Oceana safe – for now

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 25, 2005

Oceana Naval Air Station’s master jet base may have been spared the governmental ax – at least temporarily – on Wednesday.

But the Defense Base Realignment and Closure Commission’s decision to keep Oceana – which employs more about 12,000 military and civilian personnel from around the region – open comes with a demand that the state and the cities of Virginia Beach and Chesapeake begin addressing encroachment issues within the next six months.

The federal base-closing commission’s resolution indicates it may still make good on its threat to move Oceana’s jets to Cecil

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Field, a former Navy air base near Jacksonville, Fla., unless the cities put zoning in place to halt development around the base.

The resolution also demands the state and local governments spend at least $15 million annually condemning and buying all the homes and businesses that are in the base’s identified accident potential zone.

E. Dana Dickens III, president and chief executive officer of the Hampton Roads Partnership, praised the decision to keep Oceana open. Its loss would have dealt a powerful economic blow to all Hampton Roads, he said.

State Del. S. Chris Jones agreed.

&uot;But it’s obvious that much remains to be done to retain Oceana,&uot; he said.

&uot;The bar has certainly been set high for things for the Commonwealth and the cities and Virginia Beach and Chesapeake.

&uot;There are some significant public policy changes that will be required to meet the conditions set to keep Oceana open.&uot;