Plans for an industrial park in central Hanover County are prompting a challenge from a neighboring subdivision, whose residents are wary of sharing a two-lane road with truck traffic that would be routed directly across from the neighborhood’s main entrance.
The homeowners’ association for Chickahominy Falls, a primarily 55-and-up residential development on the south side of Cedar Lane just west of Route 1, filed a petition last month contesting the county’s approval of a site plan for the first phase of Cedar Lane Industrial Park, a 118-acre project planned on the other side of the namesake roadway.
The petition argues that county staff erred in approving the plan because it includes only one access for the park, directly across from and aligned with Chickahominy Falls’ existing entrance. It contends that a conceptual site plan presented when the park property was zoned in 2015 showed four access points – one on Route 1, the rest on Cedar Lane – that are required by proffers approved in the case.
County officials say the conceptual site plan was just that – conceptual – showing options for possible entrance points without requiring all four. They also note that the site plan is only for the park’s first phase, and that further development of the site could warrant additional entrances.
Roger Glover, whose Cornerstone Homes is developing Chickahominy Falls and who filed the petition on behalf of the association, said they are not opposed to the industrial park plan per se, but rather the truck traffic being routed along a two-lane road without additional access points, the Route 1 access in particular.
His petition, written up by Williams Mullen attorney William Bayliss, asks county supervisors to nullify the approval and reconsider the site plan in light of the neighborhood’s arguments. The board is set to review the petition today, at the close of an afternoon session ahead of its regular evening meeting. The item does not include a public hearing.
Industrial park zoned first
Glover, who was planning Chickahominy Falls around the same time the industrial park property was zoned, said he was aware of the zoning when he secured approval for his project in 2016, but that it was represented to him that the property would be developed as an office park, hotel and other lower-intensity uses.
He said he was “absolutely stunned” to later learn that the property was being planned primarily for distribution warehouses involving truck traffic. While he acknowledged knowing such use was allowed by the property’s “light industrial” zoning, Glover said conversations he had with the property’s owner gave a different impression.
Glover reiterated he and the neighborhood are not opposed to the use, just the truck traffic to come with the approved site plan.
“I’m a developer. I’ve never opposed a development in my life,” Glover said last week. “But this is just incredibly egregious.”
A group called Cedar Lane Coalition, consisting of Chickahominy Falls residents and other property owners in the area, is drawing attention to the petition, enlisting a local public relations firm and placing a tractor-trailer with a sign at the intersection of Cedar Lane and Route 1. The trailer-long sign reads: “400 big trucks a day do not belong on Cedar Lane,” along with the group’s website.
David Maloney, the county’s planning director who approved the site plan in October, said the group’s truck projections are inaccurate and misleading. He noted that a traffic study conducted for the development found the industrial park’s first phase, consisting of about 66 acres of the 118-acre site, would generate just over 1,000 vehicle trips per day, as opposed to that many vehicles per day.
Of those 1,000 trips, in which one vehicle going in and out of the property could count as two trips, Maloney said 20 percent would consist of truck traffic, while the rest would be generated from employees’ vehicles. As a result, Maloney said about 100 trucks per day are expected from the first phase of the project.
“The information the citizens are putting out there is flat-out incorrect,” Maloney said Tuesday.
Chickahominy Falls Association maintains in its petition that traffic counts would cause the road network to fail, citing the traffic study and an analysis it commissioned from a consultant who previously worked for VDOT.
“When this is built out, it’s going to be 400 tractor-trailers every day going on Cedar Lane, a two-lane roadway that wasn’t built for tractor-trailers,” Glover said.
Cedar Lane access preferred
The industrial park property was rezoned from agricultural and general business use through the county’s Strategic Zoning Initiative, a newer process at the time that allowed owners to zone properties for speculative development.
Scannell Properties, a development firm based in Indianapolis, signed on for the project after it was zoned by the property owner, Richard E. Holland Jr. Properties LLC, an entity managed by Linda Allen and named for her late father.
The approved site plan, drafted by Richmond-based Timmons Group, shows a 260,000-square-foot building fronting Cedar Lane with a 25-foot buffer and additional 35-foot setback. The plan shows space for a future second building behind it totaling 420,000 square feet.
In a letter to the county dated Sept. 4, Allen wrote: “At no time during the rezoning process (from Pre-Application Meeting to final public hearing before the Board of Supervisors) did I ever promise a Route 1 entrance or a Cedar Lane entrance, or a combination thereof.”
Referring to Glover, Allen adds: “He knew the nature of my industrial plans and on a number of public and private occasions indicated that he had no objection to them. It is somewhat surprising if Mr. Glover did not inform his buyers about the nature of the entire neighborhood, including the 120+ acres across the street that included a ‘by right to build’ per approved proffers that predated his sales office by at least two years.”
Allen’s letter goes on to argue similar points made by Maloney, the county planning director, who said the Cedar Lane access was preferred because of its alignment with Chickahominy Falls’ entrance, and in light of Cedar Lane as a two-lane road with a signalized intersection at Route 1.
With a Route 1 access, Maloney said trucks would be challenged to cross multiple lanes of traffic, increasing safety concerns. He also said the volume of trucks accessing the park would not warrant an additional traffic signal on the highway.
Maloney noted that the industrial park was zoned months before Chickahominy Falls, adding that he understood Glover was in communication with Allen about it from the start. Glover said the first time he spoke with Allen was to address his concerns about the access alignment.
In a letter to the county, Scannell Properties argues that the petition should be dismissed because it was filed more than 30 days after the petitioners were aware of Maloney’s determinations. Ann Neil Cosby, a McGuireWoods attorney representing Scannell, said state case law provides only for a 30-day appeal period, further arguing that the association cannot appeal a county site plan approval.
Attempts to reach Scannell for comment were unsuccessful Tuesday. Cosby did not return a message seeking comment.
More homes on the way
Since starting sales a year ago, the 150-acre Chickahominy Falls, planned for 400 homes at buildout, has been taking shape with dozens of homes surrounding a central barn and community farm that anchors the so-called “agri-community.” Glover said he has built as many as 70 homes so far, with 100 people moved in and 150 more waiting to move in.
Homeowners there aren’t alone in their concerns about truck traffic to come along Cedar Lane. The property owners association for the nearby CedarLea Park likewise filed a petition with the county – one of several from area property owners that association member Steve Busic said the county did not recognize as aggrieved parties to challenge land use decisions.
The association for the 300-home CedarLea Park was among parties planning to hold a press conference today outside the Historic Hanover Court House, ahead of the Board of Supervisors meeting.
County supervisor Wayne Hazzard, whose South Anna district includes the properties involved, said Tuesday he was waiting to hear the evidence in the case before taking a position on Chickahominy Falls’ petition.
Noting the speculative approach to zoning the development, Hazzard said the unknowns surrounding the rest of the site’s development and potential use makes it a difficult issue. But he said the suggestion that Cedar Lane will be swamped with truck traffic is unlikely to play out.
“It could be a technology center; it could be any number of things,” he said. “I think this idea that it’s going to be a caravan of tractor-trailers running up and down Cedar Lane is a bit farfetched. I understand how that comes about, but I don’t think it’s realistic.”