Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Thoughts on the Navy School

You'll forgive us if we don't partake in the "Why did we lose the Navy School" type of navel-gazing, and if we'd rather not question our Senate and Congressional leadership on why we lost it. We'd rather look ahead and talk about what's going to happen to the campus, once the Navy School leaves.
Of course, it goes without saying that the Navy School isn't exactly packing up the U-Haul right now. They get two years or so to begin the process and quite a few more to actually finish the job up.
But it's worth examining what will eventually take the Navy School's place.
Legally, the federal government has first dibs on the land, followed by the state government, followed by everyone else. That means, assuming that the feds don't want it, that presumably the land will be bought by UGA. More on that in a paragraph or two.
We'd personally rather see UGA take a pass on the USNSCS campus. One of the reasons why folks in Athens, and especially those who live near the School are upset is because the NSCS has been a great neighbor. Unlike a lot of other, larger military installations, the folks in charge of the Navy School have, over the years, taken pains to keep the development of the base reasonably in line with the appearance of the neighborhoods around the base. UGA, not so much.
We'd love to see the land go to educational purposes. Gainesville College would do well to have a campus close to downtown Athens, as would Athens Tech, or even Piedmont College. It may be too optimistic, but we wouldn't be opposed to seeing a brand-new public college move in.
But of course, the University of Georgia (and yes, we know, it's the biggest employer, yada, yada, yada, and without it, Athens would be no bigger than Watkinsville) is shall we say, a little land-hungry? It's not that we don't want UGA to expand, but we are afraid of what they'd do with the land. More parking lots, perhaps? More high-rise dorms? UGA buses thundering through Normaltown? Those are, of course, the worst-case scenarios. But they must be considered. In local (and often state) politics, UGA is the proverbial two-ton elephant, and it will sit anyplace it damn well pleases.
Of course, UGA might surprise us. The Navy School campus would make a great location, as an example, for parts of the Ag School, or the new School of Public and International Affairs.
Another option, if UGA opts out of the NSCS campus, would be the always-expansionist Athens Regional Medical Center. Hopefully the same activists who fought successfully to keep the medical monstrosity from going up on Prince Avenue recently are screwing their courage to the sticking-place for this potential battle.
Any way you slice it, the Navy School is in for some big changes. Let's just hope that they are Athens-friendly changes, too.

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