Citizens meet #8216;experts#8217;

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 30, 2008

COURTLAND—Opponents of the Navy’s proposed outlying landing field will get a chance to engage representatives from the service one-on-one during a public scoping meeting at Southampton High School Thursday from 4 to 9 p.m.

The fourth in a series of seven such public input sessions planned in Virginia and North Carolina, the meeting is designed as an opportunity for interested citizens to talk to subject-matter experts about the Navy’s plans.

Southampton County shares with Sussex County two of the five sites identified as possible host locations for the auxiliary airfield. Another is located on the border of Surry and Prince George counties. Two more are in North Carolina, in Camden, Currituck and Gates counties.

The Navy kicked off its scoping sessions Tuesday in Currituck County. Other meetings were planned for Tuesday in Disputanta and Wednesday in Sussex. The last of the planned sessions are set for May 2 in Gates County, May 5 in Camden County and May 7 in Surry County.

Navy officials have stressed that the meetings are designed to offer a chance for one-on-one interaction, with large displays set up “to describe various aspects and issues associated with the OLF project.” They hope to be able to allay some residents’ fears about noise levels, economic impacts and property values with the information they plan to bring along.

For OLF opponents, the most important component of the scoping meetings will be the opportunity they have to pose questions and make suggestions they wish to be considered as part of the Navy’s federally mandated environmental impact statement.

Comment cards will be available, and a computer will be set up to allow direct entry of questions into a database. The comment period also will remain open until June 7. Questions and comments can be submitted on the project Web site,, or by mail to: Commander, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Atlantic, 6506 Hampton Blvd., Norfolk, VA 23508, Attn: Code EV OLF Project Manager.

Opponents are expected to present more than 200 separate questions to Navy officials during Southampton’s meeting. A document available on the Web site maintained by Virginians Against the Outlying Landing Field lists questions dealing with issues ranging from noise levels to historic resources to the tax consequences of taking setting aside 30,000 acres for the airstrip and its associated buffer zone. The group’s Web site may be found at

Navy officials stress that Thursday’s meeting will not be a formal presentation or a public hearing. Formal public hearings will be scheduled and conducted after publication of the draft environmental impact statement, probably in 2009, according to a Navy press release.

The proposed facility is intended to provide a place for pilots of Navy fighter jets and other airplanes with a new place to get the experience needed for landing on aircraft carriers.

“The addition of a new OLF will ensure that year-round capacity exists to support naval aviation training requirements and the operational flexibility needed to respond to emergent national defense requirements, and at the same time optimize training,” the press release states.