Cape Charles welcomed a new neighbor in 2019, when Coastal Precast Systems (CPS) began operations at the old Bayshore Concrete Plant. This is an exciting development, bringing many needed jobs and boosting economic activity in the area, although it also brought a few challenges.
This industrial site, that has been operating across the harbor from our downtown area for more than 50 years, is part of our history; and despite the sometimes conflicting pressures this activity can have on a tourism-based economy like that of Cape Charles, as many long-time residents will tell you, the “cement plant” has just always been part of the experience here.
This is not to say that everyone was happy with the recent re-start of the plant (the plant was not in use for about a year and a half following the closing of Bayshore Concrete; and even for a while before Bayshore closed, activities were winding down). During that time, residents (especially in the historic district) became accustomed to the relative peace and quiet.
So when the new owners and managers of CPS began operations in earnest earlier this year, many residents encountered something of a rude awakening (literally), as equipment alarms and material movement during early morning hours suddenly started impacting the quality of life here in Town. There were also renewed concerns about air quality and the visual impacts seen from downtown.
A grassroots group of local citizens got together to bring these concerns to town management. The town manager has been meeting regularly with this group. A small delegation of citizens and the town manager requested meetings with plant management to discuss these concerns.
CPS was very receptive to talking about these issues. Make no mistake, they are here to run a profitable business, but they are also interested in being good neighbors. Of all the concerns brought forward, the most significant was the sound of the large equipment alarms going off all day. So, CPS agreed to purchase and install new, quieter alarms. The last of these new alarms was installed the first week of July. This has made a remarkable difference, resulting in a major reduction of noise heard in town.
CPS was also interested in addressing the air quality concern. Dust and other particulates produced at the plant during their first months of operation were mostly the result of cleaning up the site and grinding old concrete left behind by Bayshore. Most of that work is now finished and should no longer be an issue.
Currently, the largest ongoing source of dust generated by the plant is from
driving their vehicles and equipment on dry dusty roads. So, CPS purchased a water truck to keep the roads dampened during dry weather.
Regarding the visual impacts on the Town, CPS has committed to continue its efforts to clean up the site. This includes removing the tattered material hanging from the large frames, and eventually moving those frames to the south side of their property where they’d be less visible. They are also constructing a 20-foot-high, 400-foot-long wall near the harbor that will help shield their material pits from view.
All in all, CPS has done a great job spinning up an important economic engine for our Town and County, while trying to be sensitive to the quality of life for our residents, and the impacts an industrial operation can have on local tourism. This is not to say that there won’t continue to be conflicts, there will. But it’s encouraging to see residents and industry working together, setting reasonable expectations for the other, and helping to ensure we never get to the point of developing an “us vs. them” attitude among our major economic interests in Town.