VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) - Virginia Beach purchased approximately 792 acres of farmland and woods from Rock Ministries to protect Naval Air Station from encroaching development.
On Wednesday, the city paid $5 million to Rock Ministries, the parent organization of Rock Church in Kempsville, for the property between Indian River Road and North Landing River, a news release from the City Manager's Office said.
This is the largest single land purchase in the city's six-year program to protect Oceana by buying property and development rights around the jet base and in Oceana's flight path.
The property lies within the noise contours for Oceana and Naval Auxiliary Landing Field Fentress, the release said.
In a letter to the city, Capt. James D. Webb identified the region as an area of concern because Navy pilots frequently fly over the area between Oceana and Fentress. Webb said incompatible development would be considered an unacceptable encroachment to the mission and threaten the viability of both airfields.
This is the third large land purchase by the city in recent months to protect Oceana. In August, the city bought the 516-acre Brown Farm, near the Municipal Center, from Kempsville Presbyterian Church for $7.84 million. In October, the city bought the 18-acre London Bridge Commerce Center for $6 million.
The acquisition also fulfills the Virginia Beach Outdoors Plan to provide a future waterfront signature park for residents. The city will hold the land for a future public park, and the planning for the park's development will occur in coming years. Meanwhile, the City said the land will continue to be leased for farming.
"We take our commitment to Oceana very seriously," said Mayor William D. Sessoms, Jr.
In 2005, the City promised the Base Closure and Realignment Commission that they would spend $15 million a year to stop new development and roll back existing development around Oceana.
"Our purchases this year are tangible proof that Virginia Beach and the state of Virginia are keeping our promises," said Sessoms.
Money for the purchase will come from two city funds: $4.25 million from the city's Oceana and Interfacility Traffic Area Conformity and Acquisition Program fund and $650,000 from the city's Open Space program.
The city will seek reimbursement from the state for half of the purchase price under the 2011 BRAC Response grant from the commonwealth. In addition, the city is working with the Navy to sell an encroachment partnering easement over the property, which could return up to $2.5 million to the city and state ($1.25 million each).
A company has been hired to complete the repairs to the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge on the Outer Banks, but how long those repairs will take remains unknown.
Drivers traveling between Hatteras Island and the mainland were forced to use an emergency ferry Wednesday, following the sudden closure of the Bonner Bridge Tuesday.
State officials say construction on a new Bonner Bridge has been delayed for years because of a legal battle with an environmental group.