CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — It’s still far from a done deal, however, the City of Chesapeake took another step toward establishing a mega-site near the North Carolina state line.
Last month, City Council voted 7-1 to rezone 1,420 acres of farmland for industrial uses in order to create the Coastal Virginia Commerce Park.
While there is no proposed users yet for the land, state, city and business leaders have been working to get the land ready for “unique economic development opportunities” for nearly a decade.
Chesapeake Mayor Rick West said potential users are beginning to show an interest.
The land is a small portion of a much larger plot of farmland owned by Virginia Beach’s Frank T. Williams. It sits with Route 17 directly to its West, the North Carolina state line directly to its south, Cavalier Wildlife Management Area to the East and Ballahack Road is North.
West said it was originally Williams who approached the city about using the land for a new purpose.
The lack of “shovel-ready” properties was considered a marquee issue when 10 On Your Side highlighted the region’s business climate struggles several years back.
“You look at a manufacturing company, those that are kind of showing interest in this property. It’s big,” West said.
While he wouldn’t name specific companies the city has heard from, they are big enough that the state’s economic development arm is also involved. Earlier this year, Jason El Koubi, the CEO of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, came to speak to City Council about the potential of the land.
He said recently Ford and Toyota chose not to relocate plants to Virginia because of the lack of ideal property.
“We are losing the vast majority of those kinds of large advanced manufacturing projects,” El Koubi said. “Virginia does not have a significant inventory of attractive project-ready sites to win those transformative opportunities. This is a must-have.”
While other communities are also looking to attract the large businesses, West believes Chesapeake has the upper hand.
“Given our location to the port, the fact that it’s already on a major highway, I think that it should already be number 1,” West said.
Not surprisingly, in the surrounding rural community, some oppose the loss of farmland. Several have come to meetings saying it will dramatically change the way of life in Southern Chesapeake.
“City Council is going to protect this property, going to protect any adverse use,” West said.
It’s already been written into the city’s comprehensive plan that “cargo container storage and repair, automobile auctions, salvage yards, solid waste facilities/landfills,” will not be approved uses for the site.
In addition, the rezoning included language that requires trees be planned along rights of way, in open spaces and buffers around the entire site.
“The larger-than-normally-required trees will assist in quickly establishing a substantial tree canopy in the park,” city documents stated. “All building, parking and site lighting will be required to be ‘full cut off’ compliant which will eliminate glare and prevent light spillage onto other properties or right of ways.
The documents conclude by saying “the Coastal Virginia Commerce Park layout will be designed in such a manner that incorporates superior communal connected open space and recreational elements.”