Change to land use would pave way for commercial growth
A recently proposed change could make some Hanover properties more marketable for development.
Hanover’s economic development department hopes to amend the county’s long-existing land-use program to allow property owners to re-zone their land for specific commercial uses without receiving back taxes.
“[We’re] trying to facilitate these parcels for commercial development,” said Edwin Gaskin, director of economic development.
The Board of Supervisors voted at their Oct. 23 meeting to hold a public hearing Nov. 26.
Uses that would be permitted under the change include “manufacturing, transportation and warehousing; professional, scientific and technical services; lodging (hotels and motels); and professional offices.”
“[This would] allow the program to serve more than rural conservation,” Gaskin said.
Under the program, land used for agricultural, horticultural or forestal purposes is taxed at a reduced rate. There are roughly 3,423 properties and 161,482 acres signed up in the county’s land-use taxation program, according to numbers released by the county. Only 242 of those properties — or 20,051 acres— are located in the suburban service area and are designated under the Comp Plan for business uses.
The change would only apply to those specific properties. Gaskin said if the amendment is approved, the plan would coincide with the areas designated for commercial development in the recently updated Comp Plan as well as the supervisors’ initiatives for the Fiscal Year 2014.
The existing program does not allow an owner to re-zone their land or change its use without financial penalties. If someone re-zones their property for commercial development uses, for example, they would be required to pay back taxes and could no longer participate in the program.
With the amendment, landowners could re-zone their land for any of the previously mentioned uses. The property would remain eligible, regardless of a change in zoning, and not be subject to back taxes until the land’s purpose is altered outside of the new parameters.
If the proposal is approved, the County code would coincide with a recently passed state law allowing land that has been re-zoned to stay in the land-use program as long as the property is only used for specific uses, set by a locality.
At the meeting, some supervisors expressed concern about the proposal. Henry District Supervisor Sean Davis said he did not understand the “genesis” behind it. Davis suggested the economic development staff team up with the planning department and simplify the re-zoning process.
“From a business perspective, there’s always several routes to accomplish the same goals,” Davis said.
County Attorney Sterling E. Rives III agreed with Davis’ suggestion of simplifying the re-zoning process, but he added that “streamlining” the re-zoning process would be in addition to the program instead of replacing the existing plan.
Supervisor Aubrey “Bucky” Stanley, Beaverdam District representative, did not vote against allowing Gaskin to advertise for a public hearing. However, Stanley said he was unsure how he would vote when the time comes.
But South Anna Supervisor Wayne T. Hazzard pushed the need for making more county properties marketable to developers.
“The problem is — we as a county often get overlooked,” Hazzard said.
He gave the example of Rolls-Royce Engine Plant, which was looking to build in Hanover several years ago. He added that often companies and businesses will not take the time to go through the re-zoning process in order to make a piece of property ready to be developed.
“That happens weekly that we are skipped over,” Gaskin said.
But Hazzard pointed out the county’s recent success, Vitamin Shoppe. The business found a large enough piece of land that was zoned for commercial development to build their new distribution center in Ashland.
“This is not going to make the whole county re-zone to commercial by any stretch of the imagination and it’s not going to immediately cause commercial investments to land on our shores,” Gaskin said. “But incrementally it will move some parcels closer to that state of being ready and therefore more marketable.”