Hanover County commences two-year Comp Plan update; Citizens need to speak up

An unprecedented two-year timeline has been laid out for the Comprehensive Land Use Plan Review and Update that will culminate in a finished product August 2023.

Updated every five years, the Comp Plan is a guide for how and where the County will grow.

Engagement with the update process is vital in order for Hanover citizens to contribute their best ideas for the future of the County.

To see the Comp Plan timeline, click here

Planning Commission defers RC Ordinance change for 60 days; public work session planned

In its July 15 meeting, following a public hearing, the Planning Commission deferred the proposed Rural Conservation (RC) Ordinance revision for 60 days. Commissioners will hold a public work session focusing on an updated draft from the Planning staff. Date, time and place to be announced.

The general goal of the Rural Conservation District, created some 20 years ago, was to provide assurances that open space would be preserved and maintained and allow some residential clusters in the rural area. The purpose of this zoning was to keep large tracts of land open for agricultural and other non-residential agricultural uses.

What is gained by changing the ordinance? Further division of the preserved open space by allowing a second preservation lot. Comparison of the existing and proposed ordinances follows:

Existing RC Ordinance

The RC District allows a cluster of homes in a residential portion with some common open space and a preservation lot that allows one dwelling and agriculture, among permitted uses. The ordinance mandates that 70% of the net developable acreage must be preserved. Permanent open space easements are placed on the common open space and the preservation lot.

Proposed RC Ordinance

The modified ordinance would allow a residential cluster with open space, and up to two preservation lots. One preservation lot of not fewer than 10 acres may have a dwelling and the other preservation lot, termed a conservation lot, would be restricted to agricultural, non-residential uses as listed in the ordinance. The 70% conservation mandate stands. Easements would be placed on the common open space, the preservation lot and the conservation lot.

Why change the ordinance now? There are compelling reasons to wait:

  • The County has just launched a freighted timeline for the 2022 Comp Plan Review and Update. Every chapter of the current Comp Plan will be scrutinized. Lots of moving parts. Don’t piecemeal revisions of ordinances prior to this process.
  • Per the County, rural planning policy is due for a big overhaul to define the role and definition of rural and to expand and articulate rural and agricultural policies. Huge lifts. Why not wait and consider these and other RC changes as part of a coordinated rural strategy?
  • The County now holds two easements per RC parcel, or approximately 50 easements. The new ordinance could add a third easement on each. When the County is admittedly understaffed and underperforming the annual inspections, does it need more easements to manage? Is the integrity of the conservation easements already compromised?

Citizen input vital: 2022 Comp Plan Review/Update now commencing

On June 23 in the afternoon meeting of the Board of Supervisors, Hanover County’s Planning Department will present its proposed task list and timeline for the upcoming Comprehensive Review and Update. Below is a view of the timeline. See the issues for scrutiny in each section of the Comprehensive Plan, followed by the scope of consultant’s work.

The Comp Plan affects quality of life because it is a guide for land use decisions. What will make Hanover a better place to live? Let your County officials hear from you.

Hickory Grove rezoning denied in 7-0 vote

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to deny the rezoning request by Hickory Hill, II, LLC for its Hickory Grove MX/B-2 development (REZ2019-00019) in the March 10 public hearing.

Many troubling issues with probable bad outcomes loomed with this application: a flawed traffic study, environmental degradation, destroyed viewshed, massive traffic increase on overburdened Rte 54, commercial businesses (a proposed 5 high volume, high traffic restaurants with drive-through or pick-up) over a mile from the I-95 interchange, noise, trash, light pollution and more.

This MX/B-2 proposed development would have included 100 age-restricted townhomes and 9 acres of commercial establishments. The “village” and “walkable” concepts never seemed attainable in this poorly sited development floated out into a semi-rural transition area.

A total of 364 citizens signed the Keep Hanover Rural/Protect Scenic Rte 54 petition. They affirmed that this rezoning was out of synch with the rural environment. Petitioners and speakers at the public hearing voiced their strong convictions about protecting good quality of life in Hanover County.

