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This Week's Topic: Hancock Village

For the last two weeks, I have been discussing the topic of development as envisioned in the Comprehensive Plan versus what has been proposed by the developers and approved by the leaders in Chesterfield County. Yes these developments were originally rezoned years ago, but they are no different than the projects approved by the current BOS and all the projects that have been deferred to December after the election in November.

Once again I will share the direct quote from Chapter 6 of the Comp Plan. It describes a vision that anyone and everyone would embrace.

“COMMUNITY IDENTITY Designs should provide options to recognize and support neighborhood and community identity that promotes a sense of place and encourages residents and businesses to care for, belong to and promote their community. Features that support unique and diverse identities could include art, signage, community space and streetscaping. Key areas should be identified to promote community identity such as areas that join together neighborhoods, businesses and public facilities. Public facilities such as parks, libraries and fire stations should also be branded to the community identity of the area.”

Last week, we looked at how the vision of the Comp Plan compared to the actual construction of Cosby Village. This week, we are going to make a short trip up Hull Street (couple of miles and 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the time of day) to Hancock Village. We will be looking for the key areas and public facilities that promote community identity and join together the neighborhood. We will also see how the community might impact the nearby roads and schools.

A view from the bluff overlooking the Village. Let’s be honest, this is a shopping center--this is not a village. No one is taking their family here to hang out and meet neighbors. They may shop or catch a meal, but they are not staying, and they drove to get there. In the 1960’s, this was called a strip shopping center and highways across America are littered with them. They are cheap, easy to build and totally dependent on the automobile. No community identity or sense of place - “Anywhere USA.”

There are new construction homes you can purchase in Hancock Village, but there are no public facilities or spaces to create an identity or sense of community. The layout and architecture can be found anywhere. Rinse and repeat all the way down Hull Street: Swift Creek Village, Hancock Village, Cosby Village and every other village. We know that Hull Street is gridlocked--likely beyond repair--so this only adds to the problem. How the schools can handle the density of this development is anyone’s guess. Based on CCPS SY22 data Clover Hill ES is 100% capacity, Spring Run ES is 97% and Winterpock is 90% but likely much higher based on pace of construction in Harper’s Mill. Swift Creek MS is at 105% and we know Cosby HS is bad at 115%. Manchester is no better at 100%. Likely not what folks bargained for when they were sold these homes. We are all paying for the County’s failure to plan, and it is going to take a focused and disciplined effort to catch up. Business as usual will not cut it.

On a positive note, this is a nicely-landscaped space and a tasteful entry to a walkway connecting to the commercial portion of the village. The connectivity is nice, but unfortunately it connects to a loading dock and a dumpster pad--not the most pleasant or safest walk in the early morning or evening nor the best view from the bluff. Chesterfield can do better, but rather than be bullied and guided by developers, the BOS and staff need to revisit the Comp Plan and Zoning Ordinance with community input creating spaces we can all be proud of and happy to visit.

Before we leave this topic, let’s take a minute to talk about connectivity between communities within the County. First, let’s visit the Comprehensive Plan, which is to guide all development within the County. Here is what the plan has to say:

“CONNECTIVITY Neighborhoods should incorporate safe and convenient connections by various modes of transportation, including pedestrian and bicycle facilities, to promote active living and integration with surrounding neighborhoods, employment centers, commercial areas, public facilities and other services as desired by residents.”

Fantastic vision. Let’s take a look at recently completed Woolridge Road expansion. You have to know they got it right. It’s not like the road is 20 years old. Now that is a beautiful sidewalk right there. Exactly what is it connecting?

Better yet 100’ of sidewalk to nowhere in the middle of no where. Folks, this little piece of pavement sums up perfectly the state of planning in Chesterfield County: “We have no idea how we got here. We have no idea where we are going. We have no idea what we are doing.”

It should come as no surprise to anyone that schools are overcrowded and traffic is a mess. As long as we have Supervisors whose only answer is to blame their predecessors and then do more of the same, there will never be change, and the problem will only get worse. First, stop subsidizing this mess of faux urbanism sprawl under the guise of mixed-use commercial development, and then let’s get our priorities straight and start cleaning up the mess by building schools and roads faster. If you are tired of being sick and tired, please vote for a new direction in November.

“Don’t Fairfax our Chesterfield!”

God bless America, the Commonwealth of Virginia, Chesterfield County and the good people of Matoaca.


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