Editorial: Hanover needs housing diversity

Posted on Wednesday, May 29, 2013 at 4:42 pm

The county’s multi-family designation doesn’t view condos, apartments or townhomes differently. But the board of supervisors does, apparently.

Last week, four of seven supervisors gave their blessing to a 172-apartment project dubbed “Charleston Ridge,” to be built at the intersection of Kings Acres and Atlee Station roads. The area had been previously approved for 112 condominiums but the developer had requested a change to rental units.

Two months ago, supervisors voted 5-2 to deny an eerily similar project along Lakeridge Parkway, near its intersection with Sliding Hill Road.

There, the developer sought approval for a change from the 160 condos they had already been granted to the same number of rental units, plus an additional 70 townhomes. If the developer so chooses, the original plan could still proceed. The problem is condos aren’t selling.

The difference between the two votes might make sense if they were in vastly differently areas of the county – a 172-unit apartment complex might not make sense in rural Montpelier, for example – but these two projects are close by, 1.3 miles to be exact, and in areas nearby Interstate 95 and with scattered commercial activity. Both projects were also seeking the same multi-family residential zoning, which governs apartment, condominium and townhome proposals.

We see little reason why one project would get the go-ahead over the other. But projects like these do raise other serious questions concerning housing in Hanover, and, more importantly, who will be allowed to live here.

County leaders should note that renters contribute to Hanover’s tax base. Taxes will have to be paid on those units and renters will buy goods from local retailers. They’ll fill up their tanks at local gas stations and eat in local restaurants.

Arguments that rental units, and, presumably those who live in them, are somehow inferior are bogus. Plain and simple.

Hanover needs diverse housing to attract a diverse workforce and its current selection is below the state average. The county’s own economic development professionals encourage it; after all, as the county attracts news businesses, the new workforce will need a place to call home. Single family homes cannot fulfill that need by themselves.

It’s also true that apartments don’t belong everywhere and perhaps Charleston Ridge was a better location for such a project. We do, however, hope that the county will ensure the road improvements  go through as planned; Atlee Station Road is already congested.

In voting in favor of the recent apartment project, Board chairman Canova Peterson noted “we’re not elected to deal with emotion. We were elected to deal with facts.”

Hopefully supervisors will heed his call. It would be unfortunate for Hanover to gain the reputation as a county of exclusion. That would be unbecoming of a county that truly is a great place to live and work.

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