A group of Hanover citizens is asking the Hanover County Board of Supervisors to reconsider a recent site plan approval issued by the county’s Planning Department.
The supervisors will hear a zoning appeal during today’s 3 p.m. meeting in the Administration Building from a local developer regarding site plans for a new Industrial Park off Route 1.
Plans for the Cedar Lane Industrial Park were approved in 2015 and included four possible access points to the project, three located off Cedar Lane and one situated off Route 1.
The developer of the adjacent Chickahominy Falls subdivision and affected residents who live along Cedar Lane became alarmed when Scannell Properties filed and received approval of construction plans for Phase I of the project that did not include the Route 1 entrance, and only one of the Cedar Lane access points.
The age-restricted Chicka-hominy Falls is located directly across from the Phase 1 project that includes a multi-story warehouse facility.
A traffic study that accompanied the plans approved the single entrance, noting the increased traffic would not change the rating currently assigned to the two-lane road, and Cedar Lane could accommodate increased traffic related to the project.
In October, the Planning Department approved a site plan that included the Cedar Lane entrance only, clearing the way for Scannell to begin construction at the site.
Residents along Cedar Lane responded by forming the community group to appeal the Planning Department’s decision to approve the site plan with one entrance.
The Cedar Lane Coalition is a community group comprised of homeowners in Chickahominy Falls and other neighborhoods located along Cedar Lane.
They contend that Cedar Lane was never intended as a major thoroughfare with more than 400 trucks a day travelling along its narrow lanes.
The group placed a tractor-trailer at the intersection of Cedar Lane and Route 1 clearly displaying their sentiments: “400 Big Trucks a Day do not belong on Cedar Lane.”
Planning Director David Maloney is defending his decision to approve the site plan, and recommending that the appeal be denied. He also noted the 400 truck a day figure is “overstated”.
Maloney said 80 percent of the 1,000 trips daily identified in the traffic analysis was attributed to employees at the new facility, and estimated the center would garner about 100-plus truck trips a day.
Acknowledging there were four entrances on the original plans, Maloney noted that Scannell chose to utilize only one in the first phase of construction.
“I think there’s a misunderstanding that the plan requires all four entrances to be built, and it clearly doesn’t,” Maloney said.
The appeal was filed by Chickahominy Falls developer Roger Glover, and other neighborhoods filed similar claims that were dismissed because the residents were not close enough to the project to be considered or meeting the “aggrieved” requirements.
The Cedar Lea subdivision was one of those neighborhoods that filed an appeal that was denied because they didn’t satisfy statute requirements defining aggrieved parties.
“We were told we were not an aggrieved party,” said Cedar Lea Park resident Steve Busic. “We were shocked because that was like saying your concerns don’t matter. We have 300 families in Cedar Lea that think otherwise.”
The site was rezoned in 2015 under a board-approved initiative called the Strategic Zoning Initiative, an economic development effort that allows landowners to market large tracts for industrial development, in turn, providing more available commercial property in the county’s inventory.
But some members of the coalition claim that program “fast-tracked” the approval process and resulted in major decisions being reached at administrative levels without public input.
Chickahominy Falls resident Bob Mahone said the increase in truck traffic would create a nightmare for neighboring residences.
“I moved here from Henrico County and downsized to come to a rural, quiet place. I love the farm atmosphere that the community is developed around, and, then, to find out two weeks ago that we’ve got this big baby sitting there looking at us,” he added.
Some coalition members said they did not object to the Industrial Park, but were upset at the lack of public input regarding the planning process. “We are really not opposed to the project; we are opposed to the entrance,” Mahone said. “Dumping the trucks right onto Cedar Lane in front of us is something we can’t live with.”
Some Cedar Lane Coalition members suspected opting for the Cedar Lane entrance was a cost-cutting measure. An entrance on Route 1 would be more expensive and could possibly involve a signal light and expanded turn lanes.
Maloney said his department concluded the Cedar Lane entrance provided a safer traffic situation compared to a Route 1 entrance.
“Staff’s position is that it is going to be safer for trucks to enter the property by exiting Route 1 at a signalized intersection rather than just a commercial driveway off Route 1 that has no signal, which means trucks turning in and out crossing two lanes or traffic, again with no signal,” Maloney said. “We think that having trucks enter the property on Cedar Lane through a signal-controlled intersection and then enter right into the property is going to be a lot safer.”
A major improvement project at the Cedar Lane-Route 1 intersection was completed earlier this year.
Even with the improved intersection, another Chickahominy Falls resident said further study is needed regarding traffic increases and other possible impacts of the project.
“There are other impacts they could have as well — noise and environmental impact. There’s also a lot of concern that that volume of diesel trucks could begin shaking the ground and messing with foundations and everything else; so, to just rubber-stamp this thing through on Wednesday seems like a real premature move,” Rick Albee said.
Crews began clearing land at the site late last week and are beginning work on a construction entrance off Cedar Lane.
Maloney said Scannell has every right to begin construction since all documentation is in place, but admitted board action could alter that status.
Glover said attempts to explore options with the developer did not yield results, including the purchase of land to provide an alternate entrance.
A number of supervisors have visited the site and met with concerned residents, according to coalition members.
Henry District supervisor Sean Davis said he has some questions regarding the method in which the property was zoned. “I had some concerns when we started the Strategic Zoning initiative and possible unintended consequences, and, lo and behold, here we are,” Davis said. He said the Route 1 entrance seems like a better option. “You can’t have that many trucks going up and coming in on Cedar Lane. I stand with these folks.”
Davis said he still is in favor of the Industrial Park at the site with some adjustments.
In addition to a number of supervisors, Glover also met with Scannell Properties in an attempt to resolve the differences, but the developer determined that no changes to the plan were necessary, according to Glover.
“Their representative did call me back and said ‘This is the direction our company is going. We’ll consider some of these things in the future but we’re not changing anything right now and we are moving forward as fast as we can’,” Glover said.
Maloney also said future entrances are a possibility as other sites on the project are developed.
Glover contends the submitted and VDOT (Virginia Department of Transportation) approved Traffic Study was flawed in that it did not consider the impacts of the entire project, but only one of several tracts included in the Park project.
“Clearly, the TIA is supposed to consider the whole project,” Glover said. He is hoping for positive results when the board meets today, voicing a hope that the panel will listen to the residents and reconsider the site plan.
“We’re hoping that the board sees the situation here and understands the staff misinterpreted the proffers (relating to traffic study) ... and that Scannell must resubmit a plan with a TIA that is consistent with the proffers,” Glover said.
He said if there are questions, a deferral might be in order, citing that two members on the board are attending their final meeting, including Wayne Hazzard whose district includes the project site, and one other member has announced her absence from today’s meeting.
“Let’s slow down and take a deep breath and make sure what we are doing this right,” Glover said.