Citizen concerns grow about proposed logistics center

Published 4:55 pm Monday, February 19, 2024

A trio of Windsor residents shared concerns with the Windsor Town Council on Tuesday, Feb. 13, that have become heightened regarding a proposed development of industrial warehouse buildings on the north side of Windsor Boulevard in between Lovers Lane and Old Mill Road.

A proposal and a public hearing

During a Windsor Planning Commission meeting in August 2023, Windsor Planning and Zoning Administrator James “Jay” Randolph introduced the proposed project by noting that Isle of Wight County had just recently shared with him an application, from Meridian Property Purchaser LLC to the county, requesting amendments to the Isle of Wight County Comprehensive Plan and to the county’s zoning classification for the aforementioned property to clear the way for the project known as the Tidewater Logistics Center.

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The Isle of Wight County Planning Commission has published a public notice announcing a public hearing set for Tuesday, Feb. 27, to consider recommendation of the aforementioned amendments to the county’s Board of Supervisors.

The notice states that Meridian Property Purchaser LLC is applying for a Comprehensive Plan amendment on 154.3 acres of land located on properties with tax map numbers 54-01-086J and 55-01-013. The goal of the application is to amend the Comprehensive Plan Future Recommended Land Use Map designation from Mixed Use to Planned Industrial.

The notice added that Meridian Property Purchaser LLC is also applying for a change in the zoning district from Rural Agricultural Conservation to Conditional Limited Industrial for approximately 154.3 acres on tax map numbers 54-01-086B, 54-01-086J and 55-01-013 to allow the following uses:

  • Custom manufacturing;
  • Industry Type 1; 
  • Warehousing and Distribution; 
  • Industry Type II; and
  • Reconstructed Wetland.

The current use of the property is agricultural and residential, the notice stated.

The public hearing will be held in the Robert C. Claud Sr. Board Room on the second floor of the Community Development Building, which is located at 17130 Monument Circle in Isle of Wight County. The Planning Commission meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.

Windsor residents’ persisting concerns

The subject of the proposed Tidewater Logistics Center has been raised at previous Windsor Town Council meetings where town residents and council members have shared their thoughts and concerns. The three town residents who spoke during the Public Comment period of the council’s Feb. 13 meeting were relaying growing concerns after having received additional information from the county’s Planning Commission and the TMG development team.

The first speaker on Feb. 13 was James Villers, who lives on Keaton Avenue, which is located right behind Lovers Lane.

“They’re planning on putting what’s called the Tidewater Logistics Center behind my property or behind my property and my neighbors,” he said. “Unfortunately, I know the town of Windsor does not have an official, legal say in this, but the biggest thing I just want to make sure that everybody knows and understands is what they’re proposing is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The developer is doing a very good job of making it look like it’s excellent, it’s awesome, it’s incredible, (that) everybody should be happy.

“The reality of it is, it actually has a very negative impact to the entire town of Windsor in one way or another, and some residents are affected more than others, such as myself and my fellow neighbors,” he continued. “We’re affected the most in a very, very negative way.”

He said he would let his neighbors — who were about to speak — share details, but he said he wanted to know the town’s position on the project. 

“Are you going to stand behind our citizens?” he said. “Because once again there are citizens that are getting a very negative impact from this.”

Speaking next was Walter Freeman, who also lives on Keaton Avenue.

“My house will be affected the most,” he said. “I’ll have a pond 30, 50 feet on the right side of my house. I’ll come out of my front (of my) house every day looking at tractor-trailers. Berm height is saying five to six feet. My porch is six feet higher than the ground is now, and the proposed grade that they state isn’t much different.”

He said he and his neighbors were asking for support from the Town Council to at least get a bigger buffer, like the one on the other side of U.S. Route 460 at the Cost Plus World Market distribution center.

The last public speaker on the matter was former Windsor Mayor Glyn Willis, who lives on Lovers Lane.

Both Willis and Freeman thanked town leaders for coming out to their neighborhood to walk the property and see the markers indicating what the proximity of proposed components of the logistics center would be to residences and property lines.

“We’ve asked a number of questions to the developer to show us where things were and give us some details, and so the markers that are there are their stakes saying, ‘Here’s where things are going and that sort of thing,’” Willis said.

“Last week, the collective group of the neighbors sent a letter and some pictures to the county Planning Commission noting some of the concerns, and I wanted to share some of those with you tonight so that you can understand some of the things that we’re seeing and have a concern in our mind,” he added.

Willis also shared the letter and pictures with the Windsor Weekly, and following are some excerpts from it.

“We have been impressed with some of the questions and analysis the Planning Commission has done on recent projects in the county,” the letter stated. “We noted that questions about traffic, wildlife habitat and historic homes were considered for the Moonlight Solar farm. Our hope is that similar consideration is given to the TLC project.

