Why are County Officials Pushing Multi-Use? What’s the Rationale?

The Comp Plan update is nearly finished, but we have concerns. Is the push for “Multi-Use” another gift for developers?

A new land use type termed Multi-Use is being proposed within the current update of the Comprehensive Land Use Plan.  The big question is why?

A similar land use called a Mixed Use Ordinance has been on the books since October, 2006. It was pushed through six months before the 2007 Comprehensive Land Use Plan was approved. At the time, county officials insisted that a Mixed Use District was needed “right away.” At the time, county officials couldn’t wait for it to be part of the Comprehensive Plan. Guess how many mixed use developments exist in Hanover County today? ZERO! Now, county officials are trying to sell citizens a new land use designation as part of the 2013 Comprehensive Plan update and it’s called “Multi-Use.”  Why are county officials pushing this new land use designation? There are no clear answers.

Applications for Multi-Use are worrisome because they are so “loosey-goosey.”  We don’t really know what the county will allow and not allow. We do know that Multi-Use will allow developers to build just about anything they want — they will be able to build “old school” style developments. For example, a strip mall toward the front of a property with dense residential toward the back.

So, the question remains:  “Why establish a new land use if there already exists a tool that allows the same thing?”  If county officials want to lower density within what Mixed Use allows, they can do that — no new ordinance is required. From our perspective, Multi-Use could allow developers to build a jumble of houses, businesses, strip malls and industrial buildings.

The current Mixed Use Ordinance and the proposed Multi-Use land use are very similar in many respects:

  • Each use requires a master plan;
  • Each use allows a wide range of housing types – attached and detached single family dwellings, multiple-family dwellings, and multiple use structures (this is often what is referred to as live/work-retail/commercial on the bottom with apartments or condos above);
  • Each use allows business and industrial development;
  • Each use claims to achieve better coordination between these different types of uses.

BUT, under close examination, there are several key differences:

  • The Mixed Use Ordinance can only apply in the Suburban Service Area and this is stated clearly in the ordinance. Not so in the Multi-Use description.
  • Mixed Use requires a 25% minimum of open space; Multi-use has no such requirement.
  • Mixed Use requires developers to buffer impacts on existing residential areas; Multi-Use has no such requirements.
  • Mixed Use allows a maximum residential density of 30 units per acre. The proposed Multi-Use land use designation states that maximum residential density will be 15 units per acre. This difference in density is not a good reason for a new land use zoning type.  Why not revise the Mixed Use Ordinance to lower density?

Please tell your supervisor to review the existing Mixed Use Ordinance and tweak if needed. We don’t need more ordinances that are very loosely written and don’t give citizens the protections they need to keep their neighborhoods free of incompatible, poorly designed projects.

The Coalition for Hanover’s Future says NO to this new zoning type called “Multi-Use” land use.  

Other concerns we have with regard to the County’s proposed Comprehensive Land Use Update includes allowing higher residential density along the Cedar Lane corridor; abolishing the Elmont Small Area Plan; and, the unknown impacts of land use changes along U.S. Route 33 in South Anna.

Please contact your supervisor and attend the two remaining Comprehensive Plan Update meetings (listed below) to voice your concerns.

Comprehensive Plan Update
Board of Supervisors Public Hearing

August 28, 2013 – 7:00 p.m.
September 4, 2013 – 7:00 p.m.

Hanover County Administration Building – Board Room
7516 County Complex Road – Hanover, VA 23069

Please share this information and come to the meetings to voice your concerns.

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