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Officials meet in D.C. on Commonwealth Crossing

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Local, state and federal officials met Wednesday in Washington, D.C., to try and resolve the stalled permit for the Commonwealth Crossing Business Park in Henry County.

“I would definitely say that progress was made. It was a worthwhile trip and a productive meeting, and I look forward to more discussion,” said Henry County Administrator Tim Hall.

Although no date was set for another meeting, Hall said he anticipates it will be in the near future.

“It was a good discussion about the complexities of this permit application,” said Col. Paul Olsen, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Norfolk District, according to a news release on the Corps of Engineers’ Norfolk District’s website. “The interests of the country, the corps, the commonwealth and the community were well represented.”

The corps represents the Environmental Protection Agency in issuing permits related to the Clean Water Act. The corps has not issued a permit for Commonwealth Crossing work to begin, officials have said, adding that the corps considers the project speculative.

Discussion during Wednesday’s meeting included the economic challenges of the community and the corps’ commitment to following the processes established by its federal permitting authorities, Olsen said in the release.

“A common misconception is that the corps wants to say ‘no’ to development, but that’s not the case,” he stated. “The truth is that the corps denies only about 3 percent of permit applications nationally. Our authorities, established by Congress and evaluated by the federal court system, require us to evaluate each situation according to a process that balances socioeconomic needs with our responsibility to protect valuable aquatic resources in compliance with the Clean Water Act.”

In the case of the Commonwealth Crossing permit application, the corps needs clearer information on the potential end user and detailed site design criteria specific to that user, said Tom Walker, chief of the Norfolk District’s regulatory branch, in the release.

“The bottom line in this case," said Olsen, “is that we’re committed to

exploring any solution that’s within our congressionally-mandated authorities.”

While he declined to discuss specifics of the meeting, Hall said, “we think we can address their (the corps’) concerns, and they think they can address ours.”

“In a perfect world, they would have given us a permit across the table, but we didn’t expect that,” Hall said.

The meeting was arranged by U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, 9th District U.S. Reps. Morgan Griffith and 5th District U.S. Rep. Robert Hurt. They and their staffs attended the session, Hall said.

Attending with Hall were Mark Heath, president and CEO of the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp.; Tim Pace, director of engineering for Henry County; and representatives of a Richmond law firm retained by the county, Hall said.

Attending the meeting were Meg Gaffney-Smith, chief of the corps regulatory program, along with representatives the EPA and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, Hall added.

“All in all, there were about 20 people in the room,” he said.

Hall praised the area’s elected officials for helping forward the project and working with the various entities. “We were very proud to have them represent us because they did terrific work,” he added.

 

 
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