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Bill targets Commonwealth Crossing
‘Commonsense’ bill aims to resolve permit dilemma
Friday, August 2, 2013
By FROM BULLETIN STAFF REPORTS -
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, along with U.S. Reps. Robert Hurt and Morgan Griffith, introduced a bill Thursday that would address the permit problem at the Commonwealth Crossing Business Center.
The Commonsense Permitting for Job Creation Act was introduced in both houses of Congress, according to news releases from the legislators’ offices.
The bipartisan, bicameral legislation would address the longstanding controversy in Henry County over the 726-acre proposed Commonwealth Crossing industrial park and expedite the approval of an important economic development site, a news release states.
Henry County and the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. have long worked to secure a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for site preparation in hopes of attracting one or multiple job-creating manufacturing firms to the business center. The corps is acting on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), officials have said.
However, the Corps of Engineers has been reluctant to issue the permit due to the lack of a company that has publicly committed to the site and prepared detailed blueprints. A company will not relocate to the site without an approved permit, but a permit cannot be approved without a company willing to relocate.
The Commonsense Permitting for Job Creation Act specifies that the lack of a committed end-user company shall not be a reason to deny a corps permit that meets all other legal requirements.
“Henry County and the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. have done extraordinary work to develop the Commonwealth Crossing Business Center site,” said Kaine, D-Va. “They have worked in good faith — at great cost in money and personnel hours — to promote economic development in line with environmental protection and all requirements of the law. Yet due to a regulatory quirk, this process is unable to move forward. Our legislation fixes that quirk. I believe this bill will allow Commonwealth Crossing to move forward while maintaining all environmental protections. I intend to continue working with my colleagues in the Senate and House in both parties to move this legislation forward.”
Warner, D-Va., agreed.
“This bipartisan legislation will allow us to finally move forward on developing the Commonwealth Crossing Business Center. I’m proud that we’ve been able to work across the aisle and with state and local officials to remove this regulatory hurdle. This is a commonsense, bipartisan solution that will help create real jobs in Henry County,” he said.
Hurt, R-5th District, said he was proud to introduce the legislation, which he called important.
“The Commonsense Permitting for Job Creation Act will allow the Commonwealth Crossing project to move forward and create jobs for Henry County, while remaining in line with commonsense environmental protections,” he stated. “An economic-development site — whether it be in Henry County, Pittsylvania County, or other localities in the 5th District looking to attract new businesses — should never be delayed or denied because of so-called ‘speculative development’ concerns, and I am pleased that we are making strides toward eliminating that regulatory interpretation.
“I would like to thank my colleagues, Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner and Representatives Griffith and Hanna for their strong support of this bill. I look forward to working with them to pass this important measure,” said Congressman Hurt.
Congressman Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., also is a cosponsor of this legislation. Hurt thanked him and the other area and state legislators for working on the bill.
“Advancing Commonwealth Crossing and encouraging further economic development in Martinsville and Southern Virginia remain a priority of mine,” Griffith stated. “I commend Henry County officials and the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. for their hard work on this problem thus far and will continue working with Sen. Warner, Sen. Kaine and Congressman Hurt to move this legislative solution forward.”
Mark Heath, president and CEO of the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp., and Deputy Henry County Administrator Dale Wagoner both praised the legislators for supporting the efforts to win a permit for the industrial park and trying to help resolve the dilemma.
“I think it’s great,” Heath said of the legislation. “We appreciate all the help we can get. Our legislative delegation has been doing a great job.”
“Commonwealth Crossing is a priority project for economic development,” Wagoner said. He added that everyone working toward a common goal is good.
The industrial park will provide an opportunity for businesses to grow and expand, “ultimately creating jobs for our citizens,” Wagoner said.