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It’s going to be a showdown—Hollywood style.
As it gets closer to the day the Board of Supervisors decide on the proposed Mechanicsville movie theater, residents are joining forces to prevent the plan from becoming a reality.
Roughly 40 residents gathered at the Mechanicsville Library Aug. 30 to discuss their concerns and efforts to halt the project in its tracks.
During the past two weeks, Debbie Wetlaufer, a Travellers Run resident, has helped spearhead the residents’ opposition.
“We don’t want issues made today to be issues tomorrow,” Wetlaufer said.
She stated that herself and her colleagues are not against growth in Hanover County, but as their slogan states, they don’t want the 12-screen theater in Hanover Village Shopping Center “not here, not now.”
The group is concerned the theater could increase crime in the neighboring area and overburden law enforcement.
Wetlaufer and Terry Reid, another concerned Mechanicsville resident, are worried about the theater encouraging and opening up more opportunities for crime because of its later hours.
“Teenagers already hang out at McDonald’s. Will [the theater] bring them closer to Brandy Creek [neighborhood]?” Wetlaufer said.
Reid pointed out that the theater would have some late night showings starting around 12:15 a.m. He is concerned that movies getting out later will encourage more crime from moviegoers.
Mike Trice, a Mechanicsville resident, voiced his public safety concerns not only as a citizen but also as a member of law enforcement.
“It’s gonna spread out all the services the county has,” Trice said.
In a statement Col. David R. Hines, Hanover’s Sheriff, presented at a Board of Supervisors meeting Aug. 28, Hines states that he expects the theater will bring more traffic from surrounding localities.
“Currently 52 percent of our current adult arrests are of non-residents,” Hines said. “This number is anticipated to increase as more transient traffic is expected.”
Attorney Andrew Condlin, representing developers Hanover LLC, said the company had no comment in response to Hines’ statement.
Trice noted that the county and the developers would have to address public safety issues. One option, he said, is that the county and developer would have to add more services, which Trice said, could cause tax increases.
“We have a lot of responsibilities and I want to make sure we’re doing everything we’re supposed do,” Trice added.
Another concern is increased traffic on already congested roads. There are five entrances into the shopping center where the theater would reside, but the exit to Brandy Creek would be a forced left turn.
Any drivers from Brandy Creek who would want to go to the shopping center would not be able to turn into the center from that entrance.
Wetlaufer said this would force more traffic onto Lee Davis Road.
“Lee Davis is pretty congested already, especially when you have people trying to turn into Walgreens or Tractor Supply,” Wetlaufer said.
A former planning commissioner, T. Wade King, voiced his disagreement with the proposal at the meeting.
“I’ve watched that vacant space, thinking ‘When is that land going to get developed?’” King said. “ Now, they’re bringing a dog in.”
King hopes the supervisors will return the plan back to the Planning Commission so that more discussions and community meetings can be held before it’s a done deal.
Mechanicsville District Supervisor and Board Chairman W. Canova Peterson IV has met with some of the concerned residents.
“I’m weighing all the different sides of the issue,” Peterson said.
He added, “I’m doing the best I can to make the best decision for Hanover County.”
Citizens decided the best way to make sure the proposal doesn’t become “the real deal” is by getting as much support from all Hanover residents as possible. So far the group secured 48 signatures on a petition.
The theater, called Hanover 12, would seat 2,566 patrons. Sept. 11, the proposal will go before the Board.