Board signals support for medical cannabis business

By Heather Michon

The Fluvanna Board of Supervisors signaled its support for a new medical cannabis production facility at their regular meeting on Wednesday (Dec. 2), approving a letter of support for YAE Wellness by a vote of 4-0-1, with Supervisor Tony O’Brien absent for the evening.

YAE (pronounced ‘yay’) is hoping to purchase 15 acres of county-owned property behind the Fluvanna Community Center and the Fork Union Volunteer Fire Department in Fork Union for the construction of a 100,000 square foot facility. In their letter of intent, YAE committed to prioritizing local and regional construction companies, as well as a primarily local workforce when the facility is complete. Total capital investment in the project would be between $15-20 million.

Cultivation and production of cannabis plants would all take place within the facility and security around the building would be tightly controlled. Sheriff Eric Hess has already issued a letter of support.

At least 95 people, including local business owners and residents, have signed letters and petitions of support, but the county’s letter is perhaps most critical in the deliberations of the Virginia Board of Pharmacy. Under the state’s new law, only five licenses can be issued for pharmaceutical-grade cannabis production, one per Health Service Area (HSA). Central Virginia is currently the only HSA with an unassigned license.

All three of YAE’s founders spoke to the supervisors via Zoom, expressing their appreciation for the assistance they have received thus far. “I would like to extend my tremendous gratitude for the warm welcome that we have received from Fluvanna County,” said lead pharmacist Yulia Habib. “I was so impressed with your community and we are so excited to bring the business there and to support the community in any way we can.”

The Board of Pharmacy will rule on the license in late March, but Economic Development Coordinator Bryan Rothamelsaid “from a county perspective, we will have to prepare and keep this process moving through our regulatory process as if they already have the license.” If all goes according to schedule, the facility will be fully operational in early 2022.

Board of Equalization

As their first order of business, supervisors approved a resolution recommending appointments to the Board of Equalization (BOE).

The Board of Equalization is an independent board authorized by the circuit court to assure that real estate tax assessments are equally applied. Citizens with complaints about their current year tax assessments can submit their case for a hearing by the board, which can then rule on whether that assessment should be lowered, increased, or stay the same.

One member of the five-person board recently submitted their resignation, and there are concerns that the ongoing pandemic could cause issues if some members were forced to quarantine. Along with appointing a new member for the vacant seat, County Administrator Eric Dahl and County Attorney Fred Payne recommended that supervisors also appoint two alternates as a backup.

Along with the new members, the supervisors also voted 4-0-1 to adjust the pay for BOE members from $23 to $24 per hour, their first pay increase since July 2017.

CARES fund

With the clock ticking down to the Dec. 30 deadline for dispersing Federal CARES Act funding, the Board approved two allocations, both discussed at previous meetings.

Fluvanna County Public Schools will receive a $150,000 supplemental appropriation for replacement of Chromebooks. Brenda Gilliam, director of curriculum and instruction, told the Board that they anticipate they will need to purchase up to 2,000 new Chromebooks for the next school year to replace units that have reached the end of service due to increased use during the months of online and hybrid schooling.

Gilliam and Superintendent Chuck Winkler said the school system has about 4,000 Chromebooks in good working order on any given day, with 3,400 currently assigned to students for in-home use. Due to increased nationwide demand and supply-chain disruptions, they are looking at an increase in price from $200 up to $310 per unit, and a potential wait time of 6-9 month for replacements.

Later, Management Analyst Liz McIver told supervisors that Fire & Rescue have responded to approximately 400 calls since the spring involving patients with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID. Fire chiefs have requested 125 air-purifying respirators and particulate blocking hoods to increase their protection from the virus at a cost of around $68,900 in CARES funding.

Both the requests were approved 4-0-1.


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