The Department of Environmental Quality held a public hearing May 2, allowing people to weigh in on a permit that would let a developer fill wetlands in the Big Woods for the Legacy of Poquoson project — a development the City Council signed off on two years ago but that still faces opposition from people in Poquoson who think it is not a good fit for the city.
DEQ called the public hearing after receiving 71 letters during a public comment period in January, which it said was an unusually large number. A review of the letters, which the Daily Press obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, found that 36 came from people who said they lived in Poquoson, were originally from Poquoson or lived near the Big Woods in York County.
Six of those letters supported the permit for Legacy, planned to be built on the City Hall side of Victory Boulevard, while 30 asked for a public hearing and further review.
The remaining 35 letters request a public hearing and contain the exact same text with blank lines for people to sign their names and provide contact information. Of those identical letters, none came from Poquoson, five came from South Hampton Roads and one came from Hampton. Most of the letters were from the Richmond area.
The Legacy development plans, presented by Big Woods Development Company LLC, include 238 single-family homes, 107 town houses, 11 cottages and 200 apartments on 101 acres. It also will include commercial space that developers plan to lease to retailers, along with green space, garden plots for residents and a public pedestrian trail along the Oxford Run ditch.
The City Council approved the project's master plan and rezoned 22 acres of the Big Woods from low-density residential to planned unit development mixed-use about two years ago.
Opposition has brewed since then, emerging again in the DEQ permitting process. The permit would let the developer fill about 10 acres of wetlands surrounding Oxford Run in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. As mitigation for filling the wetlands, the developer would buy wetland credits from the Middle Peninsula Environmental Bank and Virginia Aquatic Resources Trust Fund.
The final decision on the permit now falls to the State Water Control Board.
Public comment on the permit closed May 17. All letters, emails and comments DEQ received will be summarized and presented to the State Water Control Board. The board will hold another hearing on the permit application in Richmond over the summer, and anyone who previously made a comment will be able to speak.
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