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Supervisors OK Envision Hanover plan

Members of the Hanover Board of Supervisor attend a drone demonstration
Shaban Athuman
VPM News File
Members of the Hanover Board of Supervisor and their staff attend an April drone demonstration at the county Sheriff's department firing range.

The comprehensive plan identifies the need for an expanded workforce and affordable housing.

After months of public comment, Hanover County’s Board of Supervisors approved a new comprehensive plan, outlining their vision for the county’s future over the next two decades.

From January 2022 through the plan’s adoption Wednesday, Hanover’s planning department received more than 4,000 comments from the community — addressing the county’s desire to maintain its rural land while accommodating a growing population. The need for housing, transportation options and economic opportunity were topics also among the comments.

The document itself acts as a guide, rather than a code or an ordinance enforced by county staff. As outlined in state law, Virginia localities are required to redraft and adopt a comprehensive plan every five years. It will be used to evaluate ongoing projects and ordinances as the county continues to grow.

Ashland District Supervisor Faye Prichard said during the board’s proceedings that the Envision Hanover project comprises some of the most in-depth decision making she’s seen during her two decades of service on the board.

“My colleagues and I have put so much time and attention into what I believe is the best comprehensive plan I've ever worked on,” Prichard said. “We have heard loud and clear from our citizens time and time and time again in this process, and this has been the most interactive process we've ever had.”

The county invited community members to take part in the plan's development. Throughout public hearings and open discussion, residents expressed their own desires for the plan, like Ashland’s Robert Johnson on Wednesday during public comment.

“We want to see more neighbors,” Johnson said. “We want there to be a village. … [P]lease give us a chance to develop into the kind of village [that’s] walkable and rideable on bicycles that we say we want in Hanover County. This is your opportunity to do that.”

One of the newest additions to Hanover’s comprehensive plan identifies the need for an expanded workforce and affordable housing. During the public engagement period, stakeholders pointed out the lack of quality and diverse housing options inside the county’s suburban service area — areas in which high-density housing developments are directed.

Hanover County has approximately 42,400 housing units. Roughly 90% of those are single-family homes with an average value between $380,000 to $400,000, according to an email from the county’s real estate assessor’s office.

Retaining Hanover County’s largely rural feel was a desire residents made clear, according to Deputy Planning Director Andrew Pompei.

“Maintaining the county's rural character is something we heard numerous times from our citizens during our public engagement meetings,” Pompei told VPM News. “We tried to accommodate their comments with a plan I think most of the community is fond of.”

Twenty-two percent of the county’s 474 square miles is incorporated into the urban service area. The remaining land is intended to remain rural. However, this years’ comprehensive plan identifies several transitional areas to accommodate single-family housing along the edge of the county’s rural-suburban communities.

“People love the rural parts of our county,” Prichard said. “They love that we have a rural county and they don’t want the urban parts of our county to impede on the rural.”

The Brown Grove Historic District is one example outlined in the comprehensive plan. In addition to receiving a historic designation from the National Park Service and Virginia Department of Historic Resources, the county’s comprehensive plan protects the area by limiting high-density residential developments in the historic rural district.

Residents were also vocal about the need for affordable housing. As a result, the plan identifies areas where affordable housing could be built — and several ordinances the board could consider revising. The approach is intended to ensure those communities are connected to the county’s economic hubs.

Although the board made some minor amendments to language throughout the comprehensive plan during its meeting Wednesday, Chickahominy Supervisor Angela Kelly-Wiecek told the audience that this year's plan is truly representative of ideas from residents and their leaders.

“This document is where the citizens and the residents, and the businesses and the community have the opportunity to come forward, and lay out that vision. We have the opportunity to put it into words in a meaningful format for them.”

Lyndon German covers Henrico and Hanover counties for VPM News.