Work to begin grading 133 acres at the 3,500-acre Berry Hill industrial mega park should begin soon.
The Danville-Pittsylvania Regional Industrial Facility Authority board voted Friday morning to approve a resolution accepting a $3.77 million bid from Haymes Brothers Inc. in Chatham for the project.
Project Manager Shawn Harden, of Dewberry, told RIFA that Haymes Brothers was the lowest of five bidders.
RIFA will pay for the project with money from the Virginia Tobacco Commission.
The project will include site grading, erosion and sediment control, site stabilization, clearing and grubbing, and storm water management.
Harden said the site includes four pads, the largest of which is 109 acres.
Officials are waiting for a storm water permit from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality before work can begin. Harden said he hopes grading will begin next week.
The contractor will have 360 days to complete the project that will make a level, buildable site for development, Harden said.
Officials breathed a sigh of relief following the quick vote during a short meeting. RIFA struggled for years with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before the 133-acre site was finally permitted by the corps in June 2016.
“It feels great,” RIFA Chairman Sherman Saunders said after the meeting. “Progress is being made.”
RIFA was caught in a regulatory “Catch-22” with the Corps of Engineers over getting permits to develop the site. The corps would not issue a permit for the site if there were no committed industries, but the park could not attract committed manufacturers unless it was already permitted and ready for development.
The situation prompted regional officials to call for renewed support of a bill put forward in 2013 by now former U.S. Rep. Robert Hurt, Sen. Mark Warner and Sen. Tim Kaine, called the “Commonsense Permitting for Job Creation Act.”
The proposed law asked for a more job-creation friendly interpretation of the Clean Water Act that would move projects like RIFA’s Berry Hill Road industrial mega park forward — even if there isn’t an “end user” for the land.
Danville City Manager Ken Larking said several prospects have expressed interest in the 133-acre site, but no one has committed to a project there.
In August 2016, Atlanta-based Southern Company announced a new natural gas-powered electric energy generating plant coming to the park.
Southern Power — a subsidiary of Southern Co. — signed a purchase and sale agreement option in June with RIFA for 300 acres of land in the park. That land and project are separate from the 133 acres.
At that time, RIFA announced the company would invest at least $250 million.
The chosen site is adjacent to the Williams Transco natural gas intercontinental pipeline, which runs through the mega park site and transports natural gas through the pipeline from the Gulf Coast to the northeastern and southeastern states.
Since the mega park project began in 2008, the Tobacco Commission has awarded nearly $30 million in grants for site development and infrastructure at the industrial park.
Danville and Pittsylvania County — through RIFA — own the mega park.
John Crane reports for the Danville Register & Bee. Contact him at email@example.com or (434) 791-7987.