Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Cecil Field's Future Use on Residents' Minds

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Cecil Field's Future Use on Residents' Minds

Article excerpt

More than 300 Westside residents turned out for a town meeting at Cecil Field Naval Air Station this week, to the surprise of Mayor John Delaney and other city officials.

That is two to three times as many people as normally attend town meetings, Delaney said, looking out at the overflow crowd.

"The showing here tonight has shocked us all," said Mike Weinstein, executive director of the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission.

The residents came to hear the latest on Cecil Field, the proposed equestrian center, the base's golf course and to ask questions about drainage, road improvements and noise. Some brought pictures of trash that had been dumped in their rural neighborhood.

Delaney attended the meeting with city department heads, who helped deal with residents' concerns.

Also present were seven City Council members, including Alberta Hipps, who co-sponsored the event. It was the largest council contingent to attend a mayoral town meeting, said Sharon Ashton, the mayor's press secretary.

Holding up a diagram, Delaney said Cecil Field covers 27 square miles, or about the size of Newark, N.J. It contains 17,224 acres, of which the Jacksonville Port Authority will take over 6,081. The city will get 10,501 acres, which includes 8,311 to be developed by the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission and 2,190 for parks. Clay County also gets 642 acres for parks.

Bob Simpson, project manager for the JPA, said the airport master plan has been completed and approved. It calls for a range of uses, including maintenance and overhaul work on commercial and military planes and general aviation aircraft.

Weinstein told residents that "everything is moving in the right direction" for a satellite center that Florida Community College at Jacksonville wants to open at Cecil Field. He also said the commission is working with FCCJ and the Duval County School Board on trying to find "a lot of acreage" for an aviation high school.

Many attending wanted to know about the proposed equestrian center, which would occupy about 500 acres of base property north of Normandy Boulevard. The site, known as Yellow Water, was used for weapons storage and Marine barracks before it was closed. …

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