Encouraging compatible growth around Fort Leonard Wood and providing public information rearding the impacts related to the fort’s missions are some of the strategies recommended in a recently completed joint land use study for the post.
Lyle Thomas, of the Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC), which administered the study, talked about the study’s findings and its suggestions with the Phelps County Commission Oct. 24.
The study aimed to identify ways for communities surrounding Fort Leonard Wood to work with the military to ensure continued success in both the economies of those communities and the military installation’s missions.
The study area included portions of Pulaski, Phelps, Laclede and Texas counties as well as the cities of St. Robert and Waynesville. It covered 214,500 acres (335 square miles). The fort itself made up 61,500 acres, or 96 square miles, so a majority of the study covered land outside of the post.
Off-post land is made up of mostly U.S. National Forest Service land (47 percent) and agriculture/forests or vacant land (48.1 percent), with 4.3 percent being residential and 0.6 percent being non-residential.
Its focus included identifying existing and potential land use conflicts between the civilian population and the military installation and make recommendations for mitigating or preventing these conflicts to achieve land use compatibility.
The study, according to Thomas, found no major compatibility issues and noted that because the post is surrounded mostly by U.S. Forest Service land, that actually enhances Fort Leonard Wood’s compatibility.
While the compatibility of areas surrounding the post may not save Fort Leonard Wood from a potential Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) in the future, Thomas said, its current compatibility proves well for the post.
The study also found that most growth around the post is occurring in sustainable areas and there were only minor concerns about the future compatibility based on existing growth patterns.
A map provided by Thomas shows that population density increased the most from 1990 to 2010 from the post’s north border to the cities of Waynesville and St. Robert, as well as along Interstate 44, Route P, Route 17 and Route 7 as well as south of the post along Route AW in the Evening Shade area.
Night lighting also has increased in various areas in and around the post between 1992 and 2010, another map showed.
Thomas said future growth south of the post is not an issue at this time, but could be down the road.
During his discussion with commissioners, Thomas noted he wanted to clarify two misconceptions people may have had about the study.
First, he said the fort has no plans to expand at this time.
Second, the study in no way recommends forcing counties to adopt planning and zoning regulations. “That’s the furthest thing from the truth,” Thomas said, noting that rights of private property owners in the study area were respected.
Thomas said there are five implementation strategies included in the completed study. They are as follows:
1. Provide public information regarding impacts related to Fort Leonard Wood’s training and operational mission.
2. Designate an existing organization to advance the relationship between the civilian communities and Fort Leonard Wood and encourage compatible growth. (Thomas said while the Sustainable Ozarks Partnership would be the closest group to this, that organization or any other has stepped forward to fill that role.)
3. The local governments of St. Robert and Waynesville consider adoption of Comprehensive Plan amendments.
4. Local governments and other regional partners work together to promote compatible growth surrounding Fort Leonard Wood.
5. Fort Leonard Wood to develop regular updates to military operational impact assessments to enhance the sustainability of the training mission.
Thomas said none of the strategies necessarily have to be implemented at this time.
After Thomas’s presentation, the commission signed a resolution accepting the study’s final report and endorsing the strategies recommended.
The joint land use study began in Septmber 2012. There have been more than 40 stakeholder meetings held regarding the study, Thomas said.
The Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment funded the project. Benchmark CMR, LLC, was hired to complete the study, which is available online at fortlw-jlus.com.