IDA Business Park Okayed

Published 4:31 pm Thursday, November 11, 2010

CUMBERLAND – County Supervisors held a public hearing on Tuesday evening concerning rezoning property purchased by the Industrial Development Authority for the use of developing a business park.

After hearing from many citizens who spoke in opposition of the project request that is to be sited on Poorhouse Road, Supervisors voted to approve the rezoning.

Recently, Cumberland's IDA requested that the County rezone approximately 67 acres from agriculture (A-1) and recreational area access (RA-1) to industrial (M-1) and amend the County's zoning map.

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Now, because this rezoning decision is finalized, it allows for related applications submitted by Ag Renewable Resources, LLC to go to public hearings, which were scheduled by the Planning Commission for Monday, November 15.

Those requests were “contingent upon approval” of the rezoning request, according to Andrew Sorrell's, the County's planning and zoning administrator, presentation to Supervisors.

Ag Renewable Resources, a locally owned group that consists of farmers, has requested that the County amend Cumberland's code to permit “manufacture of fertilizer” as a conditional use permit option within a M-1, industrial, zoning.

In conjunction, the renewable energy business also submitted a conditional use permit application that would allow it to operate the electricity and fertilizer business on a portion of the business park property.

“The IDA is proposing to rezone a portion of this property…to be known as the Cumberland Business Park,” explained Sorrell to the Board. “The park has two lots as I indicated and an interior proposed access road.”

Currently, state maintenance for Poorhouse Road ends at the beginning of the proposed business park and the IDA, according to Sorrell, proposes to dedicate the necessary right-of-way from its property to extend the road north to the end of the property.

The County's animal pound, maintenance shop, Madison Solid Waste Transfer Station, and a privately owned telecommunication facility/tower are also located on Poorhouse Road.

“The IDA proposes to construct the extension of Poorhouse Road to VDOT's public road standards,” Sorrell noted about improvements that will be made. “Given the limited amount of traffic proposed by the park at this time, a traffic study is not required. However, if a user is identified that will significantly increase traffic at the intersection of Route 728 and Route 60 a traffic impact study shall be required…”

In order to ensure that the tenants of the proposed business park are meeting the intent and goals of the County's M-1 zoning (light industrial), the IDA also developed protective covenants and restrictions.

“Generally, these covenants and restrictions have been developed to ensure the Cumberland Business Park is developed in a manner that is aesthetically pleasing and harmonious with its surroundings and offers the components desired by quality businesses and industries,” said Sorrell.

Highlights of those covenants and restrictions that will run with the deed of the land include that all above-ground equipment and visible outdoor storage areas be screened; parking and access drives are to be paved; utilities are required to be installed underground; and a 100 foot vegetative buffer would be required. In addition, outdoor lighting will be required to direct light downward and signage would have to be of brick or stone and attached to the ground.

“It is important to ensure that properties are consistent with Cumberland's Comprehensive Plan,” Sorrell described.

This rezoning, according to Michael Cooper, assistant county administrator of community development, would allow Cumberland to set aside property for needed industrial development.

The IDA's decision to request a rezoning of this property was based on planning criteria, he added.

Currently, Cumberland does not have adequate industrial land available to market to potential businesses that are looking to locate to the County, Cooper also told the Board.

The IDA, he said, has been working to obtain property for a business park since 2008.

Related to the change from recreational area access, Sorrell said, “In the past there has been question on the legality of changing the zoning of the RA-1 zoning district…”

The RA-1 district was created in 1970, he offered, to secure state funding for improvements to Route 622 (Trents Mill Road) as a recreational access corridor to Bear Creek Lake State Park.

“…The letters from the Department of Conservation and Recreation confirmed that the state recognizes the legislative authority of this body within its borders,” noted County Attorney Howard Estes about the proposed change in zoning. “…You can amend the ordinance through your public hearing processes and with due notice to the citizens and then making the change.”

According to Sorrell, the County received notification from the Department of Conservation and Recreation stating that the “Commonwealth has no continuing interest in how Cumberland manages the RA-1 zoning district.”

“…The County has the ability to amend the RA-1 zoning district just like any other zoning district,” stated Sorrell in his staff packet provided to the Board for review.

The County's Planning Commission recommended the rezoning request to the Supervisors after holding its own public hearing on Monday.

According to Sorrell, 11 citizens spoke at that hearing.

Parker Wheeler, the Planning Commission's chairman, also provided background information to the Supervisors for consideration related to how the Commission came to its decision during that meeting.

“I understand that people may not understand what the proposed business is that wants to come into this and that's understandable,” he said. “…But, if you study it and look at it and understand it you don't fear it as much…The proposed business park is good for Cumberland County and good for the citizens of Cumberland and will send a message out to businesses far and wide that Cumberland County wants businesses…We have finally established an area where you can bring your business in and we can put you in there.”

Wheeler added that needed businesses would employ citizens and pay the County taxes.

“This is something that I implore you to move forward on so we can get…Cumberland County moving on toward what it really needs to be,” he said.

Once Chairman Tim Kennell, District Two, opened the Board's own public hearing, Supervisors heard from 12 citizens-nine spoke in opposition and three were in favor of the IDA's rezoning request.

Several citizens voiced concerns related to changing the recreational area access zoning after 40 years, others detailed water contamination concerns, and conflict of interest questions were also asked.

After several motions were made and withdrawn concerning the rezoning application, a final motion was made by Supervisor Bill Osl, District One, to adopt the resolution to approve the rezoning application (REZ 10-02) requested by the Cumberland IDA to rezone property from RA-1 and A-2 to M-1.

That motion passed on a three to two vote. Supervisors Oertel and Kennell voted against the rezoning resolution.

Next, Supervisor Osl made an additional motion that the Board instruct the Planning Commission to provide a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors “immediately and no later than 90 days from tonight” concerning the County's RA-1 zoning district-that motion passed unanimously.

Due to an accelerated deadline this week, continuing coverage of this story will appear in The Herald next week.