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Permit heads back to Corps

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Having found no major problems with a draft permit, Henry County officials are optimistic they soon will receive federal approval to begin developing the Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre planned near Ridgeway.

County officials and consultants on Monday reviewed a “proffered permit” that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sent to the Henry County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) late last week.

After some minor errors were noted, the permit was sent back to the Corps of Engineers to correct the mistakes. The permit then will be returned to the county, according to County Administrator Tim Hall.

IDA Chairman Len Dillon then will sign the permit, and it will be sent back for the Corps’ Norfolk District director, Col. Paul Olsen, to sign, which will make it official, Hall said.

The IDA owns the roughly 740 acres off U.S. 220 South near the North Carolina line where the industrial park is to be developed.

Asked if he is certain that the Corps will finalize the permit, Hall said yes.

“We’re hopeful we’ll get it as soon as possible,” he said. “We’ve been told that Olsen will sign it as soon as they get” it back after Dillon signs it.

Hall said the permit contained an error related to credits that the county must buy from a “mitigation bank” to satisfy environmental requirements.

The draft “had us buying a few more than we need” and was corrected to reflect the actual number of credits to be purchased, he said.

The county will spend about $1.3 million on the credits, Hall said, adding that “a couple of million dollars” had been budgeted for that purpose.

Other errors found in the draft were typographical errors, he said.

“We didn’t make any substantive changes” to the draft, Hall said, so “I’m highly optimistic they’ll (the Corps) sign it as soon as possible.”

“We’ve been very patient and diligent” in trying to persuade the Corps to grant the permit, Dillon said. “I’m glad the approval is forthcoming. This is a good day for Henry County and Martinsville.”

The Corps had been reluctant to issue the permit because no company had publicly committed to Commonwealth Crossing, yet companies will not go to sites that have not yet received permits, officials have said.

Federal lawmakers from the region have been pushing the Corps to grant a permit for the industrial park.

The county spent about $2.6 million to buy the land for the park, plus about $250,000 on costs such as legal, consulting and engineering fees, Hall said.

The Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission awarded $6.5 million to be used to prepare two sites for construction at Commonwealth Crossing.

Plans now are for about 200 acres to be developed initially, Hall said.

The county contracted with Blythe Development Co. of Charlotte, N.C., to grade the industrial park site. After the permit is finalized, the county can meet with Blythe to make arrangements for grading to start, Hall said.

Henry County and Martinsville have agreed to share revenues, such as tax money, from any companies that locate at Commonwealth Crossing.

Martinsville City Manager Leon Towarnicki said it is “very exciting” that a final permit appears to be coming.

Due to the large amount of land and railroad access at the site, Towarnicki said, “this project has the potential to be a significant game-changer for the community” in terms of being able to attract companies.

Enough land is there to attract a manufacturer that “employs a significant number of people,” he said.

Officials initially said that Commonwealth Crossing would be suitable for either one massive manufacturing plant or multiple factories operated by multiple companies.

Because of economic constraints, it is unlikely that the industrial park will attract a company that would need the entire site, Hall said. An example of such a company might be an automobile manufacturer, officials have said.

Now, county officials expect Commonwealth Crossing eventually “will be home to multiple” small companies, Hall added.


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