LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Business park plan is ‘sloppy and disingenuous’

To the editor:

I was unaware of the Aug. 17 presentation to the Louisa County Board of Supervisors by Timmons Group on the Shannon Hill Business Park study and was glad to read The Central Virginian’s report.

Timmons expressed great confidence that the kinds of buildings they propose for the property will be in high demand in an era of increased e-commerce. Are they not aware that abandoned malls and other failed commercial sites, already complete with infrastructure and utilities, are practically begging Amazon and others to repurpose their locations for their fulfillment and data centers? 

And what about costs for us to provide the same?  Along with Andy Wade, Louisa County’s economic development director, what Timmons was selling on Aug. 17 is more of the same fantasy they have sold to our county through this whole expensive fiasco. 

To start, if you place the building layout published in the CV from that meeting next to a topographic map of the property, it will reveal a good bit of fantasy. The single largest building, labeled Logistics and Distribution, located far from the park entrance, is directly on top of the steepest slopes of the property, with elevation changes of at least 25 feet throughout. What will it cost to get that site flat enough for a million-square-foot building plus parking on narrow ridge terrain? The rest is not better. You wonder about the costs of working through the state Department of Environmental Quality for the dozens of large culverts and maybe a bridge or two needed to span the 25-foot-deep creek bottoms for tractor trailers.

Timmons says Louisa needs to spend $18 million to bring water from Ferncliff to a new “elevated” water tower. Water to be supplied by a source with as yet no location, no budget and no permit. The design cost for the water tower is more than a third of the total cost of Timmons’ current contract. It is nearly three times the total amount budgeted for “master planning.” 

To my knowledge there has been zero outreach to the public in the development of these plans. The original contract called for two “stakeholders’ meetings.” The first included only one Louisa County person. A second was set well before the COVID-19 crisis but was canceled without notice or explanation. In the contract, Timmons was to “share results of preliminary master planning” and begin the preliminary engineering report which would be the guide for at least three alternative master plans.

Timmons has proposed only one “final master plan” as outlined on Aug. 17. No preliminary engineering report or any other report has been published, much less reviewed, by the public. 

Is this because what Timmons persuaded the county to buy will be enormously expensive to develop? Under the contract, Timmons must provide “likely” professional “cost considerations” to build any project they design. The huge extent of those likely costs would have been evident to anyone who has seen the property. The contract says that the County, not Timmons, was responsible for convening and running the scheduled stakeholder meetings. They bailed.

This is not responsible leadership. It is not careful stewardship of our money, resources and credit. No one, certainly not Timmons, should be paid for work this sloppy and disingenuous. 

Surely, we can do better. 

William Hale 

Louisa

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