Officials mum on Enviva’s apparent preferred site

Published 10:58 am Saturday, December 17, 2011

COURTLAND—Two officials who worked to get Enviva Courtland Pellets to build in Southampton County did not want to comment on Friday about the company’s apparent preferred site choice.

“I don’t talk about anything we talk about to the company in confidentially,” said County Administrator Mike Johnson.

John Smolak, president of Franklin-Southampton Economic Development Inc., feels it’s a question for Enviva to answer.

“I don’t think it’s my position to discuss their business,” Smolak said.

Southampton County businessman Ash Cutchin in October asked county supervisors about allegations that a prospective employer had been spooked away from its preferred site by a member of the Board of Supervisors. Supervisors did not acknowledge any knowledge of the matter.

Earlier this month, Enviva announced it hoped to build on 327 acres off Shady Brook Trail in Courtland. The company met opposition from residents and chose to buy 120 acres in the Turner Tract industrial park for $1.3 million.

Before Enviva withdrew the option instead to buy the Shady Brook Trail property, Berlin-Ivor District Supervisor Ronnie West was asked if he would support rezoning the property for Enviva. West noted that Enviva had looked at a number of properties and had chosen another site before settling on Shady Brook Trail. He did not elaborate.

No one from Enviva returned a call on Friday, however, Project Manager Glenn Gray last week told The Tidewater News the company was interested in a property on Cypress Bridge Road, but could not come to a financial agreement with the landowner.

Incoming Supervisors Barry Porter, Franklin District, and Glenn Updike, Newsoms District, do not plan to pursue the matter.

“I’ve heard the same rumors,” Porter said. “It’s pretty low on the priority list. The financial stuff is big. We’ve got too much to do with the debt rather than pointing fingers.”

“I don’t think the new supervisors should get involved with what happened,” Updike added. “I don’t think we will be conducting business in this manner, if it is true. As far as this, it is basically out of the hands of the new supervisors.”

He does support county employees and officials following a code of conduct.