The Board of Supervisors won’t get a crack at Hampton Roads Sanitation District’s request to acquire land inside the Carter’s Grove Agricultural and Forestal District for a plant expansion until April 9.
Supervisors had been scheduled to consider the request Tuesday. However, HRSD and Carter’s Grove, which has been critical of the land acquisition, have had productive discussions that may lead to a mutually acceptable outcome, HRSD spokeswoman Leila Rice said in an email Wednesday.
“HRSD’s policy when considering acquisition by condemnation is to continue negotiations with all property owners in hopes of reaching a mutually agreeable purchase agreement,” Rice said. “HRSD had some productive talks with the property owner last week, and both parties agreed that additional time might yield a mutually agreeable modification to HRSD’s request.”
Rice didn’t elaborate on what the modification to the request may be.
Previously, HRSD had requested to acquire about 76 acres of the district. Carter’s Grove had resisted the scope of that request, noting HRSD expects to actually use much less land for the expansion than it requested.
HRSD expects the plant expansion will only need about 7 acres of the district’s land. HRSD has argued that having the entire requested parcel will give it the ability to maintain buffers and operate the plant safety.
A nod from the supervisors would provide HRSD the space it says it needs to expand its existing plant at 300 Ron Springs Drive in support of its Sustainable Water Initiative for Tomorrow program.
A utility entity is permitted to acquire interests in a agricultural forestal district with the permission of a local governing body, according to state code.
The board will have to find that the land acquisition is necessary to provide services to the public in the most economical and practical way, among other considerations, as per state code, for HRSD to get the land.
The district consists mostly of woods and wetlands. The district doesn’t include the Carter’s Grove mansion, according to a staff report.
If the board decides to vote in HRSD’s favor, the land acquisition doesn’t necessarily pave the way for the land to be removed from the district, nor does it provide permission for construction to begin. Both those actions require separate legislative processes to be addressed at a later time.
The James City County plant currently treats wastewater to the point it’s considered safe to dispose of in the James River. HRSD wants the James City plant to be the first of five full-scale plants in the region to treat wastewater to a drinkable standard, and then inject the water into the region’s primary source for groundwater, the depleted Potomac Aquifer.
HRSD has expressed willingness to put a conservation easement on land inside the parcel, county planner Tori Haynes said at the Planning Commission’s Feb. 6 meeting. At that meeting, the commission voted to support HRSD’s request.
The HRSD plant precedes the district’s creation, which took place in 2002. The district currently has about 316 acres in it, according to the county staff report.
“While this one month delay presents challenges to HRSD’s overall schedule, we believe we can accommodate,” Rice said.
Jack Jacobs, 757-298-6007, firstname.lastname@example.org, @jajacobs_