BRUNSWICK (AP) – As the Navy moves to privatize housing in the Northeast, town officials have found themselves in the unlikely position of reviewing plans for a Brunswick Naval Air Station housing project.

“Due to privatization, we are dealing with a changing landscape,” said Theo Holtwijk, Brunswick’s director of planning and development. “The base has been exempt from town review.”

Officials said the planning board will review sketch plans next week for the 63-unit family housing development to be known as Midway Terrace. It will be the first time the board has been asked to review plans for a military project.

Planner Phil Carey said the board is involved because a private company will be responsible for developing and managing the family housing complex.

The project, which would result in the demolition of 62 existing units, will be treated no differently than any other development proposal and will be subject to normal fees, Carey said.

The Military Housing Privatization Initiative Act of 1996 gave the military authority to outsource management and funding of base housing. It also allowed the Navy to form a partnership with a private company, which would then operate, manage and maintain Navy housing for up to 50 years.

David Coleman, who is overseeing the project in the Northeast, said the Navy is working on an agreement with GMH Military Housing in Pennsylvania.

As a rule, military bases are exempt from state and local taxes. But the change could mean the town will collect property taxes on Navy housing and provide fire protection and other town services, he said.

“The bottom line is we are going to be able to dramatically improve the quality of our family housing,” Coleman said. “We’ll be happy to join Brunswick’s tax rolls if we can get all the town services.”

The privatization effort will involve more than 5,000 units at nine military installations in the Northeast, said Assistant Town Manager Patricia Harrington. More than 570 Navy housing units in Brunswick will be affected.

“We’ve told the company to assume we are going to tax them, but whether we can or not remains an unanswered question,” Harrington said.

Besides taxation, Harrington said the town is looking at issues such as trash collection, snow plowing, road maintenance, and fire departments.

“Everyone needs to know how these issues are going to play out before any contracts are signed,” Harrington said.

Midway Terrace, which is currently used to house Navy personnel, was built in 1959 on property owned by the air station. The 30-acre neighborhood is outside the fence that surrounds the 3,000-plus acre installation and is exempt from taxation.

The existing housing will be demolished. The new family housing will feature two playgrounds, a basketball court, a soccer field and a community center.

AP-ES-05-21-04 0216EDT

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