Plans for a large-scale e-commerce center spark controversy in Goochland

GOOCHLAND COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — After a lengthy speech with the public, Goochland’s Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday night to move forward with plans to build a 250,000-foot e-commerce center squares at a site along Ashland Road near Rockville’s Truck Supply Co.

Dubbed “Project Rocky”, the proposal was discussed for hours on Tuesday evening, when members of the community took to the stage to express their concerns to the Goochland County Board of Supervisors.

In a 5-0 vote, council ultimately decided to rezone the land and proceed with the project, despite public opposition.

Among the issues discussed, many residents feared that the existence of a large-scale distribution center would rob the county of its rural identity.

A rendering of the planned e-commerce setup for Goochland. Photo credit: Goochland County

Neil Spoonhower – the chairman of the board – discussed the role industrial expansion could play in helping to maintain the county’s rural reputation. He noted that by building industrial areas, the community can maintain enough revenue to move out of residential areas with minimal impact. The president added that the center would bring about 1,000 jobs to Goochland.

“To keep the county rural, a great strategy is to expand commerce in targeted areas,” Spoonhower said. “Like our industrial areas.”

Many community members fear that the e-commerce center will increase traffic on already busy roads. Spoonhower, however, said part of the project is to modify infrastructure and expand those roads.

“We got commitments from the governor’s office, from the secretary of transportation, from the secretary of commerce that they’ll support us and help us find the funding to make the ideal solution a reality,” Spoonhower said. “We will need our state and federal officials to help us in the timeframes we need.”

The subject of accessibility to public safety resources was also a common concern. A woman at the meeting said she was concerned that increased traffic in the area would prevent first responders from responding to calls in a timely manner. The council says it plans to expand emergency services to the area in question, in part to tackle this very problem.

Spoonhower stressed the importance of collaboration between the community and board representatives. He said adjustments can be made to better serve the majority of Goochland.

“Nothing is certain these days until the shovels go into the ground,” Spoonhower said. “But, we are cautiously optimistic that it is moving forward.”

The land being proposed is approximately 100 acres, but the building itself will cover 650,000 square feet. The president said it would be the largest-scale development the community has seen since Motorola years ago.

Spoonhower said a company approached the county about setting up a distribution center because it’s a prime location for shipping goods. It is close to highways 64 and 95.

“It costs the county nothing,” Spoonhower said, adding, “It should be about a $500 million project.”

The building will be an “intermediate center”, which means that goods will be brought from different ports near the area before being repackaged and delivered to people’s homes.

Citizens at Tuesday night’s meeting expressed additional concerns about potential noise and disruption to the center. Spoonhower said the noise would only be around 55 decibels. He said, however, that the environmental impact is decided by the state based on environmental regulations.

Even though many Goochland County residents are opposed to the plan, Spoonhower told 8News he’s happy to see the community engaging in these conversations.

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