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.)

Contact Supervisors NOW about the Hickory Grove rezoning

Now is the time for Hanover citizens to contact the Supervisors regarding the proposed rezoning to Mixed Use and B-2 commercial (REZ2019-00019) of a 51-acre parcel at the corner of Route 54 and Providence Church Road. The public hearing is planned for January 27.

For many reasons the rezoning is inappropriate for the site. It means, to name a few problems, increased traffic volume on overburdened Rte 54, destruction of the rural eastern gateway to historic Hanover Courthouse, proposed gas station/convenience store with 16 pumps, drive-through fast food restaurant, leapfrogging development, light pollution and trash.

This rezoning lies in Supervisor A.M. “Bucky” Stanley’s Beaverdam District. Let him and the other Supervisors know this proposed development is entirely out of sync with the semi-rural environment to the east of Ashland.

Use this template for your correspondence with Mr. Stanley and the Supervisors.

For a list of arguments against the rezoning, go here.

Let your Supervisors know this proposed development does not enhance your quality of life.

Ashland starts Comp Plan update Dec. 8

The Town of Ashland commences the update and review process for its 2021 Comprehensive Plan with public input starting December 8. See all the dates, times, input and meeting guidelines in its notice:

DEQ receiving comment until Dec 4 on Wegmans VWP permit

The disputed wetlands delineation for the proposed Wegmans distribution center site and the numerous public concerns raised about the wetlands have led the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to open another public comment period. 

The current public comment period closes December 4. 

Protect Hanover, the citizen group formed to respond to the proposed Wegmans distribution center and other irresponsible development in the Hanover County, has drafted a letter to the DEQ and the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) offering seven reasons why Wegmans draft Virginia Water Protection (VWP) permit must be denied.

Among its assertions Protect Hanover points out:

  • The wetlands determination is incomplete and inaccurate;
  • Secondary impacts to adjacent wetlands have not been considered;
  • The site is not the Least Environmentally Damaging Practicable Alternative (LEDPA). Both agencies must find this site as LEDPA in order to issue permits;
  • A lack of environmental justice for Brown Grove by a perfunctory process denies them a full say about impacts to their community;
  • Army Corps prematurely determined that no Environmental Impact Statement is needed.

Use these links to take action . . .

Protect Hanover invites citizens to draft their own letters or use language from its letter. Go to this link:  bit.ly/ProtectHanover

To read Brown Grove history: bit.ly/browngrovestory

To sign the Brown Grove petition: bit.ly/browngrovepetition

The proposed site for the Wegmans distribution center is inappropriate for many credible reasons: environmental damage, added traffic, insufficient infrastructure, juxtaposition to residential neighborhoods. Citizens have brought up numerous serious issues.

In their zeal to make this development work out, though, Hanover County and Wegmans have pushed a vision far too dismissive of the citizen stakeholders. County residents need more than hurried and superficial attention to their concerns.