Augusta County Board of Zoning Appeals rejects key pipeline permit

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AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) — UPDATE (Mar. 1):

In the third Augusta County Board of Zoning Appeals meeting meant to address a Dominion Energy request connected to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a decision has finally been reached.

Months ago, Dominion applied for a special use permit to set up a construction staging area on farm property in Churchville for two years while the pipeline is being built.

On March 1, after hearing about the potential impact the work zone could have on the traffic, environment and community, the board voted 4-1 to reject that permit.

The staging area would have meant about 400 vehicles traveling through the 34-acre site at the intersection of Scenic Highway and Union Church Road every day.

Although a VDOT representative answered some questions by the board, the board said they felt the location would not be suitable for that kind of traffic and intense construction that would take place over the next two years.

The board also expressed concerns that the construction would impact the water quality of the area and would hurt the farmers that live around the proposed site.

Augusta County's decision deals a blow to Dominion, who is still waiting for approval from the Department of Environmental Quality to begin construction on the pipeline. Representatives say Dominion is now looking into other locations for the storage yard.

Many other permits have already been approved, however, and tree felling has begun along the planned route. Dominion hopes to start building by this April.

A number of landowners from surrounding counties are also still locked in legal battles where pipeline developers are seeking eminent domain for property to build the pipeline.

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In Augusta County, the Board of Zoning Appeals once again tabled their decision on a special use permit request by Dominion Energy until their next meeting.

The permit would allow Dominion Energy to set up a construction staging area on farm property in Churchville for two years while the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is being built.

Although the meeting was closed to public comments, it was heavily attended by opponents of the pipeline.

With approximately 400 vehicles traveling through the 34-acre site each day, the board said they need to learn more about how traffic can safely access the site.

"Those workers are going to be leaving there," said Nancy Sorrells, co-chair of Augusta County Alliance, "traveling our roads, mixing with our school buses and our work traffic to get to wherever the pipe yard is, to get to wherever the work site is, and so we need to know what those impacts are."

The board said that although representatives from Dominion did provide them with some answers to their questions, they still do not have enough information to make a decision on the permit.

Major concerns brought up by the board were the lack of visibility at the approved entrance site, the volume of traffic traveling through the area, and the ability to screen around the site.

"Why are we getting one little piece of the puzzle without the puzzle box that has the picture on it?" asked Sorrells. "We need to know what Dominion's plans are for the impacts in this county to our people."

When the board discusses the permit again next month, they said they hope to have a VDOT representative attend to answer their questions.

Citing several requests they received, the board said the next meeting will be open for public comment.