Fort McCoy News April 12, 2013

Joint Land Use Study committee ends work

Representatives from Fort McCoy, the surrounding townships/communities and other government agencies have completed a Joint Land Use Study (JLUS) program document.

Bryan Law, an economic development planner for the Mississippi River Regional Planning Commission, said JLUS is a cooperative land-use planning effort between affected local governments and a military installation. Law served as a facilitator for the meetings and provided professional guidance.

The document presents a rationale and justification and provides a policy framework to support adoption and implementation of compatible development measures designed to prevent urban encroachment, safeguard the military mission and protect the public health, safety and welfare, Law said.

In addition to Fort McCoy representatives, the stakeholders represented included the Monroe County towns that border the installation — New Lyme, Lafayette, Angelo, Grant, Greenfield and Adrian. In Jackson County, the towns of Manchester and Millston on the north boundary of Fort McCoy are comprised almost entirely of state forest land and are barely populated.

"The Department of Defense identified Fort McCoy as an installation that needed a Joint Land Use Study," Law said. "The intent is to give the surrounding townships a tool to use in their planning efforts that will benefit them and Fort McCoy."

Law said the Office of Economic Adjustment, which manages the JLUS program, provided a grant to help pay the costs of the study. Stakeholders from Fort McCoy and the surrounding communities held a series of meetings between September 2011 and November 2012 to discuss the JLUS.

As the biggest employer in Monroe County, Fort McCoy brings a great economic benefit to the surrounding communities, so it is to communities' benefit to support the installation, he said.

Currently, the committee members couldn't identify any significant land-use issues, he said. If the area grows and becomes more commercial/residential over the next 10 to 20 years, there may be potential conflicts.

"The idea is to put items into the study/plans to help prevent these conflicts," Law said. "The civilian land surrounding Fort McCoy is currently mostly agricultural or forestry, which is compatible to military training, and reduces the potential for conflicts.
Ed Carns, chief of the Fort McCoy Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security Training Division, said the meetings were important because they brought together the installation and surrounding communities to talk about training and land-use concerns.

"Training by its nature is noisy, dusty and can be dangerous for nearby people or land," Carns said. "Encroachment on training areas raises concerns."

If people and communities are exposed to irritating noise and accident potential, they often will choose to seek relief through available channels or processes, which may affect training capabilities, he said.

Al Balliett, chief of the Fort McCoy Directorate of Public Works Environmental and Energy Division, said the committee meetings provided installation and community representatives a chance to talk about encroachment issues and look at the different mechanisms available to prevent encroachment from both sides.

"Noise can be a big issue," Balliett said. "We always take actions to notify the public and be proactive if we have training that might cause noise concerns."

Zoning is one of the tools the surrounding communities have to ensure compatible land use on areas that border the installation, he said.

Lands zoned and used for residential, commercial and other high-density population use are not compatible uses for lands that border or are near Fort McCoy training areas, he said.

Law said the process was important because it developed communication and cooperation between the communities and the installation. The procedure also developed a document that can be used as a guideline for further or future land-use/planning purposes.

Information documented via the JLUS process also would be of value during any future Base Realignment and Closure studies, Law said. The mutual cooperation and documentation established by the meetings shows the installation has support from the surrounding communities and should be kept open to support training.

Law said he hopes some form of the committee will meet on a recurring, or as needed-basis, to continue discussion about any land-use concerns and seek possible solutions.