The new Wintergreen luxury hotel and Spruce Creek Resort would represent $75 million in investments, $23.5 – $32 million in annual revenue and at least 250 new full-time tourism jobs.
Major development projects cancelled
The current route of the ACP will prevent two notable economic projects planned in the Wintergreen/Nelson County area: the development of a new luxury hotel at Wintergreen Resort and the Spruce Creek Resort and Market.
The Spruce Creek Resort and Market project would be a 100-acre, five-star resort, hotel, restaurant, and public market along Virginia Route 151. Investors project annual revenue of $15 million to $20 million. In addition, the hotel and market would add more than 100 permanent, full-time jobs plus additional seasonal jobs. The land and necessary regulatory approvals to build the resort have already been acquired, and construction was set to begin in 2016 with a projected opening in 2017. The current route of the ACP will cross directly through the center of the Spruce Creek Resort and Market. Developers of the Spruce Creek Resort and Market will not proceed with the proposed project unless the current route is altered.
Plans have also been developed for a new $40 million, 150-room luxury hotel at Wintergreen Resort. The new hotel would produce an estimated $8.5 million to $12 million in annual revenues and 150 permanent, full-time jobs, plus seasonal jobs. The current route and construction area of the ACP will cross less than 100 feet from the entrance to Wintergreen Resort, which provides the sole access to the new hotel.
If the current route is not altered, Wintergreen Pacific LLC and Pacific Group Resorts have stated that they “would be forced to discontinue development of [the] hotel, or substantially delay its development.”
Combined, these two projects represent $75 million in initial investments, between $23.5 million and $32 million in annual revenue for the local community, and at least 250 full-time, permanent tourism jobs and additional seasonal employment.
To put this in context, the Virginia Employment Commission estimates that there are 4,429 full-time jobs in Nelson County, Virginia, over a quarter of which are in the “accommodation and food services” sector. The planned Spruce Creek Resort and Market and the Wintergreen luxury hotel would increase the number of jobs in the “accommodation and food services” sector by more than 25% and triple the number of businesses that employ over 100 people. In addition, these two projects would contribute millions of dollars in state and local tax revenue, tourism, and other development. In contrast, Dominion’s pipeline will produce only 29 permanent post-construction jobs for the entire state, none of which would be in Nelson County.
Diminished value for existing businesses
Not only will the current route prevent future economic development, but it will also diminish the value of and economic opportunities for the Wintergreen Resort. The resort is the single largest economic driver for Nelson County, employing more than 1,000 individuals and generating an annual payroll that exceeds $17 million. Bringing more than 400,000 annual visitors to the area, the resort is Virginia’s number one ski resort and includes convention space, premier lodging, golf, and other activities. It has an international reputation and is a unique asset for both Nelson County and Virginia.
Due to the local topography, there is only one entry and exit to the Wintergreen Resort and to the nearby residential communities. This access is on Virginia Route 664, which is a designated Virginia scenic byway. The current route of the ACP would cross Route 664 twice very close to the gatehouse, police department, and 911 emergency response center for both the resort and the residential community. All well within the 1,100-foot blast zone.
Resort management estimates that the current route of the ACP could result in a 20% reduction in overall business for Wintergreen Resort, in addition to the temporary decrease caused during construction of the ACP. This permanent decline will result in a loss of future revenue and employment opportunities.
The current route of the ACP also presents adverse economic consequences for Nelson County generally and specifically for the Virginia Route 151 corridor, also referred to as “Virginia’s Napa Valley.” Route 151 is a designated Virginia scenic byway that has recently become the location of many wineries, breweries, bed and breakfasts, and other tourist attractions. For example, five wineries, three breweries, a cidery, and a distillery have all opened along Route 151 in recent years. These destinations bring much-needed tourist revenue and jobs to the area.
The Route 151 corridor has hosted music festivals and other events. What distinguishes the Route 151 corridor from other tourist destinations is that it advertises itself as a “green” tourist destination. The current route of the ACP compromises this position and, particularly during construction of the ACP, will diminish the tourism this corridor enjoys.
Although Dominion claims that ACP will create jobs, most of the temporary workers hired during the construction phase will be transient and from out of state. The ACP will produce only 39 full time jobs throughout the Commonwealth when the construction is completed. None of these new positions will be based in Nelson County. Compared to the additional 250 permanent jobs that would result from the planned development that will be cancelled due to the proposed route, the ACP actually represents a job loss Nelson County.
Dominion — a private company with its own agenda, shareholders, and profit goals — is seeking the power from FERC to “take” property through the power of eminent domain. If granted this authority, Dominion would be able to legally force unwilling landowners to sell land to Dominion, often at below market prices. 94% of the ACP route proposed by Dominion would utilize private property that would be subject to this potential abusive practice.