BRUNSWICK, Maine — The redevelopment of Brunswick Naval Air Station reached perhaps the most important milestone in its six-year history Tuesday with an agreement for the transfer of some 1,100 acres of land and buildings from the Navy to civilian use.
The transfer agreement puts virtually all of the former air station — now known as Brunswick Landing — and the Topsham Annex in civilian hands.
The Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority board of trustees, which is the governor-appointed organization driving the redevelopment of the shuttered Navy base, voted unanimously Tuesday to authorize the deal, which according to MRRA Executive Director Steve Levesque will be inked with Navy officials in the coming days.
All that will be left after this agreement is done, according to Levesque, are certain parcels where the Navy is conducting environmental clean-ups. The Navy also has agreed to transfer property to Bowdoin College, the town of Brunswick and Southern Maine Community College.
Dana Totman, vice chairman of the MRRA board, has been involved in the base redevelopment effort since 2005 when a Pentagon commission voted to close the airfield as part of a nationwide military facilities reduction process. Tuesday was Totman’s final meeting as part of the board because he was not reappointed by Gov. Paul LePage.
“This is a huge accomplishment and a very significant piece of progress,” said Totman. “To see the real estate finally transferred just makes the job going forward much easier.”
John Moncure, a member of the board of trustees, agreed.
“This is what we’ve been working toward ever since the day Dana started with the redevelopment effort,” said Moncure. “It’s a great deal.”
Under a first-of-its kind law sponsored by Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe and supported by Maine’s congressional delegation, the MRRA is not required to pay full market price for the 1,098 acres of property. The organization will pay a $25,000 deposit in the coming weeks and sign a $3 million promissory note with the Navy, which will be paid off over 20 years starting in 2014. In addition, the Navy will earn a percentage of the proceeds from lease and rent agreements, which will increase as the MRRA earns more.
Once annual revenue from the leased property reaches $7 million annually, the Navy will receive 25 percent of the revenue. Once revenues for the MRRA reach $42 million, the Navy will receive 50 percent of the revenue until 2034. The estimated long-term benefit to the U.S. government, according to data provided by Levesque, is approximately $10.6 million. The MRRA is bound to charge fair-market value and reinvest profits into the property, according to the agreement.
Moncure said the deal is good for Maine and the redevelopment authority because it limits the MRRA’s financial liability in the event that things go wrong.
“All we really have at risk is $3 million,” he said.
Levesque said the quick transfer — it actually says “time is of the essence” in the summary of acquisition terms and conditions — and low initial cost to the MRRA are crucial to the success of the redevelopment.
“This approach will allow MRRA to purchase property and push ahead with implementing the reuse plan,” said Levesque. “The Navy is to be commended for their forward-looking approach and their willingness to facilitate this creative deal.”
In another important vote Tuesday, the board authorized Levesque to negotiate a deal with George Schott of Auburn, who owns most of the former Navy housing but not the land it sits on. Levesque said the MRRA and Schott have agreed to sell each other certain land and buildings so they each have full control over their respective properties in the end.
“We’re getting very close to a deal on that land,” said Levesque.
Gregory Preston, the base closure manager for the Navy’s Program Management Office, called the process that has unfolded around the station’s redevelopment “inspiring.”
“While we have not transferred title to all of the NAS Brunswick property, this agreement has identified a path to achieve that goal,” said Preston in a press release. “It was, and remains, a pleasure working with this talented group.”
Snowe, who introduced the Defense Communities Assistance Act of 2009 to encourage the low-cost transfer of closed military facilities, said she is “thrilled” with the deal.
“I led the charge to include a provision in the FY 2010 National Defense Authorization Act to facilitate the quicker conveyance of land at former military installations … so that it does not sit fallow for years, costing taxpayers millions in caretaker expenses and failing to be repurposed toward economic development,” she said in a press release.