DOVER — In an effort to support the ongoing mission of Dover Air Force Base, federal, state and local leaders plan to collaborate to ensure that civilian development doesn’t interfere with the military’s goals.
On Thursday, leaders from multiple agencies and local municipalities met virtually to kick off work on the Dover Air Force Base Compatible Use Study.
Government leaders are working with the University of Delaware and have contracted Century Engineering to conduct the study, which will lead to recommendations for the towns and land that neighbor the base.
“Military installations play a vital role in the national defense and support of military testing, training and base support operations. The military installation is a key economic engine. It serves thousands of jobs and is vital to our state’s economic activity,” said Sonia Marichic-Goudy of Century Engineering at Thursday’s meeting. “Sometimes, there is pressure from incompatible civilian development that can create issues with the success of the military installation.”
She said the plan for the study is to combine the thoughts of state and local governments with federal entities when it comes to potential land uses.
The Delaware Department of Transportation, Safety and Homeland Security, the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, and the Department of Agriculture are among the agencies involved in the process.
“We want everyone here to have a strong role supporting the mission of the Department of Defense at this military installation,” Ms. Marichic-Goudy added.
The study will focus on the region within 5 miles of the base, which includes portions of Dover, Camden, Wyoming, Bowers Beach, Magnolia and Little Creek, as well as some unincorporated areas of Kent County.
Once completed, the study would create a comprehensive plan for the county and local municipalities to use when considering development decisions.
“It sort of becomes the encyclopedia that we can reference to use for decision-making moving forward,” Ms. Marichic-Goudy said.
Drew Boyce, also of Century Engineering, acknowledged that these decisions are significant, saying that is why the study’s leaders want to bring all the stakeholders together.
“That’s why we’ve got at the table, on the policy committee level, all of the leadership of the local land-use agencies, … so they can have full buy-in,” he said.
The Dover Air Force Base Compatible Use Study won’t hold any authority until it is incorporated into each municipality’s code.
The Department of Defense offered to foot the bill for the research and to help any locality with the costs relating to codifying the plan once it’s complete, thanks to a grant developed by the Department of Defense’s Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation, Ms. Marichic-Goudy said.
Along with government and elected officials, the study’s architects want to hear from the public. Since Thursday’s meeting was the start of the work and as momentum builds, there will be workshops, town hall meetings and other activities to interact with residents.
Ms. Marichic-Goudy said the first outreach will happen in the spring, with a second next winter. Specific dates have not yet been set.
Organizers hope the study will be complete around March 2023.
Ms. Marichic-Goudy said the project will soon have a website, so the public can learn about efforts and interact with officials.
“The program supports the long-term sustainability and operability of the military installation,” she said. “The point is to bring together all of the key stakeholders to collaborate and make informed decisions.”