Horsham residents sound off on plan for naval base

Posted: January 15, 2014

Dozens of Horsham residents turned out Monday to comment on the Navy's environmental impact study for redevelopment of the former Naval Air Station at Willow Grove.

Most residents were concerned with traffic, noise, and other impacts during and after construction.

Activists also submitted comments and distributed leaflets opposing the drone command center at the Horsham Air Guard Base, which is adjacent but unrelated to the naval base redevelopment.

Troops at the Air Guard base are training to remotely operate MQ-9 Reaper drones to conduct strikes and surveillance overseas as part of the U.S. counterterrorism program.

The program has drawn protest from two dozen local religious, political, veterans, and antiwar groups.

Robert Smith of the Brandywine Peace Community said he feared the drone program could make Horsham "a viable target" for terrorists.

"The drone strikes have involved the destruction of targets - people. The killing of people, including children," he said. "The reality of war is that the violence that is done to your enemy returns to you."

Bud Smith, a longtime Horsham resident, laughed off the concern about terrorist retribution.

"We can handle them," he said, adding that after the redevelopment, "they'll be stuck in traffic like the rest of us."

The development plan preferred by local officials and residents would add an estimated 3,355 residents and nearly 500 acres of retail, office, and entertainment space.

"It's mind-boggling, the amount of traffic it's going to bring," said Jean Caputo.

Keith Grimes of Hatboro was concerned about environmental remediation, recalling that the Navy Yard cleanup in Philadelphia "ended up being far more expensive than they ever anticipated."

"But that was 15 or 20 years ago, so maybe they've learned a thing or two since then," he added.


jparks@philly.com

610-313-8117 @JS_Parks

www.inquirer.com/MontcoMemo

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