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Developers take out $1 option on Wildwood

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

A new option for 162 acres in the Wildwood Commerce Park will accompany a grant application to the Virginia Tobacco Commission, after the regional economic development authority acted Tuesday.

Just last week, the Blue Ridge Crossroads Economic Development Authority formalized a new partnership with the Carroll-Galax-Grayson Solid Waste Authority to pursue developing the area just off Interstate 77's Exit 19 in Carroll County.

Part of the goal was to apply for grant funding for the effort from the Tobacco Commission.

As a part of that, the Crossroads group completed an option agreement for $1 on a new tract of land Tuesday, explained Ken McFadyen, the regional economic developer.

This tract contains 50 acres of graded property, a three-acre storm management pond and 114 acres of ungraded ground, according to the option agreement.

The graded land is "in effect, shovel-ready," McFadyen noted.

To buy the land, the economic development authority has negotiated a price of $6.2 million with owners Mike Turman and Don Branscome.

"There is a provision in the agreement to renew for another year, while we put together the rest of the financing for the project," McFadyen said.

Provisions include building industrial road access through cost sharing with the Virginia Department of Transportation.

It will be the responsibility of Branscome and Turman to bore under I-77 to extend sewer service to the commerce park

"We will be partnering with them to see if public funding can be leveraged to achieve that, but if not, they are handling the cost of construction..." McFadyen said. "There are also various other easements promised through the document to facilitate the development of the property."

The economic development authority had optioned a 221-acre tract last year in a similar effort, but found that the ungraded land proved cost-prohibitive to develop.

Local officials continue to cooperate in an effort to develop a new regional commerce park at Exit 19, McFadyen said. This would also build on the work that Turman and Branscome have done to prepare hundreds of acres on a site with good potential.

"I think this is another positive step forward for developing the Wildwood Commerce Park," McFadyen said at the meeting.

This is another example of localities and authorities working together, as well as a public-private partnership, to benefit the Twin Counties, he added.

The partnership with the solid waste authority is also crucial, because that agency "has the resources to leverage certain forms of public finances for the project," McFadyen said.

"There are very few regions that operate this cooperatively, not only among themselves, but with private entities," he said. "We have something to be proud of here."

Carroll Administrator Gary Larrowe made the motion to approve the option agreement, and it was approved unanimously.

McFadyen will include a copy of the option with the application he's making to the Virginia Tobacco Commission. "This option is an integral part of that application," he explained.