Port 460 project developer submits application for federal, state environmental review
Published 9:05 pm Monday, August 8, 2022
Matan Companies, the applicant for the 545-acre Port 460 Logistics Center that would bring 10 warehouses and five commercial retail buildings to a site on the corner of U.S. Routes 460 and 58, has submitted a joint permit application for federal and state environmental permits.
It submitted the application June 27, and the Army Corps of Engineers published a public notice Aug. 5 announcing its Norfolk District commander had received it. The application has also been filed with the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, the state Department of Environmental Quality and the Local Wetlands Boards.
The project, designed to be in proximity and to support the Port of Virginia, would feature 18 wet retention stormwater management ponds, a potable water supply tower, two sanitary sewer pump stations, access roads, employee parking and trailer storage areas.
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“The development is intended to help meet the existing need for industrial warehouse space in the Hampton Roads area brought about by the growth of e-commerce as the increasingly preferred shopping practice and the expansion of cargo volumes the Port of Virginia is receiving,” according to an environmental support document submitted with the joint permit application.
The Army Corps application states that the company has proposed developing the project in two phases and has requested a 15-year permit to ensure full site development. It also said the project has been designed “to avoid the higher quality onsite wetlands (e.g., bald cypress swamp) and to focus development on existing farmland areas. The proposed impacts to aquatic resources are largely limited to disturbed linear systems that are bordered by existing cropland.”
As it’s now proposed, the project would result in the permanent loss of 5.23 acres of non-tidal wetlands and just over a tenth of an acre of non-tidal streams and 1.9 acres of non-tidal open water.
Warehouse sizes for the project would range from 90,000 square feet to about 1 million square feet, with about 4.7 million square feet of warehousing or distribution building area proposed. The site also will have about 2,600 trailer storage spaces and 3,200 employee parking spaces.
Developers have said the buildings would be built on a speculative basis, “capitalizing on a speed-to-market approach for incoming tenants to outfit the interiors to their specific operational needs and desires.”
The document noted that the average size of speculative and built-to-suit warehouse developments in Suffolk averaged 490,000 square feet in 2021, with the largest being 1.5 million square feet. The commercial development that would front U.S. 460 is expected target drayage trucking operations — transporting freight from ports to its destination, typically over shorter distances — and long-haul truck drivers.
The purpose of the project, according to Matan Companies, is to build an “industrial campus” within close proximity to the Port of Virginia that will attract warehousing and logistics tenants who do business with the port. The site’s proposed location is deliberate, as it “needs to be strategically located to allow for ease of access to large four-lane roadways” and large enough “to allow for market fulfilling development.”
The region has about 1.8 million square feet of existing warehouse space, which Matan Companies said is “substantially below” the current need. It said the Hampton Roads market needs more than 10 million square feet of warehouse and logistics space.
Critics of the Port 460 project have cited traffic issues primarily, while also taking issue with the need for more warehousing space when they say some existing warehouses in the city sit empty.
Company and project officials have said the other warehouses in the city do not meet their needs, and even if they did, would not be enough to meet demand and would not be at a contiguous site.
However, the project’s real estate representatives reviewed four potential sites for the industrial campus, three in Suffolk, including the chosen Port 460 site and another site in New Kent County in the suburban Richmond area. They considered the following factors during the site selection process:
- About 500 acres to accommodate large footprint buildings and required truck and employee parking and storage
- Large contiguous tracts of land owned by a single owner
- A site facing a primary road for direct access and visibility
- Located within a half mile of a major, four-lane highway network
- Proper zoning or the ability to be rezoned
- Availability of utilities
- Being along uncongested major transportation routes within 45 minutes from the Port of Virginia and time to market
- Environmental constraints
The Nansemond Parkway site is on 212 acres along U.S. 460 and U.S. 58, with about 185 of those acres being wetlands, according to the National Wetland Inventory, and, according to the environmental support document, “presents significant access issues due to its location.”
That site had a willing seller, was within the 45-minute drive window to the port and within a half-mile of a major four-lane highway. It also had just one owner, available utilities and a site within the Suffolk 2035 strategic growth area that would allow it to go to market on the Matan Companies timeline of one to two years.
However, the site’s developable area is much smaller due to the amount of wetlands, had access issues, and the effective cost to build the site was more expensive than other alternatives.
The 561-acre Rountree site, off of Old Myrtle Road and U.S. Route 460, while it has direct access to a primary road, is large enough and has direct access from a primary road, faced other issues for Matan Companies, including 32 acres of wetlands that split the site and multiple pieces of land with two different owners. It also, according to the environmental support document, would not likely be a candidate for rezoning until the city’s strategic growth plan was updated and would take significantly longer to bring to market.
New Kent County had the largest tract of land that Matan’s real estate representatives analyzed, at 1,643 acres at the intersection of Virginia Route 106 and Interstate 64. While it had numerous pluses — location off a major highway with direct, primary road access, a willing seller, size more than meeting the company’s need, correct zoning and available utilities and the ability to bring it to market in its time frame — the site is also outside the 45-minute drayage time it wants, and a 2015 jurisdictional determination finding the site had about 1,026 acres of wetlands and “greatly restricts the developable area and practicality of the site,” while being costlier to mitigate.
It considered the positives of the Port 460 site to be:
- A suitable location within 25 to 30 miles of the Norfolk International Terminal and Virginia International Gateway
- Easy access from Route 460 and Pitchkettle Road
- Smaller wetland area
- Single property owner for all parts of the property
- Visibility from a primary road
- Larger than 500 acres with a suitable configuration for an industrial campus
- Location with the city’s urban/suburban developable district and ability to rezone the property
- Within its timeframe to bring the property to market
The environmental support document suggested that the proposed industrial campus off of U.S. 460 and U.S. 58, and Murphys Mill, Kings Fork and Pitchkettle roads, could help support the port’s investment into the offshore wind hub at Portsmouth Marine Terminal, which it said will spur the need for 20 million square feet of additional space for wind turbine suppliers.
It will, however, need two access points, one from U.S. 460 and another from Pitchkettle Road, according to the document, along with a water supply tank, sanitary sewer pump stations and adequate stormwater management to meet the city’s quality and quantity requirements.
The project has been designed, according to the document, to avoid “higher-quality onsite wetlands (such as the bald cypress swamp) and to focus development in the existing farmland areas.”
The complete joint permit application can be found at the Virginia Marine Resources Commission’s website at https://webapps.mrc.virginia.gov/public/habitat/getPDF.php?id=20221494. The Army Corps of Engineers says the decision to issue a permit “will be based on an evaluation of the probable impact including cumulative impacts of the proposed activity on the public interest.”
The Army Corps of Engineers will accept comments on the application until the close of business Sept. 5 at firstname.lastname@example.org or at Norfolk District, Corps of Engineers (ATTN: CENAO-WRR), 803 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510-1011.