Thoughts from Windsor on the commission’s decision

Published 3:00 pm Friday, March 29, 2024

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Current and former Windsor elected officials shared their responses to the Isle of Wight County Planning Commission’s March 26 decision to recommend rejection of the proposed multi-warehouse complex known as the Tidewater Logistics Center. 

Developer Meridian Property Purchaser LLC had submitted an application to the county to rezone as planned industrial 154 acres of farmland and forestry on the north side of U.S. Route 460 just outside Windsor. This rezoning would allow for the proposed logistics center, which would feature five warehouses totaling 1.2 million square feet, the tenants of which have not been named. 

An economic impact analysis submitted with Meridian’s rezoning application estimates that the proposed project would create more than 5,100 jobs, 1,200 of which would be permanent, and more than $141 million in sales and property tax revenue over the next nine years.

The Windsor Town Council voted unanimously March 12 to send a letter to the county Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors expressing the council’s opposition to the proposed Tidewater Logistics Center in its current form.

Windsor Town Councilman Marlin W. Sharp wrote the letter, and in a Thursday, March 28, phone interview, he expressed gratitude to the six commissioners who voted to recommend to the Board of Supervisors rejection of the TLC as it is presently proposed.

“I’m grateful for the consideration of those six commissioners who recognized, as the motion was, that (Windsor) Town Council is opposed to it as it stands now,” he said. “I want to make that clear — that we’re opposed to it as it stands now.

“Mr. (Tom) Boylan has not been willing to make accommodations for the people in the community, and so until and unless he’s willing to make some accommodations, we’re going to have to oppose it,” he added.

Boylan is senior vice president of Meridian’s parent company, The Meridian Group.

Sharp also stated that Windsor Mayor George Stubbs is opposed to the currently proposed logistics center, and he added, “The people of Windsor are opposed to it.”

Stubbs was unavailable for comment Thursday, but Commissioner George Rawls cited Stubbs’ repeated opposition to the proposed project in its current form during the March 26 Planning Commission meeting.

Also during the meeting, Boylan presented updated noise projections to the commissioners that he said now specify 50 decibels at the property line. Originally, Meridian’s application had called for an 80-decibel daytime noise level, which is just below the threshold where prolonged exposure can result in hearing loss.

Sharp indicated this update was not nearly enough to change his position on the TLC, describing the sound study as “practically meaningless.”

“(Mr. Boylan) originally said that they would have 85 decibels maximum during the day. Well, 85, that’s very loud,” Sharp said. “He said he would be willing to bring that down, but the point that we’re trying to make is he can’t guarantee that. He’s the developer. He’s not the one who’s going to be actually operating, so once those warehouses or buildings or whatever are sold to a particular company, they can do what they want. So that’s part of our complaint is, yeah, you can say, ‘Well, this is what we’re planning to do,’ but you can’t guarantee it.”

He added, “We would approve of a 50- or 55-decibel level, but then once these people are in there and you get an 85, what are you going to do about it?”

Sharp also highlighted an exchange between commissioners and Boylan during the March 26 meeting in which he said Boylan indicated an unwillingness to move the proposed project 50 feet, 25 feet or at all.

“If he’s not willing to move it at all, well there again, we’re going to have to oppose it,” Sharp said.

In a Wednesday, March 27, phone interview, Windsor Vice Mayor J. Randy Carr provided his reaction to the Planning Commission’s decision, noting that he is hoping the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors revisits the project.

He made clear that he is not against the proposed development overall, but he is against it in its current form.

He said he hoped it was communicated to the county that the Town Council was not pushing the project to the side with the letter written by Sharp.

“We wanted the developer to revisit the way they had it landscaped and positioned,” he said. “I’m still not totally against (the project), and I hope the Board of Supervisors are not either. I think growth is good if it’s done correctly and in agreeance with everybody. 

“Also, like I made the statement at Town Council, if we don’t move forward on some of these projects, then somebody else is definitely going to move forward on these projects and get the revenue from them, and we can make more money from projects like this within the town and the county … then we can make money from rooftops,” he said, referring to homes. “The more rooftops you have, the more schools you’ve got to have. The more growth you have on commercial and industrial close to us or within sight of us, that type of money from commercial and industrial, that’s what’s going to, to me, help school systems grow, be able to build schools and stuff like that. The rooftops are not going to provide that money to help do things like that.”

The proposed Tidewater Logistics Center would be adjacent to the Lovers Lane/Keaton Avenue neighborhood. Former Windsor Mayor Glyn T. Willis lives on Lovers Lane, and he and some of his neighbors have been vocal in expressing their concerns about the project in its present form.

He was pleased with the work county planning commissioners put in prior to their March 26 vote.

“Particularly from the Planning Commission standpoint, I appreciated the efforts that they put in and their work to understand the impact on the citizens in Windsor, Lovers Lane, Keaton area,” he said. “Many of them came out and talked to us and listened, and that was pretty nice.”

Then he added, “I’ll say I continue to have concerns about what I’ll characterize as the lack of regard, from the developer side, though, of just what the impact this has on the neighborhood.”

Like Sharp, he referenced the exchange between commissioners and Boylan on March 26 about giving more feet of buffer for the residents of the Lovers Lane/Keaton Avenue neighborhood. Willis also noted that the developer was not willing to move the project.

Willis said that there are wetlands on the east side of the proposed project that he believes are a limiting factor in the developer’s ability to move the project away from the Lovers Lane/Keaton Avenue neighborhood without having to alter the project itself, including the size of its largest building, Building B.

“I’m not a warehouse expert, I don’t know the dynamics of what size buildings you want, but at least my observation would be that Building B, the half-million-square-foot Building B, they want it a particular size,” he said, stating that it just doesn’t fit at its current size without the project being as close to the Lovers Lane/Keaton Avenue neighborhood as it currently is proposed to be.

The matter of the proposed logistics center will go to the county’s Board of Supervisors for another public hearing and potential final vote on April 18.

Willis said, “I’m letting people know that there’s a public hearing on April 18, and it’s valuable for them to be there. Being there, even if you don’t speak, shows that you care and you’re concerned about this and are paying attention to it.”