Anyone with concerns surrounding a developer’s impact on wetlands when working on a now-stalled 30-home subdivision in the village of St. Louis has until the end of November to comment on the remedial actions the state will require the developer to take.
Last year, the Mojax development company began work on a 30-home subdivision called Middleburg Preserve in the village, across two parcels of land totaling 21.3 acres. In doing so, crews drilled 16 of 27 planned wells, which sparked concern among neighbors who claimed that new residents pulling from those wells would adversely impact their water levels. They also were concerned about development affecting the flow of surface waters in the community.
On Oct. 6, the county Board of Supervisors voted to purchase 16.4 acres of the Mojax-owned land for $1.5 million to place it in conservation easement and set up a park for passive recreation. County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) said on Oct. 28 the county has yet to ink that deal but should soon. Still, Mojax faces requirements from the state to remedy the 0.63 acres of wetlands which the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality found it had impacted when drilling wells.
In spring 2019, DEQ staff was notified via an individual complaint that Mojax crews had impacted wetlands. That April, after an inspection, DEQ staff determined Mojax had indeed impacted 0.63 acres of wetlands without first obtaining a Virginia Water Protection permit. DEQ subsequently issued Mojax a violation notice and a consent order to remedy the impact done. That order mandated Mojax pay a $27,500 fee and purchase wetland credits, among other remedial actions.
A second complaint of unauthorized re-impacts of wetlands in March 2020 led DEQ to once again investigate and find that Mojax had impacted another 0.01 acres of wetlands within the same 0.63 acres it had previously impacted. DEQ staff then issued the developer a second violation notice and renegotiated the terms of the original consent order.
Mojax signed the proposed order in September, which requires the company to pay a $32,275 civil penalty and take corrective actions to include wetlands restoration and the purchase of 0.6 acres of wetlands credits. But the order is not yet finalized and won’t be until DEQ reviews public comments on the proposed consent order. Residents have from Oct. 31 to Nov. 30 to submit comments.
When asked during an Oct. 26 State Water Control Board public meeting how much Mojax will pay for the 0.6 acres of wetland credits, DEQ Regional Virginia Water Protection Program Manager Trisha Beasley said one acre of wetland credits typically costs at least $150,000 in Northern Virginia, and can reach as high as $500,000.
DEQ Regional Enforcement Specialist Jim Datko said the finalization of the consent order will depend on the amount of feedback DEQ receives. He said that if DEQ finds that the order is adequate, it could be executed within the first few weeks of November, but “there’s no guaranteed date of execution.”
In an Oct. 23 email to area residents, Friends of St. Louis civic organization President Job Woodill, who also lives across the street from the Mojax property, wrote that the community “must continue to pressure both the developer and county to ratify the purchase” of the property.
“The Friends of St. Louis has taken the stance that MOJAX MUST restore the wetlands, VS just paying a fine,” he wrote. “Anything short of full restoration does not address the violations and simply paves the way for permitting.”
To submit comments on the proposed consent order, email Datko at email@example.com or DEQ Regional Enforcement & Pollution Response Manager Mark Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail the DEQ Northern Regional Office at 13901 Crown Ct., Woodbridge, VA 22193. Commenters should include their name and contact information.
In addition to being required to remedy the 0.63 acres of wetlands it has already impacted, Mojax in April this year also applied for a Virginia Water Protection permit to impact 1.8 acres of surface waters, or less than 1,500 linear feet of impact to stream channels. That application was submitted to DEQ, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Virginia Marine Resource Commission.
Beasley said DEQ has not yet deemed that application complete and won’t until the “full resolution of the consent order.”