Developer scraps ‘borrow pit’ plans on Isle of Wight-Suffolk line

Published 4:38 pm Monday, February 13, 2023

Isle of Wight residents living near the county’s border with Suffolk can breathe a sigh of relief.

A proposed “borrow pit” whose developer had last year proposed using their street as the project’s access road is no longer planning to move forward with the project.

Suffolk city officials received notice from project developer Ryan Nelms last week that he would be withdrawing his request for a conditional-use permit from the city. The requested permit had previously been set for a Feb. 15 vote.

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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 have entailed creating two new pits – one 27 acres and the other 12 acres. Nelms had proposed using 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 for the estimated 40 to 60 dump trucks that would visit the sites daily. A group of Isle of Wight residents living near the Suffolk border had made their presence known during the public comment period at a meeting of the Isle of Wight County Planning Commission last year, only to learn that the county had no authority to block the developer’s plans since the project, save for its access road, would have been located entirely in Suffolk.

Isle of Wight officials had provided Suffolk’s Planning Commission last spring with photographs of two large trucks facing opposite directions on Longview to demonstrate the road’s insufficient clearance to allow them to pass each other without at least one running off the road. Following the Suffolk Planning Commission’s unanimous recommendation that the permit be denied, the matter was first to go to the City Council for a final vote in May but was repeatedly postponed for months. The last time the matter was scheduled for a vote, on Nov. 16, Nelms’ attorney, Whitt Harper, asked the council for another 90-day extension to address what he acknowledged as “legitimate concerns.”

Harper, speaking to The Smithfield Times by phone on Feb. 13, declined to comment on Nelms’ withdrawal of the requested permit, citing attorney-client privilege.