What was Plan A for Enviva?

Published 9:34 am Friday, December 16, 2011

“They looked at a number of sites and even chose another site.”

Those words — spoken by Southampton County Supervisor Ronnie West to a reporter in response to resident opposition to the proposed site for a wood-pellet plant — demand an explanation.

If Southampton County and Franklin-Southampton Economic Development officials are serious about building a vibrant industrial economy, they will provide that explanation to a citizenry that deserves answers.

As background, respected Southampton County businessman Ash Cutchin confronted county supervisors in October with allegations that a prospective employer — unidentified at the time but later revealed to be Enviva LP — had been spooked away from its preferred site by a member of the Board of Supervisors.

Supervisors sat on their hands and played dumb in that meeting, presumably because Enviva’s plans to build a wood-pellet plant had not been finalized and supervisors didn’t want to jeopardize the deal. That was understandable at the time.

The deal is now final and public after county officials sold Enviva on Plan C — the Turner Tract industrial park — as an 11th-hour alternative to Plan B — a site on Shady Brook Trail — which was scuttled in the face of intense opposition from neighbors.

County and economic development officials now have some explaining to do about Plan A.

What was Enviva’s first choice? Why is the pellet plant not being built there? Who steered them away?

Jobs are too precious in this economy for people in official capacities — elected or otherwise — to be undermining the pursuit of prospective employers. Subversive forces must be exposed, lest they strike again when future prospects come looking.