The Hampton Roads Sanitation District needs more land to make a proposed wastewater treatment plant a reality, and it has its eyes on a parcel of about 76 acres within the Carter’s Grove Agricultural and Forestal District.
HRSD has said that while it wants ownership of the entire parcel, it anticipates that only seven acres would actually be cleared to make room for expanded facilities at the existing plant at 300 Ron Springs Drive, according to the application’s staff report. The HRSD property is surrounded by the Carter’s Grove Agricultural and Forestal District
The Planning Commission will weigh whether to recommend HRSD’s request Wednesday evening. The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to give the final nod March 12.
“Obtaining the entire parcel allows HRSD to control the buffer around our existing plant, including maintenance for the steep slopes around us, maintenance of the shoreline on the James and full access to our pipes in narrow easements through the neighboring property. Having the entire parcel would also provide HRSD space that could become necessary with future environmental needs that would likely require further expansion and plant modifications,” HRSD general manager Ted Henifin said in an email. “Owning the adjacent land allows us to design and construct those needed new facilities in the least disruptive manner.”
HRSD would be willing to dedicate a permanent conservation easement on the rest of the parcel, according to the staff report.
The application doesn’t withdraw land from the district or seek approval for the facility expansion itself. Both actions would be separate, future legislative processes.
The plant currently treats wastewater to make it safe to discharge into the James River. The expanded facilities would allow the plant to treat wastewater to a drinkable standard as part of the Sustainable Water Infrastructure for Tomorrow project.
Sustainable Water Infrastructure for Tomorrow is an effort to replenish the Potomac Aquifer — a massive groundwater source that supplies drinking water to Eastern Virginia — with treated wastewater by injecting the water into the aquifer, where it can then be extracted and used.
A research center capable of creating 1 million gallons of potable water daily was opened in May in Suffolk. HRSD’s James City plant would be the first of five full-scale operations at existing HRSD sites. The James City facility would be able to inject about 8 million gallons of drinkable water into the aquifer per day, and is expected to be built by the end of 2023.
The agricultural and forestal district was established in 2002, after the HRSD plant was constructed. The district has been renewed at four-year intervals ever since, and now consists of about 316 acres. The district doesn’t include the Carter’s Grove mansion and is mostly woods and wetlands.
A utility company can acquire interests in property inside an agricultural forestal district with the permission of the local governing body, according to Virginia State Code.
Staff recommends that the Planning Commission recommend the proposal as necessary to provide service to the public in the most economic and practical way and that the proposal would not have an unreasonably adverse effect on state or local policy.
The county’s AFD committee voted 5-1-1 on Jan. 24 in favor of a motion stating the proposal would have an unreasonably adverse effect on preservation of the district’s natural resources and that the project doesn’t provide service to the public in the most economical or practical way. Committee member Sanford Wanner voted against the majority. Supervisor Sue Sadler, the Board of Supervisors’ appointee to the committee, abstained from the vote, according to unofficial meeting minutes.
“I believe we made a strong case that our proposal is the most cost effective and practical, we have explored alternatives and our ownership of this parcel would allow us to minimize our impact to approximately [seven] acres and does not significantly impact state and/or local policy regarding AFDs,” Henifin said.
Carter’s Grove is fighting the proposed land acquisition, and the property owner’s attorney, Tim Trant, said Carter’s Grove wants to find a solution that doesn’t involve the confiscation of its land.
“We are interested in working with HRSD to find a solution to its expansion needs but, unfortunately, HRSD has taken the unreasonable approach of proposing to condemn 76 acres within the Carter’s Grove Agricultural & Forrestal District,” Trant said in an email. “The owner of the Carter’s Grove property has invested heavily in the historic property’s restoration and preservation and is concerned about the impacts of the confiscation.”
Want to go?
When: 6 p.m. Wednesday
Where: 101 Mounts Bay Road, county government center board room.
Jack Jacobs, 757-298-6007, firstname.lastname@example.org, @jajacobs_