Two area congressmen said Friday that the Navy's repeated delays on off-loading the former Willow Grove air base were having a ripple effect on the ability of local, state, and federal agencies to plan for the future.
Reps. Patrick Meehan and Brendan Boyle said the continued delays on transferring the 850-acre base were hindering planning for school enrollment, transportation projects, and attracting real estate and business investment.
"We're now 10 years into" the base's being decommissioned, said Meehan, a Republican. "You're leaving the local redevelopment authority in a very difficult position of having to make calculations . . . on all of the other issues that are impacted by that."
"They're being held up from making any of those sorts of decisions because we don't know," said Boyle, a Democrat. "Are we talking about six months? Are we talking about six years? Are we talking about somewhere in between?"
The Horsham Land Redevelopment Authority in 2012 settled on a plan to build a mix of homes, offices, schools, retail, and other facilities on the site. It had hoped to begin construction early this year, but the Navy has yet to finalize its environmental-impact report, and the Environmental Protection Agency is still studying and remediating water pollution at the site.
Over the next 20 years, according to a Navy report, the redevelopment is expected to generate nearly 10,000 jobs and $15 million a year in tax revenue.
The congressmen toured the site Friday, a week after sending a letter to the secretary of the Navy urging that the project move faster.
State Rep. Todd Stephens (R., Montgomery) - who has had a front-row seat on the vacant base, just a few blocks from his district office - said plans for the base's future have been fraught with delays from the time the facility was tapped for closure in 2006.
"I doubt that any other facility has gone through this much strife and difficulty in getting redevelopment initiated," he said.
Boyle said the Navy has yet to respond to their questions about the delay.
"There's a window of opportunity. We have it. We don't want to miss it," said Stephens. "We can really capitalize on some terrific opportunities here, if the federal government would just do their work and then get out of the way."