Residents of the Carver Road and John Spencer Court communities held a community meeting Monday for an update about issues related to Teal-Jones Pine Products, a nearby company.
During the April 10 meeting, Van Drewery noted the company is a multi-million lumber operation and purchased the property in 2021.
“Even though we may not like where they’re located, they’re here, and I don’t think they’re going anywhere. So, we have to address the concerns that we have with them being in our community,” he said.
Drewery said those who live close to the lumber yard deal with noise at all hours of the day, dust, mud, safety, and trucks entering and exiting the property causing traffic delays along the road.
“Those things affect all of our safety. So, we feel like some changes need to take place,” he said.
Henry County Deputy County Administrator JR Powell said county staff began working on the issues the community brought up following the Feb. 28 meeting which several residents attended.
At that time, many expressed concerns about dust, noise, traffic jams caused by the logging trucks, road drainage, safety, and a host of other issues.
Powell said the safety concerns were “first and foremost, the one thing that concerned us right off the bat. There was a discussion of debris flying off the trucks, mud in the road, gravel in the road, mulch in the road, as well as trucks blocking the roadway of Carver Road.”
Powell said the administration contacted the Henry County Sheriff’s Office and the Virginia State Police to make them aware of resident concerns on March 1.
Henry County Sheriff’s Office Col. Wayne Davis said he met with Brian Fietz, the general manager of Teal-Jones, on March 3.
“The purpose was to discuss some of your concerns” about potential violations from the law enforcement side, Davis said.
“While I was there, I explained to him how you guys felt about it and explained the importance of becoming good corporate neighbors in this community,” he said.
One of the issues discussed was the trucks backing up on U.S. 58. Davis said Fietz told him he was looking into constructing a truck holding lot to help with potential traffic.
“So, the trucks no longer back up on the highway so you can get them off the left-hand side and make the trucks out of the way,” he said.
Davis said mud and debris on the roadway also were discussed.
“A couple of things we discussed to mitigate those issues is he’d be adding more gravel to the exit lots so that it would get off of the trucks,” Davis said, adding that Fietz “also said he would be purchasing a sweeper for a skid steer, in which would be used daily to keep the driveways swept and the roadway.”
Davis added Fietz assured him the company would make all efforts to get all the tree bark off the trucks before they get onto the roadway.
Fietz told the Henry County Enterprise in March that the company was aware of concerns about mud coming off trucks leaving the mill.
“I have reached out to them a few times to discuss their concerns and come up with solutions. I have also met with the county administrator to discuss this matter,” he said, adding the company regularly washes the mud off the roads inside the mill yard.
It also has “ordered a rotary sweeper to further reduce mud on trucks leaving the site. We’ve also planted trees along the property line to reduce noise,” Feitz said, adding the company is open to any other constructive ideas.
The operation, Fietz said, is an important part of the community, and employs numerous local residents while producing products used in everyday life.
The company, he added, is committed to being good neighbors and minimizing any impacts from its operations. “Working constructively with the county and residential neighbors is part of that,” Feitz said.
At the meeting Monday, Lee Clark, director of the county’s Planning, Zoning, and Inspections office, said the land has been used for lumber production since the 1950s. When zoning was introduced in the county in 1989, the land was grandfathered in as a sawmill.
In addition to the land on which Teal-Jones currently operates, the business also purchased the adjoining 25 acres, which is zoned as agricultural.
“Overlaying the aerial photographs of what the original property where the plant is located on now, they have not encroached buildings over onto the agricultural property,” he said.
Clark said he’s researched how much area has already been disturbed for the creation of the parking lot area and log storage.
“I don’t consider where they have logs stored to be disturbed area, just where they’ve graded and graveled out there, and right now they’re right at under one acre. Which does not require them to have permits from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ),” Clark said, adding the company has a land disturbance permit.
Clark said the storage of logs by itself is not an issue, but the potential truck holding area “starts to give me a little bit of concern about expanding, not just the agricultural use of storing logs on it, but using it more as an accessory for the industrial uses next door.”
Clark plans to discuss this issue with company representatives and work to determine the next step regarding the truck holding area.
County attorney George Lyle said the county does not regulate industrial noise. The noise ordinance is primarily focused on loud parties, amplified sounds, concerts, and things of that nature.
In his discussions with Teal-Jones, Powell said the company noted the noisiest part of the job was the debarking of the logs, which is done during the second shift.
“That second shift currently is running all the way up to midnight, (or) 1 a.m., which is very noisy,” Powell said, adding the company told the county “they are working on adjusting that process and what time of day they’re doing it.”
Powell said Teal-Jones might shift that portion of its operation to get an earlier start in hope of being finished with debarking around 9 to 10 p.m.
Teal-Jones also has a smokestack used to burn wood to generate steam for the treatment process of the lumber.
Lyle said he wrote a letter to the company based on information he received from residents regarding ashes and dust on vehicles and homes.
“By state law, local governments cannot regulate emissions. The state regulates it, and they are also charged with enforcing federal emission regulations. They enforce it through a department known as the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ),” Lyle said.
After writing a letter to the DEQ, Lyle said a representative visited the company for an inspection and found it had a permit to use the smokestack 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Additionally, the company was found to be in compliance with emission regulations.
However, Lyle said DEQ “did warn them … some type of warning, because they’re allowing too much dust from the production facility to leave the property.”
Powell said the DEQ representative found the company was out of compliance regarding fugitive emissions.
“In layman’s terms, it was dirt on the road inside the sawmill that had dried, and when the trucks come in and make their circles on that dry, dusty, gravely, muddy road, it makes dust which is settling on your cars, your homes, your lawns, etc.,” he said.
Powell said DEQ wrote a warning letter to the company, which states the company has 20 days to acknowledge the letter and to have a plan on how to address the fugitive emissions.
About 50 residents previously attended a Feb. 28 Henry County Board of Supervisors meeting to voice concerns.
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