ONARCHITECTURE- Knock on wood: Proposed recycling facility riles Keswick
"We as a community are surprised that the County would even entertain such a special use application," says Fox Hunt Drive resident Colt Peyton, talking about a proposed wood recycling facility off 250 East.
It looks like 250 East could become "recycling central." Just recently, the Hook reported on Peter van der Linde's plans to build an $11 million recycling machine out near Zion Crossroads ["Single-streamin': Why not try private sector recycling machine?" July 17], which should be operational in 60 to 90 days.
Now we've found out that Ken Vess, owner of Vess Excavation Ltd., recently applied to the County for a special use permit, under the name Central Virginia Recycling, to build a wood recycling plant on a 100-acre piece of land west of van der Linde's project, just East of Glenmore Country Club and Keswick Hall, near the intersection of 250 East and Union Mills/Black Cat Road. The plant would receive wood waste from construction, shipping, and excavation and process it into topsoil, mulch, and wood bio-fuel. There would also be a retail store on the site to sell the recycled products.
However, Vess's proposed "green" project seems to have made some well-heeled Keswick residents see red, so much so that several of them contacted the Hook before the project had even been scheduled for a Planning Commission review.
"We as a community are surprised that the County would even entertain such a special use application," says Fox Hunt Drive resident Colt Peyton, who says he worries about the amount of water the plant will use, the noise, truck traffic, and dust that will be created, and the danger of mulch pile fires.
Keswick Farms resident Alan Higgins says they've already begun handing out fliers about the project in his neighborhood, and plan to post banners and signs along Route 250 with "Don't Industrialize Keswick" themes.
Eric Wagner, also a Keswick Farms resident, can't understand why the County would even consider approving such a plant in that location.
"Keswick Hall just went to great lengths to have their golf course certified by the Audubon Society," he said, "which is an incredible contrast with people who want to build the mulch processing plant."
Like Peyton, Wagner worries about the noise and the risk of fire, and how communities like his, as well as Glenmore and Keswick Hall, will be affected by what they see as a large industrial operation.
Peyton, Wagner, and Higgins also fear they may be powerless to stop the construction of the facility, as it appears to fall under the "forestal" uses allowed in the rural zoning designation.
Oddly enough, none of the residents seems to be worried about the smell. In 2004, a Ventura County, California, community that had been complaining for years about the stench coming from a nearby wood recycling plant, finally convinced a judge to order the company to move the facility. And just recently, a wood recycling facility in Manchester, England, caught fire, sending flames 60 feet in the air and burning steadily for a week before firefighters could put it out.
The Hook tried to call Vess, but our calls were not immediately returned. County planning director Wayne Cilimberg said he couldn't comment, as the project had not been reviewed by County staff, and County spokesperson Lee Catlin, who was not aware of the project, promised to look into it.
According to a 2004 study conducted by the USDA Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory, "Nearly 63 million metric tons of solid wood waste was generated in the manufacture, use, and disposal of solid wood products in the United States."
Fortunately, the USDA says that the number of wood recycling facilities like the one Vess wants to build has increased tenfold in the last decade or so, with the EPA estimating in 2004 a total of more than 500 such facilities across the country. The market for waste wood, the study says, is dominated by the production of mulch, shredded wood, and bio-fuel, but it can also be used to create particleboard.
In addition, the study pointed out that in 1999, an estimated 299 million wooden shipping pallets were recycled into new pallets or related products, or were ground for fuel or mulch. Finally, the study said that the practice of "reusing solid lumber for structural uses and remanufacture" was also growing.
Meanwhile, a showdown may be on the horizon as Vess moves forward with his project, pitting the landed gentry of Keswick against another privately funded solution to our recycling woes.