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Opposing Views Compete For Fort Monroe's Future

Deborah Fitts

- (November 2007) HAMPTON, Va. - The fate of Fort Monroe continues to hang in the balance as developers and preservationists with very different visions for the 570-acre waterfront property await a recommendation by a newly formed panel.

The Fort Monroe Federal Area Development Authority, constituted this past summer, is charged with coming up with a re-use plan for the large stone fort and adjacent land. The U.S. Army plans to pull out of the facility in 2011 as part of a nationwide series of base-closings.

The 18-member panel is supposed to make its recommendation by late 2008, but extensions could push the process further.

Mark Perrault, whose group Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park is working for preservation of the property, said the new authority is an improvement over a prior one. A panel of seven residents appointed by the Hampton City Council had proposed housing and office space. That panel was scrapped last spring.

The new group includes seven members appointed by the City Council, seven appointed by Gov. Tim Kaine, and four state legislators. Kaine's appointments include an expert on historic preservation and an authority on heritage tourism. The 18 members must achieve a 75 percent majority supporting the re-use recommendation.

Meanwhile, the fort, which is a National Historic Landmark, falls under the National Historic Preservation Act's Section 106. The law requires a review of proposed activities affecting historic resources, and could block adverse impacts.

The army is sponsoring four public meetings addressing the 106 process. They were scheduled for Oct. 30 in Hampton and Nov. 8, 15 and 29 in Norfolk, Richmond and Washington, respectively. Details as to times and places are on the Web site of Citizens for a Fort Monroe National Park, at http://cfmnp.org. The site also has information on how to provide a written comment for the record.

Perrault said the meetings will be closely followed by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. Groups like Perrault's and many more, such as the Civil War Preservation Trust and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, have special standing to be involved in the process.

Fort Monroe, the largest stone fortification ever built in the U.S., was completed in 1834 at Old Point Comfort, the southern tip of the Virginia Peninsula. It is more than a mile in circumference and includes 150 historic buildings both inside and outside the fort walls. Much of the property will revert to the state once the army leaves.

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234 Monarch Hill Rd.
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