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Portsmouth should OK concrete plant

The controversy over whether to permit a developer to build a permanent concrete plant, rather than a temporary one, on his industrial lot along the Elizabeth River is complicated and far from being resolved.
 
But the technical complications shouldn't deter the City Council from the right decision: The facility should be allowed with reasonable conditions.
 
The Portsmouth Ports and Industrial Commission sold the 16.5-acre site, wedged between the Norfolk Naval Shipyard and the South Norfolk Jordan Bridge, in 2010 to PER Properties, a company controlled by Virginia Beach businessman James "Jim" Salmons.
 
The sale carried a restricted deed that forbade Salmons from building a permanent concrete plant but allowed him to build a temporary concrete plant that he needed as part of a $3.5 million-plus development of a facility to ship grain internationally.
 
Salmons asked the city commission to let him build a permanent plant, and the commission agreed. City Manager John Rowe agreed, too, and recommended that the City Council support the decision.
 
But last year and again early this year, City Council members balked. In a letter to the commission, Mayor Kenny Wright expressed a litany of reasons, including concerns about traffic, noise and dust, and restrictions in city code. Construction at the site, which was supposed to be finished by the end of 2013, hasn't even started.
 
Now, as former council member Steve Heretick has pushed for the project on Salmons' behalf, some council members seem to be coming around to support the permanent plant, The Pilot's Tim Eberly reported.
concrete plant
 
Those circumstances understandably raise suspicion that certain members are being swayed by a former colleague, rather than on the substance of the matter. That's unfortunate; the council should've followed Rowe's recommendation last year and supported the commission's decision.
 
The property is adjacent to a Superfund remediation site; another concrete plant, grandfathered under city code, already exists nearby. Salmons' plans for an enclosed concrete plant should diminish concerns that noise or dust would affect residents' quality of life in Cradock, a neighborhood a mile to the west.
 
Portsmouth's economic plight has been well-documented. Roughly half of the city's land is exempt from taxation, a factor that contributes to a heavy tax burden placed on city homeowners; the ridiculous tolls permitted by former Gov. Bob McDonnell's administration at the Midtown and Downtown tunnels have been a further drag on city merchants.
 
But those troubles are compounded by the City Council's tendencies to be sidetracked by personality conflicts and unnecessary controversies, which consistently undermine efforts to move the city forward, to diversify its economy, to make it an attractive place for businesses and families.
 
The site in question is designed for industrial use. Plans for an industrial business that would bring significant tax revenue, employ more than a dozen people and be subject to strict regulatory oversight represent an opportunity that ought to be viewed as a good move for the city's economic development.
 
The council should approve the zoning amendments. Then it should begin working with staff to craft reasonable criteria for a conditional-use permit that allows a new business and protects the public interest.

Source: http://hamptonroads.com/2014/10/portsmouth-should-ok-concrete-plant#.
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