maybe I am the only one that is frustrated, I feel like we are working in the dark in ways that we shouldn’t be working in the dark.”

This prompted Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio) to share his experience of attempting to contact the base commander directly, rather than taking a developer’s word for the need to expand space available to NGIC on other nearby land.  Slutzky said he was frustrated by the NGIC base commander office’s response: “I put a call in to the Commander…so I didn’t have to make a decision through the filtering lens of a local developer who has an economic interest that’s predictable. I was told ,‘No, No, No. If you are with the Board of Supervisors, the Commander will not talk to you,’” said Slutzky.  “And I was really offended by that.”

The DIA’s Nelson explained to the Board that he was not representing NGIC, but expressed his interest in partnering with the County and getting the Supervisors the information they needed for future decisions related to his organization’s project on the 47 acres purchased last year from Wood.

Slutzky asked for assistance getting in touch with the right contacts in the government who could help Albemarle.  “As a Board member, where I had to make a land use decision, I got a stone wall….We’ve been asked, reasonably enough by NGIC, to make some decisions already that run in the face of our existing policies for land use in the rural area vs. the urbanized area….We need to have full access to information to know we are making the right decision.”

Slutzky has been a vocal supporter of the County supporting the base’s expansion needs having been convinced in the past that NGIC might leave the community if land were not available to them.  The Supervisors have been swept up in a series of other land use issues around the existing NGIC site and the new DIA facility.  However, there was nothing in this report to the Board to indicate that land outside of what the federal government already owns is needed for the Rivanna Station Military Base.

On August 1, 2007, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a “NGIC expansion project” rezoning 15 acres of land so Wood could construct two 4-story office buildings and a 3-story 120-unit residential building.  In the deliberations on that project, Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) cited a letter from NGIC which indicated they had no immediate plans for using buildings being proposed by Wood, but that they were not opposed to them being built.  Other Supervisors said their conversations with NGIC staff had left them with the impression the base needed access to more land.

The Supervisors did not discuss the action last month by the Albemarle County Planning Commission, as part of the draft Places29 Master Plan review, in which Commissioners recommended against expanding Albemarle’s growth area around the military base to include yet other land owned by Wood.  The Board of Supervisors passed a resolution of intent in May 2006 indicating their preference to have 30 acres of land owned by Wood moved into the growth area (aka "the NGIC land deal").  That matter is expected to come up before the Board of Supervisors when they receive the Places29 Master Plan in early 2008.

Brian Wheeler & Kendall Singleton

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