New study will focus on Cannon’s growth

By Sharna Johnson: Cannon Connections

Curry County Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to take the lead in a Joint Land Use Study into expansion and a changed mission at Cannon Air Force Base.

As community sponsors, the county will act as the lead, local agency and partner with the Office of Economic Adjustment in obtaining grant money and collecting information from the community for a study focusing on issues that could impact Cannon’s mission as a special operations wing.

At issue are busy roads, train whistles and the potential of future wind farm development, among other things.

Community leadership and “stake-holders”, such as land owners, business persons, school representatives and residents, are required for creation of a working group for the project, according to JLUS project manager Amanda Fagan.

The county is also responsible for 10 percent of the cost of the study, Fagan said, which can be offset or consist of the value of staff hours spent on the project.

Evaluating and documenting “What are the existing and potential future land use and encroachment issues,” Fagan said the study could cost between $80,000 and $200,000 and take anywhere from 12 to 18 months depending on the scale of concerns.

Based on a working knowledge of Cannon and the surrounding area, Fagan said OEA representatives expect to be on the low-end of the time and financial estimates.

Currently in the organizational phase, the study seeks to, “preserve and protect (Department of Defense) missions and assets and protect public health and safety”, Fagan said in her presentation.

Elements presenting possible joint land use issues already identified are “clear zone violations” presented by Curry Road R’s proximity to the base, the potential development of night lighting, wind farms and other things incompatible with low-level special operations missions and rail traffic adjacent to base housing, OEA Associate Director David Witschi told commissioners.

27th Special Operations wing Mission Support Group Commander Col. Babette Lenfant told commissioners issues with Curry Road R, which parallels the base’s western perimeter, have grown over the years as the road has been transformed from a rarely used dirt road to a well-traveled thoroughfare.

And the whistle of trains passing by a base housing area, she said, have prompted numerous complaints from residents.

The OEA provides financing, technical assistance and works with the community on the project, Fagan and Witsche said.

Through coordination with local, state and federal stakeholders, it is the community’s role to resolve issues once they are identified, according to Fagan’s presentation.

City Manager Joe Thomas and Clovis Mayor Gayla Brumfield, in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting, said they supported the study.