Windsor concerned about proposed Tidewater Logistics Center
Published 5:13 pm Friday, September 8, 2023
The Windsor Planning Commission expressed concerns at its Aug. 23 meeting about a proposed development of industrial warehouse buildings on the north side of Windsor Boulevard in between Lovers Lane and Old Mill Road.
Commissioners’ concerns centered around the impact of a likely 24-hour industrial operation on traffic in the town and on the residents of Lovers Lane and Keaton Avenue.
Windsor Planning and Zoning Administrator James “Jay” Randolph introduced the proposed project by noting that Isle of Wight County shared with him an application from Meridian Property Purchaser LLC to the county requesting amendments to the Isle of Wight County Comprehensive Plan and to the county’s zoning classification for the aforementioned property to clear the way for the project.
Included in the documentation Randolph received was a Community Impact Statement prepared by Kimley-Horn, an engineering, planning and design consultant. The statement included a project description.
DESCRIPTION OF THE TIDEWATER LOGISTICS CENTER
The description called the project the Tidewater Logistics Center and noted that the site of it would cover three parcels in Isle of Wight County near Windsor’s corporate limits, and the corresponding Tax Parcel Numbers are 54-01-086J, 54-01-086B and 55-01-013.
The rest of the description reads as follows:
“For the purposes of this report, unless otherwise noted, this land is considered to be assembled and collectively is referred to as the ‘Site’ and the project as the ‘Tidewater Logistics Center.’ The gross area of the site is approximately 154.34 acres and consists of an existing residential home and agricultural fields. The site lies to the east of the town of Windsor but is located within the Windsor Development Service District (DSD), per the Isle of Wight Master Plan. The area is primarily agricultural, suburban estate, and suburban residential, although surrounding parcels are identified as mixed use, gateway commercial, and light industrial.
“The project is proposing the rezoning of the indicated parcels from the Rural Agricultural Conversion District (RAC) to the Limited Industrial District (LI). In addition to the rezoning of the site, the project proposes a comprehensive plan amendment to change the land use designation from mixed use to planned industrial.
“Five industrial warehouse buildings are proposed on the site. The total proposed warehouse space is approximately 1.23 million square feet. Just outside of the Tidewater Logistics Center site is the site of the 1-million-square-foot Cost Plus World Market warehouse along (U.S.) Route 460. An industrial park development is located south of the Cost Plus warehouse, referred to as the Shirley T. Holland Industrial Park.
“An industrial access road is to be constructed throughout the site, servicing the parcels. Gravity sanitary sewers on each parcel will be installed, supported by two sewer pump stations — one private pump to serve the southeastern parcel and one public pump for the western parcel and the existing residential development on Lovers Lane. Water mains will be constructed within the access roads connecting to an existing water main located on U.S. Route 460.
“The portions of the parcel containing the Saunders House, as well as the existing cemeteries on-site, will remain undisturbed.”
THE WINDSOR PLANNING COMMISSION’S ROLE
Randolph stated in a memo to the Windsor Planning Commission that Meridian Property Purchaser’s application to Isle of Wight was being referred to the town of Windsor due to the proposed project’s proximity to the corporate limits of the town.
“As such, any discussion or comments that the Windsor Planning Commission desires to forward to Isle of Wight County will be considered advisory in nature,” he stated. “Isle of Wight County has asked that we forward any comments to their Planning Department by Sept. 1.”
He noted that the Isle of Wight County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the project proposal and forward its recommendations to the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors. Then the Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the application and make any decisions regarding the proposal.
During the Aug. 23 WPC meeting, Randolph said he was forwarded the full 732-page application electronically, and he tried to go through it and pull out what he thought would be most useful for the commission to consider.
ECONOMIC IMPACT ON THE TOWN
Commissioner Larissa Williams said, “There was nothing in here about potential jobs. Are they planning on hiring anybody, or is that addressed in the 700-something pages that you have?”
Randolph replied, “It didn’t specifically lay out the number of jobs that may be coming with the development of these.”
He said that most of the buildings would be warehousing-type facilities, so generally not tremendous employment centers, but there would be some employment. He added that some of the smaller buildings would be more for light manufacturing, which could provide additional employment.
“I will note that in the Traffic Impact Analysis, it indicated there could be upwards of about 2,750 trips per day to this site,” he said. “They count a trip as one vehicle going in and a trip as one vehicle going out.”
He said the amount of heavy trucks involved could provide an idea of the potential number of employees.
BUFFERING TO PRESERVE QUALITY OF LIFE, PROPERTY VALUES
“Would this be 24-hour operations?” Williams asked. “If I lived right there, I wouldn’t want to hear banging and clanging and rattling at 2 o’clock in the morning.”
