REMINDER: Attend Important Comp Plan Meeting!

Although this is an inconvenient time for people working 9-5 jobs, Hanover County’s Board of Supervisors, Planning Commission, and Economic Development Authority are holding a joint work session to discuss the Comp Plan.

WHEN: 1:00 p.m., Wednesday, August 30, 2006
WHERE: Richmond-Times Dispatch Hanover Production Facility
(8460 Times-Dispathc Blvd., Mechanicsville).

We need YOU to attend and listen closely to how the Comp Plan is evolving without your input!


Poll Shows Widespread Support for Land Conservation

Results of a statewide survey shows widespread support for using government resources to protect open spaces. The Virginia Outdoors Survey was conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and surveyed 3,300-household by mail.


Q- Do you favor outright purchase from willing sellers as an appropraite tool for conserving open space?
A- More than 70% surveyed said “yes”

Q – Should the state spend public funds to prevent the loss of exceptional natural areas to development?
A – Nearly 78% of respondents answered “yes”

Q-How important is it to protect Virginia’s natural and open space resources
A- 67% said it was “very important” and 28% said it was “important.”

Governor Kaine said: “Working in a bipartisan way with the General Assembly, we have started to step-up our efforts to protect open space by forging consensus on common-sense changes to our existing land conservation tax credit program.”

When asked about the importance of access to outdoor recreation opportunities for their families, nine-in-ten respondents indicated it was “important” or “very important,” and fewer than 10% percent said it was “not important.”

Visiting historic sites saw a 15% percent increase, and visiting natural areas rose by more than 17%.

“When looking at all of the activities ranked, it appears more people are visiting historic sites, parks and other natural areas to enjoy the outdoors,” said Secretary of Natural Resources L. Preston Bryant, Jr. “This also demonstrates the public’s desire to have natural and historic resources that are not only preserved, but accessible as well.”

DCR staff will use survey responses to develop regional recommendations for outdoor recreation infrastructure, and open space and land conservation strategies. A series of public meetings to review these regional recommendations and provide input on the 2007 Virginia Outdoors Plan will be held this fall, and the plan is scheduled to be completed next spring.

For more information, visit the DCR website.

Agriculture & Forest Lands Are Disappearing

According to the 2002 U.S. Agricultural Census:

  • Farm land in Hanover County has declined 46.2% since 1950.
  • Over fifty years ago, 186,745 acres were farmed; by 2002, this figure dropped to 100,537 acres.
  • In 1950, there were 1,859 farms compared to 682 in 2002 – a 63% decline!
  • Since 1950, Hanover County has lost 72% of its woodlands – about 70,616 acres.

When farms and forests are lost, their unique economic and environmental contribution is also lost, permanently changing the character of Hanover County’s rural character. Sprawl threatens rural areas like Hanover County by imposing fiscal, social, and environmental burdens upon all residents.

Despite the loss of rural land, the 2002 Agricultural Census notes that a robust equine population thrives in Hanover County. Indeed, Hanover County’s equine population ranks 9th (out of 97) counties statewide and 464th of 3,065 counties nationwide. The positive economic impact from horse farms includes jobs and the sale of horses bred for a market outside of Virginia.

Other statistics from the 2002 Agricultural Census:

  • Hanover ranks 3rd in nursery, greenhouse, floriculture, and sod production.
  • Hanover ranks 4th in barley and vegetable production, and 6th in wheat and soybean production.

According to the Hanover County Citizen’s Survey, a majority of Hanover citizens favor retaining a rural environment. The Citizen Survey conducted during the Spring of ’05 also shows 61% of the respondents favoring land use development that strives to keep the county mostly rural. Even if tax increases resulted to fund conservation easements, the majority of citizens endorse this position.

