The fee area serves to distinguish between the part of the facility that the federal government owns outright, and the surrounding area that it does not own outright, but has the right to send loud noises through.
- fee area - federal government owns outright
- restrictive easement - federal government owns a perpetual interest
The 125,000-acre acoustical buffer zone surrounding Stennis was established by NASA in the 1960s to enable testing of large engines and stages of the Saturn V rocket for the Apollo Program...
The buffer zone was established in the early days of the center, when property interests were acquired for the use and benefit of the United States government. The 13,800-acre fee area, or developed portion of Stennis, was purchased outright by the federal government. In addition, the government acquired a perpetual interest in some 125,442 acres to form a restrictive zone completely surrounding the fee area. The interest acquired in this additional land is referred to as a restrictive easement. This restrictive zone is what is now known as the buffer zone.
The government’s restrictive easement establishes a restricted area in, on, across and over the land in the buffer zone, giving the government the right to prohibit habitation or occupancy of dwellings and other buildings. The government also has the right to prohibit the construction of buildings allowing for, or susceptible to, habitation and reserves the right to remove structures in violation of this easement. The easement does permit other uses when those activities do not interfere with or reduce the rights of the government.
When the government acquired the restrictive easement, some property owners decided to sell their land in the buffer zone to the government, rather than sell just an easement. These limited land parcels are considered part of the government’s fee area. However, many property owners elected to sell only an easement interest to the government, and to retain their property and all other rights in that property.
From Stennis Officials Issue Buffer Zone Reminder
As an aside, it was briefly called the National Space Technology Labs, and had this awesome patch of a gator riding an SSME.