Wegmans Project Information
History of Property Zoning: 1988-2019
The Airpark Associates property was first classified as Industrial on the General Land Use Plan Map with the adoption of the Comprehensive Plan in May 1988. In 1995, the Board of Supervisors approved a request by Air Park Associates, the owner of approximately 217 acres of property generally located at the southwest corner of Ashcake Road and Sliding Hill Road to rezone the property to M-2(c), Light Industrial. Portions of this property were zoned A-1, Agricultural, and portions were already zoned M-2, Light Industrial District (although without any conditions). As is the case today, the Zoning Ordinance provisions in effect in 1995 allowed properties zoned M-2 to be used for many uses, including distribution, manufacturing and contractor’s equipment storage yards. After the Board’s 1995 action to approve the zoning application (which included a number of proffered conditions that created additional restrictions beyond the general zoning regulations), the property owner would be permitted by right to construct the equivalent of 2.6 million square feet of general office space on the property.
Beginning in 1995, Hanover County marketed the property as being zoned for Light Industrial Uses. For all economic development prospects, the main role of the County is to try to match interested developers/users and property owners who are looking to sell or develop their properties. The County has no role in deciding which companies or entities use a property (or which of the permitted uses actually is established on a property) or whether or not a property owner decides to sell or develop a property. The County can help as the parties negotiate and, in limited situations outlined in state law, may extend certain financial incentives.
Wegmans proposed: December 2019
On December 11, 2019, Governor Ralph Northam announced the plans of Wegmans Food Market, Inc. to invest $175 million over three years to establish a full-service, regional distribution operation on the Air Park Associates site, with funding generated from increased tax collections created by the Wegmans investment. The company stated its intention to build a 1.1 million square foot distribution facility serving their current and future stores along the East Coast and indicated that the new facility would create 700 new jobs. The jobs average over $55,000 a year, which is 17% higher than the annual average wage in Hanover County.
Wegmans considered several sites for its facility, including sites in North Carolina and different localities in Virginia, before choosing the Air Park Associates site. The Air Park Associates site met Wegmans’ desire for a property with close proximity to future employees and to interstate highways that had already been zoned to allow a distribution facility. As is the case with a vast majority of proposals for new commercial and industrial development, Wegmans requested that, prior to the announcement, a Non-Disclosure Agreement be entered into between Wegmans, state entities and employees, and Hanover County staff. Non-disclosure agreements for economic development projects are specifically authorized by the Code of Virginia. Non-disclosure agreements do not guarantee zoning approvals or funding assistance. Those are subject to public Board of Supervisor actions and public hearings.
The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with Hanover County and the Greater Richmond Partnership to help Wegmans find a property that could meet its needs in Virginia; those efforts led to successful discussions between Wegmans and Air Park Associates for the sale of the property. Governor Northam approved a $2.35 million grant from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund to incentivize the development of the project. On December 11, 2019, the Board of Supervisors approved by Board action a performance agreement matching the Commonwealth Opportunity Grant Fund, along with $1.5 million in infrastructure improvements. The County’s financial commitment consists of tax rebate incentives from future property taxes after the facility has been constructed and funding for already-planned road and utility improvements. These incentives were based upon the long-term increased property tax revenue that would be generated by the facility, which would assist the County in meeting its commitment to providing services to its residents such as quality schools and public safety programs, as well as other general governmental services. No funds are to be provided to Wegmans before the facility is constructed, and Wegmans has committed to certain mileposts it must meet (including construction and the creation of new jobs) before it can receive any of the state or local financial incentives.
While the Board’s action in 1995 meant that Wegmans did not need to rezone the property to allow the distribution facility, the company is required to obtain site plan approval for development of the property. While the development of the site under Wegmans’ proposal was not as intense as permitted by the 1995 rezoning, the layout and operation of the proposed facility was inconsistent with a number of proffered conditions. Also, the proposed height of the building exceeds the standard limits for buildings in the M-2 District. In order to appropriately address the impacts of the proposed facility, Wegmans submitted an application to amend certain conditions of the 1995 zoning in order to bring the requirements more in line with current standards. It also applied for a Special Exception that would allow for the height of the building to exceed the standard limits. Here are the Special Exception staff maps.
Wegmans submitted its applications in December 2020 and staff began its review of the applications and the potential on-site and off-site impacts of the proposal. As part of its review, the Planning Department encouraged Wegmans to reach out to interested members of the public and to hold a community meeting where it could outline, and receive feedback on, its proposal.
These are documents provided by Wegmans: Comparison Table to 1995 zoning; 1995 proffers lined; letter from applicant to Board of Supervisors dated 3-24-2020; 1995 vs. 2020 Zoning Case Exhibit Layout Comparison; and Wegmans rendering update.
Community meeting: February 6, 2020
A community meeting on the Wegmans’ proposal was held on February 6, 2020 at Oak Knoll Middle School. Presentations were given by Wegmans’ representatives as well as Planning Department and Economic Development staff. Public input was received at that meeting.
The following presentation was made at that community meeting.
