Hanover Planning Commission meeting

During a meeting in February of the Hanover Planning Commission, Gina Willett held a sign opposing the plan for a Wegmans distribution center.

Hanover County is rescheduling a decision on zoning changes for the Wegmans distribution center project.

With the COVID-19 pandemic leading to a state ban on gatherings of more than 10 people, officials this week canceled all of the county’s board and committee meetings through Tuesday and public hearings scheduled for Wednesday.

The decision to cancel the upcoming public hearing on the closely watched case means an anticipated vote on proffer conditions for the development, at a 220-acre site at the intersection of Ashcake and Sliding Hill roads, will be delayed indefinitely.

“We will to the best of our ability continue to work on other business items like Wegmans,” Supervisor Angela Kelly-Wiecek said in an interview Thursday. “But there’s no manual or guideline for how you should hold a massive public hearing during a public health crisis; therefore we are postponing.”

The Rochester, N.Y.-based chain is proposing to build up to 1.7 million square feet of warehouse and office space at the site to serve its stores in the mid-Atlantic region. The company is asking Hanover for permission to exceed limits on building and light fixture heights. It is also asking the county to lift restrictions on fencing, outdoor storage and the removal of burial remains at the site.

After the board’s approval of incentives for the project in December, residents opposed to the project argued that Hanover should find a way to block the project or alter the proposed site plan.

Project opponents also are upset that the county and state will incentivize the $175 million project with $6.7 million that will go toward grants, tax rebates and road and infrastructure improvements.

In social media posts and forums as well as public meetings attended by hundreds of people, residents have called on the county to block the project or delay the vote on the new proffer conditions.

Hanover Planning Director David Maloney says the zoning case lets the county negotiate new restrictions and changes to the company’s requests. The Planning Commission voted unanimously last month to recommend the new zoning conditions with amendments to the proposed landscape buffers, lighting and fencing regulations.

Residents who live near the development say those changes don’t go far enough. In addition to lobbying for additional protections, a coalition of area residents is studying how the county worked on the project in secret for more than a year.

In interviews Thursday, two coalition members said they are reluctant to celebrate the county’s decision to postpone the vote.

“I don’t want to look at this as an advantageous perspective because of the seriousness of the situation,” said Chris French. “The extra time to study the issue is appreciated, but the reason for it is not.”

“As much as I have strong feelings about Wegmans, it’s not as important in the grand scheme of things,” said Rod Morgan. “I don’t think it should be a priority for the county right now.”

The Board of Supervisors is still scheduled to meet Wednesday to review administrative matters and convene in closed session. Kelly-Wiecek said it will not discuss or take any action on the Wegmans project.

Wegmans officials did not respond to a request for comment on the zoning case Thursday.

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