The community of New Post has a name, but that's about it.
When Alexander Spotswood named the rural intersection in Spotsylvania County in the early 1700s, the site was akin to a main post office for the colonial countryside.
And in the contemporary, somewhat less rough-and-tumble definition of "the country," New Post hasn't changed significantly. There is a farm on one corner of the intersection, a small driving range on another and a few small housing developments nearby.
"It's on the map as New Post, and that's about as far as it's gone," said Gary Jackson (R-Salem), a member of the county's Board of Supervisors.
But the Washington growth equation abhors a vacuum, and developers have their eyes on New Post. Development coming to New Post means it also is coming to its neighbor, Fort A.P. Hill, a 76,000-acre Army training facility just over the border in Caroline County. Soldiers, police officers and agents of various stripes go there to shoot, blow things up and practice surviving in the middle of nowhere.
So when Spotsylvania supervisors scheduled a public hearing July 12 on a proposed 1,500-home development called New Post, less than two miles from the base, A.P. Hill's commander wrote to Spotsylvania officials.
"The approval of this [rezoning] request and others that would increase residential development near the installation boundary is very likely to have an adverse effect on future military training and national security," Lt. Col. James M. Mis wrote in the July 5 letter.
As dozens of people waited to testify, supervisors abruptly canceled the hearing, saying they needed to meet with Mis first. The hearing will be rescheduled.
The conflict between military needs and development isn't going away in Spotsylvania or anywhere else. Government officials and experts on base environments say "encroachment" is a key concern for the military as communities grow around bases, most of which date to the World War II era. The growth brings concern about endangered species and putting civilians in the way of harm from modern weapons that have more range and greater space requirements.
"I'd say there isn't an installation in the country that doesn't have some problem [it is] dealing with," said Jan Larkin, outreach coordinator for a Defense Department program that began in 2002 to deal with encroachment issues that affect training.
Hoping to ease encroachment, Congress in 2003 approved a program that contributes money to conservation easements -- land used as buffers around military bases. Last year $12.5 million in federal money went into the program, run by Larkin's group.
Encroachment has been cited by the federal commission charged with determining which military bases to close or scale back. Members of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission last week added Oceana Naval Air Station to its list, saying residential growth in Virginia Beach has created a danger for people. Oceana is the Navy's main East Coast jet base.
Some experts said the issue has become more prevalent as competition for real estate has risen. Steven Grundman, deputy undersecretary of defense for industrial affairs and installations in the late 1990s, calls it "forbearance of greed." He said he believes people have become less patient.
"When we were at war against the Nazis and in a fairly difficult struggle with the Soviets, I think it's generally correct to say society was more tolerant of inconveniences the military imposed upon them," said Grundman, who does defense consulting as a vice president at CRA International.
Fort A.P. Hill's reaction to the proposed development has stirred up emotions in Spotsylvania, which is slightly north of Caroline and has more newcomers associated with Washington than old-timers who have connections to the base.
Supervisor Henry "Hap" Connors Jr. (I-Chancellor) said he was frustrated that base officials did not contact the county earlier and wondered whether the military shouldn't reimburse a community if it wants to dictate development decisions. "Is that not the equivalent of a federal taking?" he asked.
Connors noted that Spotsylvania, like its neighbors, contributed to the local Chamber of Commerce's effort to save the region's military bases from the base closure list. However, he said, a broader issue seems to naturally arise out of a conflict between development and military training: Which is more worthwhile?
"Frankly, I'd like to see our communities join resources and build a federal campus in our region and keep people off the highways. I could see greater economic benefit doing that than worrying about A.P. Hill, or New Post, for that matter," he said.
But Jackson said he doesn't want to do anything that would jeopardize the future of A.P. Hill.
"I don't consider this the federal government imposing its will. It's to our benefit to protect this base," said Jackson (R-Salem). "Look at the [base closure] process: People are fighting like cats and dogs to keep their bases. Spotsylvania is 400 square miles. There are plenty of places to build homes."
Military experts and advocates say military readiness and training should not take a back seat to concern about property rights and sensitivity to the environment.
"If you can think of what our troops are going through now in Iraq . . . Imagine that here [in the United States], they have to use flags and white cloths to determine where they would have hit or what would have happened in certain situations," said Tom Gordy, chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Thelma D. Drake (R-Va.), whose district includes eight military bases, including Oceana.
Property rights, he said, can be viewed two ways: "This is my home and I should be able to do what I want," or "Purchasing property is an investment, but it's also a risk."
"Is it the role of the government to ensure that your property value increases?" he asked.
Although encroachment might not be an overriding issue for most bases, Gordy said, many believe their training is encumbered by having to monitor noise to accommodate civilians or having to schedule exercises around endangered species of turtles or mating bugs.
A.P. Hill spokesman Ken Perotte said training on the base hasn't been hindered by nearby residents, but that's partly because there aren't that many. Putting people near military bases "has proven in many places that it's a recipe for conflict," he said. "We're not a military office park."