Queen Anne’s County citizens clashed again at a public forum last week over the controversial Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC). The forum, held at Queen Anne’s County High School, was the second of two public forums on the training site proposed to be built near state Routes 304 and 481.
While government officials had little new to say about the site, opponents once again showed up in full force. Andrew Eastman of Centreville said it was important for them to attend the meeting to make sure their voices were heard and their sides were represented. Supporters of the project also made their presence known, appearing in numbers that had not been seen at previous meetings on the project.
Proponents, including Jim Luff, chairman of the county’s Economic Development Commission, Linda Friday, president of the Queen Anne’s County Chamber of Commerce, Camille O’Donnell of Business Queen Anne’s and others from the business community said before and during the meeting that the facility would bring economic development and tax revenue to the area at a time when it is sorely needed. David Metrinko, chairman of the Queen Anne’s County Chamber of Commerce and a business owner in Centreville, brought signatures from hundreds of Queen Anne’s County residents who support the project. In reference to recent threats to boycott area business for their support, Metrinko said his presence showed that proponents would not be silenced. Metrinko also touched on the unease he felt many citizens had about speaking out in favor of the project.
On the other side, FASTC opponents offered questions to government officials, touching on issues of noise and potential environmental impacts. Beyond individual issues, though, a fair number of questions focused on the belief that the facility’s existence alone would be disruptive to residents’ way of life.
Throughout the question and answer period, officials said many questions on the potential environmental and economic affects would be answered in the forthcoming draft environmental assessment, which will pull together studies on numerous issues with public comments made during the process. The deadline for public comments is March 12, and officials said the assessment would be published in late March or early April.
Once the draft assessment is published, officials said that another public meeting will be held and that public comment on the draft assessment itself would be open for 30 days. Based on the findings of the final environmental assessment, the decision to move ahead with the project or conduct a more thorough environmental impact statement will be made three to four months after public comment has ended.