Roanoke County is accepting $500,000 in mitigation money from the Mountain Valley Pipeline to compensate for the project’s impact on historically significant areas around Bent Mountain.
The county had pushed for a bigger sum and objected to the pipeline’s overall mitigation plan as inadequate.
But the final payment offered reflects what was approved by federal authorities, said Assistant County Administrator Richard Caywood.
The county plans to put the money toward renovating the circa-1911 Bent Mountain Community Center.
Taking the money from the controversial natural gas pipeline project spurred misgivings among some pipeline opponents.
“This $500,000 is fracked gas money,” said Roberta Bondurant, a Bent Mountain resident who’s been active in the fight against the pipeline.
Bondurant reiterated the multiple concerns about the pipeline project while speaking Tuesday during a meeting of the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors shortly after the mitigation plan was considered.
“As we go, we would ask you to rethink the money that you accept, how you spend it, and what you can do as individuals and as a government to push back on this project,” she concluded.
Caywood said he understood the concerns. But, speaking earlier in the same meeting, he had noted that rejecting the money wouldn’t alter the status of the multistate pipeline.
The company could satisfy its obligations by just making payment directly to the state, he said, which in turn would put it toward its own grant programs.
Accepting the money to refurbish a local resource seemed, on balance, a better option than sending the funds elsewhere in the commonwealth, he said.
Caywood added the county remains disappointed that local officials and stakeholders weren’t afforded more opportunity for meaningful input before the mitigation plan was given federal approval last year.
The move doesn’t signal any change in the county’s position on the pipeline or forfeit its future rights, he said.
The pipeline, which will cross about 8.5 miles of Roanoke County, has been deemed to affect three historically significant zones dubbed: Bent Mountain, Bent Mountain Apple Orchard, and Coles-Terry.
The project, in addition to the cash for the community center, will assist in compiling historical information for those zones and drawing up applications to seek formal historic district status for Bent Mountain Apple Orchard and Coles-Terry through the National Register of Historic Places.
The Mountain Valley Pipeline’s also required to do enhanced restoration work along 1.8 miles of the pipeline route. Caywood said right-of-way restoration was significant because of the high visibility the pipeline path would have as it cuts over the mountain.
The county was successful in persuading the company to do more work than first proposed. Earlier versions of the plan called for about half as much enhanced restoration.
The additional work won’t erase the sight of the pipeline path but would add more plantings and other measures to help break up the visual impact at peak points.
“I think anything that can be done to minimize the appearance of that scar on the landscape will be very beneficial,” Caywood said.
The board of supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to accept the mitigation funds for the community center.
The renovation plans include roof repairs, restoring the heating and air system, and fixing interior water damage.
The entire project is expected to cost about $700,000. Local funds will fill out the remainder of the budget.
The Bent Mountain Community Center, located on Tinsley Lane, was an elementary school for nearly the first century of its life.
That school closed in 2010. Since 2013, the county has sublet the structure — which also includes later building additions — to a Bent Mountain civic group for community programs and events.