For its 75 years’ existence and through its various evolutions, Redstone Arsenal has lived a productive, synergistic co-existence with Huntsville and the surrounding area.
“Their goal is to be a good neighbor,” says Michelle Jordan, Planning Director for the City of Huntsville.
And it’s vice versa. Huntsville, a beneficiary of the economic powerhouse that is Redstone Arsenal and home to many of the 41,000 workers who enter Redstone’s gates daily, wants to be a good neighbor as well.
But even the best of neighbors needs fences, and a new Joint Land Use Study (JLUS) that proactively addresses future challenges will provide those fences, at least metaphorically.
The study will “find ways that we can all continue to be good neighbors to the Arsenal to ensure its future growth,” says Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.
“We’re not fixing today’s problems. It’s preserving the capabilities for the next 25 years,” says Mike Hrapla, project manager for Matrix Design Group, which will author the study and which, under the moniker “Tiger Team,” is spending this week in preliminary interviews with individuals and focus groups.
“We’re all communicating about what’s going on with future developments,” Jordan says. “We just want to make sure all the land uses surrounding the Arsenal are compatible with the Army’s future plan and sustainability. We want to make sure we’re not building stuff outside the fence that limits their future growth.”
In turn, Redstone Arsenal will become more attuned to public concerns as the study, in Hrapla’s words, “balances goals between the community and its quality of life and the military.”
The Joint Land Use Study is funded by the Office of Economic Adjustment, an entity of the Department of Defense. Matrix has performed 45 similar projects, from Guam to New England.
The City of Huntsville is the primary sponsor of the study, with the City of Madison, Town of Triana, Madison County, Marshal County, Morgan County and Redstone Arsenal as partners.
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 affective stakeholders to address compatibility around military installations,” according to Matrix.
Those compatibility factors include the obvious, like traffic and infrastructure challenges, “to figure how to work with 41,000 people and get them to work and back to their homes and manage our growth,” says Battle. The factors can be much less obvious, like radio frequency interference.
With similar studies, cities have been able to plan school construction or new neighborhoods that won’t be impacted by, say, the noise from an expanded firing range or relocation on base that dramatically shifts traffic flow.
The Arsenal is currently home to 78 different commands, according to Garrison Commander Col. Thomas Holliday Jr., and sits on 7.8 square miles.
In recent years, a number of federal agencies, such as the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms have established a strong presence, joining the familiar entities such as NASA, U.S. Army Space & Missile Command and the Army Materiel Command on Team Redstone.
Officials believe that a solid Joint Land Use plan will not only facilitate growth but also ensures Huntsville’s position of strength in any realignment issues.
“It’s a 20- 40- 50-year look,” Hrapla says. “How you can collectively create an environment for the federal government to continue to support (Redstone)?”
The Redstone study is expected to take 18 months. There are three facets: a policy committee that includes representatives from each of the municipal partners, a technical review group that includes planning staff, engineers and specialists, and a public forum. A policy review and assessment from Matrix is expected by late spring or early summer, and Hrapla hopes to begin engaging the public for feedback and comments by late spring as well.
Despite the many similar studies his group has performed, Hrapla stresses that each is “unique. You’re developing your own plan as the big plan.”
“Out of all this,” Battle says, “we’ll have a meaningful final product.”
Seven Things To Know About the Joint Land Use Study
- It 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 will hold a large number of interviews with key individuals and focus groups, then will reach out to the community at large for feedback and comments