On its face, it seems like a landscaping business would be as good an idea as any for a large farm in western Prince William County.
But for one Nokesville business, JK Enterprise Landscape Supply, things are getting increasingly tricky as the business looks to expand its mulching operation at its Madera Farm property — especially as state and county officials look into whether wetlands on the property have been improperly disturbed.
Off Farmview Road, Madera Farm houses a mulching and landscape operation for JK Enterprise, which also has a production site in Culpeper. The company has applied to the county for a Special Use Permit in order to process more mulch and other landscaping products.
But county officials discovered something potentially troublesome on a site visit March 20: wetlands that look like they’ve been disturbed by construction. Wetlands are protected by state and federal laws, and some county officials want more protection for endangered plants on the property as well.
In a required environmental assessment submitted to the county, JK Enterprise’s report says that “there are no known wetlands,” although if they are found they will be dealt with properly, the assessment states.
The required environmental assessment “was proven to be inaccurate and incomplete,” said Planning Commissioner Kim Hosen (Occoquan).
Given county officials’ statements that wetlands have been disturbed, JK Enterprises owner Jake Klitenic said in a letter that he would hold off on his permit request to expand his operation for about three months. The proposal has also drawn area opposition.
A hearing on the matter has been scheduled for Wednesday before the county Planning Commission, an advisory panel to the Board of County Supervisors, and commissioners will have to agree to give Klitenic more time. If the proposal moves forward, supervisors will make the final decision on whether to grant the permit.
The commission has already twice delayed the application, seeking to understand what they have deemed as incomplete information and to address residents’ concerns.
Klitenic said in the letter that he was skeptical of the county’s conclusion, but needed more time to work with regulators. He said in an interview Friday that he already received an initial permit to do work last January, and county officials know the property well.
“This wetlands stuff came up at the last minute,” he said.
Klitenic said he has not disturbed any wetlands, but has agreed to go the extra step to hire an outside consultant to “to triple make sure.”
“I don’t want to do anything that’s wrong and I don’t want to affect the wetlands in any way, shape or form,” Klitenic said.
Hosen has asked the Department of Environmental Quality to look into the issue. Trisha Beasley, a DEQ permit and compliance manager, said the agency plans to pursue the matter.
Some residents also hope that the county holds Madera Farm to a high standard. “Allowing the systemic violation of our county’s environment without being held accountable is a violation of our government official’s duty to protect our citizens and should no longer be tolerated ... in Prince William County,” area resident Timothy Horn said in an e-mail.
Nearby landowners have other concerns. They worry about dump trucks traveling to and from the site, the smell of the operation and an industrial operation taking place on land designated for agricultural purposes.
Farm land is typically cheaper than land zoned for industrial use, something that would give JK Enterprise a significant advantage, said Nokesville resident Myndi Masters, who has lived nearby since 1978.
Klitenic said Friday that the mulching operation would only take place on a ”very small” part of the 125-acre property, and most of the farm would be used to raise livestock, including pigs, chickens and cows.
The county mulching and compost facility on Balls Ford Road has given residents a preview, Masters said. “The smell is atrocious,” she said. “The landowners around there can’t sell their property.”
Klitenic said that he has already made significant concessions, including agreeing to the times trucks can travel roads and which roads the trucks can use.
“Traditional farming in Prince William County is not happening, and we want to do some agricultural uses, and trucks are a part of agriculture,” he said. “I understand people live there… but we’ve made huge concessions.”
This post has been updated with comments from JK Enterprises owner Jake Klitenic.