Because interest and vigor for agricultural pursuits exist and because these lands are under increasing development pressure – citizens, the Planning Commission, and Board of Supervisors need to devise strategies to protect and enhance Hanover County’s agricultural and forest lands. The CHF proposes the following for inclusion within the Comp Plan update:

  • Limit the expansion of the Suburban Service Area (SSA). SSA designation is given to areas in the county where future residential, commercial, and industrial development will be permitted to occur. If the SSA expanded, it will mean the future loss of rural lands.
  • Implement a Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program that permanently protects farm and forest lands.
  • Pursue economic development ideas that support agricultural businesses and tourism.
  • Pursue all avenues of local, state, federal funding to purchase conservation easements or design incentives to preserve the agricultural potential on farms.
  • Seek enabling legislation to implement a Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program.
  • Establish a conservation foundation to educate landowners, accept donations to support a PDR program (based upon Loudon County’s 2003 Comprehensive Plan Rural Policy Initiative).

Revisions of Hanover’s Comp Plan will reflect whether or not Hanover is a proactive protector of farms and the county’s rural character. Will our future include more tracts amd less tractors? Subdivisions and cars multiplying like rabbits? Less cornfields and more condos? Higher taxes, crowded schools, air and water pollution, and a gradual decline of the quality of life?

The Comprehensive Plan & Hanover County’s Future

The future development of Hanover County is being decided right now! The Coalition for Hanover’s Future (CHF) strongly believes that public input should be an essential component of Hanover County’s Comprehensive Plan update. The revision process is already underway and the Board of Supervisors (BoS) plans to alter the Comp Plan by the end of the year.

What is a Comprehensive Plan? A Comprehensive Plan serves as a guideline for land use development. As a policy document, it integrates land use, economic, social, historical, environmental, transportation, and energy concerns of the county into one plan. Mandated by the VA General Assembly, county comp plans also identify issues, goals, and objectives which guide decision-making.

The Consultants
The BoS hired the following consultants to the tune of about $200,000: Clarion Associates LLC, Dewberry Associates, McKinney and Company, and Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc.. Under contract, the consultants will revise and issue a timeline of activities that, when compared to previous Comp Plan updates, narrows the window of opportunity for ciitizens to participate in 2006 revisions of the Comp Plan. In fact, revisions are taking place one year earlier than originally scheduled.

Citizen Input? To date, the consultants have conducted private meetings with members of the BoS and Planning Commission (PC). At a joint meeting on March 1, 2006, the consultants presented the results of seven private meetings and facilitated a work session focusing on the possiblity of reaching consensus regarding some of the issues. Although the joint session was a public meeting, NO citizen input was allowed. A second joint meeting was held on April 4, 2006 and again, the purpose of this meeting was to develop consensus around goals for the 2006 Comprehensive Plan update. Top priority was given to: (1.) how much new development should occur in Hanover County and (2.) how can the County spur more economic development. Dominating the discussion? How should the County meet transportation and utility needs which will be the results of additional development? Like the first joint meeting, NO citizen input was allowed during this meeting.

Survey Says
The consultants have begun to draft Comp Plan revisions even though they are working without the benefit of grassroots opinion. The only pulse of opinion they have at their disposal are results from the Hanover Citizens’ Survey. The Survey revealed that, according to 71% of the respondents, the rate of population growth was viewed as “too fast.” Sixty-one percent of the citizens polled supported programs designed to maintain Hanover’s rural character, even if this would mean more taxes.

Not Enough Time!
Based upon a breif, one year timeline established by county officials for updating the Comprehensive Plan, public hearings for citizen input will not taker place until October, even though the BoS aims to approve the revised Comp Plan by the end of 2006. How can this comperssed timeline provide enough opportunities for quality, public participation CHF asks?

The Goals of the Coalition
As part of its educational outreach efforts, the CHF will provide position statements and relevant data regarding Hanover County’s Comprehensive Plan. Some of these position papers have been published in the Herald-Progress and the Mechanicsville Local.

CHF’s top issues include:

  • Sustainable population growth
  • Preservation of farm land and forests
  • Long-range planning for green infrastructure
  • Treating Hanover as an integral part of the Richmond region
  • Exploring a variety of housing options
  • Studying multi-modal transportation
  • Balancing economic growth ina way that also protects the integrity and prosperity of Ashland and other community commercial center
  • Protecting Hanover’s historical assets.
  • Contact Your Supervisor NOW!
    We strongly urge you to write letters, send e-mails, and speak with your Supervisor; informing him that the process for updating the Comprehensive Plan does not include time or opportunities for citizen input in the form of workshops, focus groups, and meetings.