VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The city and the Navy signed an agreement Thursday to explore the possibility of private businesses leasing underutilized land on base at Naval Air Station Oceana.
Rear Adm. Chip Rock, Commander of Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, and Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer signed the non-binding proclamation during a change of command ceremony.
The agreement says the city and Navy will work together to look into the possibility of leasing about 400 acres of land on base. In exchange, the Navy would get resources for infrastructure improvements and building improvements through in-kind consideration.
The initiative is called Future Base Design. The innovative approach is meant to address infrastructure issues on the base, like barracks that have been closed since 2019 due to mold. Navy leaders say finding funding for all the fixes can be a challenge.
"With the documentation we just signed, it really does set the groundwork so we can continue collaboration with the City of Virginia Beach," said Capt. Bob Holmes, who took over as commanding officer of NAS during the ceremony. He replaces Capt. John Hewitt, who's been overseeing the initiative.
"If we can go ahead and focus our money, our resources and time supporting that unique war fighting mission, we are going to be far better off," said Holmes.
An example of a potential use of this initiative is the base's golf course and officers club becoming a country club.
"Make it new. Make it modern. We can still host the functions we do now. We're not giving up any of the functions we do now, but we have a blank slate we can work with," Holmes said of the possibility.
Mayor Dyer says maybe the base could be a place to lure tech companies or other businesses to create jobs.
"We're running out of space in terms of land for development, but this just gives us a plethora of opportunities that we can take forward," he said. "This is a win-win."
Still, there's plenty to still work out, including security.
"Before moving forward on any potential courses of action, we'll study it very intently and make sure we are not opening up undue risk to our mission and undue risk to our force," said Holmes.