In September, the Hanover County Board of Supervisors approved the County’s new Comprehensive Plan (the “Plan”). The County’s work on the Plan is a culmination of a multi-year effort that resulted in numerous changes that will impact development in Hanover. This article provides five key takeaways for developers to consider as they evaluate potential options in Hanover.
1. The Plan does not include any changes to the boundaries of the Suburban Service Area (the “SSA”), and assumes only a 1% growth rate for the County’s population. The County uses the SSA as a tool to manage growth by limiting where public utilities will be provided. The County’s decision to not increase the SSA means less land is available to accommodate planned growth, and that high-density, planned growth must occur within the current boundaries of the SSA.
2. Commercial development should be (i) focused within the SSA, (ii) high-quality, and (iii) occur in a compact and contiguous manner. The Plan also contains in-depth designations for the various land use designations. As such, zoning proposals should seek to emphasize the ways the proposal conforms with the guidance in the Plan. While focus for commercial is within the SSA, if developers seek to build commercial outside of the SSA, the commercial development should be small-scale in nature located at “rural crossroads”, which are concentrations of commercial activity at key intersections.
3. The residential density ranges remain the same. The residential densities for the various residential areas are as follows: (i) Rural Village – up to 1 unit/acre; (ii) Suburban Transitional Residential – up to 1.5 units/acre; (iii) Suburban Neighborhood Residential – 1.5 to 3 units/acre; (iv) Suburban High Residential – 3 to 7 units/acre; and (v) Suburban Center – a few opportunities for up to 15 units/acre. The Suburban Neighborhood Residential area remains the prevailing land use designation throughout the SSA. One key change for density calculations though is that Planning staff appears to be calculating density on a net basis as opposed to the acreage of the parcel, which in turn reduces developable land.
4. The proposed 100’ major thoroughfare buffers were reduced to 50’ in the approved version of the Plan. The 50’ major thoroughfare buffer translates across all land use designations within the Plan. However, even though this is the case, the Plan also contains guidance that scenic roads may require additional buffers, which could result in developers seeing buffers closer to 100’, depending on the characteristics of the property and the discussions with staff.
5. Transitional buffers are an important part of the Plan in order to blend uses within Hanover. The Plan provides very specific widths that are sought between various uses. This was an important point of feedback from citizens, and developers will need to keep these transitional buffers in mind when evaluating potential yield.
Overall, the new Plan seeks to impose more development costs on less developable land with no corresponding increase in density. The practical impact is downward pressure in the value of land that landowners may expect to receive.
Future development and community designs in rezoning requests need to aim for promoting the rural character of Hanover by incorporating recommendations from the Plan.
If you would like more information on the Plan, have specific questions about the Plan, or need assistance with preparing a zoning proposal in Hanover, please contact a member of the Hirschler Land Use Practice Group.