Sub Base, Surrounding Communities To Be Part Of Land Use Study
By Julia Bergman
New London Day
October 24, 2016
GROTON – An upcoming year-long study will evaluate compatibility issues between the Naval Submarine Base and surrounding areas, and ultimately develop recommendations to ensure the base's operational needs are met while simultaneously preserving the economic development interests of local communities.
The base, the towns of Groton, Ledyard, Montville and Waterford, and the cities of Groton and New London are part of a Joint Land Use Study approved by the defense department's Office of Economic Adjustment. The Thames River is also included in the proposed study area.
The base is one of 16 military installations currently participating in joint land use studies. Public input will be solicited throughout the process.
The Office of Economic Adjustment awarded a $319,187 grant as part of the total $355,108 project. The Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments, which is the sponsor and coordinator for the project, kicked in $35,921.
COG Executive Director Jim Butler said he is currently negotiating various aspects of the study with the firm selected recently by a committee made up of representatives from the involved towns. Six firms put in bids and four were interviewed. Butler said he anticipates announcing the name of the selected firm in a few weeks.
Originally, the towns of Groton and Waterford were the only municipalities included in the proposed study area. But "given the potential for development and redevelopment" in Montville, Ledyard, New London and the City of Groton, those municipalities were included as well, COG's request for proposals says.
The Thames River will be an integral part of the study.
"The focus of this will be on maintaining the Navy's unencumbered access between Long Island Sound and its piers at the base," said Bob Ross, executive director of the state's Office of Military Affairs.
He noted that the overall purpose of the study is to protect the base's ability to perform its mission.
A 2010 Encroachment Action Plan completed by sub base officials motivated the Navy to nominate the base for the study. The plan identified urban development and growth encroachment along the west side of the Thames River and southern portion of the base, competition for land resources, safety arcs and footprints, air quality, and environmental regulations as having the potential to impact the base.
Most of the base's 700-acres fall in the Town of Groton, except for a northern portion that is in Ledyard.
Several years ago, the state of Connecticut helped the towns of Groton and Ledyard buy land around the base to enhance its value and thus further help protect it during a future round of base closings. The deal also ensured that no development can occur on those sections of land that is incompatible with Navy operations, according to Ross.
The state is funding major infrastructure improvements on the main thoroughfare to the base on Crystal Lake Road to address traffic management and security concerns.
"When and if" another round of base closings happens, a process known as BRAC, Ross said the land use study "will be part of the conversation."
"Has there been encroachment? Is it hindering the Navy's ability to complete its mission? What we want to do is make sure the necessary things are in place for the Navy to do its mission," he said.
Since the mid-1980s, joint land use studies have been conducted at military installations across the country and locally. At the end of August, officials released a draft study for Stones Ranch Military Reservation in East Lyme. It outlines recommendations such as security improvements that could be made, but the recommendations are not required to be implemented.