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WestRock plans $50 million investment project in Virginia

WEST POINT, Virginia (From the Tidewater Review) -- WestRock wants to invest $50 million in new wood chip storage and transfer facilities at its paper mill.

The company is asking to also increase the height of its wood chip piles in the south yard to 100 feet, up from 60 feet.

The proposal is being vetted by the town, and the Town Council council could consider a special use permit application for the project on May 30. A public hearing is scheduled the same day.

The mill has submitted a special use permit application for its wood yard optimization project because the plan includes structures too tall to be erected in the facility's zoning without special permission.

The move swaps out existing equipment for new equipment doing the same job in the south wood yard, West Point community development director Holly McGowan said.

The south wood yard stores and transfers wood chips and wood bark used to create liner board, white top and corrugated medium in cardboard boxes. The wood yard is located at the mill's south end and is bordered by the Pamunkey River.

WestRock considers the project necessary because existing wood yard equipment was installed between the 1940s and 1980s and is nearing the end of its life, WestRock chief communications officer Donna Cox said.

"The capacity of these wood yards is constraining our production," Cox said.

The upgrade would install quieter equipment and eliminates the need to use bulldozers to move wood chips. The new equipment is expected to minimize airborne dust more effectively than existing equipment, Cox said.

WestRock hopes to begin preliminary studies on the project in June if the application is approved, McGowan said.

Construction is anticipated to last about a year and a half, Cox said.

Equipment would be installed during daylight hours Monday through Friday, according to WestRock's application.

Structures in M-2 Heavy Industrial District zoning, where the mill is located, may be up to 60 feet tall. Anything higher than 60 feet requires a special use permit, according to town zoning ordinance.

The mill is proposing to install 90-foot ship truck dumps, two 100-foot wood chip piles and a 79.5-foot conveyor, among other equipment in the south wood yard, according to the permit application.

Some of the new chip storage equipment will be the same height as what they replace, such as the ship truck dumps -- which are lifts that unload tractor trailers hauling wood chips by tipping the vehicles backward. The new conveyor from the wood chip piles to the wood chip screens is the same height as the existing one.

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