Mitigation credits could help regain land value

Published 7:24 pm Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Isle of Wight paid $3.7M for acreage at intermodal park

By Diana McFarland

The Smithfield Times


Wetlands mitigation credits might be a way to recoup some value on land purchased by the county for the intermodal park, according to Isle of Wight County Administrator Randy Keaton.

The Phase III portion of the intermodal park property encompasses 965 acres, with the majority of it having been deemed wetlands after loblolly pines were reclassified as wetlands plants in 2012, according to Wetlands Scientist Karl Mertig with Kimley Horn during a presentation last Thursday at a Board of Supervisors work session.

Most of the land has been used as a pine plantation, said Mertig.

Isle of Wight had purchased the land for a total of $3.7 million between 2007-2011, according to Isle of Wight Director of Economic Development Chris Morello.

At the time there was a good basis to believe that the land was more developable, he said. The parcels are located south of Route 460 near Windsor.

The property also straddles two major watersheds — the Blackwater/Nottoway and the James River/Chesapeake and that’s where the wetlands credits can play a part as a commodity, said Mertig.

Mertig estimated that Isle of Wight County could get $1.3 million in potential credits, and that doesn’t include any credits derived from streams on the property, which are a separate category of credits.

Wetland or stream credits are used to offset ecological losses on waters regulated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Permitted impacts can be compensated for by the purchase of credits.

Mertig said one acre can generate $35,000 for a one-time credit in the James River watershed.

Smithfield District Supervisor Dick Grice questioned how the loblolly pine got turned into a wetlands plant.

Mertig said it apparently did not go through the regular rule-making process, but instead went before a panel, although there was opportunity for public comment.

It was something of a black box,” he said, adding that soils and hydrology are other criteria for designating a wetlands area.

Grice figured there are 70-75 acres of developable land along Buckhorn Drive as part of Phase III.

At one time, Isle of Wight had high hopes for its intermodal park. More than 10 years ago, county officials wanted to style its intermodal park after the one in Alliance, Texas, and the county had the support of the state in this goal. If it had gone to plan, the county anticipated bringing 20,000 jobs to the central and southern portion of Isle of Wight. The idea was to support the expansion of the Port of Virginia by attracting warehouse facilities.

Those rosy predictions came prior to 2008. Then the Great Recession hit and efforts to develop the park have hit numerous snags, to include the cancellation of the expansion of Route 460. The Board of Supervisors also decided to postpone building a waterline along Route 460 as part of the Norfolk water deal and instead build one along Route 10, from the Suffolk city line to Benn’s Grant.

Today, there are three companies located in Isle of Wight’s intermodal park — Cost Plus World Market, Keurig Dr. Pepper and Safco Products Company.

DIANA MCFARLAND is editor of The Smithfield Times. Contact her at