Master Plan: ball fields vs trails

Approximately 40 citizens turned out at the Mechanicsville Library on December 14 for a public meeting on the Hanover County Parks & Recreation Department’s draft master plan.

Citizen concerns included the loss of natural areas to ball fields; the cost of maintenance for fields (lights, mowing, irrigation); lack of connectivity among parks; seeming priority of playing fields over biking/hiking areas; light pollution; lack of passive, open areas; need for a new dog park at Pole Green; need for a greenways plan and need for expeditious cutoff of field lights.

Respondents to the Parks & Rec citizen survey did not name athletic fields among their top five priorities, yet the 20-year, $85 million draft plan shows a fairly aggressive expansion of playing fields.

Citizens perennially want to see more trails and passive areas, according to Parks Director Greg Sager. The survey bore out that fact in the top five, which included no wish for more team sport facilities.

In preliminary remarks that evening by the master plan consultant, citizens learned that Hanover falls short of neighborhood and area parks acreage and that multi-use field inventory exceeds the Virginia Outdoors Plan recommendation.

The draft plan is still open for citizen input. Contact Greg Sager, rgsager@co.hanover.va.us or John Hodges, jhodges@co.hanover.va.us

Review the draft plan at www.co.hanover.va.us/parksrec/default.htm

The next public meeting is scheduled Monday, January 25, 7:00 p.m. at the Parks & Rec office/Taylor Complex on Route 54, when the Parks & Rec Advisory Commission meets to finalize the master plan.

Dec. 8 meeting and the BIG Picture

The citizens’ voice is part of the equation that makes a livable community.

For a number of weeks now, CHF has advocated for citizens to be alert to the big picture of development impacts relating to three parcels along the Route 54 corridor east of I-95.

They are the proposed East Ashland and Providence Creek, and the existing Woodside Estates. When added altogether, these developments, if built out to their current specifications, will total over 1300 homes and over 1 million square feet of commercial space.

Sited on a parcel that lies in both the Town of Ashland and Hanover County, East Ashland alone accounts for a total of 930 residential units and 963,400 square feet of commercial space.

The upcoming December 8 community meeting to be hosted by Ashland Properties, LLC. on the East Ashland zoning case may focus almost entirely upon the Town portion.

Citizens are advised to consider the combined picture of East Ashland, as well as its proximity to Providence Creek (250 residences and 101,500 sq. ft. of commercial space) and Woodside Estates (158 homes).

The density of these developments will impact citizens in numerous ways. Traffic volume and flow pose immense challenges. Traffic studies project an additional 33,000 vehicle trips daily and at least four new traffic lights. The I-95 interchange will fail to handle the traffic. Widened roads and new intersections are planned. All of this happens at a time when VDOT’s budget is seriously diminished.

Other economic, environmental and design concerns include absence of an economic feasibility study; impact on taxpayers; light pollution; impervious surface leading to polluted runoff; stripping of tree canopy and removal of topsoil; and lack of LEED building standards.

At CHF’s November 4 Citizens Forum, Trip Pollard, of the Southern Environmental Law Center, noted that patterns of development and land use are more of a factor than population growth in driving sprawl.

With these and other cases, CHF and Hanover citizens have repeatedly asked for the best possible design with the least possible impact. To do less is to invite sprawl.

The December 8 meeting is at Ashland Coffee & Tea, 7-9 p.m.