Plans to construct a wood recycling center on rural land in eastern Albemarle County were dealt a set-back on February 17, 2009 when the County Planning Commission voted 6-0 to recommend denial of a special use permit (SUP). The land is located off of Route 250 near its intersection with Black Cat Road, and the SUP was required to allow industrial operations on land where agricultural and forestry uses are allowed by-right.
If the SUP is approved by the Board of Supervisors at its meeting on March 11, 2009, the Central Virginia Recycling Center would serve as a place for wood products to be sent to be turned into mulch. As many as 50 trucks a day would deliver stumps, lumber and other unwanted wood.
Joan McDowell, the County’s Rural Areas Planner, said that the land was rezoned in 1992 to allowed current owners Charles and Linda McRaven to operate an outdoor theater, but that use was never realized. The McRavens are hoping to sell the land to Central Virginia Recyling Center. In 2008, a zoning determination letter was issued that stated a sawmill, woodyard or planning mill could be constructed on the property if an SUP was granted.
The County has never approved an SUP for this purpose, and so County staff collected information about how wood recycling facilities impact the land. Commissioner Linda Porterfield (Scottsville) visited one facility in Williamsburg as part of her research.
However, the application for the SUP did not receive a full review from staff as the applicant sought to go directly to the public hearing. McDowell said that one noise test in June 2008 showed that the facility would exceed permissible levels. She said staff had concerns with the amount of traffic that would be generated, the amount of groundwater that would be used, and the source of the wood products.
“The wood products in this case that would be turned into mulch primarily come from land-clearing for development,” McDowell said.
Mark Keller with Terra Concepts PC represented Central Virginia Recycling before the Commission. He said that the wood products that would be mulched would otherwise go into the landfill or be burned. Keller said that the site’s location was ideal for a recycling facility because of its proximity to I-64 and Route 250. Water would be used to reduce the amount of dust and to properly age the mulch. He said that the applicant was willing to work under any conditions imposed by the County, and offered to limit grinding operations to weekdays. Keller said this was the type of operation the County should be promoting.
“Rural areas are the most appropriate location for a business of this nature,” Keller said. “We feel we have a good application in the right location.”
However, the application was not met with appreciation from the community. Over two dozen residents spoke out against the facility during the public hearing. Dr. Cole Peyton of the Keswick Farms neighborhood said the center would be more appropriate in Zion’s Crossroads in Fluvanna County given where land is available for industrial uses. Julie Minetos owns adjacent property and said she was concerned the center would impact the availability of groundwater for her home. Donna Knoll lives on Three Chop’t Road and she said she was concerned that if the SUP were granted, the recycling center would be the first domino in the industrializing Keswick. Carlton Brooks lives 400 feet from the proposed center and said he suspected the applicant simply wanted to purchase rural land at a cheaper price than land zoned for industrial uses.
None of the Commissioners said they could support the special use permit. Commissioner Porterfield, who usually is in favor of projects that would boost economic development in the County, said that the residential neighborhoods came first and should be protected from industrialization. She made a motion to recommend denial of the SUP, which was approved 6-0 by the Commission.
The application now moves to the Board of Supervisors, who will consider it at their meeting on March 11, 2009.