Good neighbors: Joint Land Use Study between Huntsville and Redstone Arsenal encourages public input

single-meta-cal October 25, 2017

Even the best of neighbors may have barking dogs. You have to figure out who mows the narrow strip alongside the driveway that seems like neutral ground. You’re going to talk before adding a new fence.

On a larger scale, Redstone Arsenal is that neighbor to Huntsville, as well as a handful of other municipalities. To assure a continuing harmonious neighborhood, a Joint Land Use Study is underway.

The City of Huntsville, working with grant money and at no cost to taxpayers, is the leader of a coalition of other governments that enlisted Matrix Design Group, a consulting company with expertise in protecting and growing the relationship between municipalities and military facilities in their areas. (The other “neighbors” in the partnership are Madison County, the City of Madison, the City of Triana, Marshall County and Morgan County.)

Redstone Arsenal is the driving force behind the metro area economy with its 41,000 employees and 72 aerospace and defense tenants. Matrix has studies in some 45 other cities where a military installation has a similar impact on the community.

We’re excited about getting input. This is the kind of plan we can’t write from behind our desks.”

Matrix was introduced to the area last winter in a news conference and will be reintroduced at a public meeting on Monday, Oct. 30 at 6 p.m. at the National Geographic Theater at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Questions and feedback are being encouraged by the principals in the event.

“This is the public’s first opportunity to give their concerns and input on how they’d like to see land around the Arsenal continue to develop and to see the challenges,” said Michelle Jordan, Planning Director for the City of Huntsville. “We’re excited about getting input. This is the kind of plan we can’t write from behind our desks.”

Last February, Matrix project manager Mike Hrapla stressed that “we’re not fixing today’s problems. It’s preserving the capabilities for the next 25 years.”

It’s all about the big challenges … and the little ones

By definition, a Joint Land Use Study is “a cooperative planning effort conducted as a joint venture between an active military installation, surrounding jurisdictions, state and federal agencies, local residents and property owners, and other affected stakeholders to address compatibility around military installations,” according to Matrix.

In simpler terms, it’s a plan that assures good communication between the entities and looks at challenges. They could be major ones or, as Mike Ward, vice president of the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce said, “the little things that encroach on the functionality of the Arsenal that inadvertently you do.”

Examples range from obvious issues like traffic and advising developers who might want to avoid an especially loud part of a military installation to radio frequency interference.

Matrix officials held a series of meetings last winter with individuals, government representatives and focus groups. Though some preliminary information from those meetings has been presented to the City – and will be presented on Monday to the public – it is still very much “in the data-gathering mode,” said Scott Erwin, a planner for the City of Huntsville. “They want to hear what the public wants to do.”

Erwin stressed the importance of feedback at Monday’s meeting and the dedication toward transparency as the plan evolves.

“Without the public input, without the public guiding us, we can’t move forward,” he said.

Things to know about the Joint Land Use Study

  • A public meeting will be held Monday, Oct. 30 at 6 p.m. at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center’s Davidson Center
  • The study is funded by the federal government, through the Office of Economic Adjustment, Department of Defense. The City of Huntsville has no financial investment in the study
  • Though Redstone Arsenal has a strong line of communication with the City of Huntsville and other local governments and municipalities, a JLUS frequently raises conversation points that had not been discussed and encourages the entities to project further into the future
  • The goals of the study, for the community’s perspective, is to protect the health, safety and welfare of residents and maintain quality of life, according to Matrix
  • It is to manage development in the vicinity of military installations, maintain economic vitality and balance property rights
  • For the military base, the goal is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the military and civilian personnel and to safeguard the ability of the installation to achieve its mission
  • A Joint Land Use Study is not a regulatory document. It is essentially a playbook to help the community and the military installation with future strategies
  • Matrix has held interviews with key individuals and focus groups prior to this meeting with the community at large