By Carol Vaughn —
Accomack County planning commissioners will continue discussing two projects in the northern part of the county next month, after hearing concerns about both during public hearings at the planning commission’s Jan. 12 meeting.
All four hearings — two about a proposed townhouse development near Captains Cove and two about an energy storage facility in Wattsville — were continued to the commission’s Feb. 9 meeting, when additional comments may be heard and commissioners may ask for more information from the applicants before deciding whether to recommend approval to the Accomack County Board of Supervisors.
A crowd of Captains Cove residents came out for two hearings about CCG Note LLC’s proposal to build 142 townhouses on land near Captains Cove in Greenbackville.
All 18 speakers were opposed to the project.
CCG Note LLC is requesting to conditionally rezone 24.41 acres, the former Hastings/Mariner farm on State Line Road, from residential to village development and has applied for a conditional use permit to build a 142-townhouse and commercial mixed use development there.
The property is surrounded on three sides by Captains Cove.
Water and sewer service would be provided by Aqua’s facilities in Captains Cove.
Speakers said the development does not conform to requirements of the village development district.
They also expressed concern about increased traffic on Captains Corridor and the added burden on the community’s water and sewage facility.
Additionally, speakers said the remote location, 15 to 30 minutes away from stores and workplaces, is not the right place to build rental townhouses.
Most speakers pointedly referred to the project as the Hastings Apartment Complex.
Mark Lambertson, who owns a home on Captains Corridor, said a traffic study showing no significant impact from the townhouses was done in winter, when many part-time residents are not there and there is less traffic.
The project “is a net negative to the growing Cove community,” particularly when the developer has 1,200 lots still to be built on in the Cove, he said.
Captains Cove resident Wayne Woodhams said the county requires central sewer service for such developments to be located on the property, rather than off-site, as Aqua would be.
The project “completely disregards” the county comprehensive plan’s recommended density, said Cove resident Carol Gardner.
“The proposal is an urban development,” and not in keeping with the pattern of single-family homes in the area, said Cove resident Steve Docherty.
Resident Patricia Borrelli warned approval of the project could result in “an appeal to the Circuit Court.”
“There’s just too many unanswered questions” about water and sewer service, said resident Linda Reece, adding, “The current water quality is less than acceptable.”
Several speakers mentioned “brown water” frequently coming out of their taps.
“I pay for it but I can’t use it as it should,” said resident Sarah Paplauckas, who said she does not drink the water.
She noted the planning commission did not recommend approval of planned urban developments proposed in the past in the Chincoteague Road/Wattsville area.
Resident Theresa Burkhead submitted a petition opposing the development, signed by nearly 600 people.
Resident Theresa McKnight called Captains Cove “the gem of the waterfront communities on the East Coast,” noting people from around the United States who bought homes there thought they were “buying into the Andy and Mayberry community, escaping from the hustle and bustle of the city, and in an environment where you do not have to lock your doors.”
McKnight said the developer of the townhouse project also controls the Captains Cove homeowners association.
“The developer has a three-to-one vote on everything in Captains Cove, which is a total conflict of interest and not in the best interest of Captains Cove community,” she said, adding, “Therefore, today, we come in numbers to protest this high-density apartment complex. … It is finally our chance, as a community, to voice our opinion and facts without a three-to-one vote. I ask you, the planning board, why would you approve this high-density rental apartment complex in an area zoned residential/agricultural in the middle of nowhere?”
Resident Bill Jones said, “This is really simple. Follow the money.”
“I don’t think this project is in the right location. It’s being proposed with the idea of turning a profit; the profit isn’t going to be earned by Accomack County residents, it’s going to be brought back off to Baltimore area,” he said, adding, “I think this site was chosen because Aqua was available. Aqua’s nearby. They can put in this project and don’t have to worry about the water and the sewer — they can hook it up to Aqua, which they couldn’t do in any other location. I don’t know anybody who would want to rent an apartment in the middle of a potato field in Greenbackville.”
Jupiter Power Energy Storage Facility Hearing
Seven speakers addressed a proposal by Scout Energy LLC, a subsidiary of Texas company Jupiter Power LLC, to build and operate a utility-scale battery energy storage facility in Wattsville.
The company applied to rezone for industrial use 11.6 acres now zoned agricultural near the intersection of Chincoteague Road and Fleming Road in Wattsville.
It also applied for a conditional use permit.
The facility if approved will be connected to and function alongside Delmarva Power’s 69-kilovolt substation, which is across Chincoteague Road.
Nat Drucker, senior development manager for Jupiter Power, said the lithium-ion battery facility would be surrounded by a 16-foot wall which would serve as a sound barrier, as well as landscaping to screen it.
The facility will have a locked sliding metal gate and will be accessible only to Jupiter Power personnel and emergency responders, Drucker said, adding it will be remotely monitored 24 hours a day.
“It will be a very low-impact neighbor,” he said.
Benefits include tax revenue to the county and an increase in local and regional power grid resiliency and reliability, according to Drucker.
Drucker said while this would be the first such project in Accomack County, there are more than 150 similar facilities operating around the United States, with 65 more under construction.
Energy storage facilities “are going to play a very big role in modernizing our power grid,” he said, noting Virginia set a target of 3,100 megawatts of energy storage in the state by 2035.
Speakers noted the land is surrounded on three sides by residences, including Dream Park, a mobile home park.
Laura Twiford, who with husband Ray owns four homes and a business adjacent to the property, said they have concerns about rezoning the land for industrial use.
“Should anything happen to this project — it gets decommissioned — now we’re sitting behind an industrial complex, basically,” she said.
“I just want to make sure that what they say they’re going to do is actually what gets done,” Twiford said.
Tom and Sharon Davis spoke as property owners in Dream Park.
“They bought this property knowing that it wasn’t zoned for what they proposed to do,” said Sharon Davis. Addressing the commissioners, she said, “You’re taking our rights, our property rights, and giving it to people who are coming here.”
Tom Davis said of the company, “They are not part of us,” and asked, “What economic benefit do they bring to the Shore?”
He said these types of facilities typically are built “away from people.”
Noting he has 150 rental units within 1/2 mile of the property, Davis said he is concerned about noise.
“Please don’t approve this,” Davis said.
He said renters of lots at the mobile home park were not notified about the plans.
“They deserve representation as well,” he said.
Donna and Gary Garvey, who live on Chincoteague Road, said they only learned about the plans a week ago via a Facebook post.
Paula Alms of Hansen Farm Road, around a mile away, said there is land better suited for the use, “not smack dab where families are.”
Thomas Clark, of Justis Farm Lane in Wallops Island, noted noise concerns, citing noise already in the area from Navy aircraft carrier landing practice at the NASA base.
He noted a proposed residential development in the same area was opposed by NASA because it was in an aircraft crash danger zone.
“You up here on this board are our only defense against big money coming in and destroying our way of life,” Clark said.