Hickory Grove rezoning case slated for March 10 hearing: proposed MX/B-2 project still jarring

Hickory Hill, II, LLC’s rezoning application (REZ2019-00019) comes off a 60-day deferral for its March 10 public hearing before the Board of Supervisors. The proposed 51-acre mixed-use/commercial development remains inappropriate for the semi-rural transition at the eastern border of Ashland with Hanover’s Beaverdam District. Applicant has proffered minimally in a process that has extended over a year.

Applicant has removed the 16-pump gas station/convenience store from the 9-acre commercial parcel and inserted 2 fast-casual restaurants with pickup. So now there are five restaurants in the site plan, all of which would pull traffic a mile and a half off Interstate 95, creating more traffic and congestion. And with a Conditional Use Permit (CUP), applicant could return at any time with a request for a convenience store/gas station with fewer than 16 pumps.

Additionally, applicant has agreed to increase the Rte 54 thoroughfare buffer by 25% for trees and 30% for shrubs. What about increased buffer for residential neighbors? Nothing proffered.

See the following list of troubling issues and impacts of the proposed development:

How this MX/B-2 Project Will Impact the Ashland-Hanover Area

The Commercial Plan Includes

  • 2 fast-casual restaurants w/drive-through
  • 1 Fast Food restaurant w/drive-through
  • 2 high turnover sit-down restaurants w/pick-up
  • The plan now includes 5 high volume restaurants, 4 with drive-through, designed to attract interstate commerce
  • Multiple office buildings
  • Commercial Retail facility(ies)
  • The 16-pump gas station/convenience store has been removed at this point, but with Conditional Use Permit (CUP), developer can request gas station/convenience store with fewer than 16 gas pumps at any time.

Traffic Increase

  • This proposal would add approximately 7000 vehicle trips/day to Route 54.
  • Route 54 is overburdened already.
  • The already approved East Ashland project would add 33,000 vehicle trips/day which would be in addition to the 7000 vehicle trips from this project. 
  • We need adequate traffic studies to determine completely the total picture including costs, benefits and impacts to surrounding neighborhoods.

Commercial Inappropriate for Site

  • Encourages sprawl into semi-rural transition area, leapfrogging over undeveloped area.
  • Incompatible with existing residential areas that include the longstanding, semi-rural Jamestown Road, Burleigh Drive and Rte 54 neighborhoods in addition to newer residential neighborhoods.
  • Compromises historic corridor from Ashland to Hanover Courthouse.
  • Lengthy business hours adding noise, traffic, light pollution.
  • Overbuilding in face of declining demand (20+ vacant commercial properties now in Ashland).
  • These businesses are not “village” and “walkable” in scale or aesthetics.
  • It’s plain ugly next to residential neighborhoods and farms adjacent to the property.
  • Residential work would begin first and last up to around 5 years.
  • No guarantee when commercial development would start, but it would be after residential, and could last up to 10 years
  • The developer refuses to provide “phasing” timelines to Board of Supervisors.

MX Zoning Has Poor Record

  • Conceptual plans changed during or shortly after construction.
  • The “village” and “walkable” concepts are often underwhelming or missing with dominant design meant to attract interstate traffic.
  • Some Hanover County Supervisors have expressed dissatisfaction with the Mixed-Use zoning track record.
  • This proposal should not progress until an analysis of the Mixed-Use zoning district guidelines is completed. At minimum, the analysis should include
  • Reviewing the Comprehensive Plan Section 2, Land Use, and limiting the General Land Use map designations where mixed use is considered a “compatible” zoning district. 
  • Creating more types of Mixed-Use zoning districts tailored to the General Land Use map designations. 

Economic and Fiscal Questions

  • Infrastructure costs not adequately determined and compared to revenue that would be realized (e.g., more costs than revenue).
  • Commercial occupancy rate may be underwhelming in view of current economic conditions and underutilization in commercial sites on the other side of I-95.
  • Has cost-benefit analysis from county perspective been completed?
  • Long-term debt for county?

Developer’s proffers re: Buffer, Providence Church Rd

– Developer proffers very little in terms of buffers. No additional enhancements for     Providence, with minimal enhancements for the Rte 54 thoroughfare buffer by 25% for trees and 30% for shrubs, to be a mix of evergreen and deciduous. No other buffer enhancements are proffered.

-Developer may pay for demolition of Providence Church Rd along the HOA side. (This would be required anyway.)