Wallops Research Park Land Dispute Heads to U.S. House [The Washington Post]

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U.S. lawmakers are set to consider legislation to remove restrictions on a 32-acre parcel near NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility so it can be developed into a research park — a measure that, unlike most land transfer bills, is far from routine business, The Washington Post reports.

Accomack County officials and congressional Republicans say it makes sense for the land, which is mostly empty and unused, to be developed into a convenient location for companies looking to do business with NASA. But the National Park Service donated the parcel to Accomack in 1976 under the condition that it be used as a public park and for recreational use; if a local government wants to develop the land, it has to compensate the federal government. Opponents say allowing Accomack to do so without paying would set “a devastating precedent.”

Part of the dispute is over the fair market value of the parcel, which the federal government has set at $815,000. The National Park Service “valued it as if it was a research business park, and it’s not,” said Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.), the sponsor of the House bill. “They got the cart before the horse on the valuation.” Accomack, one of Virginia’s poorest counties, cannot afford to purchase it at that price, local officials say.