DV Archive

Decision Virginia Archive 8/08- 7/12

One night in Hanover

with one comment

On Thursday I spent the evening at the Hanover County Planning Commission meeting. For many of my colleagues and probably most people in general there are few things that sound more boring. I really enjoyed it. I am one of the few people that gets excited to see civics in action and I enjoy the ebb and flow of a good local government meeting. There is nothing like the use of Roberts Rules of Order to get the blood flowing. 

90 percent of meetings like this rarely get covered. They are mostly procedural in nature and we don’t have crews to send to every gathering so we try and monitor the ones that are dealing with important issues impacting the public and get to those. Last night’s planning commission meeting Hanover was one of those meetings. 

Developers in Hanover have plans to build a brand new mixed use development very similar to what they are building in Short Pump. The problem is that in order build the project safely, traffic safety engineers determined that a road that leads to an historic church needs to be closed. Not surprisingly, members of the church are not happy. (If you are interested, Sunni Blevins has the back story in the video player on our main page It is titled “Public invited to discuss development project”. )

I picked up the story at last night’s meeting where a legion of the church’s members packed the auditorium at the Hanover County Administration building to plead their case against the closing of that road. One by one they made passionate and sensible arguments. It was enough to convince the commission (which seemed to be leaning in favor of passing the proposal) to deny the application, but allow the developers and planning department to come up with an alternative solution to shutting down the road. You can see my story on the vote last night here

What impressed me last night was how the commission and the members of the public engaged in a civil and responsible discussion on the matter at hand. Both sides had very reasonable arguments to support their points. The staff of the planning department was only trying to protect public safety and the church members felt that they were there first and should not have to dramatically alter their lives to allow for the development. 

At a number of different points during the discussion, church members said they were concerned that no matter how loud they screamed, their voice would not be heard. But that turned out to not be the case. The commission listened, they acted and now an alternative that suits everyone’s needs will have to be met. 

I have been to enough of these meetings to know that it doesn’t always work this way, but when it does it is a thing of beauty. At least from the perspective of a geek like me.


Written by Ryan Nobles

March 20, 2009 at 2:20 pm

Posted in Local Government

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One Response

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  1. Ryan,
    I’m glad you were at the meeting and I think most of your report is right on target, but I have to disagree with your happy conclusion. It took four community meetings and scores of citizens imploring the county before this offensive proposal was finally modified. It never should have been drawn up that way in the first place. The land for that development was just redesignated away from agricultural use in the county Comprehensive Plan update in 2006-07 — in accordance with wishes solicited from the developer by the county several weeks before the county even started advertising for a consultant to run the update process! Developers get to draw the maps before the public is even informed that the plan is open for discussion, they pretend that the decisions weren’t already made behind closed doors, they plop down poor designs that meet the bare minimum legal requirements, they treat existing citizens like they are litter to be swept away, they sit back while the county planners defend their designs — and that is a thing of beauty? Not in my book. The road issue was addressed in a way, but the terrible quality of the design was not touched. It may meet the minimum standards of the county’s mixed use ordinance but it does not meet the spirit of mixed use — this schlock is why the county’s mixed use ordinance was challenged in court by citizens. The county also specifically said they could not coordinate this design with the others that are waiting to go into that beautiful and historic area, but have they even tried? Just because the victims eventually are offered Band-Aids does not make the injuries any less substantial.


    March 28, 2009 at 9:10 pm

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