Under the terms of a new draft regulation, the Ministry of Defense will be liable to pay compensation to local governments whose territory includes military training areas, according to a specific formula.
This criteria will be as follows, assuming the bill passes at the Riigikogu: Compensation will be in direct proportion to the area of the training ground in question, as well as its area of influence, ie. over what area does its presence affect traffic, lead to noise pollution etc.
The number of residential buildings remaining within the area of influence will also be taken into consideration.
In total, the ministry plans to pay out more than one million euros more in compensation to local government than it had done prior to the bill being drafted.
The ministry has already been paying compensation to nine municipalities for maintaining the practice fields. Up until now, the value had been calculated based on the size of the training area alone.
The overall payout will more than quadruple also, from €300,000 to €1.3 million, if the bill enters into law.
Lauri Kriisa, head of defense ministry's legal department, said: "It has been taken on board that the effects of a training area actually go beyond than the perimeter of that zone, for example due to noise disturbance. Second, that the size of training areas is growing, has also been taken into account."
The new regime would mean 16 municipalities of the 79 nationwide will be eligible for compensation. For instance, the Kiili, south of Tallinn, will be granted €86,000 in compensation, while the city of Võru (as distinct from the county of the same name) will receive €140,000.
Tapa Municipality, home of a large base which houses both the EDF 1st Infantry Brigade and the NATO enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battlegroup, in addition to other elements, will see the largest leap in compensation due – a thirty-three-fold rise, from €10,000 to €330,000.
Andrus Freienthal (Reform), deputy mayor of Tapa, said: "This is certainly a significant boost for Tapa municipality."
"With Tapa municipality, road use still represents the most significant disturbance, so I think it would be fair if we allocated this money to road maintenance," he went on.
Those roads sometimes see use from heavy military equipment, including main battle tanks (the British Challenger 2 weighing around 65 tonnes, for instance).
Kriisa added that Tapa is also receiving significantly more compensation than before and than some other locations as a result of its population density, ie. being located on the edge of town with many residential buildings within the catchment area, as opposed to training areas such as the Central Training Area in Harju County, or the Nursipalu grounds in South Estonia.
In relation to the latter, Võru Municipality is one of three local government areas to be affected by the planned tripling in size of the training area, and as a result, will be getting €136,000 more in compensation.
Mayor of Võru Kalmer Puussepp said: "The principal idea is that this compensation will surely find its way to those people who have to endure the disruption. The area where we are currently directing funds is the Sõmerpalu region, to be precise."
Sõmerpalu is a small town which, since the administrative reforms of 2017, has formed a sub-division of the Võru Municipality.
"We are currently using the compensation to build a new kindergarten," Puussepp went on.
While the new compensation is earmarked for specific purposes, municipalities will be given as much leeway as possible in utilizing it, Lauri Kriisa at the Ministry of Defense said.
"The condition is set that it must be used in an inclusive, goal-oriented and transparent manner. What specifically increases the quality of life is already a separate decision for each municipality," Kriisa continued.
In other words, the examples above of the use of the new compensation - kindergarten construction in Võru municipality and road repair in Tapa - also fit within the new regulation.
At present, the draft regulation is still at its coordination stage, but if it enters into force, the larger payouts will start before the year is out.
Moreover in the future, the support may increase further still as training facilities continue to expand – due to the changed security situation and the growth in both the domestic military and commitments from NATO allies.
"As of January 1, the size of the practice field and the number of living spaces are to be taken into account. The Minister of Defense, or their authorized agency, will determine the total amount by February 1  at the latest. This sum will be distributed along the lines of the model established in the regulation. and paid out by March 31," it is stated.
The compensation is separate from that paid to private residents in the case of, for instance, the Nursipalu extension. Just over 20 properties are inside the expanded zone and their owners will be due compensation in respect of these.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mirjam Mäekivi