Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Army base report delayed

The Army Corps of Engineers has told the City that the report on their selection of a site for the Armed Forces Reserve Training Facility will not be released this week as originally planned. The release is now expected to happen in approximately the 1st week of April.

Three Westfield sites are being considered by the Army for the training facility: a historic farm on Boardman Lane, an industrial park development on Middle Street, and the city-owned Cucia Park on Smith Street. Westfield Residents, as well as many others in the city, strongly opposed the siting of an Army base on Boardman Lane. Mayor Giuliano convened an advisory panel, led by Ron Klattenberg and consisting largely of Westfield residents, to work with the Army to select a site.

The mayor's advisory panel rejected both the Boardman Lane and the Middle Street sites, and endorsed the sale of Cucia Park to the army for their base. The army did not accept these recommendations, and instead continued to view Boardman Land and Middle Streets for their facility. With a view towards blocking the army from taking prime industrial land, the Common Council approved an offer of city funds to provide tax relief and to purchase land in the industrial park, which is owned by Ted Bysiewicz. This week the Council voted to extend the deadline for this offer.

Last summer and fall, the Army held a series of public hearings in an attempt work with the community on the site selection. The ranking of the sites was to be released in October, but in a meeting on November 10th, the Corps of Engineers announced that they would instead conduct a full environmental assessment on all of the sites. This environmental assessment is to include plant and animal surveys, geotechnical boring, archeological, economic, other studies.

The City is now awaiting the release of the reports on Environmental Assessment (EA), and a Draft Finding of No Significant Impace (FNSI). These will indicate which of the sites the Army views as most favorable for its military training facility. Following the release of those reports, there will be a mandated 30 day period of public comment.

Disclosure: I am on the Mayor's advisory panel.

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