CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — For several years city leaders have debated rezoning land in southern Chesapeake to spur economic development, and supporters are now using the area’s flooding problems to back their case.
Back in July, city council directed the planning commission to make a recommendation whether to rezone 1,420 acres of farmland near the North Carolina state line from “agricultural/open space” to “commercial, industrial or a similar non-residential designation.”
The land owned by Frank T. Williams Farm Properties, has been eyed by economic development proponents as a location for a “mega-site” and future commerce park.
“It has the potential to be the best business park east of the Mississippi” said Kevin Cosgrove, an attorney representing both Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce and Chesapeake’s Economic Development agency.
Wednesday at a hearing in front of the planning commission, Cosgrove said a “shovel ready” piece of property will help Chesapeake and the region to diversify its economy.
“We all know we are too dependent on the military,” Cosgrove told commissioners. He then went on to reference recent media coverage about flooding risks at military bases.
“What is going to happen in 20 years when the rising tides create problems in area? I will submit to you that the Williams Farm is the solution to that,” Cosgrove said. “The entire parcel is above the 100 year flood plane.”
The project was also supported by the Port of Virginia.
“The Port of Virginia had the 2nd best month ever in July,” said Chris Gullickson, the port’s Economic Development Manager. “The opportunities for businesses to look at this area and locate a significant operation; manufacturing, advanced manufacturing as well as distribution, are there at the Williams farm.”
Cosgrove was clear that no developer has yet submitted plans to develop the site. He stressed any development would be several years away.
However several residents expressed their displeasure with the proposal.
“We hate the fact that we have these big developers and they have these big dreams of making money for themselves,” said Karen Vaughan of Chesapeake. “We have a utopia in Southern Chesapeake. We have a good life our schools are good and we are very happy. We are not ready for this.”
The planning commission will hold another public hearing on October 10.