Ordinances can establish use, design, and construction standards for development near military installations. These ordinances promote the health, safety, and welfare of existing and future base-area residents, workers, and surrounding land uses, while still allowing to fulfill the installation's mission. Military compatibility ordinances are designed to address mission-related impacts that extend beyond the installation, including noise, height, and the potential for accidents:
- Aircraft noise and weapons-firing may be incompatible with certain types of land uses, such as residential, medical care, and education;
- Structures near military facilities, such as antennae, wind turbines, and tall buildings can interfere with military airspace; and
- Military airfields designate Accident Potential Zones (APZs) that extend beyond runways. APZs can affect the types of land uses and population densities in surrounding areas.
Different aspects of military operations can be affected by other factors as well, including:
- Ambient night lighting may interfere with nighttime training;
- Glint and glare may affect airport traffic control tower personnel;
- Refuse disposal may attract birds and create aircraft hazards; and
- Electromagnetic interference may affect communications and radar.
Compatibility ordinances are best developed through close coordination between an installation and the surrounding community, focusing on the most critical impacts to military missions. An example is the St. Mary's County Air Installation Compatible Use Zone (AICUZ) ordinance. St. Mary's County has one of the oldest AICUZ protection programs in the country, adopted in the 1970s for aircraft safety at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River and Webster Field, and to manage potential land use encroachments. As the AICUZ was being developed and adopted, the Navy worked with the county to ensure that the county fully understood the installation's mission. That cooperation helped guide the county to adopt land compatibility laws that protect the base, while still minimizing safety hazards to residents. The county and the Navy continue to work collaboratively in a way that allows operations at the nearby military installations to expand without the fear of encountering incompatible development.
The adoption of the AICUZ has resulted in supplemental studies by the county and the Southern Maryland Navy Alliance, including the St. Mary's County Planning Commission's comprehensive
Workbook for Analysis of the AICUZ and the
Navy Alliance's Encroachment Study Key Findings and Recommendations. These documents provide background on encroachment issues and how the AICUZ is addressing them. The documents recommend certain actions, such as a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), that have been completed and signed by NAS Patuxent River and the St. Mary's County Commissioners. The MOU establishes formal coordination and communication processes regarding community, military, and compatibility planning that benefits all parties. The MOU also addresses the planning process, including how the public can be involved when the NAS Patuxent River AICUZ is updated to reflect mission changes.