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Commonwealth Crossing update: Progress cited

Friday, November 22, 2013

By GINNY WRAY - Bulletin Staff Writer

Henry County Administrator Tim Hall said some progress has been made on resolving the Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre dilemma.

“There has been some activity. It’s nothing we can celebrate or raise a flag about. .... I’m a natural pessimist, but I do think there’s been some progress,” he said Thursday.

Approval of permits to grade a site at the business park has been held up by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, acting on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), because no specified end user of the site has been identified, officials have said. But companies will not consider a site unless it is prepared, they have said.

In early October, Hall said the shutdown of the federal government exacerbated the problem. On Thursday, he said that was not as bad as he had anticipated, and the effort was delayed only during the actual 16-day shutdown.

Also, legislation introduced by all the area’s legislators, called the Commonsense Permitting for Job Creation Act, still is active, Hall said. The 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.

Hall said the legislators asked the county to see if surrounding jurisdictions and agencies would send letters in support of the act.

As a result, letters have been sent by Franklin County, Patrick Henry Community College, New College Institute, the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. (EDC) and the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville, he said.

Originally, Henry County, Martinsville and the EDC planned to prepare 200 of the estimated 800 acres in the business park, Hall has said.

However, he said in October that the corps wanted the county to redesign the 200 acres and prepare a smaller portion of it. He did not elaborate on the redesign or the number of acres to be prepared, but he said the preparation was imperative.

Steps to accomplish that could occur Tuesday when the Henry County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to consider approving a contract amendment to Wiley-Wilson Inc. for $294,700 for professional engineering services at Commonwealth Crossing.

The amendment includes a redesign of Lot 1 for a specified end user; develop a new design for Lot 4 for a specified end user; redesign the industrial access road and utilities; new design of the wastewater lift station; and continue environmental permit activities, according to board papers.

Approval of the amendment will allow the staff to move quickly with the project once appropriate permits are granted, board papers state. The amendment also gives the staff the flexibility to cancel the contract if the permits are not granted, the papers add.

Hall has said there were two specified end users who had said they would consider locating in the park if the Corps of Engineers Regulatory Office in Norfolk issues the permit for site preparation.

Hall has estimated the project will take about two years to complete once the permit is issued.

“I do think there has been progress. Hopefully we’re closer to a positive resolution, but when and if I don’t know,” he added Thursday.


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