Saturday, July 20, 2024

This surplus state land in York County will be transformed into a light industrial park and solar farm

(WYDaily/Courtesy of York County Economic Development Authority)
(WYDaily/Courtesy of York County Economic Development Authority)

The Eastern Virginia Regional Industrial Facility Authority last week voted to approve acquiring the 432-acre former Commonwealth of Virginia Emergency Fuel Farm in York County.

It also approved the concurrent lease of a portion of that property for development as a solar energy facility, representing a significant step forward for economic development in Hampton Roads.

The property, located at 1801 Penniman Road, had been declared surplus. Six of EVRIFA’s 10 member jurisdictions—York, Isle of Wight, Poquoson, Williamsburg, Hampton and Newport News—have agreed to participate together to fund costs associated with this initiative and to share in the revenues that will be generated as a result of the solar facility construction and the potential development that could occur on the remainder of the property, according to a news release from York County Office of Economic Development.

“It shows a commitment to cooperation–rather than competition–among the area’s cities and counties,” said J. Mark Carter, chairman of EVRIFA and a board member of York County’s Economic Development Authority. “York County is pleased to be the host locality for this initial project as it will convert a long abandoned, environmentally constrained site into productive use. More importantly, it represents a model for the cooperative spirit and focus by which the EVRIFA member jurisdictions will have the opportunity to work together on other economic development projects within the Hampton Roads region.”

The EVRIFA, whose formation was funded through a grant from GO Virginia, currently includes James City County, Williamsburg, Gloucester, York County, Newport News, Hampton, Poquoson, Franklin, Chesapeake and Isle of Wight. It functions as a shell company, with the goal of spinning off specific projects with two or more regional partners. The Penniman Road site is its first attempt at a project.

The project will involve leasing approximately 250 acres of this property to solar development company for a solar energy generation facility.

The remaining land will be named Kings Creek Commerce Center, to be marketed for light industrial development—which might include a testing site for unmanned aerial craft. Local demand for such a “drone park” is high; companies in the drone development business want a site to test and market their products in this growing high-tech sector, York County Economic Development officials said.

Currently there are limited options for testing and demonstrating drones in Hampton Roads.

The Penniman site was an abandoned Navy fuel farm that had been acquired by the state back in the 1980s.

York County’s EDA had little to no income from the property, and an effort to partner with a golf course developer there had stalled after he had completed initial rough grading for the course—a move that left it well suited for light industrial use.

“The property is easily accessible from I-64, has water and sewer service on site, and the availability of power from a solar facility presents some intriguing development opportunities,” said Jim Noel, York County economic development director. “The location is virtually in the middle of the Hampton Roads Richmond megaregion, which may appeal to companies wanting to serve both markets.”


John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzo ( is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.

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