Owner, local residents discuss Camp Parkway development
Published 12:28 pm Saturday, December 19, 2015
BY ANDREW LIND
and REBECCA CHAPPELL
Since the Southampton County Board of Supervisors adopted in June the 2015-2025 Comprehensive Plan, residents have openly questioned the intentions of those involved with the development of a parcel of property on Camp Parkway. County personnel and the owner of the land have tried to iron out the details surrounding the probable development, but uncertainty remains.
“This is an opportunity to build the tax base for the county and take that tax burden off of the residents, while also providing new local jobs,” said property owner Ed Fiscella. “After the rezoning process occurs, our intention is to market the site to large tenants, at which point we would expect to offer several ‘build-to-suit’ building pads, which involves submitting additional site development plans for the building pads and the overall site improvements for further County approval through the site plan approval process once tenants are secured. If, through our marketing of the site, we find that we need to make some initial building pad improvements in order to land tenants, then we would explore that option as well. But, it is not our intention to do a speculative development and let it sit vacant while waiting for a tenant.”
According to County Administrator Michael W. Johnson, no business has stated its intentions to move to the property if it is modified from A-1 agricultural and R-1 residential to M-1 light industrial. And although Johnson said the county’s intentions are to have the property shovel-ready to avoid going through the months-long rezoning process whenever a business may want to start building, the fact that the county doesn’t know which businesses would be located there raises red flags for Camp Parkway residents such as Lisa Clinton.
“I’m against a big construction development, but I think one of the things that concerns us the most is that they haven’t really been specific with what it’s going to be,” Clinton said. “It’s just vague, and it seems like there is not a real definite plan. None of us are against business. None of us are against growth. But the way that it was initially presented was that it was going to be a container facility with big tractor trailers and container trucks that would be traveling down the road at all hours of the night.
“All they recently did was show us a drawing with a grassy area here and then a building, and then a grassy area and building,” she continued. “What’s going in all of those buildings? What kind of businesses are going in there? How many people are we talking about that are going to work there? There’s nothing too specific. All I keep hearing is that it’s going to be a well-landscaped development with berms.”
Members of the High Street Methodist Church, located directly across from the proposed site, have echoed those concerns. June Fleming, speaking as co-chair of the church’s land use committee, said, “We reviewed the project, and it is the committee’s feeling that the project description is inadequate. We recommended to the planning commission that the description be reviewed, revised and strengthened.”
High Street Methodist released a statement via its Facebook page which contradicted Fleming’s statement, saying, “We, the church, are in favor of progress. We do not feel that the plan currently presented is viable, feasible, safe or in the best interests and in good stewardship for our community.”
The former Franklin city manager said the statement was inaccurate and should have stated that the church was against the project description, not the plan itself.
“It’s philosophically right, but not written correctly,” Fleming said. “I can see why people would think that the church is against the project … We don’t see ourselves concerned with what is going to be built. We, as good stewards, want the process to work and we want our community leaders to make good decisions.”
Fleming also added that the church had formed the land use committee after the Camp Parkway project was announced. She said that she had no recollection of the church involving itself in matters of economic development at any time prior.
“I don’t know that there was ever a need when you’re a church in a community that is as developed as Franklin,” she said. “How it got before the church as a body, I don’t know the answer. But my first involvement was that there was a group that was going to meet, and it became evident at that meeting that the project description was not good enough.”
Those with questions regarding the church’s social media post were asked to contact Jane Riddick-Fries, also co-chair of the land use committee. Riddick-Fries declined to speak with The Tidewater News regarding the church’s and/or her position on the project.
Fiscella and Holt, meanwhile, have acknowledged several of these concerns by placing proffers, or voluntary conditions, on the property. As outlined in the Oct. 31 issue of The Tidewater News, “Camp Parkway guidelines set,” these proffers includes, but are not limited to:
• Agricultural or farm implements, manufacture, sale, storage or repair;
• Building materials storage and sales, open or enclosed, but not manufacturing or steel fabricating or junk storage;
• Contractor’s equipment storage yard or plant or rental of equipment commonly used by contractors;
• Electrical appliances or electronic instruments and devices, medical and dental equipment, optical or drafting equipment, toys, novelties, games, stamps, musical instruments, watches and clocks manufacture or assembly;
• Fertilizer storage in bags or bulk storage of liquid or dry fertilizer in tanks or in a completely enclosed building, but not manufacture or processing;
• Greenhouses, commercial, wholesale or retail;
• Industrial vocational training school, including internal combustion engines and including heavy construction equipment, materials handling equipment or similar equipment;
• Retail and service establishments primarily for the use and convenience of employees in the district;
• Sawmill (including cooperage stock mill) stationery and planing mill; etc.
Camp Parkway residents Dick and Cynthia Riedel, who have lived directly across from Riverdale Elementary School since it was built, said that they know very few details in regard to the project, but are against it because of the increased traffic.
“The last we heard was that it was going to be a warehouse,” Cynthia Riedel said. “This is a bedroom community; it’s not an industrial community. We don’t want a warehouse down here with trucks coming up and down the road … You’ve got people coming in and out with their children, and then you’ve got big trucks coming by and it’s dangerous. To me, it’s just too much. You shouldn’t have that near the school like that.”
While the Southampton County Public School Board does not have an official position, according to Chairwoman Dr. Deborah Goodwyn, it “understands that the discussion is going on and we know that if the project is developed as the way it’s proposed, it would pose no danger to the students.”
