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Project slowed by permit
EPA wants more data on Commonwealth Crossing
Monday, July 16, 2012
By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer
The lengthy process involved in getting a federal permit is delaying the start of work on the Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre.
The county applied a year ago for permits to grade two sites, build roads and other work at the business center, a new, rail-served industrial park that was expected to be ready for projects in 2013. It is located on the county’s southern border next to North Carolina.
Applications for the permits were filed with the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which administers the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations related to the Clean Water Act, Henry County Administrator Benny Summerlin said Saturday.
At the time, the permitting process was estimated by county officials to take three to four months.
Summerlin said the county received the DEQ permit last week. But it recently received a request from the corps for more information, such as identifying potential users of the industrial park sites. The corps also asked for other reviews, including an alternative analysis of why the Commonwealth Crossing property was chosen over other sites.
County officials are working to gather and provide that information, Summerlin said, adding he does not know when a permit decision will be made.
“One of issues the corps has is they consider this project to be speculative development,” he said. “But if you think about it, every industrial park in Virginia is speculative because they generally don’t have end users” selected beforehand.
The difference in this case is that the estimated 750-acre industrial park is considered a megasite, and Summerlin said to his knowledge, Henry County was the first to apply to the EPA for a permit to impact the streams on the property.
Megasites (also called megaprojects) create at least 400 jobs and have at least $250 million in capital investment. Summerlin said “the corps is cognizant” there are seven or eight other localities that plan to build megasites in Virginia and will file for permits.
“Megasites are something different. They (the corps) haven’t dealt with these megasites before, and I think they are being very careful” in the permitting phase, he said.
“Whatever precedent they set with us will be carried over to other” localities and other megasite projects in the future, he added.
Gov. Bob McDonnell, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, the area’s state legislators and congressmen “have communicated how important this is for Henry County,” Summerlin said. “But the permitting phase is a process and it moves slowly.”
Using a portion of the $16.5 million secured for work at the industrial park, the Henry County Board of Supervisors awarded a contract earlier this year to start the project, contingent on the permits being issued.
“If we were under the original timetable, it would already be under construction, but the timeline has changed a couple of times,” Summerlin said. Design, engineering and other work also pushed the start date back, “so it’s not just the corps.”