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Kings Bay undertaking land use study
ST. MARYS -- With nearly 9,000 employees and an estimated annual payroll of $600 million, Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay is considered the economic engine that drives Camden County.

The ongoing Camden/Kings Bay Joint Land Use Study is designed to ensure nothing current or in the future will jeopardize the base.

Two public workshops were held Thursday in St. Marys to discuss the status of the study and solicit responses.

Lee Walton, project manager for AMEC, the Atlanta-based consulting firm conducting the study, said the focus is on the mix of businesses, residential communities, industrial sites and undeveloped property surrounding the base.

Walton said similar studies have been held at about 75 percent of the military bases across the nation.

Kings Bay is the only base in Georgia that has not had a study, he said.

The study considers both military and community perspectives on what is working and possible changes to ensure the relationship between the base and surrounding communities remains strong.

Walton said the area surrounding the base has changed dramatically since Kings Bay was established as a Navy base more than three decades ago.

In 1980, Camden County's population was 13,371. In 2000, the county's population was 50,513.

The study has shown residential growth is not balanced with economic development.

One of the primary issues has been and continues to be the St. Marys Airport, about 2 miles from Kings Bay.

Walton said there have been eight air space intrusions the past decade, mostly parachutists who landed on base property. The skydiving business that was involved is no longer operating in Camden County, but there have been other instances in which people have been caught on base after climbing over the chain link fence that surrounds the high-security base.

There have also been four airplane crashes near the base during the past 10 years, which is a concern because a crash on base has a potential to disrupt operations and could be a potential national security issue.

"There is a fence around the base for a reason," Walton said. "The base is a huge industrial complex."

Zoning ordinances on property surrounding the base are also a consideration, including height restrictions near the base. Walton said the concern is if the city of St. Marys allows buildings near Kings Bay that are tall enough for people to have a clear line of sight to base activities.

"How that property develops could have a significant impact on the base," he said. "Whatever happens, there needs to be compatibility control."

The majority of people who have responded to the survey so far say Kings Bay is essential to the county's prosperity and they don't have any concerns about military operations on the base, he said.

"We've gotten some good feedback from the survey," he said. "The primary goal is to get as many responses as possible."

* Reporter Gordon Jackson writes about Camden County and other local topics. Contact him at gjackson@thebrunswicknews.com, on Facebook or at 464-7655.

Participate

Organizers of the Camden/Kings Bay Joint Land Use Study are seeking responses to a 20-question survey to determine the best uses for land surrounding the Navy base. The study can be found from a link on the Camden County website at www.co.camden.ga.us/. Go to contact@PEQATL.com or write NSB Kings Bay JLUS c/o PEQ, Inc., 4405 Mall Blvd., Suite 500, Union City, Ga. for updates and meeting notifications.



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