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Waynesboro seeks $5 million-plus state grant for Nature’s Crossing

Waynesboro seeks $5 million-plus state grant for Nature’s Crossing

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A critical part of Waynesboro’s economic future could receive a boost from a state grant.

Waynesboro City Council agreed to apply for Wednesday night. Council passed a resolution to apply for a $5.3 million grant for a ready sites program through the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. If approved, the grant would provide needed water and sewer infrastructure for Waynesboro’s Nature’s Crossing Technology Center.

Greg Hitchin, the city’s director of economic development and tourism, said the 170-acre site needs the improvement along with a VDOT-funded access road to make it a “Tier 4” economic site. The access road known as the Southern Connector is set to be advertised in 2023 and has a $17.3 million budget, according to VDOT Spokesman Ken Slack.

A Tier 4 designation would allow the city to recruit prospects for Nature’s Crossing. Purchased in 2012, the land sits at the southwest intersection of Delphine Avenue and Interstate 64’s Exit 96.

Hitchin said the land would be ideal for light manufacturing or logistics operations.

“Those jobs pay well,” he said.

Another prime feature of the land is the access to rail.

And the timing is right. Hitchin told Waynesboro City Council Wednesday night that Virginia has been ranked the best state to do business by CNBC. The CNBC ranking happened in July. Hitchin said Collier’s International rated the Shenandoah Valley as a top emerging industrial market. That ranking happened in 2019.

Hitchin said competition for the state grant is likely stiff. A Friday deadline made Council’s decision Wednesday necessary. A commonwealth decision on the grant is expected by the end of the year, Hitchin said.

Councilman Terry Short was the lone member of the four present at Wednesday’s meeting to vote against applying for the grant. The grant requires a 25 percent local match. Hitchin said VEDP would recognize money already spent on the Nature’s Crossing as part of the match. However, the city would still need to provide $760,000 in match money.

The match funds would come from the city’s capital improvements fund, Hitchin said.

Short said there was no community input or council discussions about spending “three quarters of a million dollars on a water and sewer project.” The councilman said city budget goals are discussed and set in the fall, well before major spending decisions are made the next year.

He also said such a commitment from city funds should mean “we ought to have a conversation with the community.” Short said since the city revised its comprehensive plan for development four years ago, he has heard no city residents speak in favor of a large investment in Nature’s Crossing.

“And in the blink of an eye, in 36 hours, the council is asked to commit three quarters of a million to the project,” he said.

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