The following is reader-submitted content by Ken Dufty of Wardtown. Many of you might have seen the “excavation” work on 13 heading north, just before the RoFo. Mr. Dufty fills us in on what’s really going on.
Regarding the massive construction on Route 13 in Northampton County, the bottom line is this. Some rather undefined company called C-BAY LLC buys 26 acres of land actively farmed and planted in soybeans from Phil Custis. Somehow, without a land transfer that we can find, the land becomes a Nature Conservancy and Land Trust project. More than a few have asked if C-BAY, based in Texas but holding a Limited Liability Corp distinction.
Next thing you know, excavators, bulldozers and backhoes converge on the site a stones throw from busy 13, silt fences erected, and the top soil is stripped off and stationed around the perimeter. No more soy, no corn, no nothing but a mud hole. This site is 1/2 mile south of the turn off to Exmore as you are heading northbound from Nassawadox, on the east side of 13 (to the right).
People start asking what is going on and once we started trying to find out discovered that no one including the BOS or the Planning Commission seems to know anything about it.
We start working with the DEQ (very helpful, as always) and learn that the Nature Conservancy and the Land Trust are undertaking a “wetland mitigation land banking” project here, proposing to develop a “non tidal wetland” out of what was not a wetland but a productive farmfield.
What we also learned is that once the project is “developed” into a treed wetland (and the frogs and salamanders are trucked-or is that parachuted- in, the Nature Conservancy and/or Land Trust can market mitigation credits from this site, allowing some company or development that would not otherwise be able to build or fill in an existing and productive wetland to do so by purchasing “offset” wetlands here in Northampton County.
We were told by the state DEQ that the project that may be proposing to build on an existing wetland and would need to purchase mitigation credits must be in the Atlantic Ocean quadrant which only includes Accomack and Northampton County plus a small portion of land in Virginia Beach.
Once this man-made wetland (what?) is developed, the Nature Conservancy can offer 18.7 mitigation credits from this former farmfield that was purchased by C-Bay LLC, and the average price of the credits in the Atlantic Ocean district (ours) is, upon information and belief, $100,000 (that’s one hundred thousand dollars) per credit.
So here is the take by many: Northampton County loses 26 acres of valuable farmland, a commodity the retention of which is high priority in both our 2009 and 2020 Comprehensive Plan. And plus, once the TNC and Land Trust gets a Conservation easement on the property, the tax revenue from the land could be lowered and the value of the land is dimished in perpetuity. More importantly is that many fear that this exploitation of our prime farmland is just the beginning and could set a very dangerous precedent for Northampton County…a bell we may not be able to unring.
In return, we get a wildlife and manufactured wetland habitat that is right on Route 13…not exactly what many would envision as a place for a productive and diverse mecca.
And in return, somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean district, many, many well-established non-tidal wetlands can be filled, paved, and indeed destroyed if the developers pony up, and the Nature Conservancy and perhaps others (C-Bay?) can reap $1.8 million.
The major epic failure as far as full disclosure and transparency
lies with our planning department which did not even think
to involve or consult with the public, the Board of Supervisors
members of our Wetland Board, and even the Planning
In closing, unless we close some loopholes, this project could be the first of many. The majority of folks we have conversed with holds that the Board of Supervisors needs to grab this issue with both hands, pull on the regulatory emergency brake, and ensure that we all have full knowledge…and a voice in the next attempt by the Nature Conservancy to reap significant proceeds from the demise of our productive farmland.