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Precedence vs. Precedent

Note: Today we are taking a short break from our car dealer blog series.

Today, a writer was out enjoying the cool spring weather when they spotted a neighbor. They struck up a conversation (while maintaining appropriate distances of course) and the discussion turned to the Wegmans project. While talking, the neighbor voiced concerns about the "precedent" this would set. This word means different things to different people, so lets get an official definition from Merriam-Webster.

Something done or said that may serve as an example or rule to authorize or justify a subsequent act of the same or an analogous kind.

The neighbor makes a great point. What this project does is establish a new, lower standard, by which all future development will be judged. Future developers expect to be treated fairly. If Wegmans can get away with disregarding existing zoning (with the county's assistance, no less), future developers should all be able to expect equal treatment. Why should future companies have to obey zoning laws if Wegmans gets exemptions from virtually every restriction? What are some examples of precedents that are being set? Here are a few (there are more but let's keep this brief):

  • Hanover officials are letting Wegmans set its own definition of a front yard. The definition being used is so absurd, even children can see it is deceitful. The definition of the front yard is important because there are lots of prohibitions on what can be placed in a front yard of a business. Wegmans plan disregards all those restrictions.

  • Hanover officials helped the seller and Wegmans provide as little protection to the Wetlands that are located on the property as possible. These regulations are in place to protect the health and safety of residents and local wildlife.

  • Hanover officials have not acknowledged that the proposed building is a truck terminal, a structure that is clearly prohibited by the current zoning.

  • Hanover officials have not acknowledged that the proposed structure is a "Butler Style" building as discussed in this blog entry. This style of building is clearly prohibited in the current zoning.

This should be concerning to anyone living in Hanover County. Imagine if a developer wants to build a prohibited structure. All they need to do is give their operation a slightly different name.

No Payday Loan business allowed? Good thing we are a "Cash Advance Service"

No Casinos permitted here? Well we are an "Adult Entertainment Venue"

No Truck Terminals? It's OK, we are a Wegmans Distribution Center.

Creative definitions sets a bad precedent.

What if you need large, unattractive vehicles to access your property, but putting them behind the building might cost you a little more money? Don't worry! You can use the precedent set by Wegmans to build an L shaped building. Your "front yard" just became fair game to put anything that was originally intended for the back or side of the property.

If these precedents are set, residents all over the county will be affected. Any developer will be able to claim that they are being discriminated against if Wegmans was allowed to get away with something, but they aren't. Our Board needs to look at the definition of a similar sounding word, "precedence". Merriam Webster defines that as :

Priority of importance.

What is the "priority of importance" with the Wegmans issue when it comes to our Board? The feather in their cap from bringing in a big name company like Wegmans, or taking a stand to protect the residents of this county, that have made it such a special place?

Hanover Board of Supervisors, please ensure that the well being of county residents takes precedence over bringing in a detrimental project. Doing otherwise will set a dangerous precedent.

Sorry for the small diversion from our care dealer posts. If you missed Part 1 of that series, go check it out. Part 2 is on its way soon.

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