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O’Gara files site plan for new driving course

Westmoreland County Zoning Administrator Robert Fink told The Journal this Tuesday morning that he is reviewing site plan material associated with O’Gara Group’s development of the Westmoreland-based tactical training facility’s driving course.
“O’Gara applied for a new phase [of development] a couple weeks ago,” Fink said. “The car control training course is on the same property as the shooting range and classrooms. The [site plan] material came in over a week ago, the county commented, and now we are waiting for more information to come in.”

As far as Fink is concerned, the O’Gara driving course site plan material passes as a complete filing and the county’s administrative review of the material must be completed within 90 days of that filing date.
“I have deemed it complete,” Fink said. “It’s essential complete,” but the zoning administrator has asked for additional information to clarify considerations that may need further embellishment.
The Journal explored the timeline during the June 1 interview. The 90-day review period would end in August and O’Gara would be positioned to begin its new phase of construction activity before the summer season’s ending.
“It won’t necessarily take that long,” Fink said of the review period specified by Virginia statute. He advised that the site plan conforms to O’Gara Group’s previously stated development intentions.
Reviewing the material assembled in the Land Use office, Fink estimated the driver training course’s length as approximately 3,300 linear feet, “not including the return route.”
He explained that the driving course is sited “in the general vicinity of the shooting ranges and is fairly close to the dummy grenades range. It is located where [the former Bryan Chandler property’s] fields used to run, and some of it will be in the woods.”
The project will disturb approximately 32 acres.
“This is a site plan concept that was described earlier,” Fink said. Questioned about the O’Gara Group’s activities in previously constructed classrooms and firing ranges, the Zoning Administrator responded, “It is my understanding that they are operating [on the Westmoreland County site].”
In January 2009 O’Gara Group shared its plans to establish its tactical training academy on 350 acres that would include a portion of the county’s industrial park and an adjacent agriculturally zoned tract of property then owned by Bryan Chandler.
O’Gara Group bought the Chandler land and developed its classroom and office facilities and its complex of firing ranges later last year. Initial plans had been to move the Danville-area training establishment to the Westmoreland County site.
In January 2009 O’Gara shared plans to develop a facility capable of providing tactical training to “up to 120 personnel simultaneously in classroom and practical skills.” The curriculum would include academic offerings, motor vehicle driving skills, physical fitness, personal security tactics, techniques and procedures, and weapons handling/marksmanship training.
The completed facility was to include a 1.5-mile driving course, an off-road driving course, development of a simulated urban training area of six square city blocks, student lodging and dining accommodations, a gymnasium, an obstacle/fitness course, 10 small arms shooting ranges and a complex of classrooms and laboratories.
The local government’s recruitment of the O’Gara Group training establishment was touted as a major economic development accomplishment, but the project was met with massive public opposition and multiple challenges to the county government’s past O’Gara-related governmental actions will be aired in Westmoreland Circuit Court later this year.
O’Gara Group initially projected a $20 million expenditure to establish its training facility in Westmoreland County. Its yearly operating budget was expected to range from $8 to $9 million. O’Gara Group promised its facility would be only “minimally intrusive to the environment.”

Betsy Ficklin

 

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