A Summary of the Main Issue: Zoning & Proffers
The following is an excerpt of a letter we received from a reader. It summarizes the events that have brought everyone to the current situation we are in. The write up is fantastic and we've included links to relevant documents to support the assertions. Some of the linked files were obtained through a Freedom Of Information Act ("FOIA") filing. Please take the time to read this.
The Great Deception
In 1995, the Board of Supervisors had the foresight to balance the desire for economic development with citizen’s rights to peaceful enjoyment of their home and community. The board made clear that good zoning
practices demanded that the rezoning of this property be tempered by certain conditions out of public necessity, convenience and general welfare.
Hanover’s zoning ordinance echoes the wisdom of the 95 board, requiring that necessary safeguards will be provided for the protection of surrounding property, persons, and neighborhood values. The 1995 proffered conditions were a compromise to ensure that these safeguards endure.
Conditional zoning through proffers protects the community by imposing additional regulations or conditions on the land to address impact. Once accepted, proffers become part of the zoning ordinance. This means that
the 1995 proffers are not mere suggestions, but are in fact the rule of law. Virginia courts have held that these impacts must be substantiated and documented in the record before the planning commission and the governing body. This requirement has not yet been satisfied.
Not only have they not met this obligation, Hanover County has intentionally and systematically misrepresented information to the public as outlined below.
1. The Town of Ashland had a parcel that Wegmans was particularly interested in. However, Nora Amos, Ashland’s planning director, refused to remove community protections in the form of conditional proffers from the property to benefit Wegmans.
2. County employees chastised Nora for “eliminating the public process” by refusing to remove protections (proffers) without consulting the public.
3. Wegmans sought and received reassurance from Hanover County that they would be agreeable to amend the proffers at a new site to avoid the same “embarrassment” that happened in Ashland.
4. County employees acknowledged they were agreeable to amending proffers but cautious because “it’s an election year” and know that the community will have concerns.
5. Linwood Thomas admitted that they are working on proffer changes to help the prospect (Wegmans). Hanover County worked in secret to support corporate interest (Wegmans) over citizen interest and existing law (1995 proffers, which became an ordinance when accepted by the Board in ‘95).
6. David Maloney laid out a strategy to mislead the public into believing that Wegmans could build this plan under the original proffers and that the proposed amendments were solely to minimize impact to the community. He included this strategy in talking points prepared for Supervisors Faye and Angela to present at a community meeting. He and other county officials have employed this strategy repeatedly in public meetings.
7. Part of this propaganda campaign includes a complete fabrication that Wegmans can build the proposed distribution center on the Air Park parcel exactly as laid out in the conceptual plan. The problem with this statement is that the planning department’s review of the conceptual plan makes clear that this is untrue. Maloney and county staff are intentionally misrepresenting the nature of the proposed development to the public at large.
8. Proffered conditions protect the community by imposing additional conditions to address impacts of a proposed development. Proffer changes are not designed to relax existing requirements on the property. The proposed new proffered conditions eliminate many of the original protections that are even more necessary now due to a substantial increase in residential neighborhoods surrounding the property.
I personally live less than 1,000 feet from the proposed development, where I have chosen to raise my family. I am a wife and mother. The only thing I want is for everyone to play by the rules. No proffer should be changed or eliminated unless it is clear that doing so reduces the impact of the proposed development. Proffers cannot be used to exclusively benefit the development. Should Wegmans propose a site plan and in keeping with the original conditional zoning of M-2(c) 1394, I will welcome them as my neighbor. Until then, the project should not
proceed further, and our county employees and elected officials should be held to the highest standard of integrity, transparency and fair dealing.
In support of the above assertions, I have attached the following:
· Original 1995 proffers (“1394”)
· Proposed amended proffers (“Air Park Assoc.”)
· Side by side proffer comparison and proffer change summary (I prepared these and the summary contains my personal opinions- not FOIA)
· County e-mail correspondence as described in summary (Editor note: multiple links above)
· Document from Planning Dept to Timmons reviewing conceptual site plan. (Editors note: Conflicts between the Wegmans plan and the existing proffers are marked with the phrase "Noted". There isn't any planned remediation specified.) Specifically, the original proffers are addressed beginning on page 7. The only reasonable conclusion is that the conceptual plan does not comply and therefore cannot be built as currently zoned. As Mr. Maloney directs the planning department, he must know that Wegmans cannot build this project on this parcel. He nonetheless mislead both Ms. Weicek and Ms. Prichard in talking points and the community at large in various meetings. He continues to propagate this lie.