Hanover NAACP to appeal permit for Wegmans Distribution Center

Updated: Apr. 23, 2021 at 11:39 PM EDT
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HANOVER Co., Va. (WWBT) - The Hanover County NAACP held a press conference Friday afternoon at the Brown Grove Baptist Church in Ashland, announcing its legal appeal to a recently issued permit to build a Wegmans Distribution Center in the Brown Grove Community.

The 219-acre Wegmans Distribution Center would be located near Sliding Hill and Ashcake Roads in Ashland.

However, residents are concerned about the impacts on the historic area and traffic.

The Hanover County NAACP says the concerns of community members are not being heard regarding the matter. Letters and appeals were sent over the past year to DEQ, the Army Corps of Engineers and the State Water Control Board, the organization said.

“For years, the voices of this community of color have been ignored for the gain of corporate entities. Despite an overabundance of evidence presented to the state water control board from environmental experts, geologists and lawyers, the board still agreed to allow the permit to move forward in a 4-3 vote,” President Patricia Hunter-Jordan said.

The Hanover NAACP says it’s appealing to the agency that issued the permit for the distribution center for ignoring the community’s environmental justice concerns like impacts to noise, pollution to wetlands and the destruction of unmarked ancestral gravesites in the area.

“I was told at one point a few years back we had about 17 accidents right across the church,” Church Deacon Kenneth Spurlock said. “They knocked the gates over, ran into the marque, they left wrecked cars in the yard.”

“Can you imagine 700 cars directly in front of the entrance of this beautiful church traveling this road,” Hunter-Jordan said.

“The impact on these water resources is substantially greater than what the permit suggests,” community activist Chris French said.

Brian Buneva, who is representing the NAACP, is hopeful the court will be able to overturn the developer’s permits, but he admits this endeavor will likely be an uphill battle.

“I firmly believe that they have committed numerous errors of law by not considering environmental justice issues appropriately, and also, by not considering real alternatives to the project at this location,” Buniva said.

“The African American community can not bear the weight of this continued oppression,” Hunter-Jordan said. “Brown Grove is an overburdened community.”'

“I would not bring a suit and have not brought a suit that I thought was frivolous, or that we didn’t have a reasonable chance to win. But I gotta tell you, the cards are always stacked in favor of the government,” Buniva said.

Buniva says the state water control board has 21 days to file a response to the lawsuit before court proceedings can begin.

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