S. 1329 and H.R. 2288, A bill to remove the use restrictions on certain land transferred to Rockingham County, Virginia
STATEMENT OF PEGGY O’DELL, DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR OPERATIONS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, CONCERNING S. 1329 AND H.R. 2288, BILLS TO REMOVE THE USE RESTRICTIONS ON CERTAIN LAND TRANSFERRED TO ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, VIRGINIA, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.
March 17, 2016
Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interior’s views on S. 1329 and H.R. 2288, bills to remove the use restrictions on certain land transferred to Rockingham County, Virginia, and for other purposes.
The Department supports H.R. 2288 and would support S. 1329 if amended to conform to H.R. 2288. H.R. 2288 as passed by the House addresses the concerns the Department had with the bills as introduced about the potential loss of public park and recreation land in Rockingham County. The Department appreciates the work of Senator Kaine and Representative Goodlatte in making the changes in the legislation that are reflected in the House-passed bill.
S. 1329 and H.R. 2288 as introduced would require the removal of all deed restrictions imposed by the transfer of the surplus federal property formerly known as the Broadway Work Center A-VA-681 in Rockingham County, Virginia, under the terms of the National Park Service’s Federal Lands to Parks (FLP) Program. In 1989, the National Park Service conveyed this 3.03-acre property at no cost to Rockingham County under the authority of the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949 (40 U.S.C. 550(b) and (e)) on the condition that it be used in perpetuity for public park and recreation purposes.
The purpose of the FLP program is to help communities increase opportunities for public recreation by increasing park and recreation areas. By conveying this land at no cost, the federal government provided a public benefit to the citizens of Rockingham County by increasing the quantity of the county’s public park land.
Public Law 101-479, enacted in 1990, allowed a specified portion of 3.03 acres of the transferred land to be used for a child care center. However, it left in place the use restriction (enforced by a reverter clause) that was part of the deed. As introduced, H.R. 2288 and S. 1329 would release the entire property from the use restriction in the deed in an effort to enhance the child care center operator’s ability to finance repairs even though, consistent with the terms of Public Law 101-479, only about 1 acre of the 3-acre site is used for the facility. As passed by the House, H.R. 2288 would limit the deed release to the 1-acre portion of the property already authorized by law to be used for a child care facility. The other 2 acres would continue to be subject to the existing deed’s use restriction and reverter clause.
By limiting the deed release to the portion of the property already determined by Congress to be appropriate for a child care facility, the amended legislation would accomplish its intent while also ensuring that a community that received Federal land at no cost for the purpose of public recreation would continue to benefit from having the land dedicated to that purpose. This solution helps protect the integrity of the FLP program and avoids setting a precedent for other communities that may want a legislated release from obligations for use of federally conveyed land.
H.R. 2288 as passed by the House also eliminates the requirement in section 2(d) of Public Law 101-479 for Rockingham County to report biennially to the Secretary of the Interior about the use of the property for a child care center, as well as other language in that section that is inconsistent with releasing the center from the deed restriction.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my statement. I would be happy to answer any questions you or any members of the subcommittee may have.