MONTPELIER, Va. (WRIC) – A public meeting in Montpelier became heated Tuesday evening as property owners and other stakeholders came out against plans to turn 40 acres of farm land into an 8,000 square-foot commercial development.
Residents raised hands with questions for developer Douglass Harris and project designer Bob William, expressing concerns that the project would bring traffic, noise and water pollution into their back yards.
“Can you look at all these people that have adjoining property and say they’re not going to have any value because you’ve got a gas station right next them?” one audience member asked Harris in a raised voice. “You’ve got people who’ve built houses, who’ve lived out here for a long time.
“They’re the ones who are going to have to look at it every morning and deal with it, not you.”
Harris wants to build a convenience center on a 39-acre property off Mountain Road. The center would include a convenience store, fueling station, state-of-the-art car wash, and family restaurant. He said he chose the land at the south end of Montpelier because of its natural setting along high-traffic Route 33.
Williams said the main building would have a barn-style look including rough cut vertical wood, barn lights and a gabled roof.
“I remember when cattle were out there, and they raised corn out there,” said Thomas Giles, who has lived across the road from the property since the 1960s. “I wouldn’t like to see a service station across there, lights shining in my window all night long,” he said.
Williams told the crowd of more than 100 people that a lighting engineer would create a plan to comply with state and local regulations, using fixtures to contain the light from the convenience center.
“Every effort would be made to make sure vehicles can enter and exit the area as safely as possible,” he said when asked about the impact on traffic along Mountain Road.
Some in attendance at Tuesday night’s meeting raised questions about gasoline running off from the parking lot and into the pond. Others were concerned about neighboring well service properties becoming polluted.
Williams said his design team will hire a site engineering firm to study the property and ensure all EPA requirements are being met.
Others pointed out that there are already three gas stations less than a mile away from the site.
“Many of the questions you’re asking are very legitimate questions,” said Hanover County Planning Director David Maloney, adding that several members on planning commission had stated their reservations about the project to the Hanover County Board of Supervisors.
The board of supervisors would take a vote to re-zone the land agricultural to commercial.
Maloney explained that before the project can move forward, the board of supervisors must create a commercial note in the county’s comprehensive plan. There will be a public hearing on the comprehensive plan amendment in February.
If approved, the project proposal would go to the planning commission for a vote, then on to the Board of supervisors. If a commercial note is not made to designate the property as appropriate for business use, the project cannot continue.
Giles said he hopes his concerns will leave a lasting impression on the planning commission and board of supervisors. “I’d like to see it stay agriculture just like it is.”
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