Controversial 'Mega Site' application withdrawn in Chesterfield

Controversial 'Mega Site' application withdrawn in Chesterfield
The plans for the site have been withdrawn.

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - The Chesterfield Economic Development Authority announced Thursday that the controversial Matoaca Mega Site application has been withdrawn.

In a statement, the EDA called for a "greater community consensus" and changes to the zoning ordinance before moving forward with the plans.

"It at least feels good that they understand that was the problem... one of the problems," said Mike Uzel one of the leaders of Bermuda Advocates for Responsible Development (BARD).

The announcement comes after months of public meetings where residents in the area voiced their concerns about the project.

An overwhelming majority were opposition of the site, including Republican House Speaker Kirk Cox who announced his opposition Friday via Twitter.

"There were a couple of people who spoke out and asked about jogging trails and those types of things," said Gary Edgerton who lives near the land. "There really wasn't anyone who said we're so thrilled there's an industrial mega site over here."

For months Chesterfield County tried to lure a large manufacturer to the 1,750-acre site off Branders Bridge Road hoping to bring 5,000 new jobs to the county.

But nearby Homeowners fought hard against it.

"We were concerned about home prices, what was going to happen with that," Edgerton said. "The extra traffic that was going to be brought in, with all the road structure that was going to be talked about and even the potential for a railroad going to be built here."

"[We're] obviously happy [about this decision] after eight months of opposing this thing for good reasons, we feel," Uzel said.

The EDA cited several challenges the County is facing in the area including a growing population, but lack of infrastructure to keep up with the growth.

"The 1,750-acre site has characteristics that make it unique in the region, and perhaps the East Coast, in terms of elements important for economic development," said EDA Chairman Art Heinz in a statement Thursday.

"Everybody seems to like it right now," Edgerton said. "It's wooded... like being out in the country. We know that's not going to [stay like this], and we're not opposed to development whatsoever. We just didn't want heavy industrial right here in our backdoor."

The EDA recommended the Board of Supervisors consider purchasing the 1,750-acre site because of its unique aspect and important part of the county.

"Gaining control of the site will allow time to engage members of the community to discuss potential uses for the property," a statement reads. "The EDA hopes this community engagement process can form a greater consensus regarding the appropriate use for the property in the future."

"That's probably a good move, because that does limit what could be done with it," Edgerton said. "Right now it is zoned for residential, so that's probably a good move."

But it also costs money, and the County and EDA spent more than $1.1 million on studies for this project:

  • $1,060,936 in EDA funds
  • $92,787 in County funds

"[It] certainly [frustrates me]," Uzel said. "That's our tax money. Unfortunately, it was spent... it's called sunk costs, but better to stop now than sink more."

In 2007 Branner Station, a 5,000 housing unit development, was approved on the site, however was also opposed by many residents in the area.

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