Fort Benning: Land expansion put on hold - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Fort Benning: Land expansion put on hold

STEWART COUNTY, GA -

A Fort Benning has put a possible land acquisition in Stewart County on hold for a while.

Officials say it is still looking to expand, but the land acquisition of more than 82,000 acres needs more research after budget cuts and concerns from the people of Stewart County like Gordon Smith.

"The majority of us don't want it at all—that a county as poor as Stewart County is and people can be uprooted from their homes they've lived on all their lives and generations before that," said Smith.

Smith has been fighting against Fort Benning's possible land acquisition in Stewart County for more training ground.  However, Fort Benning says it is putting a pause on the project.

Deputy Garrison Commander George Steuber says their goal is still the same, to acquire all the land, but with budget cuts, they may only be able to afford one-third of the 82,000 acres or may not take any at all.

Steuber says they will take time for more in-depth research for environmental effects. "We have the Armor School on Fort Benning.  We're really looking at the impact of that heavy maneuver training on Fort Benning lands. Lands which, quite frankly, are similar to these areas we've been looking at for possible and acquisition," said Steuber.

He also says they will be considering the concerns of Stewart County residents.

 "[This is] a situation that could cause the highest percentage of low income and minority people of any Georgia county in the study to be displaced," said Stewart County Schools Superintendent Floyd Fort.

"Some of the citizens realize that when you start to lose a minimum of 33% of your tax base due to loss of land and could spiral up to just at 50%, I don't see anyone that would be willing to go along with something like that," said Smith.

Fort Benning says it will have a more defined path for the land acquisition and clear timeline by March of next year.

Click here, to see a draft of Fort Benning's land acquisition proposal.

Click here, to see a map.

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