Site eyed for juvenile facility

Published 7:39 pm Tuesday, September 11, 2018

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Isle of Wight County-owned property along Route 258 being eyed for the proposed juvenile correctional center is one of three areas to receive updated wetlands delineations from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

The Route 258 site, which contains about 139 acres, likely has enough upland to fulfill the requirements for the new facility, according to Karl Mertig with engineering consultant Kimley Horn.

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The Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice has indicated that it needs about 20 acres for the correctional center, and not all of that will include buildings. 

As the length of time to build the new correctional is unknown, Karl Mertig with engineering consultant Kimley Horn advised the Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors Thursday to update the delineation, as the current one is set to expire in October of next year. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Whether or not it passes muster depends a lot on weather conditions this fall, said Mertig. 

Wetlands delineations by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are valid for five years. 

The other two areas, locally known as the Griffin and IP tracts, are also on the list for an update as those delineations have expired. Those properties are near or are bisected by Buckhorn Drive. 

Mertig said that it appears all of the wooded acreage on the Griffin and IP parcels are now wetlands, but the area along Buckhorn Drive appears to be mostly upland. 

All three parcels are in Phase III of the county’s intermodal park and are owned by the Isle of Wight Economic Development Authority. 

Putting a 60-bed juvenile correctional center on the property along or near Buckhorn Drive raised alarm bells for Windsor officials and town residents for a variety of reasons, including the narrow, curvy nature of the road. 

Isle of Wight Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson said the county’s first choice for the juvenile correctional center is the Route 258 property, which fronts the highway and provides easy access. 

The discussion during Thursday’s Board of Supervisors meeting revealed that federal officials changed what is considered coastal plains wetlands plants in 2012 — a year after the purchases for the 965 acres that make up Phase III were completed. 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers now considers loblolly pine, American holly, Southern magnolia and paw paw as functionally coastal plains wetlands plants. Prior to 2012, paw paw, loblolly pine, Southern magnolia and American holly were upland plants. 

A good portion of Phase III was a pine plantation, said Mertig, adding that when it was purchased, loblollies were not considered wetlands plants. 

Other wetlands considerations are the presence of water on the property, said Mertig. 

The county can offset wetlands impacts by purchasing mitigation credits — a system of payments used to create wetlands elsewhere, said Mertig. 

Plans to update the delineations are scheduled for this fall.

The proposed juvenile correctional center would replace the state’s Bon Air facility in Chesterfield and employ a new model of detention. The smaller facility will be closer to family and focus on academic and vocational education, athletics, as well as treatment and counseling. 

The proposed 60-bed residential facility in Isle of Wight will house youth ages 14-20, with an average age of 17, with the majority convicted of crimes such as assaults, burglaries, larcenies and robberies.

State officials said that the facility will be fenced and include the latest in security measures. 

It is also expected to generate 240 new jobs. 

Isle of Wight contacted the Virginia Department of Justice about locating the center in the county after plans for a similar facility fell apart in Chesapeake. 

To sweeten the deal for the state, Isle of Wight has offered the land for the facility, as well as contributing $500,000 for utilities. 

Because the Isle of Wight Economic Development Authority owns the land, public hearings are not required. State facilities on publicly-owned land are exempt from local zoning ordinances. 

If the project comes to fruition, county officials plan to hold information sessions to address concerns and questions from residents.  {/mprestriction}