- Published on Tuesday, 29 January 2013 18:01
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In an effort to reassure its neighbors about its future expansion plans, officials from Ft. A.P. Hill have held a series of meetings to talk with the public about issues affecting the area surrounding the large Army post including complaints about noise.
More than 75 area residents attended a meeting at Fort A.P. Hill’s U.S. Army Reserve Center near Port Royal last week. Other meetings were held at the Community Services Center in Caroline County and at the Lee Hill Community Center in Fredericksburg.
Fort A.P. Hill officials have charted citizen complaints from areas surrounding the base for the past 14 years and found that noise has been the chief complaint from residents of King George County.
“The noise issue is complicated,” Andrea Sweigart, a U.S. Army consultant with AECOM in Alexandria told the public meeting. “But noise is a concern and a priority for Fort A.P. Hill and for the Army.”
Noise sources at the fort are the result of air operations, weapons firing and demolitions activity at the fort’s explosive ordinance training school. Although Army officials said they have received a number of complaints from King George residents regarding noise, no specific complaints were expressed by those attending the Port Royal meeting.
In fact, Gregory Hall of King George urged the public citizens at the Port Royal meeting to remember “the immense economic impact” Fort A.P. Hill and the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren have on the surrounding counties. Hall called the noise from the two military facilities “the sound of freedom.”
The public meetings are part of an effort by Fort A.P. Hill, King George, Caroline, Essex and Spotsylvania counties and the towns of Bowling Green and Port Royal to prepare a Joint Land Use Study (JLUS) that will address the impact of future operations at the fort on issues impacting the surrounding areas.
At the meeting at the Army Reserve Center, issues discussed included community development, fort operations, land use, the environment and noise. “We need to talk to each other freely about what’s going on at the installation and what plans are in the works in the community, and then make those things sync up correctly,” said Lt. Col. Peter Dargle, the Fort A. P. Hill post commander.
Fort A.P. Hill encompasses 75,794 acres and in 2011 more than 91,000 soldiers trained at the post. Established in 1941 and named for Confederate Gen. Ambrose P. Hill, the fort has become one of the Army’s primary training facilities.
King George Supervisor Ruby Brabo, who represents the Dahlgren District, attended the Port Royal meeting because a similar Joint Land Use Study involving the Navy base in Dahlgren is scheduled. “I wanted to see how the process worked and hear the citizen input,” Brabo said.
The Fort A. P. Hill public meetings will result in recommendations to two JLUS committees which will help prepare a final report that will be made public later this year. King George At Large Supervisor Dale Sisson is a member of the JLUS Policy Committee and King George Director of Community Development Jack Green is a member of the JLUS Working Committee.
Brabo said similar committees have been set up to make recommendations for the JLUS being conducted in connection with the Navy base at Dahlgren. Recommendations from that study are expected in about a year.