Three Towns Consider Their Compatibility With The Stones Ranch Military Reservation
By Kimberly Drelich
September 14. 2015
East Lyme — If residential developments grow too close to the Stones Ranch Military Reservation in the future, the noise, light or dust from the military site could bother the nearby residents.
At the same time, the proximity of those new developments to the military site could also restrict the expanses of training space used by the Connecticut Army National Guard.
These are among the potential scenarios East Lyme, Lyme and Old Lyme and the Army are seeking to prevent by conducting a 15-month study on the compatibility of land near the approximately 2,000-acre military installation located in the three towns. The Joint Land Use Study will also look at Camp Niantic in East Lyme.
The Army had nominated Stones Ranch for a joint land use study in 2011 "due to concerns about residential development along all four boundaries," according to the Department of Defense website.
At a public meeting Monday at Camp Niantic, consultants outlined the project, intended to foster dialogue and collaboration among the communities and the military, to about 25 residents, including local and state officials. Members of the National Guard highlighted the important relationship between the National Guard and the local communities.
The study will consider whether 25 factors, including public trespassing, vertical obstruction, noise, light and glare, and air quality are issues — or whether these factors could become issues in the future — and offer recommendations. Consultants said about 85 percent of compatibility issues can be addressed through information, communication and coordination.
Project Manager Celeste Werner of the Matrix Design Group said a main goal is to continue to protect the safety and welfare of residents and military personnel.
She said the study aims to achieve balance so communities can maintain their economic development and quality of life, so the National Guard can continue its mission, and so business owners and residents can preserve their property rights.
The military and the communities surrounding military installations have conducted 110 joint land use studies across the country, as of January 2015, according to the Department of Defense's website.
The U.S. Department of Defense began funding the studies 30 years ago, as urbanization across the U.S. brought developments closer and closer to military installations. This is typically called "encroachment."
"In certain types of military installations, that has impacted their mission," said Werner. "And in situations like that in the past through what's called Base Realignment and Closure [BRAC], some military defense communities had their economic catalyst, their military installations, unfortunately close in their backyard and they lost many, many, many jobs."
"And so the Joint Land Use Study is here to bring everybody together to make sure we don't get to that point and to assist in preventing encroachment, and thus focusing on compatibility," she added.
The Department of Defense's website states that performing a study makes the military installations eligible for the Army's program to create buffer zones around them.
As part of electronic surveys at the meeting, almost 70 percent of attendees said the military's use of highways and roads did not have an undue impact on the local community. But about 63 percent said they didn't know whom to call if they had a question or concern about Stones Ranch or Camp Niantic.
After the presentation, residents asked questions and discussed Stones Ranch and Camp Niantic in small groups, discussing a host of topics.
Michael Foley, who lives near Stones Ranch, said he came to the meeting because he was curious about the study, not because he had any specific concerns.
"I've never had a problem with the National Guard," he said.
East Lyme Planning Director Gary Goeschel said in East Lyme's case there are two recent subdivisions close to Stones Ranch. He said there is the potential for future subdivisions to locate to open spaces near the military installation in the communities.
East Lyme had received a $161,770 grant from the Department of Defense to conduct the study, while both East Lyme and Old Lyme are contributing in-kind planning services. The study is expected to be completed by the fall of 2016.