Wetlands determination sought for correctional center site

Published 10:19 am Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Isle of Wight County’s Board of Supervisors is scheduled to meet with representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers on Wednesday, Nov. 28, at which time the Board plans to request a new wetlands determination for a roughly 115-acre parcel of land on Walters Highway. The parcel is the county’s first choice for the site of a proposed 60-bed state-run juvenile correctional facility.

The property, owned by the county’s Economic Development Authority, is part of what is intended to be a third phase of the Shirley T. Holland Intermodal Park. Earlier this year, the county hired an environmental consulting firm, Kimley-Horn, to evaluate this parcel and others in the intermodal park for any environmental issues that would preclude development. Kimley-Horn’s report revealed the presence of wetlands throughout much of the third phase.

A wetlands determination involves identifying exactly where wetlands do and do not exist on a particular parcel of land. The parcel being considered for development has an existing wetlands determination from the Corps of Engineers, which will expire in October 2019. Wetlands determinations are valid for five years.

According to representatives of Kimley-Horn, the reason they initially concluded that much of the intermodal park was likely wetlands was due to the presence of loblolly pine trees. The Corps looks at three characteristics when making wetlands determinations: the presence of plants commonly found on wetlands, the amount of water in the soil, and the makeup of the soil itself.

“Loblolly pine, before 2012, was considered an upland (non-wetland) plant, so buying a pine area was considered a good investment,” explained Karl Mertig, one of the two Kimley-Horn representatives who presented the firm’s findings to the Board in early September. “In 2012, they did a nationwide re-characterization … this plant moved from an upland classification to a wetland classification. So you now have a piece of property with all wetland plants on it.”

The county purchased the undeveloped land forming Phase III of the park from private landowners between 2007 and 2011.

Per the terms of the county’s proposal to the state, Isle of Wight plans to offer 20 acres of land and up to $500,000 toward utility costs. This money would go toward extending the county’s sewer service down Walters Highway to the proposed site, which, according to county officials, could add capacity to Zone 2 of Windsor’s county-owned vacuum sewer system.

This leg of the sewer system serves parts of Route 460 (Windsor Boulevard) and Route 258 (Walters Highway) within the town’s incorporated limits. In August, a sewer capacity study jointly funded by the town and county estimated that this leg of the system can currently accommodate 79 additional residential connections before reaching maximum capacity.

As for water, this would be purchased from the Town of Windsor, and electricity, from Dominion Virginia Power. Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson said that once the utility services are in place, the correctional center would pay a monthly water bill to the town and an electric bill to Dominion.

During a meeting of the county’s Board of Supervisors on Nov. 15, county officials also announced that there is now a second business interested in co-locating next to the  juvenile correctional center on the parcel. No details were provided as to the nature or size of this business other than that it was being referred to via the code name “Project Bolt.”

The county hopes to have a response from the Corps on a new wetlands determination “as soon as possible,” Robertson said. If the county receives a favorable wetlands determination, the county plans to hold community information meetings to inform the public about the status of the correctional center project.

If it does not receive a favorable wetlands determination, Robertson said the county would likely have to consider adjusting the site of the proposed facility within the area that is deemed uplands.