Graymont Project Information
History of Graymont Property Zoning: 1996-2019
What is known as the Graymont site is approximately six-tenths of a mile north of the Town of Ashland boundary off Elletts Crossing Road at its intersection with Hickory Hill Road. This 197-acre property was owned by Camptown Charities, Inc. and Eloise Nolan Bourne when the Board of Supervisors rezoned it to M-2(c), Light Industrial District with conditions on January 22, 1997. As is the case today, the Zoning Ordinance provisions in effect in 1997 allowed properties zoned M-2 to be used for many uses, including distribution and manufacturing. After the Board’s 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 was allowed to construct industrial uses on the property, subject to the proffered traffic improvements and development standards.
In 2012, the property owners at the time, Brooks Investment III Company, L.L.C. (Becknell has since purchased the property) submitted a rezoning application to amend the proffers accepted with the 1997 case to update development regulations related to road improvements, permitted uses, and buffers. The Board of Supervisors approved these amended proffers on November 28, 2012. Changes to the proffers included:
- Elimination of certain landscaping, buffer and parking lot paving requirements in favor of enhanced standards within the Ashland Overlay District;
- Removal of one of the off-site transportation improvements requiring the developer to improve Elletts Crossing Road from its intersection with Hickory Hill Road north to U.S. Rt. 1 from a two lane rural road to a Rural Collector as identified on the Major Thoroughfare Plan, and to replace the CSX Railroad bridge.
Beginning in 1997, 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. Although there have been numerous inquiries from prospects over the years, the current proposal appears to be the most feasible.
Becknell Industries made contact with the Department of Economic Development in April 2020. Becknell representatives noted there were several other sites in the Richmond Region being evaluated. The Department encouraged them to meet with the entire Community Development team when they were ready to discuss the project.
In a follow-up call with County Administrator Cecil R. Harris Jr. on April 23, 2020, Becknell was told that Hanover was not in a position to offer incentives due to the type of project and associated wages. Becknell inquired about the possibility of seeking a special exception for some of the overlay requirements, and they were advised Hanover had no interest in modifying the site development requirements.
There were sporadic discussions over the ensuing months, with Becknell continuing to note that other sites within the Richmond region were being evaluated. The company was again encouraged to meet with the various Community Development departments to outline the entire development process and timelines in detail to determine if the site was an appropriate candidate.
Development Proposal: November 2020
At the request of Becknell, a site plan pre-application meeting was held in November 2020 with multiple County agencies and the Virginia Department of Transportation to discuss potential development of the property. The developer stated its intention to build a 1.1 million square foot distribution facility. The proposed development was permitted under the 2012 proffers and the developer was advised that the County would need to administratively review and approve a site plan for the property prior to construction. A site plan is the detailed engineering 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). Other issues discussed at this meeting were proffered off-site road improvements; outside storage screening requirements; and site security.
A schematic layout of the property was provided. Following the pre-application meeting several exhibits were provided to Hanover County showing preliminary proposals for screening and security. Here are the documents: Site Plan Exhibit A-2. Graymont Park Plan Exhibit. Lowes Park Exhibit A-2. Graymont Sketch Plan.
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.
- Site plan: In March 2021 the developer, Becknell Industrial submitted site plans for the construction of a 1,112,100 square foot distribution center and associated road improvements to Hickory Hill Road and the Elletts Crossing Road intersection. The site plan was approved on Jan. 31, 2022, along with the road improvement plans for Hickory Hill Road.
- Erosion and sediment control plans (reviewed by the Department of Public Works as a component of the site plan). 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). In February, 2021 the property owner submitted an Erosion and Sediment control plan, “Graymont Industrial Park, Stream Diversion Plan,” to the Department of Public Works. That plan was approved in April 2021. Additionally, in February 2021, another plan was submitted, “Graymont Industrial Park ESC and Mass Grading Plan” to the Department of Public Works. That plan was approved in August 2021.
- Land disturbance permits: On April 6, 2021, a land disturbance permit was issued for the “Graymont Industrial Park, Stream Diversion Plan. This project has been completed and the land disturbance permit closed. On September 20, 2021, the Department of Public Works issued a permit for the “Graymont Industrial Park ESC and Mass Grading Plan.” On October 15, 2021, the Department of Public Works approved a 3.8 acre expansion of the construction permit. Amended-Graymont Industrial Park ESC and Mass Grading Plan.
- Building Permit (reviewed by the Building Inspector’s Office).
Transportation improvements associated with the project:
At initial development of the property, the owner is required to construct a left turn lane at the entrance and to dedicate additional right of way along the property frontage in accordance with the County’s Major Thoroughfare Plan. In addition, the intersection of Elletts Crossing Road and Hickory Hill Road must be improved with construction of a northbound right turn lane on Elletts Crossing and left turn and right turn lanes on the southbound Hickory Hill approach.
When the PM peak hour trips for the site exceed 400 trips, the owner is also obligated to improve Elletts Crossing Road from Hickory Hill south to US Rt. 1 and to construct left turn lanes on Elletts Crossing Road and US Rt. 1.
On August 25, 2021, the Board of Supervisors approved an agreement that will allow Becknell to construct road improvements on property owned by Hanover County at the intersection of Elletts Crossing Road and Hickory Hill Road. All required road improvements will be designed as part of the site plan, and reviewed by Hanover County and VDOT.
Actions on the property by the developer
On September 13, 2021 Hanover County officials were told that Becknell had closed on the property recently. Their plan is to move forward with the development of the first five buildings as soon as possible.
December update of project development status
In December 2021, Raith Capital Partners and Equity Industrial Partners announced the construction of a 1.1 million square foot distribution center on the Graymont property. The $100 million project is scheduled to be completed next summer, according to an article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. According to the article, warehouse users are speculative but the owners believe the distribution center will be leased by the time it opens or shortly thereafter. The project is called East Coast Commerce Center.