The Hanover Democratic Committee believes one supervisor’s vote to repeal Hanover’s cash proffers policy late last year may have been inappropriate.
South Anna District Supervisor Wayne Hazzard, a Republican, co-owns a real estate company, The Diamond Group, Inc. Feb. 27, 2008, before Hazzard’s term, the previous board approved a rezoning request from the Diamond Group to allow for 25 residential units on nearly 160 acres in the Cold Harbor District. The still-undeveloped land is located on the west side of Fox Hunter Lane, near its intersection with McClellan Road.
One of the conditions of the rezoning was that Hanover County would receive $14,240 per residential unit prior to the issuance of each certificate of occupancy. The condition also applies an annual cost-of-living increase to that figure in accordance with the cash proffer policy in place at the time. Current Hanover County records list the property’s total receivables at $413,375.
In his 2011 statement of economic interests, Hazzard declared holding more than $250,000 in Diamond Group stock. He is also the secretary/treasurer and half-owner of the Diamond Group.
Nov. 28, 2012, Hazzard was one of four supervisors who voted to eliminate Hanover County’s cash proffer policy going forward, and to initiate a process that allows for already-zoned, undeveloped projects to apply to remove the cash proffers from their zoning conditions.
Toni Radler, vice chair, outreach & communications for the Hanover Democrats, brought up the issue in a letter to Hanover County Attorney Sterling Rives.
Radler wrote: “Unquestionably, Mr. Hazzard’s vote and participation in the proffer and pre-existing proffer issue is self serving. But our question for you is whether his involvement in this issue goes beyond the level of being self serving.
“Does Mr. Hazzard’s participation in the discussion and vote on proffers and pre-existing proffers constitute a Conflict of Interest…?”
Rives replied with a four-page letter, in which he outlined the various procedural and legal considerations involved.
He stated that the county attorney has no authority to determine whether a public official’s actions constitute a violation of the State and Local Government Conflict of Interests Act. That authority lies with the Commonwealth’s Attorney.
Rives provided excerpts from Va. Code section 2.2-3112, which states that a public official “[s]hall disqualify himself from participating in the transaction if (i) the transaction has application solely to the property or a business or governmental agency in which he has a personal interest…”
The Code section also states that a public official “[m]ay participate in the transaction if it affects the public generally, even though his personal interest, as a member of the public, may also be affected by that transaction.”
Va. Code 2.2-3114(F) states, “An officer or employee of state government who is required to declare his interest … shall declare his interest by stating (i) the transaction involved, (ii) the nature of the officer’s or employee’s personal interest affected by the transaction, (iii) that he is a member of a business, profession, occupation, or group the members of which are affected by the transaction, and (iv) that he is able to participate in the transaction fairly, objectively, and in the public interest.”
Rives pointed out that the elimination of the cash proffers policy applies only to new rezoning applications and therefore does not affect the Diamond Group’s 159.5-acre tract in the Cold Harbor District.
However, he cited one board action that could potentially affect the Diamond Group, which is when the supervisors voted to accept the Cash Proffers and Capital Funding Committee’s recommendation “to eliminate the balance of receivable cash proffers provided that the parties responsible make proper application to amend their rezoning cases…”
“Therefore, it could be argued that, because this action of the Board begins a process which could ultimately lead to the elimination or amendment of the cash proffers due on the tract of land owned by the Diamond Group and other similarly situated properties, Mr. Hazzard should have declared his interest in the property in accordance with Va. Code,” Rives wrote.
“On the other hand, the vote taken by the Board to accept the Proffer Committee’s recommendation did not change the proffers applicable to the Diamond Group tract of land or any other property. In fact, the Board’s action expressly states that property owners will have to make subsequent applications to amend the proffers,” he continued.
If the Diamond Group files an application to delete their cash proffers, then Hazzard will be required to disclose his interest and abstain from the discussion and vote on that application.
Rives also noted that the Board of Supervisors decided to follow the conventional process for proffer amendments. No special provisions were enacted that would benefit the Diamond Group.
When reached for comment Wednesday morning, Hazzard said, “I respect the democracy we live in that allows citizens to voice their opinions about anything, and they have just as much a right to criticize me and try to condemn my actions if they feel that’s proper.”
He continued, “I don’t agree with their opinion, but I recognize as citizens of this great nation, we have to allow others to express their concerns and opinions.
“I try to represent Hanover without any bias and without any personal gain involved in anything I do.”