VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The City of Virginia Beach will help Naval Air Station Oceana find new opportunities for the land and services on base that aren’t deemed critical to the U.S. Navy’s overall readiness.
Virginia Beach City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to enter into a non-binding agreement with the Navy, which was described as “critical” in a 135-page real estate consultant’s report on “Future Base Design.” The agreement could help dramatically change the longtime physical landscape around the massive military jet base.
Since 2019, NAS Oceana leadership has been exploring how reduce the base’s overall cost by possibly leasing land for public-private economic development opportunities.
Capt. John Hewitt, commanding officer of NAS Oceana, told City Council members in November that the partnership has potential to “turn the corner in the way the Navy runs installations.”
“We’re really excited about this opportunity,” Hewitt said.
The report — conducted by the Counselors of Real Estate, an international organization of commercial property professionals — found that NAS Oceana has “13 non-core activities that just break even or lose money, and 82% of patrons use only 4 of them.”
The “activities” include base amenities such as fitness and sports facilities, community recreation activities, bowling and golf.
Consultant recommendations range from partnering with private operators to take over management and upkeep of the facilities, to closing them and cutting deals with similar services in the area.
The consultants chiefly recommended that the Navy enter into an agreement with Dominion Energy for 140 acres off Oceana Boulevard — the old horse stable facilities — that the electric utility could use for its offshore wind program.
In a more landscape-changing move, NAS Oceana leadership along with the city could consider entering into lease agreements with developers for economic development projects on wooded lands inside and outside the fence line.
Money made off of the lease agreement would go back to the base to help keep up the infrastructure that in 2019 Hewitt described as “showing its age.”
“This is a very detailed and comprehensive report,” Hewitt said.
Hewitt wanted to make clear that each opportunity would be viewed as one for both the Navy and city.
The City Council would approve each proposal as it comes to them, if they are involved.
“We are not asking city Council or the citizens of Virginia Beach to take on any responsibilities that the Navy is not willing to assume by itself,” Hewitt said.
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 by non-military development.
However, only viable business uses will be considered for development under the Future Base Design plan.
NAS Oceana, which spans more than 5,000 acres, turned 76 last year. It is home to 330 aircraft and provides an estimated $1.5 billion in economic impact annually, per the Navy.