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Surry power plant now faces last local hurdle
DENDRON — As several people held up placards opposing a proposed coal-fueled power plant, the Dendron Town Council voted 4-3 late Monday to approve Old Dominion Electric Cooperative's rezoning and conditional-use applications to build the facility in town.
The company wants to build Cypress Creek Power Station, a $6 billion, 1,500 megawatt energy plant on 1,600 acres in and around the rural Surry County town, with a targeted 2017 opening date. About 150 people attended a public hearing for the project on Monday, with discussions lasting until almost midnight.
Roughly half of about 40 speakers at the hearing said they support the project because it would create jobs and pump as much as $1.2 million annually in tax revenue to town coffers. Also, the company has proffered to give the town $600,000 for water system repairs, $100,000 for recreational playground equipment and $65,000 to repair and replace the town's crumbling sidewalks.
Others — including representatives from several environmental groups — opposed it, saying its emissions could jeopardize the environment and health of people living within a 30 mile radius of the facility.
The Town Council discussion was tense and occasionally heated, with Councilwoman Misti Furr getting so frustrated at one point that she tossed a notebook on the floor. Three council members pushed to delay voting on the rezoning applications because Mayor Yvonne Pierce, in a public meeting last month, had told residents that a vote would not be taken on the same night as the public hearing.
"I don't see why we had to rush it," Furr said. "We could have exhibited an element of caution and waited for another month to vote."
Furr also questioned why Old Dominion paid $10,000 for its conditional-use permit application to the town and called for the town to re-evaluate its fee schedule for such permits. Furr said Surry County charges $500 for that fee, and neighboring Sussex County, $450.
"That's an exorbitant amount," Furr said. "Even if it is legal, the air of impropriety that exists with that transaction is enough to give me pause."
The council's decision enables state and federal agencies — including the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — to begin the environmental testing to determine if the site passes muster for the project, said Jeb Hockman, spokesman for Old Dominion. The company still has to have more than 50 environmental permits approved before the company can move forward.
The county's Board of Supervisors also will hold a public hearing on the request to rezone 400 acres that are located outside town limits during a public hearing at 7 p.m. Thursday. County officials were unsure whether the board would vote on the issue that night.
What's next The Surry County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on Old Dominion Electric Cooperative's request to rezone about 400 acres for the coal-fueled power plant at 7 p.m. Thursday at the county government complex. This will be the final time people can comment on the project at the local level, and this would be the final approval by county or town officials before state and federal agencies can begin environmental testing on the site.