Hearing on ‘borrow pit’ at IW-Suffolk line delayed to Feb. 15

Published 6:24 pm Thursday, December 1, 2022

Isle of Wight residents living near the county’s border with Suffolk have been waiting nearly nine months to learn the fate of a proposed “borrow pit” on the Suffolk side whose developer in March had proposed using their street as the project’s access road.

Now, they’ll have to wait a little longer.

Suffolk’s City Council, which was set to hold a public hearing on the matter Nov. 16, instead voted unanimously to grant the developer’s request for a 90-day extension, delaying the opportunity for comments and a final vote until Feb. 15.

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Borrow pits, as the mining operations are known, facilitate the extraction of sand from the ground. According to the Virginia Department of Energy, most of the sand and gravel produced in Virginia is extracted from surface pits in the state’s coastal areas. Sand and gravel form natural aggregate, a main component in concrete and asphalt.

The project would entail creating two new pits – one 27 acres and the other 12 acres. Its developer, Ryan Nelms of Ryan Material Inc., has requested a conditional use permit from the city on behalf of landowners Frederick and Lugayle Upchurch.

As of March, Nelms was proposing to use 2.8 miles along Shady Pine Lane, a narrow residential road off Longview Drive on Isle of Wight’s side of the border, as the site’s legal ingress and egress easement. According to past reporting by the Suffolk News-Herald, an estimated 40 to 60 dump trucks would travel in and out of the site daily.

Isle of Wight officials had provided Suffolk’s Planning Commission in April with photographs of two large trucks facing opposite directions on Longview to demonstrate the road’s insufficient clearance to allow the two trucks to pass each other without colliding or at least one of them running off the road. Following the commission’s unanimous recommendation that the permit be denied, Suffolk’s City Council was initially to consider the matter on May 18.

Instead, the matter was tabled to August, and again to November.

The latest 90-day extension to February is again at the developer’s request.

According to Whitt Harper, an attorney representing Nelms, the delay involves reworking the access road plans.

“My client has worked very hard to get a lot of things in order and frankly just needs a bit more time to have something that we think can pass, and will hopefully satisfy some of the population around that area who have some legitimate concerns,” Harper said. 

City Councilman Roger Fawcett, citing the repeated delays since April, motioned to allow only a 60-day extension to Jan. 18, but he later withdrew the motion and reluctantly agreed to the 90-day extension.

“This thing is just constantly going too far out. … It’s time enough to make a decision,” Fawcett said.

Mayor Mike Duman agreed, stating, “This has been going on for a long time and I know the citizens want some type of resolution.”

Isle of Wight County Administrator Randy Keaton gave an update on the proceedings at the Board of Supervisors’ Nov. 17 meeting, estimating that roughly a dozen Isle of Wight residents had shown up for the postponed Suffolk hearing.

One alternative proposal, Keaton said, involves access to the site from Audubon Road in Suffolk, “so it doesn’t come through Isle of Wight County.”