County legislative actions: Planning Commission
On February 20, 2020, the Hanover County Planning Commission held a public hearing to consider the application to amend the proffers accepted with the 1995 rezoning application (the application for the special exception related to the building’s height was not considered at this meeting as special exceptions are only considered by the Board of Supervisors). Representatives of Wegmans and those in the community—some of whom spoke in favor of the proffer amendments and others who spoke in opposition to the application—presented their views to the Commission. Following the public hearing, the Planning Commission recommended approval of the Wegmans’ application with some suggested changes to reflect issues that had been raised during the review of the application and at the public hearing.
County legislative actions: Board of Supervisors
The Board of Supervisors scheduled a public hearing on the application, as well as on the application for a Special Exception, for late March, 2020. The Board decided to defer the public hearing, based on the initial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, until May 6, 2020. In light of the impacts of Covid-19 and in compliance with the Executive Orders issued by Governor Northam allowing for the ongoing operation of local governments, the Board provided for multiple ways, including submitted written comments, submitted spoken comments, and in-person comments, for interested individuals to make their views known. Here is the rezoning staff report for the Board’s meeting and the rezoning staff maps. Here are the final applicant proffers, the final conceptual plan and the final elevations along with the Overall Lighting Plan. Following the public hearing on May 6, 2020, the Board of Supervisors approved Wegmans’ applications (1) to amend the proffered conditions applicable to the property and (2) for the issuance of a special exception for the building height, subject to conditions imposed by the Board.
The actions of the Board on May 6, 2020 allowed Wegmans to begin development of the property in compliance with the approved conditions. As with all commercial and industrial development, however, Wegmans has to submit a site plan for approval before work could begin. A site plan is the detailed plan for development of a property. The site plan must demonstrate how the development of the property meets all local requirements (including zoning requirements, Fire Code standards, and those related to stormwater management and public water and sewer) as well as state and federal requirements (VDOT requirements and air, water and other environmental permits and approvals).
Pending actions of other regulatory agencies: State and U.S.
Based upon the size of the proposed facility and the conditions on the property, Wegmans is required to obtain a wetlands permit before proceeding (and must comply with any conditions of approval). The State Water Control Board is authorized to review applications for wetlands permits in Virginia and must conduct a public review process before acting on any application. On February 26, 2021, the Virginia State Water Control Board conducted a public hearing on Wegmans’ application for a permit to allow the proposed development of the property. After considering the application, the report of staff with the Department of Environmental Quality, and comments submitted by interested individuals, the State Water Control Board approved the permit for the Wegmans project.
In addition to the state-level review, the proposed development is also being reviewed for compliance with federal environmental regulations. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued the permit authorizing certain work to be performed in waters of the United States (wetlands permit) on June 10, 2021. (U.S. Army Corps Cover Letter, Vicinity Map, Impact Map, Certificate of Compliance, Signed Memorandum of Agreement, Administrative Appeal Form.)
Pending actions: staff-level County reviews
Review and approval at the staff level are customary with all projects that have all legislative and procedural approvals.
The following County administrative approvals are still necessary for the project to proceed:
- Commercial Subdivision Plat (under administrative review by the Planning Department). This review process ensures that property boundaries, size, and access requirements meet local requirements.
- Site Plan (under administrative review by the Planning Department). The site plan must demonstrate how the development of the property meets all local requirements (including zoning requirements, Fire Code standards, and those related to stormwater management and public water and sewer) as well as state and federal requirements
- Building permit.
- Sliding Hill Road Widening Plans (under Administrative review by the Planning Department. Transportation improvements are listed below.)
- Erosion and sediment control plans (reviewed by the Department of Public Works). This ensures that appropriate safeguards are in place during site development to avoid unnecessary impacts on neighboring properties and waterways (which includes Virginia’s rivers and the Chesapeake Bay).
- Land Disturbance Permit (reviewed by the Department of Public Works). This ensures that grading and other site work does not extend beyond approved areas and does not improperly affect adjacent roads, properties, and waterways.
Transportation improvements associated with the project:
The recently completed Sliding Hill widening improvements were part of a 2014 Smart Scale project and not part of the scope of transportation improvements related to Wegmans. Wegmans has agreed to construct and fund curvature improvements on Sliding Hill at Silverstone Drive (the entrance to the Somerset neighborhood). A signalized “continuous T” intersection also will be installed at Sliding Hill and New Ashcake Roads. This project will be bid by the Department of Public Works if the Wegmans project proceeds to construction. No significant changes to the existing intersection will be made; however, striping will be modified and a traffic signal will be added to ensure the ongoing safe operation of the intersection.
In addition, the Board of Supervisors has requested that the Virginia Department of Transportation approve No Through Truck Traffic designations for several roads that may be impacted by traffic from the Wegmans facility, including portions of Ashcake Road, New Ashcake Road, Atlee Station Road and Peaks Road. These designations are not necessary for the project to move forward, but may reduce the number of certain vehicles using these roadways. This action is pending final determination by VDOT.
Lawsuits have been filed by some who oppose the Wegmans project challenging (1) the decision of the Board of Supervisors on the application to amend the proffers and to issue a special exception, and (2) the decision of the State Water Control Board to approve the wetlands permit. The lawsuit challenging the Board’s decisions was filed in Hanover Circuit Court and the Court issued an Order dismissing the challenge in November 2020; however, the Court has allowed the plaintiffs the opportunity to amend their complaint and a hearing is scheduled in the case for later in June. The challenge to the State Water Control Board’s decision has been filed in Richmond Circuit Court. The County is not a party to that litigation.
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