LETTER TO THE EDITOR: No due dilligence for business park?

To the editor:  

Louisa County government has been promoting the Shannon Hill business park entirely on the basis of its proximity to Interstate 64. That is a valid point. That might be a good place for such an investment if there is a good site and if good infrastructure is conveniently and economically available for the property that was purchased. 

About the same time that the board of supervisors finally, and possibly illegally, approved the millions of dollars spent to purchase the business park property, they entered into a contract with Timmons Engineering for what was called a due diligence study. Basically it was to advise the county on how to develop the land they had purchased, after the same company had advised them to buy it.

There are lots of different things to evaluate in such a study. Costs and best method of developing the property; earthmoving; paving; utilities, environmental, cultural, and historical considerations; transportation access, etc.

Those were listed as the contract’s objectives.

That contract came into effect almost two years ago. Timmons made a presentation to the board in 2020, apparently accepted without comment, laying out what they called their “final plan” for the property’s development. It was basically an elaboration of previous material from our county planning department showing how one could arrange a number of large buildings on a flattened map of the project. No cost estimates have been provided, as far as I know, for grading and basically resurfacing around 600 acres of one of the more challenging sites in the vicinity. 

As per previous publicity, no serious study has been made addressing how the site connects by the existing transportation corridor with most of the county and points north. They have published some existing traffic counts along route 605 and their subcontractor’s report on archeological and historical concerns. The “final plan” presented to the board did not clearly address these issues.

The due diligence study contract has not yet been completed, to the best of my knowledge. Some of the promised preliminary engineering reports are not yet available. Those are what the “final plan” is supposed to be based on. That is only common sense and actually is what their contract stipulates.

County Economic Development Director Andy Wade is now asking, in a public hearing scheduled for March 1, to give Timmons Engineering $2.5 million more just to study how best to spend an additional minimum $20-plus million (their figure) to build a pipeline for water and sewage from Ferncliff with an unestablished source, plus sewage pipe and pumping to take everything all the way back to Zion Crossroads to be treated and put into the South Anna back another 14 miles downstream. They have reported concerns about the possibility of unknown costs and risks in having to tunnel under the interstate and the Colonial Gas pipeline. 

And they want this contract expedited. Seems a little greedy, in the least. Are we going to learn from the ancient wisdom stories about throwing good money after bad? In the meantime, what about using that beautiful forest property for citizens’ nature and recreation pursuits? Surely we can do better.

William Hale

Louisa

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