“To my knowledge, yes, it would be a 24-hour (operation),” Randolph said.
Williams suggested putting something in the commission’s advice to the county Planning Commission that references the creation of berms or some sort of physical barrier to reduce the noise coming from the project site. Commissioners Dale Scott and David Adams also asserted support for this idea.
One member of the public attended the Aug. 23 meeting — Walter Freeman, who lives on Keaton Avenue.
He said he had just recently heard about the proposed project.
“This will be directly in front of my home,” he said. “If there’s a berm there and they can do something with the trail lots they’ve got, just give me a good-sized buffer.”
He told commissioners that whatever kind of project comes to fill the site in question, “you want it to fit in good with the community, that’s what you want.”
Scott opened his concerns with the proposed Tidewater Logistics Center by noting that the prior intent for the front portion of that property near U.S. 460 was mixed use, which would have allowed for a transition from an area of less intense commercial development — potentially some residential as well — to possibly an area of heavier industrial development toward the rear of the property.
“The plan they have here, the concern I see if I lived on Lovers Lane is you don’t have that mixed use behind you to transition that,” he said. “You’ve got a proposed warehouse behind the majority of the homes on Lovers Lane. And you see a retention pond behind there.”
He noted that Freeman had expressed concern during the public comment period about mosquitoes being drawn to the residential area due to the retention pond.
Scott said that residents who contacted him expressed concern about noise from the project site and then asked him, “Is that going to affect our property values with this facility being behind us?”
He noted this as a valid concern. He said that sometimes maps can be deceiving and he was not sure exactly how close the warehouses were to the residential properties, but it appeared to be fairly close.
Following the Aug. 23 meeting, Freeman said he did not know if the noise could be contained given the proximity of the warehouses to the residences.
‘WE’RE GOING TO HAVE A TRAFFIC PROBLEM’
During the meeting, Scott acknowledged that the developers are going to figure out some solutions for the traffic coming and going from the project with an additional stop light and other measures.
“But once those trucks leave the facility and if they head west, we’re going to have quite an eye-opener here in the town of Windsor,” he said. “We’re already seeing it now with what we have today. With these five buildings, there’s another building proposed in the commerce park between Green Mountain and Safco, another warehouse, and another facility just south of town of similar use.
“We’re going to take all these warehouse facilities and bring those trucks, some of them go east, some of them go west, but if they’re coming west in that project and coming east from the south project, we’re going to have a traffic problem here in the town of Windsor,” he continued. “There’s many afternoons (that) getting out from a business or a driveway along 460 is a challenge.”
“And dangerous,” Williams added.
“It is,” Scott agreed. “So I think if we’re going to discuss it, I think there needs to be some discussion on the traffic impact to the town of Windsor that we’re going to see that’s already affecting us. It’s going to multiply there.”
“It’s going to cripple us in the morning,” Williams said.
Scott said, “And this doesn’t even factor into the equation that the warehouse facilities have already been approved east of us in the city of Suffolk. Those trucks are already going to be coming this way. So we’re going to take that traffic that’s coming this way and then take this project and other projects that are going around us here on the outside of town, we’re going to have a traffic issue that we need to plan for, and we can’t wait, let it happen, and say, ‘Now, what are we going to do?’”
Williams noted that the development and filling out of Windsor Station will add to the traffic.
Randolph said, “And the difficulty — there’s about 16,000 vehicles a day that go up Windsor Boulevard. Approximately 10% are heavy trucks, so you’re talking over 1,500 heavy trucks a day — that’s currently.”
Randolph shared details he learned from Kimley-Horn’s Traffic Impact Analysis.
“The transportation improvements that they’re proposing with this project are relatively straightforward,” he said. “There will be two right-in, right-outs closer toward the Suffolk side of this project. They would put an additional traffic signal at the current World Market traffic signal.”
He said that as one travels toward Suffolk and the Cost Plus World Market Distribution Center, they will find striping in the road that diverges the oncoming lanes.
“That will be removed,” he said, “and they’re going to put in a 200-foot turn lane with a 200-foot taper to make a left-turn lane so when you’re headed that way to turn into this project, that brings the start of that taper and turn lane to within almost 200 feet of the Lovers Lane intersection.”
Adams, participating in the meeting by phone, said that according to the county’s zoning policy on lot-size requirements for planned industrial parks, the proposed project appeared to exceed the maximum lot coverage of 60%. He asked Randolph to verify this.
Windsor Town Attorney Fred Taylor said it may be worthwhile to invite the people proposing the Tidewater Logistics Center to do a presentation for the commission and/or Windsor Town Council and to answer questions.