HANOVER – The Hanover County Board of Supervisors approved a Conditional Use Permit request by Glen Allen VFW Post 10657 allowing the organization to construct a 6,000-square-building and turnaround access driveway at its Cedar Lane location. The new facility would house antique military vehicles currently stored on the property.
While there was little opposition to the new building, Planning Department staff recommended several conditions be met before approval of the application.
Planning director David Maloney said the Unit was in violation of its current Conditional Use Permit in several areas. Activities on the seven-acre site had infringed into areas not governed by the CUP, specifically wooded wetlands located on the property.
Trails were carved out of the prohibited area where Jeeps and other vehicles could access recreated military areas complete with foxholes and other installations.
Maloney said those trails and its entrance on Cedar Lane must be closed and the wetlands area be allowed to re-naturalize. The new CUP allows static displays of the vehicles and equipment but would prevent moving them around on the property.
Staff also requested a detailed study of the property by a certified engineer with clearly delineated areas where wetlands are located.
The Post holds special ceremonies twice a year on Memorial and Veterans Day that featured live firing of military weapons and provided children with rides in the various vehicles.
Both of those activities would be prohibited under the new agreement, but the holiday events could continue on the property with static displays.
Scott Courtney represented the VFW at the public hearing held last week. He addressed some of those issues raised by Planning Department staff. He presented current photos of the wetlands area that shows the area “beginning to naturalize.”
The second entrance has been closed and access to the wooded trails has been eliminated.
“The VFW wants you to know that they are concerned about the environment and have heard what you said. The VFW is a community-minded organization,” Courtney said.
He said recent activities were designed to display vintage vehicles and expose children to real military equipment and were never intended to antagonize neighbors.
“They are not only involved in parades -- and are also very generous with scholarships to students -- they are concerned about the environment and the community,” Courtney said.
One of the Unit’s officers spoke in support of the application.
“I want to speak in favor of the celebration that we do on Veterans and Memorial Day,” quartermaster Richard Crane said. “We would like to share our experience in a positive way with the community. It’s a very important holiday for us and we’d like to continue celebrating it in the way we have in the past.”
But, some neighbors said the organization had shown little regard for their concerns regarding the weapon fire and the effect on neighboring domestic and farm animals.
“I have nothing against the VFW. They have a disregard for what they do to this neighborhood. They’ve been very disruptive to say the least,” Donald Wyatt said.
He said numerous complaints were lodged regarding the use of the wetlands, but resulted in no action regarding the activities.
“I’m totally against this. They have broken the law several times. I hope you all can see there are two sides to this.,” he added.
Mike Adams, a long-time resident of the area, said the event began four years ago and has changed the complexion of the neighborhood.
“So far, there’s been no willingness on the part of the county to stop what’s going on,” he said.
Citing a lack of safety equipment for children riding in antique military vehicles, Adams said live firing of blanks sometimes occurred only feet away from children.
“It was kids shooting at kids with AR-47s,” Adams said, describing the event. “It didn’t seem like a safe event. In a quiet neighborhood with livestock next door, this is not the right place for this event.”
The Unit is located in Wayne Hazzard’s South Anna District.
While expressing support for the veterans, he also cited a concern for the people who live around the facility, pointing out that a CUP is a special exception that requires additional diligence.
“When you have a Conditional Use Permit, that means you are in a community where people live and work every day. This is their home,” Hazzard said. “It’s your responsibility to be the best neighbor you can. At the end of the day, you’re the one here doing something out of character.”
Maloney reminded supervisors that nothing in the pending CUP would preclude the group from holding the annual events, minus the gunfire and vehicle movement.
In addition to closing those wetlands and eliminating the trails, Hazzard requested that the existing foxholes be filled to fully restore the area.
In other business, an application by Marchetti Properties to rezone 324 acres near the Henrico County line for a mixed use development was deferred.
The board voted 6-1 to defer consideration with Ashland supervisor Faye Prichard casting the only dissenting vote.