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Ashland–Hanover officials to explore development options

A headshot of Prichard, who is smiling
Shaban Athuman
VPM News
Hanover County Board of Supervisor member Faye Prichard, of the Ashland District, gives remarks on Wednesday, May 22, 2024 at Hanover County Administration Building in Hanover County, Virginia.

Separate town and county processes will take place this summer.

Two concept proposals have been submitted to officials in the town of Ashland and Hanover County that would transform portions into a sweeping industrial campus.

As officials review the select plans, community stakeholders have an opportunity to engage directly with the developers on June 3 at the Ashland Theatre before each locality hears their proposals.

One project, dubbed the Iron Horse Business Park, comes from WestDulles Properties — a Reston-based commercial real estate developer that has completed several campus-style business projects in the Richmond area.

The company is seeking to rezone roughly 230 acres split between Ashland and Hanover. The project, just east of Interstate 95, would need approval from both in order to move forward.

Public hearings with the Ashland Planning Commission and town council as early as June 17, while Hanover’s Planning Commission and board of supervisors will hold public hearings in July.

The processes are anticipated to operate concurrently. However, Ashland’s review process will be slightly ahead of the county’s, as the major access points for the site and most of the developable areas are within town limits, according to Hanover planning officials.

During a town council meeting on May 21, Vice Mayor John Hodges said the fact that the project spans between the town-county line makes it more complex for planning officials.

“My concern is I’ve never quite experienced in my years of planning, an application that has two significantly different concept plans, significantly different traffic impact analysis and proffers,” Hodges said. “It’s a complex case made even more complex that part of the property is in the county.”

The application for the Iron Horse Business Park was initially submitted in 2022 and has since been revised multiple times to feature several alternative visions. The first concept took the shape of a traditional industrial complex with several multi-use buildings off of Patrick Henry Highway.

Intended uses for this space could include front-facing restaurants, office space, warehouses and a number of public amenities such as a hotel, a walking trail, connecting park network and stormwater pond.

A townhome development was also proposed as part of its planning application with nearly 148 units of housing. That was later reduced to 49 single-family homes on land owned by Harris & Douglas Properties LLC, which would retain ownership of the new subdivision.

The alternative concept features the infrastructure for multiple data centers. Although this project is much smaller than Hanover County’s recently approved 1,200-acre data center plan; as Town Councilor Anita Barnhart said, it's still a decision local officials won't take lightly.

“This is a very important development for Ashland, and we certainly want to make sure that we get this right,” Barnhart said. “Over the next couple of weeks, we can gather information and plan meetings and talk to our neighbors so that we can make a really good decision and a sound decision for our community.”

Lyndon German covers Henrico and Hanover counties for VPM News.
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