Residents angry about Enviva

Published 9:25 am Thursday, December 8, 2011

Glenn Gray, project manager for Enviva Courtland Pellets, speaks during an informational meeting about the company's plans to build a $75 million to $85 million wood pellet plant. GWEN ALBERS/TIDEWATER NEWS

COURTLAND—Realtor Candace Saunders claims the value of homes on Shady Brook Trail will drop $40,000 to $80,000 should a wood pellet plant become her new neighbor .

“I have to deal with knowing that,” Saunders told Enviva officials during a Wednesday meeting, where 100 residents learned more about the proposed $75 million to $85 million plant.

“I’m not only speaking for myself,” she continued. “We want the jobs. Our concern is our property values.”

“We don’t understand why you want to be in a residential area,” added nearby New Market Road resident Ed Spivey.

Glenn Gray, project manager for Enviva Courtland Pellets, said the Shady Brook Trail property was the best option.

“We looked at a number of sites in Southampton, Sussex and Isle of Wight,” Gray said. “I personally evaluated all the sites we looked at. This site offered strategically the best distribution of wood sources, the port and two major roads in the area.”

When asked about a site on Cypress Bridge Road that was apparently considered, he said, “we weren’t able to make a deal with the landowner.”

Enviva last week announced it has an option to buy the land on Shady Brook Trail between Route 58 and General Thomas Highway from Warren and Susan Story and FIATP Timber.

Assuming 327 acres is rezoned from residential to industrial, Gray said construction on the plant would begin during the third quarter of 2012. The plant would open during the second or third quarter of 2013.

It would operate seven days a week, 24 hours a day and employ 60 to 65. Wages would average $37,000 annually.

Another 80 jobs are expected to be created in the timber and trucking industries.

“We will consume close to a million tons of raw materials (valued at) $25 million (a year),” Gray said.

The plant would occupy 78 acres, providing a 150-foot buffer in all directions. From the property line, he said the noise from the debarker will equal the sound of an “office conversation.”

“You won’t be able to see any equipment,” Gray said, noting Enviva’s plant in Ahoskie, N.C., sits on 39 acres and the one under construction in Northampton County will occupy 130 acres.

Gray noted that pellets produced at Ahoskie, which went online three weeks ago, are sold out for the next five years. At the Northampton County site, they are committed for seven years.

“That’s like opening a car dealership, and saying all cars are sold for the next seven years,” he said.

Gray said the company did not go with the Turner Tract, a 492-acre industrial park developed by the county on Rose Valley Road, because of a lack of natural gas, the cost to develop there and the location.

Shady Brook Trail resident Orris Lane asked why the plant’s exit will be on her road.

The majority of the 140 trucks bringing in logs five days a week will come from nearby Route 58, Gray responded.

Shady Brook Trail resident Willie Westbrook said the trucks will tear the road apart and expressed concerns for children.

“I don’t want to see a little girl get killed because of a log truck was going too fast,” Westbrook said.

John Riley, a traffic engineer with Bowman Consulting in Richmond, said 600 to 800 vehicles travel Shady Brook Trail daily; the Virginia Department of Transportation considers this an excellent level.

“Six hundred is too many,” said Shady Brook Trail resident, the Rev. Clyde Alderman. “It’s a country road. Have you ever seen a tractor-trailer loaded down with wood coming at you? These are real people with concerns of how it will affect our lives.”