2002 CPEO Military List Archive

From: CPEO Moderator <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: 11 Dec 2002 22:30:09 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Text of Congressman Taylor's letter to the Biloxi City Council
Text of Congressman Taylor's letter to the Biloxi City Council
BILOXI — Over the past ten years, the Mississippi Gulf Coast has experienced an unprecedented level of economic growth. As the U.S. Representative for South Mississippi, I have been closely following the development in cities such as Biloxi and the significant positive impacts that have resulted from it. The gaming industry has redeveloped our landscape and has allowed our cities to flourish in ways that were
previously unimaginable.

As a former state senator, I am proud to have played a significant part in the passage of the legislation that permitted gaming in Mississippi. Throughout my career in public service at the local, state and federal levels, I have always supported development that forwards the interests of our communities. However, we must be careful not to harm our military partners in our pursuit of new opportunities.

It has been my policy to honor the decisions of local communities in determining their individual long-term growth strategies. In matters that affect federal policy, I have sought to ensure that the economic viability of the entire Mississippi Gulf coast is preserved.

Keesler AFB has been the subject of many encroachment issues including most recently the proposed construction of the Portofino Towers. Because of the $1.4 Billion annual economic impact and the good, long-term relationship that the community has had with this installation, I have publicly expressed my concerns about this and other projects that could affect its future.

On November 22, I contacted the Air Force to seek their assessment of the potential impact of the Portofino Towers project upon flight operations and flight training at Keesler AFB. At my request, the Air Force provided me written assurance that the Portofino Towers project, as currently proposed, meets FAA criteria and would not impede the approach and departure zones for Keesler AFB (see attached).

While they don't consider the Portofino Towers project to be an airspace encroachment issue, the Air Force did express concern that its future residents may complain about the "aircraft noise, operating hours, and perceived risk to safety of surrounding residents as Keesler-based aircraft take off and land over existing homes." If the leadership at Keesler were pressured to "modify flight patterns and procedures, with a concurrent increase in calculated risk, to satisfy community concerns," the Air Force would consider it to be a "significant/undesirable" encroachment issue.

I shared this concern in a recent conversation with Mayor Holloway. I was pleased to hear that the Mayor intends to work with the City Council to provide written notice to each potential buyer of residences in Portofino Towers forewarning them of the noise that they can expect by living so near to Keesler Air Force Base. I hope the Mayor and City Council also will provide similar notice to each subsequent owner prior to the resale of a property in this development.

I also would like to commend Mayor Holloway and General Peterson for their efforts to create a new city ordinance that is intended to ensure that this and future projects in Biloxi do not negatively impact the flight operations and flight training at Keesler AFB. It makes sense, and I strongly urge its adoption by the City Council.

Encroachment is a real threat to military installations. Since 1988, 451 military installations have been closed across the nation through the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. Ninety-seven of these closed installations were comparable in size to Keesler AFB or larger. After his election in 2000, President Bush requested that Congress authorize another two rounds of base closures. Over my strenuous objections, Congress provided President Bush the authority to establish another round of base closures that will occur in 2005.

As a member of the House Armed Services Committee and its Subcommittee on Military and Installations and Facilities, I have seen bases closed and the communities that host them harmed because of encroachment from unplanned or incompatible commercial or residential development. With another BRAC round a little more than two years away, we must be careful to ensure that any future development neither jeopardizes nor is perceived to harm the long-term missions of our military installations.  Encroachment is a key element in the criteria used to determine which bases survive or close. Unregulated growth can severely restrict an installation's ability to generate, project and/or sustain combat power in support of the national military strategy. Encroachment interferes with military readiness and can have the effect of de-valuing an installation to the point that it may become a prime candidate for
closure in 2005.

An installation's ability to expand its current support base and to accept additional missions and functions also may be hampered by encroachment. In fact, the Air Force expressed its concern that the Portofino Towers project "may limit our ability to change the Keesler AFB mission in order to meet future needs of the Air Force." In the previous BRAC rounds, many installations were closed solely because urban growth near the facilities compromised their ability to provide safe and effective military training.

In the same manner that physical encroachment is a BRAC concern, airborne noise also poses a significant threat to an installations future. As the Air Force transforms to meet the operational requirements of the 21st century, they are moving toward aircraft with more powerful engines. Unfortunately, however, that also means more noise will be produced. As communities have expanded closer to military installations, concerns over noise from military operations have increased. Pressure from groups at the local, regional, and state levels have restricted and reduced military training at several installations across the nation.

To sustain the growth in our communities, we need to preserve our existing economic interests. We must always be mindful that we don't leave any of our strategic economic partners behind or possibly jeopardize their long-term missions. Taking steps to protect Keesler AFB today will ensure that Biloxi and our entire region will continue to reap the benefits of this premiere Air Force facility for the next 50-plus years.


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