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Board allows for construction camp

The Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors voted 7-0 Tuesday, Feb. 11, to amend the county zoning ordinance and allow a special use permit (SUP) process for “Construction Camps” in the A-1, Agricultural Conservation District.

The board also voted 7-0, with conditions, to approve a SUP application from A.Q. “Andy” and Tracy Ellington to operate a Construction Camp/future campground on a parcel located southwest of the intersection of U.S. 460 and Pisgah Church Road. Ellington is the police chief for the Town of Farmville.

Both votes followed public hearings. Two members of the public voiced concerns about the camp during the SUP application public hearing.

Hampden District Supervisor Dr. Odessa Pride was not present for the meeting.

The board meeting packet noted the parcel of Ellington’s property in question is an A-1, Agricultural Conservation District.

The packet added that in addition to requesting the use of the property as a Construction Camp for the duration of the building of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), the Ellingtons were asking to be allowed to continue to use the site as a campground following the completion of the ACP. Campgrounds are an allowed use in the A-1 zone by SUP.

Wade Bartlett

Prince Edward County Administrator Wade Bartlett defined what a construction camp is as outlined in the board meeting packet.

Construction camps closely resemble campgrounds in layout and operation, with only two major differences, both in the operational area, the packet stated. First, per Virginia Department of Health regulations, a campground has to have a bathhouse, while construction camps do not.

“The reason for that is the health department is assuming a construction camp would be populated mainly by larger recreational vehicles that have their own plumbing, while a campground could have any type of recreational vehicle, such as pop-up campers that would not have their own plumbing,” Bartlett said.

Second, the packet continued, for campgrounds the board has limited the length of stay to only 30 days, while in a construction camp the length of the stay is not limited. But there is no state requirement to limit the length of stays at a campground.

Ellington said once his parcel became a permanent campground, he feels it would boost the economy, noting it would join Rails-to-Trails.

Railstotrails.org notes that the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines and connecting corridors to build healthier places for healthier people.

“It would be a great asset to our community,” Ellington said of the proposed campground. “The Rails-to-Trails is about tourism that this campground would draw to this community.”

Larry Clements was one of the members of the public who expressed concerns about the proposed camp.

“If you look at the proposed site there where all of the individual RV sites will be, it’s directly behind my house,” he said. “So my ask in this project is that there be consideration of a privacy fence, like a six-foot wooden fence to help protect against the two properties for noise and lights and things like that.”

Jim Pohl, who lives on property adjacent to the proposed project, also spoke, raising a variety of concerns, including population density in the camp and impacts on water and sewer and traffic. He emphasized the need to set time limits and durations.

After the conclusion of the public hearing, the board worked with Bartlett to outline the conditions of the motion being made.

“I do recommend that if you approve the campground usage that it change over from a construction camp to a campground no later than 30 days after the completion of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction project, which would be considered complete when the local construction office, which is located at the old SMI site, closes,” Bartlett said.

The board ended up extending the transition period to 45 days when it made the motion.

The other conditions attached to the motion included the following:

• site plan and erosion and sediment control and stormwater approvals must be obtained prior to construction

• Virginia Department of Transportation must approve the site entrance

• Virginia Department of Health must approve both water and septic systems before construction

• the existing natural buffer along the property lines cannot be disturbed or removed and any open spots must be filled in with trees

• lighting must be glared-shielded to prevent light from extending beyond the property

• facilities must be provided for trash

• quiet hours must be maintained from 10 p.m.-6 a.m.

• site must be free of litter and debris at all times

• a woven wire, six-foot-high fence must be erected along the border of tax map parcels 40-A-23

• tents must be restricted from the construction camp

The conditions reflected a compromise between Ellington and Clements. Ellington said the cost of a wooden fence would be significant.

“Any open area that (Clements) can see through, I don’t mind planting something that will grow and enclose it to give him his privacy,” Ellington said.

Clements agreed that this was acceptable.