By Sandra Hudson, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah DistrictJanuary 5, 2012
SAVANNAH, Ga. (Jan. 5, 2011) -- Credit unions, historic architecture, previous property owners -- all of these are factors considered by the Savannah district under the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC, Commission report. It called for the closure of 25 major installations in six years.
So, what happens to all that property when troops leave?
"Specific guidance in BRAC law determines every move we make for property disposal and acquisition as a result of BRAC," said Ralph Werthmann, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Savannah District's real estate division chief. Because most scenarios have occurred at some time in BRAC history, guidance is usually there, he said.
While BRAC brought huge construction projects and thousands more people to some locations, existing land on those installations met growth needs, said Werthmann. The only acquisition involved a 5.5-acre tract for Wilmington Air Force Reserve Center, N.C.
For Vivian Davis, the real estate division's senior assistant district counsel, and her team, the primary mission is disposal, which is the all-encompassing term for the myriad actions of transferring Department of Defense property to new owners.
"We first check to see if the land has a reversionary interest," said Davis, "in which case the property goes back to the original owner, if DOD no longer needs it."
Davis' team had one such case when the Rock Hill Memorial Army Reserve Center was reverted back to York County, S.C.
Barring reversions, DOD stands as the next disposal recipient in the hierarchy, followed by other federal agencies, like the Veteran's Administration, which purchased the Fort McPherson, Ga., medical clinic.
Localities come into play next. They must establish a Local Re-use/Development Authority, or LRA, then create a "best use" plan.
"There's one stipulation," said Davis. "BRAC law requires LRAs to consider using properties for homeless providers first, with approval from Department of Housing and Urban Development."
Under the Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, caveat, the city of Albemarle, S.C., acquired the Jesse F. Niven Reserve Center in 2010 at no cost, but with a twist.
"I've never had a disposal where we divided a building," Davis said. In the LRA plan, half was conveyed to the city as an administrative office for a homeless provider, meeting HUD requirements. "The other half went to the city under the Lands-to-Park Program, managed by Department of Interior."
From DOD to other federal agencies to localities, the line-up of disposal recipients still carries exceptions.
Surprisingly, BRAC law provides special consideration to operating credit unions, which typically lease property. Davis said they can purchase the land, at fair market value, before other potential buyers. In Georgia, one credit union at Fort Gillem and two at Fort McPherson exercised that option.
Davis said other disposals at Fort McPherson provided challenges. Because of their architecture, 40 buildings there have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. She said, once the LRA has an approved re-development plan, contracts for those historic properties will involve restrictions and covenants preserving the buildings' integrity.
As for the overall disposal mission, Davis said now that all BRAC 2005 actions are complete, her team's timeline is gaining momentum.
"Once we receive an approved plan, disposal completion deadlines vary, depending on who receives the property," she said. "At this point, it's all about accountability and leaving the installation so it's not abandoned, dead space.,"