HANOVER COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A planned development just outside the eastern line of the town of Ashland was rejected by Hanover County last week, as the board of supervisors overwhelmingly voted against a 61-acre rezoning plan.

The Plan

At the center of the discussion is a parcel of undeveloped land just a few hundred feet from an exit onto Interstate 95, which the developer sought to redesignate in both the county comprehensive plan and local zoning to accommodate a high-density residential development and commercial space.

Comparison of current zoning and the rejected zoning amendment. (Courtesy of Hanover County)

Across the 61 acres, the plan would have allowed for 72 “single-family” townhomes on 24 acres, 131 “multifamily” townhomes on 19 acres and 3 commercial pads of 3 acres each.

There were several conditions agreed to by the planning staff and the developer, including a wooded buffer along Providence Chruch Road, sidewalks and other pedestrian access throughout the area, and recreational amenities such as a stocked fish pond, community garden and two pickleball courts.

The proffers also included a cash payment of $468,000 for road improvements, in addition to the improvements to adjacent roads the developer agreed to make themselves.

The Opposition

In a marathon discussion session, the board heard from the developer, county planning staff and nearby landowners for over two hours. The plan received a mixed reception, with the majority of nearby residents speaking out against the proposal.

“I wanna make the board aware of one question: when is enough, enough?” said Chuck Reeves during citizens’ comment. “Whenever 95 is backed up, you don’t go anywhere where we live.”

But Todd Rogers, the project’s developer, said he believed the plan had responded to residents’ concerns — especially after an earlier proposal had already been met with rejection from the county.

“Our perception of the public hearings and the comments we got from the public was that under the proposal the overwhelming negative responses that we received were because of the commercial density of the property,” Rogers said, noting that the commercial portion had been reduced from the previous iteration.

One nearby landowner did speak in favor of the project, saying the residential portion would bring much-needed community to the area.

“It’s a big advantage for our senior citizens to have somewhere to live close to their families,” said Patrick Ashley, co-owner of Ashley Farms. “Where we potentially have three generations all right there.”

But others were less happy with the residential portion.

“I cannot, for the life of me, understand how planning can say it makes sense to put interstate commercial and three-or-four-story townhouses slammed up against existing neighborhoods,” said Martha Wingfield. “These uses are incompatible, they degrade our way of life.”

The Board Decides

The board members also expressed mixed feelings on the proposal, with most saying they appreciated the effort to do something with the land, but didn’t want it to fall prey to “interstate commercial” uses.

“I think the residential here is pretty nice, but I cannot support the commercial along here,” said Susan Dibble, representing the South Anna District. “It is a resounding voice in this room, month after month, year after year, that people do not want to see our rural character eroded away an inch at a time.”

W. Canova Peterson was ultimately the only one of the seven board members to vote in favor of the proposal, saying he had “a hard time justifying not having the commercial there, when our partner, the town of Ashland, has commercial all the way up to this property, right down 54.”

The vote was welcomed by the group Coalition for Hanover’s Future, which wrote in a statement following the vote that “Hanover citizens have long favored retention of rural character by preserving a gradual transition between suburban and rural. With its commercial and high-density residential components, this development was the antithesis of a gradual transition.”

While the project now appears to be dead in its current form, several board members expressed interest in reworking the comprehensive plan designation for the area, which is currently for generic “planned business.”

The process of re-configuring the comprehensive plan is ongoing, and citizens can participate by visiting the county’s designated landing page.