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Candidates sound off on business center
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer
The Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre will be good for the area if it ever gets past a permit dispute with the Army Corps of Engineers, according to several candidates running for the Henry County Board of Supervisors on Nov. 5.
Jim Adams, who is unopposed in his bid for a fourth term as the Blackberry District supervisor, said the new business center will open “up many opportunities for us to continue to not only develop more buildable sites,” but also offer another tool in the local arsenal to attract economic development — mainly due to the location of the park, rail access and its proximity to the airport and the future Interstate 73.
Local officials have been working since 2009 to get the CCBC project off of the ground, with water/sewer lines already installed and site/grading work bid and ready to start. The project was permitted by the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), but it is stalled because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has declined to give the project the needed permit because an end user has not been identified.
Those discussions continue, Adams said, and “I absolutely think it’s worth pursuing. We are at least getting some dialog back now” and may be able to move forward with the grading sooner rather than later, he said.
However, “no timetable has been identified, and it is still being discussed,” Adams said.
Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and Reps. Robert Hurt and Morgan Griffith are working to craft legislation that could help pave the way for the permitting phase to be expedited — at least for other projects that may come later, said Joe Bryant, incumbent Collinsville District supervisor.
Their bill is expected to be voted on by the end of the year, Bryant said.
Working on behalf of the EPA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is “asking us to designate a speculative business” that plans to locate in the CCBC, Bryant said. “The corps has asked for information that we can’t provide. We have to do this just like everybody else. Grade the property, advertise it and get clients to come in.”
But companies do not want to agree to move into an industrial park that lacks basics such as grading, Bryant said. “When these companies want to make a move, they want to make a move right away,” he said.
Bryant is seeking a second term against challenger Randy Scott.
Scott could not be reached for comment Monday.
Iriswood District Incumbent Milton Kendall said CCBC “definitely will be good for the area. It’s been just sitting there though, and we can’t do anything with it” until the permit is issued by the corps.
The corps/EPA “basically have the whole area on hold,” Kendall said, and noted that work on Pittsylvania County’s Berry Hill industrial park also is stalled.
The EPA/corps “are holding up the whole area and the whole region,” Kendall said. There has been some progress, but “it’s been very little progress” on the permitting phase. The county already has invested the funds to install the water and sewer line. “We’re not going to quit” discussing the project and trying to get the needed permit, Kendall said.
Kendall is seeking a second term on the board. He is being challenged by Pat Favero.
“I think the county needs to continue to pursue” permitting for CCBC, Favero said. The business park has a lot of advantages, including its size and access to a four lane road, he said.
“At this point, I understand that people are frustrated” that a permit has not been issued, especially when the amount of money, time and effort is taken into account, Favero said. “But I think the county needs to find a solution to make it work.”