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Sat, Oct 22, 2005

JAX Ends Attempts To Lure Navy Base Away From Virginia Beach

Virginia Beach Mayor Now "Extremely Cautiously Optimistic" About Chance To Keep Oceana

The battle between Virginia Beach, VA, and Jacksonville, FL, may be over. At least, the mayor of Jacksonville has declared a unilateral truce and the mayor of Virginia Beach says she's "extremely, cautiously optimistic."

The issue is the naval contingent at NAS Oceana. Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton said Thursday his city was pulling out of the competition to lure Oceana's aviation operations to Cecil Field because of growing opposition to the idea of returning Navy fighters to the base, which closed in 1999.

"The feedback I've received in recent weeks makes it clear that the community does not want the master jet base to return, and I respect that," Peyton said Thursday, two weeks after withdrawing a $50 million pledge to make Cecil Field (below, right) ready for military air operations. He was quoted by the Associated Press.

But that doesn't much ease the mind of Virginia Beach Mayor Meyera Oberndorf. "Let me put it this way," she told the AP. "If you were running a full marathon and you got halfway there and somebody gave you water in a teeny tiny cup and you drank a drop of water and splashed a little on yourself for some energy, that's the best way I could describe the news from Jacksonville. I respect what the mayor of Jacksonville did. Am I elated? No."

Last August, the military's Base Realignment and Closure Commission decided to move Oceana because there was just too much development springing up around the base. They vowed to move the base to Jacksonville unless state and local authorities in southeastern Virginia did something to stop the civilian growth.

It's not clear at this point where Jacksonville's pull-out leaves the BRAC's decision regarding Oceana. But it has, for now, ended the war between Virginia Beach and Jacksonville.

FMI: www.defenselink.mil/brac

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