EDA will deed land to IW

Published 7:31 pm Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Windsor members resign following 5-2 vote

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

The Isle of Wight Economic Development Authority voted 5-2 to give the land for a youth correctional center back to the county so the plans can go through an official public hearing process.

After voting against the move on Jan. 23, EDA member Richard J. Holland Jr. resigned. EDA member Len Alphin also voted against giving the land back to the county and has since resigned from the EDA.

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“I don’t kiss the ring,” Holland said of the Board of Supervisors’ request to convey the land back to the county rather than the state.{mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

If the EDA had given the land to the state, the public hearing process would not be required. The county had planned to host information sessions instead, and so far, it has held two. 

Holland said he was chosen to represent his “constituents” in Windsor, and they do not want a prison near town.

EDA members are not elected, they are appointed by the Board of Supervisors. 

The proposed 60-bed youth correctional center is being eyed for 20 acres of county-owned property south of the Town of Windsor. 

“Prisons have a stigma that people don’t want to be around,” Holland said.

Holland predicted the public hearing process would be a “sham” and a “masquerade.” 

Prior to the vote, EDA Chairman Ron Pack went over the boundaries and duties of the Authority, saying it originated as a way to issue bonds for business, including his own, Smithfield Station. 

After the county began buying property for its intermodal park, the EDA (formerly the Industrial Development Authority) was used to hold, manage, maintain and dispose of property purchased by the county, said Pack.

Pack said it was not the duty of the EDA to decide what business comes to the county, nor to change the county’s mind on a plan of action. 

Isle of Wight County Administrator Randy Keaton went over a requested list of pros and cons of the project. 

Pros included having the state pay two-thirds of the cost of running a water and sewer line to the property, as well as the 240 jobs and the economic activity those would generate, said Keaton.

The utility lines would be large enough to serve other residential and business properties, said Keaton, adding that the property was not likely to be developed by a private business due to the lack of utilities. 

Isle of Wight officials have also stated that another business is interested in locating next to the correctional center. 

The utility lines make the property marketable, said Keaton. 

The cons include the negative perception of a prison, but Keaton said the reality is that the Bon Air youth correctional center in Chesterfield, or the Western Tidewater Regional Jail in Suffolk, have not hampered residential or business development. 

It’s a clean industry with well-paying jobs that will stay here, said Keaton, referring to the fact that private business can come and go, taking the jobs with them. 

The average pay has been estimated at $60,000 a year. 

Isle of Wight County Director of Economic Development Chris Morello said the proposed facility would also have a masonry wall around it with a top that curves inward, making it impossible to climb and escape. 

“It’s not a barbed wire facility,” he said concerning questions about safety and security. 

Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice Director Andrew Block has stated that since Bon Air put up a fence around its facility in Chesterfield, there have been no escapes. 

However, Block on Friday would not deny or confirm the material or design of the fence to encircle the facility, stating it is still early in the design process. 

The proposed residential facility was once slated to be built in Chesapeake, along with the city’s own detention center, but those plans fell through when project failed to get the necessary super majority vote by the city council. 

Chesapeake had offered the land as well as $7-8 million as an incentive for the state to locate its new facility in the city. The utilities were already there, said Keaton. 

When that deal fell through, Isle of Wight approached the state, and based on the offer proffered by Chesapeake, the county offered the land and a portion of the cost of the utilities, said Keaton. 

Isle of Wight County has spent about $10 million purchasing property around Windsor for its intermodal park — originally devised to work in conjunction with the expansion of the Port of Virginia.

The idea was that Isle of Wight could become home to warehouse facilities designed to handle the freight coming and going from the Port due to its location along Route 460.

So far, that hasn’t materialized. Since it began building its intermodal park, Isle of Wight has attracted three businesses — CostPlus World Market, Safco and Keurig Green Mountain, but nothing since 2012. 

Holland said previous Boards of Supervisors had been known for certain things, such as buying the Stoup property for $1 million and signing on with the now notorious Norfolk water deal.

This Board will be known for bringing a prison to Windsor, he said.  {/mprestriction}