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Public hears about joint land use study

VIENNA — Consultants undertaking the Youngstown Air Reserve Station joint land use study continue to meet with the public and work on a project they say is vital to maintaining a defense community in the Valley for years to come.

The study, which started in January, aims to examine potential areas of economic growth around the military installation while also addressing any concerns those who live around or near it may have.

County Commissioners administered a $200,000 grant through the Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment to hire Matrix Design Group. The consultants, along with a policy committee and technical committee comprised of various elected officials, community members and air base officials, will study a myriad of issues such as airborne noise, urban growth, air space and land restrictions, endangered species, air and water quality, energy compatibility and availability, and other resources in the area.

Matrix Design Group has prepared more than 50 joint land use studies for bases across the country as part of the federally funded program, according to Celeste Boccieri-Werner, vice president of Matrix Design Group.

“This is an area of specialty for us,” Boccieri-Werner told a group of about 20 people at a meeting Thursday.

The studies are ultimately a way to help bases and surrounding communities remain relevant and position themselves for the future, Boccieri-Werner said. The Department of Defense uses data gathered through the joint land use study when determining where it will maintain particular missions or defense installations, she said.

In other words, the studies are key to keeping bases open, Boccieri-Werner said.

And whether the air station remains in the Valley for another six decades is something Master Sgt. Bob Barko said the community should always stay abreast of. The Youngstown Air Reserve Station is one of the top four employers in the Mahoning Valley and the installation contributes nearly $98 million into the local economy annually, he said.

“There are over $1 billion in federal assets at the air station,” Barko said.

Matrix Design Group will meet again with residents at the end of summer or early fall and at that time they will have concrete data to reveal about the study.

“It is an immense task to pull together documents, GIS layers, maps and public input,” Boccieri-Werner said. “But we also want to hear from those in the community who have concerns that we may not find in a document or on a map.”

Those with concerns or input regarding the joint land use study should reach out via the study website at www.yarsjlus.com.

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