Supervisors reject multi-warehouse complex in 4-1 vote

Published 8:34 pm Friday, June 14, 2024

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Swayed by vocal opposition from Windsor residents, Isle of Wight County supervisors voted 4-1 on June 13 to deny industrial zoning for a proposed multi-warehouse complex on the outskirts of town.

The vote upholds a 6-1 decision in March by the county’s Planning Commission to recommend denial of Tidewater Logistics Center developer Meridian Property Purchaser LLC’s rezoning application.

Meridian’s parent company, The Meridian Group, had been under contract with Isle of Wight County’s Economic Development Authority to purchase 154 acres of farmland and forestry that fronts the four-lane Route 460 highway, and build five warehouses totaling 1.2 million square feet. The EDA has owned the largest of three involved parcels at 83 acres since 2008. The other two are owned by Hollowell Holdings LLC.

The planned $2.7 million purchase price for the EDA land “was contingent upon approval of a comprehensive plan amendment and rezoning, so the EDA retains ownership of the property,” said Isle of Wight Economic Development Director Kristi Sutphin.

EDA Board Chairman Carroll Keen said the EDA would discuss future development opportunities for the property at its next meeting on July 9.

Proponents of the project, which included the Port of Virginia, had asserted the site would have brought millions of dollars in tax revenue and more than 1,200 new permanent jobs to the county, while opponents argued it would bring constant noise and pollution from diesel exhaust to the currently quiet, rural neighborhoods on Keaton Avenue and Lovers Lane, and a surge in traffic to the four-lane Route 460 highway through Windsor.

“These kinds of projects do benefit all of Virginia, but in the same graph we understand that localities are going to do the will of the people,” said Joe Harris, senior director of communications for the Port of Virginia, following the vote.

Supervisor Rudolph Jefferson, who cast the dissenting vote, had contended in May that a no vote may only result in Meridian choosing to build elsewhere on Route 460, bringing the same pass-through traffic to Isle of Wight without the tax revenue or jobs. A 2023 traffic impact analysis submitted with Meridian’s rezoning application estimated the stretch of Route 460 from the six-way intersection to the town’s eastern corporate limits by the project site, which already sees roughly 18,000 vehicles per day, would see an additional 2,349 vehicles per day, or a 13% increase, tied to the warehouses, 514 of which would be trucks.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Joel Acree, who made two separate motions to deny Meridian’s requested rezoning and comprehensive plan amendment, sided with opponents unswayed by concessions the company had proposed at an April 22 meeting with Windsor residents. Despite the 115-foot setback from a tractor-trailer parking lot to the nearest house on Keaton Avenue, and 6-foot-tall landscape berm and 500-foot-long sound wall to reduce daytime noise levels to the proffered 50-decibel limit at the property line, over half of the more than 20 speakers who turned out for a nearly two-hour public hearing on the warehouses said the project was still too close to the town.

“This is your county; this is what this board is about,” said Acree, whose district includes the project site.

Supervisors Renee Rountree, Don Rosie and William McCarty joined Acree in voting for both denials.

Rosie, who along with Acree represents the southern end of the county, described the proposed site as “the wrong place.”

To Jefferson’s point from last month, Rosie acknowledged, “We’re going to see traffic through here that we don’t want to see … but we don’t need to add to the situation.”

Supervisor Renee Rountree said she favored a mixed-use development that would bring housing and commercial space over the proposed warehouses. The site, though designated as ideal for mixed-use in the comprehensive plan’s future land use map, is currently zoned as rural agricultural conservation or RAC.

Rountree then called for the county to pursue rezoning the land as mixed use “fairly immediately,” though County Attorney Bobby Jones advised that to rezone the land, the EDA would have to submit plans for a mixed use development.

“It’s really for the EDA to market it as such and then a developer come in and design a project,” Jones said.