Social, Environmental, and Historical Impacts
The following was written by a concerned citizen that has been researching how the Wegmans proposal has unfolded.
Wegmans has long been commended and admired for their upscale stores, social consciousness, and
environmentally friendly image. Wegmans touts this image in public by discontinuing the use of
plastic bags for environmentally friendly paper, claims of enriching surrounding neighborhoods, and
the use of sustainable solar energy produced by solar panels on the roofs of stores. However this green
and socially conscious image is in jeopardy due to the environmentally sensitive and historically
significant site they selected to build their yet to be constructed distribution center in Hanover County
Virginia. It is due to their selection of this particularly sensitive site that we are calling for the boycott
of Wegmans supermarkets until they abandon this property for their proposed distribution center and
locate a more appropriate place to build.
Wegmans chosen building site contains large swaths of forested wetlands, significant historic
resources, and grave sites depicted on maps which are long suspected to be the resting places of
emancipated former slaves dating back to the Civil War era. The proposed plan will construct a
building large enough to make Wikipedia's list of worlds largest buildings. This enormous building
will be located on top of acres upon acres of protected wetlands, and pave over historic sites
recommended by archaeologists for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. But if that
wasn't enough, Wegmans has hired attorneys to pressure the Hanover County government to remove
laws protecting graves on the site, instead asking for permission for graves be dug up and relocated.
Wegmans ignored the significant impacts associated with this site, instead focusing on access to
interstates, large local workforce, government monetary incentives, and low selling price of the land in
their site selection. In an email addressed to a Hanover County employee obtained through FOIA,
Chris Jenkins the realtor marketing the property relayed a remark by site engineer Tim Davey
concerning the development saying “in every other economic development deal of this nature that he's
worked on, the client has moved on from the site every time, because it is more of a game of
eliminating risk/variables than making sites work” However the financially beneficial aspects of the
site proved too enticing for Wegmans. Instead of moving on to a less sensitive site they formulated a
plan to attempt to make this site work, environmental and social impacts be damned.
Wegmans formulated a three pronged attack, enlisting the help of high dollar attorneys, consultants,
and calling in assistance from governmental agencies at the state and local level. The Virginia
Economic Development Partnership, and Hanover County Economic Development department both
touted jobs to be created, and economic benefit for the region while using political contacts to pressure
regulatory agencies to permit the permanent destruction of protected wetlands, historical resources, and
The VEDP and HCED attempted to influence regulatory bodies at both the federal and state levels such
as the Army Corp of Engineers and Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. For much of 2019
the Wegmans development was kept secret from public scrutiny by way of Wegmans requirement that
governments sign a non disclosure agreement keeping this controversial project safe from public
oversight. The development was known by code name “Project Wild Tiger”. An email sent from
Linwood Thomas of HCED to Lindsay Hurt of VEDP mentions Wild Tiger may need the political
clout of the VEDP to “help us with the DEQ”(Department of Environmental Quality).
"The unfortunate news we found out after a call with Timmons Group today was that the old wetlands
delineation done on the property did not show the significant amount of new found wetlands. This
“could' deem the site “undevelopable” unfortunately. We may need the State to help us with the DEQ
at some Point..."
If the acreage of wetlands destroyed by a project becomes too great, a permit to build will be denied
due to excessive environmental impacts. Realizing the problem that wetlands pose to the development.
Wegmans dream team of devastation set out to execute a plan using political and legal pressure to
minimize wetland acreage impacts “on paper” in an attempt to obtain a permit to build. They did this
by adoption of an obscure designation classifying effected wetlands as “mosaic” and use of a never
before used strategy mathematically lessening the “on paper” secondary impacts to wetlands. The
designation of a wetland “mosaic” is the assertion that areas of wetlands are only partially wet and
therefore should only be counted as a percentage of the total area impacted. A government employee
who wished to be unnamed who works with wetlands and environmental issues in Virginia stated that
he had never seen the use of the “mosaic” designation ever applied to wetlands in this region.
This obscure loophole was further exploited by applying the advice of a consultant to wait for dryer
weather before mapping the wetlands. After months of waiting the weather finally presented an
opportunity and a crew set out to evaluate the wetlands in the middle of a drought attempting to make
the case that huge portions of wetlands should only be counted as partially wet.
It is the precedent set by allowing these novel approaches that is the most dangerous aspect of all. If
the COE and DEQ allow these loopholes to be utilized it opens the door for the “on paper”
minimization of wetlands through the region and permitting the destruction of many hundreds of acres
of wetland that would otherwise have been protected. It truly isn't only about one distribution center.
The decision by Wegmans to force a path forward in the name of saving a buck could pave the way for
unimaginable destruction on future projects. It is these dangerous precedents that caused Bryan Jones
of the VA DEQ to write in an email concerning the proposed minimization of second impacts saying
“....none of us had accepted a secondary impact proposal/response like this in the past.” and went on to
say “There was also concern with setting a precedent across the state and if this was a type of response
that other regions could accept as well.” These questionable approaches to minimizing impacts have
lessened the “on paper” impacts of the Wegmans project by 60%. This swing in the allowable impacts
caused by “loopholes” if allowed to proceed would make the Wegmans distribution center one of the
largest industrial site wetlands impacts by gross acreage permitted in decades in Virginia.
We are calling for the boycott of Wegmans because of their decision to put financial concerns ahead of
the peaceful rest of the deceased and environmental and historic resources. This proposed distribution
center has created a situation that not only will destroy aquatic wetland habitat on a single site but also
creates the blueprint for developers to wreak destruction on wetlands all over the state of Virginia and
beyond. No project should be so “important” that environmental protections be waived or exceptions
created. Please reach out to Wegmans, VA DEQ, the Army COE, and Hanover County government to
let them know that the protection of graves, wetlands, and historic resources from destruction is more
important than a good deal on a piece of land. Let Wegmans know they should make the responsible
decision to put financial concerns aside and relocate their proposed project to a less sensitive site. It is
not too late, the permits have not yet been issued and ground has yet to be broken. There is still a
chance the voice of reason will prevail and vital natural resources and historic places are protected as
the law requires, and that the final resting place of the deceased will continue to remain final.
Join the boycott and let Wegmans supermarkets know that they can and should do better. Clean rivers
and streams, historic sites, and the peaceful rest of the deceased are more important than lining the
pockets of the Wegman family
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