Land swap deal on table

Published 10:44 pm Friday, April 11, 2014

If all goes according to plan, the city will give away 96 acres of vacant land in exchange for a 12-acre site with a building it hopes to modify into a recreation center.

The property exchange between the city and the U.S. Army could take place as soon as Wednesday, when the City Council will hold a public hearing on the deal. It’s been in the works for more than three years, Deputy City Manager Patrick Roberts said.

The land the city will give to the Army is located at 886 Carolina Road, north of the Suffolk Executive Airport and south of the city’s Public Works operations facility.

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The city at one time thought it would use the site as a Public Utilities operations facility but decided about two years ago that the cost to get water, sewer and roads into the site would be cost prohibitive, Roberts said.

So it decided to let the Army do all that.

“It’s a great opportunity for us, because this new site meets a lot of requirements the Army is not able to meet at their current site,” Roberts said. “They’re really on a small site that’s very confined.”

The Army wants a site farther from the homes and other private properties that have grown up around its 1LT Richard T. Shea U.S. Army Reserve Center on Bennett’s Creek Park Road, Roberts said.

According to a project description online, the Army will build more than 43,000 square feet in buildings, including space for administrative training, a maintenance shop and a storage building. More than 8,000 square feet will be paved for military equipment and employee parking and roads.

Roberts said the site will be used mostly for administrative training, “very similar to what people see going on at the Bennett’s Creek facility.”

In exchange for the Carolina Road property, the city will get the Bennett’s Creek Park Road location, which it plans to renovate into a recreation center with a fitness room, multi-use spaces, game room and computer room, with athletic fields behind the building.

“It’s an opportunity to complete what’s in the Parks and Recreation plan,” Roberts said. “We think it will be very successful, just like the East Suffolk complex.”

Wednesday’s public hearing will be held during the 7 p.m. meeting at City Council chambers, 441 Market St.