City Buys 792-Acre Rock Ministries Property to Preserve Open Space and Protect Oceana

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The City of Virginia Beach has purchased approximately 792 acres of farmland and woods  between Indian River Road and the North Landing River to protect Naval Air Station Oceana from encroaching development. 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 acquisition also fulfills a top priority of the Virginia Beach Outdoors Plan to provide a future waterfront signature park for residents to enjoy for generations to come. Meanwhile, the land will continue to be leased for farming. Future planning for the public park’s development will occur in coming years.
On Wednesday, the city paid $5 million to Rock Ministries – the parent organization of Rock Church in Kempsville – for the property. 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. 
“We take our commitment to Oceana very seriously,” Mayor William D. Sessoms, Jr. said. “In 2005, we promised the Base Closure and Realignment Commission that we 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.”
The Rock Ministries property is located in the Rural Air Installation Compatible Use Zone Area, south of Indian River Road, which lies within the noise contours for Oceana and Naval Auxiliary Landing Field Fentress.  On Aug. 9, the Virginia Beach City Council created the Rural AICUZ Area after a request from Oceana’s commanding officer to buy property in that area.

In a letter to the city, Capt. James D. Webb identified this region as an area of special concern because Navy pilots frequently fly over the area between Oceana and Fentress. “Incompatible development would be considered an unacceptable encroachment to the mission and threaten the viability of both airfields," he wrote.

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 $750,000 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).

The city will hold the land for a future public park to be developed on the site.

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