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Isle of Wight invests in York County industrial park

Isle of Wight County’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Sept. 17 to contribute $10,000 this year, and $5,000 each year thereafter, toward the development of an industrial park in York County as part of a regional economic development agreement.

The land, which totals 432 acres, is the site of a former Navy fuel depot currently owned by the Commonwealth of Virginia, which the state has agreed to sell to the Eastern Virginia Regional Industrial Facility Authority for $1.35 million. KDC Solar, a New Jersey-based renewable energy company, has agreed to foot the bill for the entire purchase in exchange for a 37-year lease from EVRIFA for a 250-acre solar farm. The remaining land will become an industrial park known as Kings Creek Commerce Center.

While the land is still subject to a state Department of Environmental Quality corrective action plan, “the contamination is all but gone,” said York County Economic Development Director Jim Noel.

In exchange for funding, 90% of any tax revenue from any tenants, minus operating costs, will be distributed proportionally among the participating localities. This means if Isle of Wight contributes 10% of the project’s annual budget, and revenues in excess of all operating costs are achieved, Isle of Wight would receive one-tenth of that 90%.

The remaining 10% in tax revenue is split 50/50 — 5% gets distributed evenly among all EVRIFA participants and another 5% goes to York County for hosting the project.

Isle of Wight County became the first locality south of the James River to join EVRIFA last year, with the cities of Franklin and Chesapeake following suit in February. Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Dick Grice and James Ford of Isle of Wight’s Planning Commission serve as the county’s representatives on EVRIFA’s board. Any project expenditures must be approved unanimously.

“We did that to give some degree of certainty to the localities that are participating, that they’re not going to get into some sort of financial situation where the group decides to spend a whole lot of money moving forward that they’re not comfortable with,” said Isle of Wight Economic Development Director Chris Morello. “So literally any participating locality, they vote no on a proposed large expenditure, it doesn’t happen.”

The advantage to member localities, in addition to the tax revenue they may receive, is “you’re setting a standard here, making a statement that you’re willing to join with your fellow localities, some of them in Hampton Roads, to promulgate economic development and job creation,” Morello said. “We’re sending a very strong signal that we want to participate in another locality, and it also sends a signal, I think, that we would welcome the same sort of investment from other localities in our locality … this is the pilot piece that gets us into that realm.”