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Louisa County plans to build 1,600-acre regional business park

Posted on Friday, August 17, 2018 at 4:13 pm

The Louisa County Board of Supervisors is planning to develop a regional business park in the Shannon Hill area of Louisa County.

The approximately 1,600-acre proposed park would be located on property bordered by I-64, Shannon Hill, Roundabout and West Old Mountain roads.

The supervisors met in an emergency closed session meeting to discuss details about the project on Thursday, Aug. 16. The meeting was advertised earlier the same day on a bulletin board on the county office building lobby, and was posted in the “news flash” section of the county’s website. 

Supervisors agreed in open session to approve existing option agreements the county has with various landowners and will negotiate other options as needed to secure more land for the project.

A real estate purchase option is a contract on a particular parcel which allows the buyer, in this case the county, the exclusive right to buy the property. Options typically include a predetermined purchase price and a specific time period when the purchase should occur before the option expires.

Board members also voted  to proceed with the project using existing contracts it has on other parcels in the confines of the proposed park area and will reach out to potential partners and investors interested in the regional concept.

The county evaluated several land options in the Shannon Hill area for the development of the park, according to a press release issued by the County today. To date, planning efforts have included the option contracts to purchase several parcels from multiple owners, preliminary site due diligence and a fiscal and economic impact analysis.

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) has cited a statewide lack of “shovel-ready” large sites as a major limiting factor in the state’s ability to compete for businesses that require sites greater than 100 acres.

“VEDP has endorsed this effort, and we are pleased to see the progress made to-date,” Stephen Moret, president and executive officer of VEDP, said “The availability of large, project-ready sites is critical to attracting new investment to Virginia, and the preparedness of the business park near Shannon Hill will help build the commonwealth’s inventory. A publicly owned, shovel-ready site represents a competitive real estate option for Virginia, its localities, and prospective companies, and we congratulate Louisa County and the region for working diligently to make this project a reality.”

Access to the park would be located off Interstate 64 and Rt.  605 to minimize traffic impacts and facilitate efficient interstate access.

“Access to an interstate or four lane highway is a critical criterion for site selection consultants and new businesses performing initial site due diligence analysis. This site checks the box at less than one mile from Interstate 64,” Andy Wade, Louisa County Economic Development Director, said

GO Virginia supports programs to create more high-paying jobs through incentivized collaboration between business, education, and government to diversify and strengthen the economy in every region of the Commonwealth. Louisa is part of GO Virginia’s Region 9 along with numerous private businesses and localities (Albemarle, Culpeper, Fauquier, Fluvanna, Greene, Charlottesville, Madison, Nelson, Orange, and Rappahannock), Piedmont Virginia Community College, Germanna Community College, and the University of Virginia (UVA).

“We are enthusiastic about the regional collaboration and the potential for this project to attract high quality industry partners, creating new research and education opportunities for UVA faculty and students,” Pace Lochte, UVA’s Assistant Vice President for Economic Development, said. These collaborations can advance knowledge, provide real world experiences for students, and solve challenges for business and society. A more diverse business community in central Virginia offers more career options for students who want to remain in the area after graduation.”

GO Virginia is funded by the General Assembly, and includes over $20 million in competitive funding for projects throughout the state involving inter-regional collaboration. The county intends to apply for this funding and is also soliciting regional interest in revenue-sharing partnerships. These partnerships would generate annual revenues for localities and other investors supporting the effort.

“The Central Virginia Partnership for Economic Development (CVPED) is delighted that Louisa County is taking the lead to develop a regional business park and is inviting interested localities to join them in this effort. Regional collaboration is imperative to the success of our region and this development initiative will position Central Virginia at the forefront when competing for new domestic and foreign direct capital investment and jobs,” Helen Cauthen, CVPED President, said

The target market sectors for the park include those identified in the GO Virginia Region 9 Growth and Diversification Plan by Camoin Associates. Those markets are: Food/Beverage Manufacturing; Advanced/Light Manufacturing; Financial/Business Services; IT/Communications; Biotechnology/Biomedical and Warehouse/Distribution.

“The Camoin report identified our target markets and highlighted the workforce and business clusters that make our region attractive to these industries. However, it also exposed the region’s lack of ready-to-go sites that our target industries demand,” said Bob Babyok, Green Springs District Supervisor.

At full buildout over 25 years, the park could offer more than 8.5 million square feet of local and regional economy-driving facilities. Projected job numbers are in the thousands and the average wage contemplated for the target markets would exceed current County average wages, improving the quality of life for Louisa citizens and the region.

“Over 60 percent of Louisa’s workforce commutes outside the County for work,” said Tommy Barlow, Mountain Road District Supervisor. “New jobs in this park would cut their time on the road, increase time with family, and have an economic multiplier effect in the County as citizens spend more dollars locally.”

Mangum Economics performed a fiscal and economic impact analysis for the County. The analysis focused on high and low build out scenarios and the cost of residential development on the same property. Costs to develop the park may be significant: land acquisition could exceed $6 million, and utilities, roads, and preliminary development would be necessary and will add further cost. However, the park’s positive impact on the county and region would be potentially significant as well. Net potential new revenue to the county (at full build out) is estimated at approximately $15 million annually. Conversely, the cost associated with the development of 600 residential units on the same property could cost the taxpayers of Louisa over $2 million per year at full build out.

“Low tax rates in the county are important to our citizens,” Toni Williams, Jackson District Supervisor said. “Residential growth is expensive and our population has nearly doubled in the past few decades. Economic growth provides jobs and revenue, and those revenues will help us maintain our current low rates.”

“We made and received offers and considered multiple sites to date,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Troy Wade said. “Our decision to assemble multiple parcels with multiple owners versus a single parcel with one owner was driven by the cost of the land. If the parcels under option are purchased, the cost will be $20 million less than a competing offer received by the county for comparable property that is literally across the street. This offer, which was for the same intended project, also came with several zoning stipulations that were not favorable or in the best interest of the citizens.”

The potential size of the park would allow for generous buffers, ensuring minimal community impact. The park’s location would confine development to the vicinity of the interchange, maintaining the rural nature of surrounding areas and the remainder of the county. Responsible development of the park will be essential to planning efforts, and public input is welcome during the planning and due diligence processes. Should the purchase and project move forward, any rezoning would offer further opportunity for citizen concerns to be addressed.

“Economic growth is critical to our county. It improves the quality of life for our citizens and ensures the county’s ongoing fiscal stability,” Duane Adams, Mineral District Supervisor, said. “Responsible economic growth, confined to specific areas, also allows us to maintain the rural nature of the remainder of the county. This benefits everyone.”

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