HANOVER COUNTY, Va. (WWBT) - After hours of public comment and several meeting delays, the Hanover County Board of Supervisors voted to amend the zoning proffer on the long-contested on the Air Park Associates Wegmans project associated with the 1995 zoning of 217 acres near the intersection of Sliding Hill Road and New Ashcake Road.
In 1995 the property along Sliding Hill and Ashcake Roads was zoned as M-2 (c), Light Industrial District.
Under the 1995 zoning ordinance, it allowed about 19,110 average daily trips coming in and out of the facility in addition to the traffic from nearby neighborhoods within a 24-hour period.
The 2020 zoning ordinances Wegmans’ proposed fewer trips with 3,165 vehicles traveling in and out of the facility daily breaking down to about 275 trips per hour during the morning peak hour and 285 trips per hour during the evening peak hours.
Only three residents spoke publically in favor of the updated zoning ordinances during the meeting.
“The sooner this $175 million project is approved. the sooner the new facility will open. the sooner 700 new jobs will open up in Hanover county and the sooner they will begin paying taxes which we need right now,” Bob Ukrops said.
However, the majority of the public comment section was reserved for the 20 individuals registered to speak against the project, a process that extended the meeting passed midnight.
“These are people’s lives communities they have invested their money their love and their work in this community,” 29-year county resident Betsy Guthrie said. “The families who live near this monolithic building have an extremely grim future... their property values will decrease by 20 percent assuming they will be able to sell those properties.”
“Amending the proffers is a bad deal for Hanover County and an irresponsible budget decision. The residents who live nearby relied on the 1995 proffers when they purchased their homes. Industrial development devalues nearby homes and destroys the quality of life,” another resident said.
Ultimately hours of opposition were not enough to convince the majority of the council not to vote in favor of the 2020 proffer.
“I voted for the 2020 proffers because it had reduced traffic from 19,000 vehicle trips down to 3000, the building reduction was substantial on what was allowed, road improvements were not included in the 1995 proposal, and the buffers were increased all of which were things citizens came and told me they wanted,” Vice-Chairman Sean Davis said.
Davis said his decision came down to the fact that regardless of how the board voted, Wegmans would still be coming to Hanover County, a fact that Wegmans legal council Andy Condalin. made known during his opening remarks at the meeting.
“The only question is Is this a better case for the community for the county and for Wegmans under the 1995 proffers or the 2020 proffers?” Condalin said. “Since the property is already zoned for its use and zoned M-2 Wegmans can and will build regardless of whether it’s under the current 1995 proffers or it’s under 2020 prefers.”
“I think there was a thought process that if we didn’t approve the 2020 proffers and they were held to the 95 proffers that Wegmans wouldn’t build, but they came in here tonight and said that they would build under the 95 proffers,” Davis said. "What could be built in 1995 would’ve been a monstrosity, in my opinion, we had to go with 2020 to protect the citizens,” Davis said.
Still, other board of supervisors like Faye Prichard Ashland District Supervisor voted to deny the updated zoning ordinances after hearing hours of Hanover county residents denounce the project.
“It’s been a long and arduous process and one in which my citizens felt that they were left out of the decision-making process and I’ve never had so many citizens say that they didn’t want something,” Prichard said.
A major point of contentions during the meeting which started at 7 p.m. at the Hanover County Administration Building were the measures that were being taken to hold it under current socials distancing guidelines.
The county expanded ways residents can participate in giving the opponents and proponents each one hour for in-person public comment followed by an hour each for emails and voice messages to be read into the record. Residents who wished to speak in person were required to register.
Those who couldn’t speak publically showed up with dozens of anti-Wegmans posters and stickers on their facemasks and circled their care around the building honking their horns to reflect the noise impact they believe would come with the increased traffic from shipping trucks if the facility is constructed.
“I want to be very clear I do not think we should have had this meeting tonight," Prichard said. “I fought ardently at our last meeting to delay this until after the governor’s stay-at-home order and I don’t think we should have been doing it tonight.”
In December Governor Northam announced Wegmans would invest $175 million to establish the facility located along Sliding Hill and Ashcake Roads in Ashland.
Since it’s announcement residents have been concerned about the impacts of 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,” Kelley Davis, who lives in the area, said.
“If somebody is disappointed, what I did was went with far more restrictive allowances than what 1995 allowed, I could not stick people with the monstrosity that could have built and the massive amounts of traffic that would go unaddressed and the road improvements that would go unaddressed in 1995,” Davis said.
Copyright 2020 WWBT. All rights reserved.