If a pending project comes to fruition, Mechanicsville residents might not have to trek far to see the latest thriller on the big screen.
But some residents aren’t thrilled. They worry a proposed 12-screen movie theater in the Hanover Village Shopping Center may cause traffic and crime problems in surrounding neighborhoods.
The application, submitted by Georgia-based Carmike Cinemas Inc., is currently in the review process.
The theater, called Hanover 12, would seat 2,566 moviegoers in the shopping center, located on a 17-acre track off of Route 360. The theater would have a restaurant inside and a drop-off circle in front of the building.
Because the location is in a specified “B-3” commercial zoning area, developers have to obtain a conditional use permit to build the theater.
Attorney Andrew Condlin, who represents the theater’s developers, Hanover Village LLC, said that neighbors and residents voiced two main concerns that he and his partners hope they have addressed.
One main concern is the current “cut-through traffic going on Brandy Creek drive,” Condlin said. Condlin and others involved with the development plan met with VDOT and local officials to try to devise a plan and solution to the traffic problems along that thoroughfare.
“We can’t solve the existing traffic [problem],” Condlin said. “But can we solve anything to keep us from exasperating the issue.”
One solution would create a forced left turn onto Brandy Creek, encouraging traffic to take 360 and not cut through the neighborhood behind the proposed theater property. There will also be “no left turn” signs for traffic filtering onto Brandy Creek from the theater.
Nearby residents voiced concerns about current traffic issues during a July 9 “neighbor meeting” at Lee-Davis High School.
“Our kids can’t bike [down the road]. We can’t even walk many times during the day. [The road] becomes very dangerous,” said Brandy Creek neighborhood resident David Johnson.
Johnson added that the Sheriff’s Office has already attempted to prevent speeding by installing speed limit warning signs, but he has witnessed drivers neglecting the warning and speed limit.
Timmons Group engineer Junie West has helped Condlin in addressing residents’ concerns.
West told residents Tuesday night that closing Brandy Creek Drive with a cul-de-sac – an earlier proposal – or other means would make traffic even worse. West added that Hanover’s public works department has ranked the Lee-Davis intersection “the number two volume traffic section in the county.”
Condlin also said they met with the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Sheriff’s Office to discuss solutions to the traffic problem. According to Condlin, VDOT said creating a cul-de-sac to block off the lower half of Brandy Creek would not be feasible.
There were also issues pertaining to the theater’s encroachment into the adjacent neighborhood.
After an initial meeting with the public, the development plan was altered to add a 100-200-foot buffer between the movie theater and Brandy Creek neighborhood. Condlin said the Hanover Village developers thought a vegetative buffer would be a more efficient way to keep loiterers out than a wire fence.
A parking lot was also originally located behind the theater, closer to the neighborhood, but because of residents’ concerns, Condlin said the developers altered the plan to have most parking in front and employee parking on the side of the theater closest to Lee-Davis Road.
Crime is another concern. To address this issue, Condlin said Carmike would employ off-duty county officers to help with security. Also the theater’s managers will be trained in security, Condlin added.
Carmike’s main reason for choosing this location, Condlin said, is because of Mechanicsville’s demographic and the growing surrounding area. In a market study, Condlin said Carmike found that residents wanted a movie theater in Mechanicsville, as well.
“I think it’d be a good place to have nearby for people to go eat and watch a movie,” said Jon Becker, Joyner Commercial’s site specialist, hired by Carmike.
Becker was hired to scan areas in both Virginia and North Carolina for potential areas to house profitable movie theaters.
Becker called Carmike “a small-town USA theater operator that enforces family values and entertainment,” adding that the theater would bring 60 more jobs to the area.
Still, local residents have their concerns.
The Hanover Planning Commission will hear the movie theater plan at a meeting Thursday July 18, where citizens can voice their opinions at a public hearing. The plan will also undergo a second round of public comment once it reaches the Board of Supervisors.
Currently the closest theaters for most Mechanicsville residents are the Regal Virginia Center 20 at Virginia Center Commons and the Bowtie Theater off of Boulevard in Richmond.