February 1, 2023

AICUZ as Greek Tragedy

By Viki Volk
Publisher

Greek tragedy depicts the downfall of a noble protagonist through a combination of hubris, fate and the will of the gods. The tragic alignment of these forces is usually triggered by the tragic flaw  of an otherwise good and honorable protagonist.

As Greek tragedy, Lexington Park’s tragic flaw lies in its benefactor and antagonist being one and the same: the U.S. Navy.

The tragedy  which the audience sees coming long before the characters see it  comes as that specific flaw destroys the protagonist.

Lexington Park’s tragic flaw is being the perennial child of the U.S. Navy, unable to exist without its beneficence and unable to develop under its discipline.

If the tragedy were set outside Gate 2 the flaw would be named “AICUZ,” the Air Installation Compatible Use Zone. The acronym stands for the Navy’s wish that local laws restrict building around its aviation facilities’ perimeters.

For going on half a century, investors have shied from the AICUZ land. They complain local rules are either too fluid to bank upon or too restrictive to permit a profit.

Planners complain that local officials kowtow to whims of the Navy instead of seeking investment.

Federal, state and local officials – throughout all these decades – have never reached accord regarding AICUZ.

For all intents and purposes, a tragic alignment of fate, hubris and the will of the gods.

Comments
4 Responses to “AICUZ as Greek Tragedy”
  1. Merl says:

    Well put….absolutely accurate….

  2. I am Lexington Park (local home owner) says:

    When I first heard of the AICUZ my first response was “how can we get around these restrictions”. Once the function/purpose of the AICUZ was explained to me my reaction was “we need to do everything possible to protect the AICUZ”.

    If we encroach on the AICUZ we might see some temporary growth. However, there would be serious long term consequences. Without the AICUZ there is no base and without the base there is no St. Mary’s County (or at the very least Lexington Park).

    Also, I’m not sure that it is fair to say that the AICUZ is responsible for the lack of growth/investment in Lexington Park. St. Mary’s Square is not in the AICUZ and should be prime real estate however, it is a sad reminder of the local resistance to change.

  3. Bob Schaller says:

    Would offer Merl’s comment in response to the “local home owner” post: Well put”¦.absolutely accurate”¦.

    In other words, this is not a one variable equation. If it was we wouldn’t be discussing it. In 1979 when AICUZ was adopted at NAS Pax, the first jurisdiction in the nation to do so, the base was a military base, mostly enlisted, and testing aircraft. Rough and ready, end of the wilder era on Great Mills Rd. Center Gardens Apts (1000 households), Lexington Manor “flattops” (350 households), and at least 4 other trailer parks supported local retail including Tulagi Place, Millison Plaza, and St. Mary’s Square. The Navy buildup to a 600-ship Navy in the 1980s and BRAC of the 1990s changed the mission and makeup of Pax forever. No longer a blue collar worksite, more military have moved off station and out of the core of LexPark. Enlisted ranks on base, once the largest demand for LexPark commerce, is now the smallest population in the base’s entire history, since it was built in the 1940s. Today’s base workforce is markedly white collar, and more than double the population of 30+ years ago. We are blessed with salaries among the highest in the nation. The Census ranks us the highest median income micropolitan are in the country. But most of this newfound fortune is not found in the traditional core area outside the main gate of Pax. Yes, AICUZ has mixed effects, but the broader effects must also be considered in the equation. It would be helpful to consider AICUZ and other key variables when examining development patterns.

  4. I am Lexington Park (local home owner) says:

    Bob,

    (1) You are correct, this is not a one variable equation. However, if you are going to use the equation analogy you should recognize that the AICUZ is not a variable but rather a constant in the equation. If the AICUZ is treated as if it were a variable rather than a constant the solution can not be found.

    (2) Development patterns: The local population has grown significantly and local salaries have grown significantly. Both are good things for economic growth. Lexington Park has not benefited from the population/salary grown to the extent that surrounding areas have. This trend continues as the north end of 235 develops while there is limited growth/investment in Lexington Park. In my opinion (and stated as just my opinion) there are two primary reasons why Lexington Park isn’t growing. (a) The transportation infrastructure is horrid. None of the roads go anywhere, rush hour traffic is bad, and it is not covenant to get to local businesses. (b) The local discussion is stagnant and everyone involved is too close to the discussion to realize it is stagnant. The young white collar workers from outside of the area need to be engaged. These are the people that will grow the economy of Lexington Park. When panel discussions are conducted and community brainstorming sessions are held the organizers need to be very aware of who there participants are and if they accurately represent the growing community. Solicit input from young white collar workers who chose not to live in Lexington Park and find out why. The input from the community members that were born and raised in southern MD is voluble but they do not represent to growing population.

    (3) A hard truth: If Lexington Park is going to be revitalized the trailer parks need to be displaced. No one will buy a house next to a trailer park unless they have no other options and no reputable retail store is going to open next to a trailer park because reputable won’t shop there.

    I am posting this because I hope it will prompt some constructive discussions. My intent is not to offend/insult anyone. We can’t keep talking about the past and how we got here. We have to start taking actions to correct the situation.

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