By Carol Vaughn —
Accomack planning commissioners will continue discussing two projects proposed for the northern part of the county in a work session later this month, after finishing a public hearing Wednesday that was continued from the Jan. 12 planning commission meeting.
One project is to build townhouses on land adjacent to Captains Cove, near Greenbackville.
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 140-townhouse and commercial mixed use development.
The second project is an energy storage facility in Wattsville.
Scout Energy LLC, a subsidiary of Texas company Jupiter Power LLC, proposes to build and operate a utility-scale battery energy storage facility.
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.
Both projects require rezoning of the land and a conditional use permit.
The commission heard Wednesday from speakers who were not heard at the Jan. 12 hearings.
The planning commission will hold a Feb. 22 work session to continue discussing the two projects.
Rich Morrison, Accomack deputy county administrator, told commissioners action on the townhouse application needs to be taken at their March meeting to meet the 100-day time limit imposed by state law.
Applicants have submitted changes to both projects since the Jan. 12 hearing.
For the townhouses, applicant CCG Note LLC reduced the number from 142 to 140, with the majority of the property, 19.2 acres, being a community commons lot, the location of private streets, stormwater facilities, a club house, management office, and other amenities.
The plans now show the townhouses located on 140 conventional lots, each 1,140 square feet.
Attorney Mark Baumgartner during the presentation Wednesday said the lots will need waivers of the minimum lot size requirement.
Additionally, the applicant submitted an environmental impact statement.
For the energy storage facility, applicant Scout Energy/Jupiter Power reduced the overall footprint from the original proposal.
The number of lithium-ion storage batteries was cut in half in the revised plan.
That results in greater setbacks from residential neighbors.
Additionally, a revised landscape plan was submitted, with screening plantings placed near a 16-foot wall around the facility. The design of the wall also was changed.
Baumgartner said the applicant updated its proffer of land for an ambulance station for Greenbackville Volunteer Fire Department to include 1.5 acres along Fleming Road, where the volunteers could relocate their entire fire station. The proffer also includes the offer of $430,000 financing.
The plan is to offer one-year leases for the townhouses, he said.
In answer to questions about the company that provides water and sewer service to Captains Cove being able to also serve the new development, John Aulbach, president of Aqua Virginia, said the company has the capacity.
Tim Hearn, developer and Captains Cove HOA president, said 3,200 lots in the Cove have a water line in front of them.
“There are only 1,200 homes in the community right now, so there is existing capacity for 2,000 additional builds in Captains Cove. It has taken 40 years plus to get to 1,200, so I think we’re in good shape for my lifetime.”
Hearn said when Aqua acquired the utility company at Captains Cove in 2015, Aqua had “at least 1,000 units of capacity, of which only 100 have been used since then.” Additionally, the company acquired more land at that time for additional capacity.
Four speakers during the hearing all spoke against the project.
All 18 speakers at the January hearing were opposed to the project.
Captains Cove Barry Grogen said the proposed development’s roads include two right-of-ways onto Captains Corridor, a private road owned and maintained by Captains Cove residents.
He said the development does not meet the minimum lot size requirement of the zoning ordinance.
Jim Hayes said water and sewer service provided from an offsite location does not meet the requirement for the village development district.
“Our attorney has reviewed the asset purchase agreement between Captains Cove Utility Company, Inc., and Aqua and confirms that the water and sewer system can only be used to service the original 4,800 lots in the Captains Cove community,” he said.
Hayes said a lawsuit could result if the developer and county proceed with the project.
Tim Getek, a representative of the Captains Cove HOA and a 20-year HOA member, said the development would result in a 300% increase over the county comprehensive plan’s suggested density for the village development district. It also does not complement the existing rural character of the surrounding area and is not near a town or services, as the village development district should be, he said.
“If the county chooses to approve this application and ignore the legally sufficient argument against the Hastings project, the commission and the Board of Supervisors are advised to establish legally defensible findings of fact in preparation for an immediate appeal,” he said.
“I don’t want this in my backyard,” said Aileen Dodge, another Captains Cove resident.
Dodge noted the development is proposed for an agricultural area.
“This is not an urban area,” she said.
Five speakers at the hearing about the conditional use permit also spoke against the development.
Jupiter Power Energy Storage Facility Hearing
Attorney Scott Foster, representing the applicant, said the project conforms to the county comprehensive plan.
It represents around $45 million in capital expenditures, he said.
The county would get at least $3.6 million in revenue over 25 years, assuming a revenue share ordinance, according to Foster.
The applicant also proposed an agreement, to be negotiated with the Board of Supervisors, for additional payments above and beyond the statutory tax obligation.
“The really nice thing about this land use is there’s really no offsetting demands for public service. … There’s no drain on county resources,” he said.
Eight speakers spoke against the project; some were concerned about noise it will generate and others spoke about the danger of explosions.
Deborah Dennis, whose father owns a former nursery nearby, said, “My concern is the long-term effects of the batteries.”
Tom and Sharon Davis, owners in Dream Park, a mobile home park next to the property, said noise and safety are concerns with the nearby residences.
“This is surrounded by low-income housing,” said Tom Davis, noting he has 150 rental units within a half mile of the property.
“The possibility of explosion” needs to be addressed, Sharon Davis said, noting that has happened in other energy storage facilities.
She said Wattsville has around 250 to 300 residences within a half mile radius of the site.
Sharone Corbin, a nearby resident, said she is concerned about noise and the potential of explosions.
“Noise is a factor,” said Jessica Taylor, who works from home nearby.
Ray and Laura Twiford, who live near the property, also spoke about noise and safety concerns.
Toxic gases resulting from an explosion “would come straight at my house,” Laura Twiford said.
Noah Ryder, of Fire and Risk Alliance LLC, an expert on public safety and energy storage, addressed comments about safety.
He said the incident “that everybody is aware of” happened in Arizona at a facility built before current safety measures were put in place and before the Underwriters’ Laboratory standard was developed for energy storage facilities.
All components are tested extensively for safety, he said.
A risk assessment showed “there would be zero risk offsite” from any incident.
The company is working with first responders “to make sure that they are trained in how to approach this, the same way as if they were being trained to approach any new facility,” he said.