Board halts shoreline work

Published 12:13am Saturday, August 31, 2013

Saying they have lost confidence in the ability of a Hillpoint developer to do its living shoreline project well, the city’s Wetlands Board voted Thursday to order the developer to stop work until experts can evaluate what’s been done so far.

Parker Crossing LLC was under fire during the meeting for having dug a trench at the project in the Hillpoint subdivision, near Hillpoint Elementary School, after the board ordered work to stop in a meeting earlier this month. The developer was supposed to provide an elevation survey and move a pile of dirt in the interim.

In photos taken Thursday morning and displayed at the meeting, the dirt was still there and the trench had also appeared.

“I’m completely disappointed in the whole process,” board member Geoffrey Hinshelwood said, making the motion to order work to stop to allow time for evaluation. “To me, it’s serious enough to revoke the permit, but I’m not taking it that far right now.”

Parker Crossing LLC was the target of two notices of violation and a stop-work order from the city back in January, because the city said the developer had removed too many trees near the river. The developer said it was within its rights to do so.

“I’m distrustful of all the things that have gone on,” Hinshelwood said. “I would like to see all work stopped until I can get some answers.”

He suggested reaching out to the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to get their opinions on the project.

If they all determine everything is fine, the project would be allowed to proceed.

Representing the developer, Brian Large said in the meeting the company is committed to finishing the project. The prime planting season for many of the plants it hopes to plant, he noted, is nearly gone.

He said the company had posted a $300,000 surety that should take care of any problems that arise. He also said the dirt had been moved farther from the river.

But board members’ concerns were not assuaged.

“There certainly are a lot of questions that need to be answered,” member Robert Johnson said. “I have lost a lot of confidence in this project getting done well.”

The project is one of the first living shorelines to be done in Suffolk. The treatment is meant to limit erosion and runoff by strategic placement of plants, stone and other materials, according to the Center for Coastal Resources Management.

Brad Waitzer, a principal of the developer, did not attend the meeting but made comments Friday.

“We’re committed to the project, even though we have been advised that the Wetland Board has unequivocally acted outside its legal authority,” he wrote in an email. “Unfortunately, its actions damage the project, the river, and the developer.”

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