Ocean County Continuing Partnership With Joint Base
Ocean County will be extending an agreement with the Joint Base – McGuire, Dix, Lakehurst, which could result in additional funding for the purchase of land around the base.
The original agreement was established in 2007 between Ocean County and the US Navy and has already more than 2,000 acres of land around the base preserved as open space.
Ocean County Planning Director Dave McKeon says there are multiple benefits to extending the plan and continuing to acquire space adjacent to the joint base.
“From their [the militaries] perspective is they want to minimize future encroachments to their military operations. From out natural lands program we want to preserve land for our environment sake of it. So they have their needs and we have our needs and where they both of them match we buy those properties through this agreement.”
McKeon explains when the county finds a property they are interested in for their natural lands program that is near the base, they notify the military to see if the land also meets their needs and the corresponding federal funding.
“If they say yes, that’s all we need to know.” Say McKeon “we proceed through our normal course of action. We deal with the land owners, we do the appraisals, and we calculate the value and if we reach an agreement with the landlord and the military agree with that value we go forward.”
He notes the military only provides partial funding for the purchases (up to 50%), and they have very limited interaction with landowners.
If a third party can provide funding, such as the Pinelands Commission or the Greenacres program, then McKeon says the total cost is usually split three ways.
This would be the first major agreement renewal with the base since the joint bases inception. However McKeon says that when the county dealt with acquisitions with the Navy program they actually deal with the regional office in Virginia.
“We’ll be dealing with a new set of people with the air force. I’m sure they’ll be a learning curve with that as well but we don’t anticipate any big problems.”
Noting that both the military and the county have similar goals.
“They’re looking to minimize encroachment of residences and things like that. Our natural lands program obviously doesn’t permit residential growth. It’s there to keep the land in its natural state.”
Adding the only time they wouldn’t be able to work together is if the military wanted to buy a property that isn’t consistent with any of the counties programs, in which case they would have to do so on their own.