Western rural Hanover could see an increase in residential growth in the future as forecast by the county’s proposed changes to the Comprehensive Plan.
Since the 2007 update, including current changes, the Comp Plan has predicted a 30 percent growth of residents in rural areas and 70 percent in suburban areas with existing infrastructure, also known as the “Suburban Service Area.”
The plan acts as the county’s guideline for land use, transportation and infrastructure based on Hanover’s past, recent and future trends in growth, which accounts for a span of 20 years and is revisited by county officials every five years as per state law. County officials are not obligated by law to make any changes to existing plans.
Planning Director David Maloney said one of the Planning Department’s goals for the Comp Plan, involves making sure undeveloped land is being “utilized in an efficient manner” and capable of connecting to infrastructure and roadways.
“Land is a commodity,” Maloney said. “We’re not building any more land.”
The overall annual population growth for Hanover over the next 20 years is predicted to be between 1.5 percent and 2.5 percent, which helps the County assess needs for future developments.
As part of the proposed changes to the Comp Plan, areas that are designated for “mixed-use zoning” or the intermingling of commercial and residential developments would be limited in the number of residential units built in residential areas to 15 per acre of land.
“That [was a] direct result of citizen input we received [at public meetings],” Maloney said.
Under the current plan, developers can ask to build no more than 30 dwellings per acre.
The plan was adjusted because citizens raised concerns at public hearings about the potential increase in residential density.
Citizens residing in western rural parts of the county are concerned with the potential increases in residential growth that the plan predicts.
“Like any zoning action, residents in certain areas will be affected by those decisions more than others,” Maloney said.
He noted that whereas the eastern part of the county is already fairly developed and development can be “expected” by citizens, Western Hanover has remained relatively rural despite already being predicted for growth since the 2007 Comp Plan update.
To address those concerns, Maloney said, mixed-use zoning will also be limited to only areas that permit four to eight dwellings per acre, which appear in dark yellow on the county’s land use map.
The Coalition for Hanover’s Future, a citizen-based organization, plays an active role in the process of updating the Comprehensive Plan by encouraging local residents to get involved and vocalize their concerns during various workshops and public meetings the county held.
Although changes have been made to address citizens’ concerns, Pattie Bland, the chair of the Coalition for Hanover’s Future, is still unsure of the changes to “mixed-use” land designations, specifically in areas of the South Anna District.
“I think there are some general questions about mixed-use and multi-use designations and what they will look like when they’re built,” Bland said.
Bland said citizens are concerned with residential growth from development in areas along both Route 1 and Cedar Lane but also along Route 33, closer to Goochland’s border. One of the proposed changes would add some business and commercial designations for development along the part of Cedar Lane by Route 1.
There are a few things that contribute to the potential of future growth in that area, Maloney said.
Maloney said the planning staff recognizes that area and the neighboring Elmont community as rural, but there are already surrounding developments at the Atlee/Elmont “interchange” and existing infrastructure along Route 1 and Cedar Lane.
“That’s one of those areas we said [in the Comp Plan], we expect growth to occur,” Maloney said.
Bland said a number of citizens are concerned with the “increased residential density” in that area.
“[In the plan] it looks like [the area] will be too crowded with more traffic and more kids in the schools and community,” she said.
Maloney said residents’ concerns partly stem from fear of “losing their rural lifestyle” but also the spread of “inaccurate” information within the community about the plan.
Under the proposed plan, Maloney said only single-family home developments – as opposed to apartments, for example – are designated to be west of Holly Hill Road.
“I think there’s some concern that the higher-density residential is actually going to extend farther west than what’s being planned,” Maloney said.
Maloney added he is confident that this concern won’t become a reality under the proposed plan.
In efforts to make sure the public is aware of the county’s updates on the Comp Plan, Maloney said the Planning Department staff has tried to “provide an honest picture and realistic expectations of what’s being proposed.”
All written documents and maps pertaining to the proposed changes to the plan are available on the Planning Department’s website. In addition, Maloney said increased efforts have been made this time around to hold more public meetings. Maloney also said the planning staff advertised all public meetings and workshops in local newspapers as well as on the plan’s Facebook page and their website.
The Planning Commission held nine “workshops” and there were also nine public meetings to gather the public’s input on the updated changes.
Now the Planning Commission’s recommended Comp Plan is in the hands of the Board of Supervisors. “Community meetings” hosted by the Board will take place Wednesday, Aug. 7 at Lee-Davis High School and Tuesday, Aug. 13 at Patrick Henry High School. Both meetings will be held at 6:30 p.m. for Hanover residents to discuss the Planning Commission’s recommended plan.
The Board of Supervisors must make a decision about the plan within 90 days of the Board meeting.
At this point, Maloney said, it is in the hands of the community and Board of Supervisors to decide what makes the most sense for Hanover County and its growth.
“Do we want to periodically push the suburban boundaries further into the rural areas or do we want to develop a land-use pattern that assures those existing suburban boundaries will remain viable for many years to come?” he asked.
If the Board of Supervisors approves the Comp Plan recommended by the Planning Commission, Bland is unsure of what’s in store.
“When the map colors [on the Comprehensive Plan] change, you don’t know how fast they will develop,” said Bland. “You just gotta watch.”