When county officials went behind closed doors earlier this month, they said little other than that they would discuss spending public funds to buy real estate.
On Aug. 16 the secret was out: The Louisa County Board of Supervisors wants to invest millions of dollars to build a 1,600-acre industrial park, by far the largest in the county.
After a hastily called closed meeting on Aug. 16, the county released a statement on Friday that outlines plans to spend about $6.5 million to buy land near the Shannon Hill Road exit on Interstate 64. Additional public funds will be needed in the future to prepare the park for interested businesses.
The supervisors decided to talk to the public after word about the project had leaked to community members, some of whom circulated maps of the business park at the county’s comprehensive plan meeting in Zion Crossroads on Aug. 15.
County officials said in the statement that they have acquired options to purchase land from several property owners, giving the county the right to buy at a specified price within a six-month time frame.
“This information will be released when negotiations for additional parcels have been finalized,” Andy Wade, the county’s economic development director, said.
The options were obtained quietly using a real estate broker to protect the county’s negotiating power. The landowners were asked to sign non-disclosure agreements binding them from talking about the deals.
Duane Adams, Mineral district supervisor, said that talking about the project in open session would have adversely affected the county’s negotiating position.
“If someone knew that the county wanted to buy a piece of property, the price would double or triple or quadruple,” he said. “Really, that’s accepted practice, and it’s protecting the taxpayers’ money, trying to get the best bargain we can at the lowest possible cost.”
Adams said the land the county has obtained options on does not have permanent residents, noting that one parcel does contain a rental property. Some of the property had been on the market for a few years.
“When our real estate broker approached the owners, they were willing to sell,” he said.
The majority of board members are enthusiastic about the regional business park concept. Adams said it is “the largest economic development opportunity for Louisa County since the construction of North Anna Nuclear Power Plant.”
The business park would be nearly three times larger than the Louisa Industrial Air Park, located in the county’s center, and more than 12 times bigger than Ferncliff Business Park, which the county developed in the past decade to draw expanding businesses with easy interstate access.
Those parks have a number of vacant lots and buildings, which might lead one to assume the county does not need any more industrial space. But county officials say they hope to attract a different type of company to what they call the “megasite.” The state uses the term for industrial parks of more than 1,000 acres that can accommodate companies that need more than 100 acres each.
Several people who live in the affected area said the county should have reached out to people in the neighborhood to tell them about the project.
Judy Boone said she and her husband moved to Parrish Road 20 years ago to get away from heavy traffic and development in the Washington, D.C. area. She said it is ironic the county is in the midst of conducting outreach to residents through meetings about the comprehensive plan.
“Why are they talking about that, while they’re doing stuff behind their backs?” she said.
The county has paid various landowners for options it has on properties within the proposed megasite, but will not reveal details until negotiations are finalized, according to Wade.
The county had considered another 2,220-acre parcel directly across Shannon Hill Road from the present 1,650-acre site. That land is owned by the Purcell family and was rezoned in the 1990s as resort development property, which allows a mixed variety of uses.
The Purcell property, known as Clark Country, is entirely within the growth area documented in the county’s comprehensive plan, while eighty percent of the land the supervisors have set their sights on is within the growth area.
The difference boils down to cost and, possibly, control of the megasite property. The county estimates it will cost around $6 million to acquire the needed parcels within its target zone, compared to as much as $33.3 million to buy the entire Clark Country property.
Charles Purcell, who manages Clark Country, outlined three potential scenarios the supervisors could consider, including some lower cost alternatives, if they opted to use the tract. Details of his July 30 proposal obtained by The Central Virginian can be found by clicking this link.
Read the entire article for more details and to view the maps in The Central Virginian’s Aug. 23, 2018 issue.