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Business Park Idea Presented

CUMBERLAND – Planning Commission members were recently briefed on a “pending” rezoning application related to an industrial park project that is currently underway in Cumberland. The County's Industrial Development Authority is spearheading the economic development project.

The pending request, which should be referred to the Commission soon, is to amend the zoning map from residential and agricultural to M-1, industrial, for an industrial park.

The industrial park is set for Poorhouse Road near the Madison Transfer Station and adjacent to the County's maintenance facilities.

According to Michael Cooper, assistant county administrator of community development, the property should be closed on this week, which would allow the IDA to submit its rezoning request to the Planning Commission for review.

The current Cumberland market has limited industrial and commercial zoning to offer perspective businesses and minimal infrastructure.

“This is just an introduction to a pending rezoning application that will be coming before you shortly for your full review and consideration and typical process,” said Cooper while speaking on behalf of the IDA.

The IDA's hope is that the business park would create a place marketable to perspective clients wishing to locate to rural Virginia.

“We know that we are not seeing much development at all,” said Cooper about Cumberland's economic development opportunities. “Historically, we have always been slower than our neighboring counties and communities but, even for Cumberland, it's been a significant drop off on application that we are receiving here in Cumberland for commercial and residential development in general.”

Cumberland does not have a lot of land available for sale, according to the presentation, that can be obtained by potential businesses.

The current Cumberland economic climate puts the unemployment rate at 8.4 percent, according to Cooper.

The state's rate is seven percent and the national rate is 9.7 percent.

The most affected industries by the economy's current state are construction, retail, health care, food service, and manufacturing, which are “key industries” that impact budgets, said Cooper.

“Traditionally, Cumberland has hovered around four percent…,” he noted about the County's unemployment rate. “We are actually creeping up on the national average.”

Again, by looking at building permits and business licenses Cooper identified key industries that are being impacted.

“We here in Cumberland cannot fix the federal economy but we can do our part,” he said about bringing in new business. “However, we do have to take advantage of our highway infrastructure that we do have.”

Other areas for targeted for improvement (to attract new businesses) include transportation access, utilities, appropriate zoning, and available land.

According to the presentation, the IDA is also working with Mid-Atlantic Broadband to extend the fiber optic capability (high-speed Internet) from Route 60 to the business park.

“We need to get at that to have something out there and be competitive at the state level, the regional level, and even at the national level,” said Cooper about creating opportunities.

The IDA likes to think of themselves as an economic development authority and industrial development authority combined.

“The word industry and what we oftentimes associate industrial with is not necessarily their full game,” he said. “They are interested in promoting and attracting any type of business that wants to come in…and bring jobs and tax revenue.

The proposed business park could potentially be subdivided into four lots for sale or lease.

But the proposed layout will not be set in stone until potential businesses begin to show interest, Cooper noted.

It's less than a mile to get to Route 60 from the business park, he continued. And Poorhouse Road would have to undergo improvements in order to handle the increased amounts of traffic.

“It needs a lot of improvements and that's one of the goals and objectives of the Industrial Development Authority and that is to bring the road up to state standards,” he added. “And to make the road more accessible.”

Other key improvements needed at the business park site include three-phase power and public water and sewer in the foreseeable future.

“The IDA has authorized that the application be submitted for M-1 and…that's what will be on the application coming before you,” said Cooper about the zoning that (according to County Code) should not detract from nearby properties.

Covenants, Conditions, And Restrictions

To protect the County's rural nature and nearby property owners, the IDA has worked to create and finalize protective covenants, conditions, and restrictions that will run with the deed of the property.

“It is the mission of the Authority to economically enhance, provide financing of projects whenever appropriate, and diversify the overall development of Cumberland County by growing the tax base and providing for an objective return on investment, above average employment opportunities, and an improved quality of life for the citizens of Cumberland County while maintaining the very highest integrity and support for business and industry that will develop beneficial long-term customer relations,” according to the IDA's goals.

The IDA intends for the development of the business park to be fully occupied by businesses and industries that will “enhance and promote job opportunities” and that is consistent with the goals of the Comprehensive Plan and friendly to surroundings.

Cooper presented the Commission with a resolution that declares that the property be held, sold, and conveyed subject to the covenants, restrictions, and easements set forth by the IDA and the Cumberland County Code. The resolution's purpose is to protect the County and residents, he said.

The resolution includes 17 conditions that must be met by those wishing to locate and operate within the business park.

Those conditions relate to plan approvals, building height and materials, screening, storage, signage, maintenance, utilities, parking, landscaping, lighting, and resale conditions.

In the event, according to the conditions, that any owner of a parcel within the business park receives an offer to buy any property in the park it shall present the IDA the terms and conditions of the sale for review. The IDA reserves the right to purchase the property within 60 days upon the same terms and conditions as contained in the offer made to the owner by a third party.

The IDA also has the right to waive the opportunity to purchase the parcel.

Planning Commission Comments

After the presentation, the floor was opened for Commissioner comments.

Chairman Parker Wheeler asked if the business park would be large enough and capable (without public water and sewer) to fulfill the needs of “any type of business?”

“Not all businesses need public water and sewer,” said Cooper. “As soon as we can get it there, the better. But, I also do not believe that we are severely hurt without it… This is getting us in the right step and if we had all the money to do it today, we certainly would. I feel like this is getting us in there… It's going to be a marathon and not a sprint.”

Commissioner Carol Miller requested if the IDA had looked into the “County's bigger picture” regarding overall future water needs.

“Are you planning to do a hydro-geological study…are you planning to get someone to do that study?” asked Ms. Miller.

“We can see development already proposed along Route 60, for example the Patriot Ridge Shopping Center. If that is built to its maximum capacity of what it can be, it would alone put a significant impact on our current water supply.”

According to Cooper, the County's utilities director is researching back up and long-term options to put in place to protect Cumberland's water needs.

“Do you have any businesses looking at the park?” asked Commissioner Patty Pedrick.

“Yes…,” said Cooper about a potential business. “We do have a prospective client that the Industrial Development Authority is working with and my expectation is that you all would be a part of that review process in the near future.”