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Will Carmel Church become next hot spot?

Amtrak_Station_Interior_lowCaroline County supervisors took two big steps this week toward the economic development of the Carmel Church area by approving a major mixed-use development and a performance agreement with a major U.S. health care firm.

Supervisors voted 4-1 in favor of a rezoning for a mixed-used project that would include a train station and other multi-modal facilities on nearly 1,100 acres between U.S. 1 and Interstate 95 near the Flying J truck stop.

The Carmel Church Station plan includes space for a future train station on 3 acres along the CSX rail line and a pedestrian-oriented center with residential and commercial development. It also calls for a school, library and regional park along the North Anna River.

Brothers Litt and Tommy Thompson of Virginia Land Investments in Richmond own the property.

“Now is when the fun begins, as we begin to make it a reality,” said Tommy Thompson. “We believe this is going to prove to be a tremendous asset to Caroline County for jobs and revenue, and in a way that preserves the rural character and lifestyle of the county.”

Thompson said his company will start discussions with state government about new jobs and business recruitment and come up with a timeline for the train station, which has yet to be approved. Build-out of the project could take at least 20 years.

Dan Slone of McGuire-Woods law firm has handled discussions with county officials about the project. He said the project could eventually attract a hospital, university, hotels and other businesses to the area.

Bowling Green District Supervisor Jeff Sili, who voted against the project, said he had too many unanswered questions, such as how water would be supplied, what impact it would have on schools and what would happen if train service didn’t come.

Caroline Planning Director Mike Finchum said the project conforms with the county’s comprehensive plan and subarea plan for the Carmel Church area.

County Administrator Percy Ashcraft said Caroline officials have long known the county would be looked at favorably because it is one of the last undeveloped areas along Interstate 95.

“We feel like we have an attractive place to do business,” he said, citing low property taxes and land costs as well as the recently approved cap on BPOL taxes.

Ashcraft said McKesson Corp. is an example of a business that sees Caroline’s potential. County officials Tuesday night approved a final draft of a performance agreement with the company that calls for McKesson to invest about $50 million to build a 340,000-square-foot distribution center in the Carmel Church area.

The center is expected to create 150 to 190 jobs and bring in more than $500,000 in annual revenues to Caroline when it opens by 2012.

McKesson, which is based in San Francisco, finished 14th on this year’s Fortune 500 list with revenues of $106.6 billion. It is the nation’s largest pharmaceutical distributor, supplying more than 40,000 U.S. customers, including retail stores and hospitals.

The company also develops software that helps hospitals keep track of prescriptions and medical records electronically.

The Board of Supervisors agreed to provide up to about $460,000 in incentives and infrastructure improvements.

Caroline officials have been working on the deal since 2007, said Economic Development Director Gary Wilson. He said the 20-plus acres McKesson will buy for the plant in the Caroline Commerce Center offers congestion-free access to nearby I-95.

Wilson thinks the infrastructure work–including water, sewer and road improvements–will help bring other users to the commerce center, which includes more than 200 acres.

He said McKesson will continue its operation in Richmond, which consists mostly of office jobs.

Portsia Smith: 540/374-5419

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