NAS Oceana looks to partner with developers, open up more of base to public

Navy

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — NAS Oceana is looking to partner with developers in order to get into the economic development game, while also allowing more of the public onto areas of the base that have long been gated off.

Both are included as proposals in the major jet base’s “Future Base Design.” Incoming Commanding Officer John Hewitt gave Virginia Beach City Council an overview of the idea Tuesday afternoon.

“Residents of Virginia Beach, you have to drive around [NAS Oceana.} It’s kinda like a black hole. Well, maybe with the future base design we can remove that moniker,” Hewitt said.

Hewitt displayed a map that shows the current boundaries of the base and compared them to what “could be” under “new” mindset.

The yellow line depicts where NAS Oceana’s gate line could be under a plan being put forward by base leadership.

While the current fence parallels Oceana Boulevard until Harpers Road, under the plan the gate would turn west at the horse stables and instead exclude much more of the base’s “recreational” facilities and housing barracks.

Hewitt was quick to reiterate that all federal property will remain federal property.

“It’s an awesome installation. It’s not going anywhere. There is no consideration moving any capacity out of Oceana,” Hewitt told the council.

The future base design idea was born out of the idea to reduce the base’s overall cost.

“We have facilities that are going on 60 years (of age) and the funding that we get on an annual basis I could argue is about 5 percent of the requirement,” Hewitt said. “Could you imagine running any facility in the city of Virginia Beach at 5 percent of its requirement? That is where we are.”

Hewitt said the Navy is looking to partner with either the city or private companies to provide “softer services” the Navy is currently providing.

“We have been given a lot of leeway by very senior Navy leadership … to really think outside of the box and challenge the way we do business,” Hewitt said.

In an example, Hewitt pointed to NAS Oceana’s 36-hole golf course. He said if an operator would be found, the Navy would be open to allowing the public to come play without having to have security clearance.

In a more landscape-changing move, NAS Oceana leadership is considering entering into lease agreements with developers for economic development projects on wooded lands inside and outside the fence line.

“Maybe we can turn this into something that is economically viable for the city that contributes to the tax base,” Hewitt said.

In turn, the money made off of the lease agreement would go back to the base to help keep up the infrastructure that Hewitt described as “showing its age.”

Some may see it as an about-face from 2005 when the base realignment and closure commission was concerned enough to nearly close Oceana due to encroachment. However, only viable uses will be considered for development.

For instance, Hewitt would like to reserve a plot of wooded land off London Bridge Road for a facility such as Boeing or Lockheed Martin to help support the F/A-18 Super Hornets.

The plan still has to get government approval and clear legal hurdles.

The more than 5,000 acre NAS Oceana turned 75 last year and is home to 330 aircraft and provides an estimated $1.5 billion in economic impact annually per the Navy.

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