In regard to the concerns about the possibility of a container storage warehouse, Fiscella in the rezoning application voluntarily added 11 conditions in addition to the aforementioned zoning ordinances “for the protection of the community and enhancement of the development of the property.” While several of the businesses would have required conditional use permits regardless, this includes the prohibition of:
• Airports and landing fields, heliports and accessory uses;
• Circus or carnival grounds;
• Coal and wood yards;
• Dog kennels, commercial or noncommercial;
• Exposition center or fairgrounds;
• Firewood operation;
• Race track or course, any type, including horses, stock cars or drag strip;
• Rifle or pistol range;
• Sports arena or stadium, commercial athletic field or baseball park;
• Truck stop;
• Intermodal container storage, except those containers parked on the property temporarily for loading and unloading in connection with other M-1 permitted uses.
“Even if the property were to change owners, the proffers and zoning approval would run with the land so no matter who owns it, they have to abide by the conditions and uses approved when the rezoning occurred,” Fiscella said.
Holt added that if a new landowner sought changes down the road, they would have to go through the entire rezoning process again.
The largest concern, it seems, that residents have is the increased traffic that would come with the development — specifically that from tractor-trailers.
“I don’t want to speak for all of my neighbors, but what concerns me is property value and the probability of accidents with tractor-trailers,” Clinton said. “Can you imagine them trying to make left-handed turns onto Route 58? We brought that up in the meeting and they kind of balked at it. It’s just so rural, and we don’t want something like that right here. I moved here from an urban city because of this being a rural area with land. Even though there is some noise from Route 58, it’s not like there’s tractor-trailers speeding up and down the road at all hours of the night.”
Amanda Jarrett, president and CEO of Franklin-Southampton Economic Development Inc.; Fiscella; and Holt all said that increased traffic will happen regardless of whether or not the site is rezoned.
“From a traffic perspective, you’ve got three scenarios,” the landowner said. “You do nothing, traffic is still going to increase. If you develop the site as residential, traffic will increase substantially. If you develop it with commercial and industrial uses, it increases somewhat over the residential number.”
Holt added, “Currently, the road sees 4,000 vehicles per day, which is very underutilized for a four-lane divided highway. Under the ‘no-build’ scenario, without any development of the Camp Parkway Commerce Center property at all, it is estimated that by 2040, traffic on Camp Parkway will increase by 2,000 vehicles per day. Obviously, development of the subject property in any fashion will produce additional vehicles on Camp Parkway.
According to the traffic study submitted by the applicant, if the 439-acre property was developed residentially, at full build-out it would generate an additional 6,292 vehicles per day. By comparison, as proposed, the 3.2 million square foot of industrial development would generate 10,193 vehicles per day. It is also important to remember that any increased traffic on Camp Parkway would not happen overnight, but gradually over the proposed 25-year build-out of the property.”
Among the aforementioned proffers, Fiscella is funding a Virginia Department of Transportation traffic study to improve traffic flow during pick-ups and drop-offs at Riverdale Elementary School.
“My brother George and I dedicated the land to the County to build the elementary school, so we have a vested interest in the success of that school,” Fiscella said. “We not only want to see a tax-base capable of supporting the school, but we are also committed to being a good neighbor … We look forward to working with the school on this effort.”
Additionally, traffic improvements would be phased in as development of the property progresses.
“Immediately, before any building could occur on the property, the applicant has proffered to construct, at its expense, several traffic improvements, including an extension of the eastbound left turn lane from Route 58 onto Camp Parkway, an extension of the Camp Parkway eastbound left turn lane onto Delaware Road, and a southbound right-turn lane from Delaware Road onto Camp Parkway along the project’s frontage,” Holt said. “As the project is built out and more trips to the site are generated, more traffic improvements are programmed by the proffers, including traffic signals at the intersection of Route 58 and Camp Parkway and at the intersection of Camp Parkway and Delaware Road.”
VDOT’s Land Use Manager Jason Fowler said the current rezoning package for the Camp Parkway project was submitted by Southampton County on Dec. 3, 2015. The department will provide official comments on or before Jan. 15.
“This is a major opportunity with no risk for the county,” Fiscella said. “The county would not have any cost involved in the development of the project. If for any reason the market doesn’t support it and the project doesn’t come to fruition, then the property will remain in its current state. But, if the project is successful as we believe, then we have a big opportunity to broaden our task base and provide local jobs.”
Holt added, “This project is a big win for the county based on the economic development potential. According to a fiscal impact analysis conducted for the site, at full build-out the project is estimated to bring over $370 million in new investment to Southampton County, consisting of real estate improvements, buildings, and equipment.
“[It is] different than many other local industrial sites because it would be privately-owned, rather than being owned by the county. There is no up-front cost or investment required by the county and all the risks are on the owner, instead of the county. The county would only incur costs associated with the site once development starts and once the county is already receiving resulting tax revenue.”
Jarrett added that the county has not been able to bring in businesses that have in the past wanted to locate in Southampton County because there hasn’t been a large enough site to accommodate them.
“Weekly, we receive requests for information that we are unable to respond to due to the land-size request that the company or site consultant has,” she said. “Three weeks ago, we received a visit from a Fortune 500 company that has a need for 1 million square feet of warehouse and distribution space. The sites that we had available did not meet their size criteria or future expansion needs, and therefore we were eliminated from the sites under consideration.
“In this specific instance Southampton County is able to add more available land to its roster for development without having to foot the bill,” Jarrett continued. “This site is also a win for the City of Franklin due to its location in a revenue-sharing area. Any future industrial park or business park, no matter the location, is a part of the bigger picture for Franklin and Southampton. It is a project that will help future generations. It has the potential to increase tax revenue and employment opportunities for our local community allowing us to maintain our quality of life.”
The Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce is also in support of the project as long as the proper proffers are in place, according to Executive Director Teresa Beale.
“We support it with what we know at this point,” Beale said. “We encourage controlled growth in the community and support economic development, and we’re all about providing jobs for those in the community.”