“In November, we met with Tom Boylan and others on the TMG development team where info and plans were provided along with answers to questions,” the letter continued. “Reviewing the info and answers, our concerns only increased. We have continued a dialog with Mr. Boylan, asking additional questions and clarifications on items. We have appreciated his responsiveness to the request. Unfortunately the responses have only heightened concerns.”

The letter then highlighted some of the specific concerns.

The first it cited was the distance between residential property lines and buildings, roads, employee parking and trailer parking:

  • A trailer parking area is planned to be 96 feet and 135 feet from residential property lines;
  • Best Management Practices ponds are planned to be 51 to 76 feet from 12 residential property lines; and
  • Roads and employee parking are planned to be 74 to 107 feet from residential property lines

Next, the letter mentioned there being a limited buffer between actual homes and the roads, parking and warehouses:

  • The side setbacks noted on drawings was 20 feet; and
  • The proposed berm height may be 6 feet above the grade on the warehouse side but will be lower in some places given a higher grade on the residential side (notably some parcels on Keaton).

During the Feb. 13 council meeting, Willis said developers are “in this quandary of they want a million-plus square-foot of warehouse space, and to get a million square foot of warehouse spaces, you have to come as far west as possible, because on the east side is wetlands, and they can’t go into the wetlands.”

In both the letter and at the meeting, Willis also covered traffic concerns.

“Based off the Traffic Impact Analysis that I’ve done some reading in, over the next five years, traffic on 460 will increase about 28% where 460 meets Lovers Lane,” he said. “I will note that this isn’t all because of the warehouses, it’s because of normal growth. In fact the bulk of it is normal growth, but it is an issue.”

The letter noted that the traffic study attributes only 4% of the increase to the TLC.

The letter also stated that the 28% increase over the next five years does not include traffic from the Port 460 project at the U.S. 460/58 bypass in Suffolk.

At the meeting, Willis quoted the executive summary of a Traffic Impact Analysis: “It is anticipated that overall intersection operations will be maintained at a (Level of Service) D or better during the a.m./p.m. peak hours for all study area intersections in the 2025 and 2031 development scenarios.”

“To provide you some context, Level of Service ratings are A through F,” he said. “Think of grades at school, and they’re assuring us that they will be maintained at a Level of Service D or better. My mom wouldn’t be happy if I was getting Ds at my house.”

He listed the definition of LOS D in the letter — “approaching unstable flow. Speeds slightly decrease as traffic volume slightly increases. Freedom to maneuver within the traffic stream is much more limited and driver comfort levels decrease.”

Willis told council members, “The existing study intersections are 258/460, the six-way interchange, Food Lion, World Market and Old Mill Road. So they essentially picked four signalized intersections, and Old Mill Road is the fifth intersection that they did analysis on. They didn’t do any analysis on Lovers Lane, but they did come back and do some post-analysis on that and said everything was fine because they were going to be putting in an intersection that would make it easier for us to turn off of 460 and get onto Lovers Lane. They made no comment about us turning off of Lovers Lane to go east toward Suffolk.”

He noted that analysts are “estimating 3,249 daily trips, of which of those 514 will be trucks, and that’s essentially in and out of the park. That isn’t coming through Windsor — I don’t want to be exaggerating — but that will be essentially going in and out of the park.”

The letter noted that the question becomes, “How will traffic be addressed in Windsor as this and other projects continue to add to the Highway 460 traffic?”

The next point in the letter highlighted how the 41-foot tall proposed building D will be 167.17 feet from the historic Saunders House, which was built in 1796. Willis told council members it is one of the oldest homes in the town.

Next, the letter addressed noise concerns and explained that a response had been received: “The third submission did contain a revised proffer commitment to perform a sound study for buildings along the western property line at site plan and implement the recommendations of such coordinated noise study to confirm code compliance.”

The letter then offers a link to county ordinances regarding noise.

Willis said that after looking through them with a county planner, “there isn’t a whole lot of protection for when you have the situation that you’ve got a residential right beside an incompatible industrial site.”

The final point of the letter stated that precedent has been set with other warehouses in the Shirley T. Holland Intermodal Park, noting that features there include an approximately 20-plus-foot berm, an approximately 50-plus-foot tree buffer and a 50-plus-foot open space between residential property lines and all roads, BMP ponds, parking and buildings.

Later in the Feb. 13 council meeting, Councilman Edward “Gibbie” Dowdy asked Willis if the developer had come back with any changes to the initial proposed TCL that some council members were considering publicly opposing.

“They have come back with some cosmetic changes,” Willis said. “They’ve talked about the different types of trees they’ll put on top of the berm. They actually, in the last submittal that they did last week, moved the berm from five feet to six feet, but I will characterize, in my opinion, that most of what they’ve done is cosmetic changes, because they can’t put a big berm there because it takes too much ground space and then they have to cut the warehouse space down.

“So I would say, yes, they have, and it’s been cosmetic, in my opinion.”