Hanover residents concerned over new Wegmans distribution center

Updated: Feb. 6, 2020 at 6:20 AM EST
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HANOVER, Va. (WWBT) - Dozens of homeowners in Hanover County are expected to attend a community meeting Thursday regarding plans to build a Wegmans Distribution Center near their homes.

In December Governor Northam announced Wegmans would invest $175 million to establish the facility located along Sliding Hill and Ashcake Roads in Ashland.

“It’s a significant win when a business decides to create 700 full-time, well-paid jobs, and we are proud that a company of Wegmans’ stature has chosen to establish its major new operation in Hanover County,” Northam said. “Virginia is a world-class transportation and logistics hub, and the location of this campus will greatly enhance Wegmans’ fast-growing East Coast distribution network. I was grateful for the opportunity to meet with Wegmans officials to discuss ways we can strengthen our partnership, and I look forward to the company’s continued success in the Commonwealth.”

However, residents are concerned about the impacts in the historic area.

“Heavy traffic on roads that are not truck ready, excessive 24/7 noise of facility, stadium type lighting at the facility causing lights to enter our homes, devaluation of our homes (our biggest investments), destroyed wetlands, animal harm, unmarked slave graves, a marked family gravesite, the destruction of the integrity of our Brown Grove neighbors,” said Kelley Davis, who lives in the area.

Brown Grove Baptist Church along Ashcake Road will celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2020, but with the old comes the new as the distribution center is expected to break ground later this spring.

"It's a family church,” said Willnette Jackson, a member.

Jackson has attended Brown Grove Baptist since she was a baby, but now a new addition to the neighborhood will be coming to life in just a few months.

"We just have concerns about the impact it will have on the neighborhood,” Jackson said. “Ashcake Road is already a busy neighborhood road."

In 1995 the property along Sliding Hill and Ashcake Roads was zoned as M-2 (c), Light Industrial District.

“As part of the 1995 approval, the Board accepted certain proffered conditions which govern development of the property, in addition to the requirements of the Zoning Ordinance,” the County said.

Under the current zoning, the property can be used for a variety of things including distribution, manufacturing, contractors equipment storage yard, etc.

According to the County, Wegmans has proposed a grocery distribution center consisting of a warehouse, offices, truck parking, and employee parking.

“The first three phases are planned for a maximum of [nearly] 1.3 million square feet of office and warehouse with the potential for an additional 400,000 square feet located elsewhere on the property,” plans state.

"The predictions that people are telling us is over 2,000 trips per day," said Paul Devine, who lives in the area.

Devine's major concern is the amount of future traffic he'd deal with when traveling to and from his home he bought a little more than a year ago.

"Getting from here to 95 or 295 is going to be a pain," he said.

According to a traffic impact analysis by the County, it showed Wegmans would generate a little more than 2,800 trips per day, the vast majority happening during daylight hours.

“249 trips will occur in the morning peak hour,” the analysis said. “263 trips will occur in the evening peak hour which is approximately 85 percent few vehicles than permitted under the current zoning. Wegmans’ own studies show significantly lower traffic generation based on their similar Pennsylvania distribution center.”

“The noise level and the amount of traffic is a major issue,” Jackson said.

Conceptual plans for the Wegmans distribution center
Conceptual plans for the Wegmans distribution center(Hanover County)

The main entrance to the facility would be located just north of Brook Spring Road, close to where the four-lane widening project of Sliding Hill Road from New Ashcake Road down to the intersection with Atlee Station Road/Leadbetter Road is taking place.

Residents will be able to voice concerns about the project at two County public hearings:

  • Planning Commission – Thurs. Feb. 20, at 7 p.m.
  • Board of Supervisors – March, 2020 (date to be determined)

There is also a community meeting scheduled for Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Oak Knoll Middle School (10295 Chamberlayne Road, Mechanicsville).

“Representatives from the Planning Department, Economic Development and Wegmans will be present at the meeting and accept citizen feedback,” the County said.

Wegmans has also proposed changes to the 1995 rezoning to modernize the requirements. Those changes to the proffers include buffers, landscaping, and even historic cemeteries and artifacts.

"Part of the property that it's being built on was considered a historic area,” Jackson said. “It was an inn back during Patrick Henry's time."

Jackson added there may even be unmarked graves elsewhere on the property.

According to the County, the zoning amendment is, “intended to modify the zoning to ensure cultural and historical resources that may be located on the property are more appropriately managed, to better address expected traffic impacts, and allow greater public input on screening, buffering, and other site development standards.”

As part of this project, Hanover County and the State executed a confidentiality agreement on Feb. 1, 2019 with a site selection firm representing Wegmans.

“The County and Board of Supervisors were not aware of the name of the company until shortly before the end of the site selection process,” the County said. “Wegmans was looking in multiple localities and had not made a final decision until shortly before the Governor’s announcement.”

“That was a little upsetting to hear that it was sort of being slipped in,” Devine said.

“We feel the Hanover Board of Supervisors pushed this through quietly without community input to avoid our concerns,” Davis added.

“As Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, I would like to personally welcome Wegmans as a new corporate citizen of Hanover County,” said Chairman of the Hanover County Board of Supervisors Canova Peterson, in December. “We are grateful for the significant investments that the company is making, both financially and in the expansion of quality job opportunities for our citizens. We look forward to our partnership for many years to come.”

Devine said he plans to listen to other residents’ concerns at the community meeting Thursday and hear what Wegmans representatives have to say.

"It just seems like the Board of Supervisors is concerned with getting these big distribution centers in here and nice retail shops and things like that,” he added. “Not really concerned about the concerns of the actual community."

As part of the incentive package, the State will provide $2.35 million through the Commonwealth Opportunity Fund and Hanover County will match the State’s incentive. Hanover is also providing $1.5 million for infrastructure and transportation improvements.

“Beginning in 2020 with the start of operations, Hanover County will provide a rebate on the merchants capital tax for approximately 10 years, which is estimated to total approximately $570,000 over the 10 year period,” the County said. “The total estimated incentive for the project which including State and local incentives is estimated to $6.77 million.”

The proposed construction schedule for the facility is to break ground in the spring of 2020 and be fully operational by early 2022.

For more questions on the project, click here.

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