MX Districts in Hanover

After a contentious debate, Hanover County has approved a mixed-use (MX) district that will permit buildings to contain multiple uses. Such structures are normally found only in intensely developed urban areas, which struck a number of Hanover County citizens the wrong way. Many want to preserve the county’s low-density ambience.

The MX district will be limited to “surburban services areas” that allow nodes of greater density. The article in the Herald-Progress does not describe what types of multiple uses are expected. The most likely scenario for Hanover, I’m surmising, is an apartments-over-shops arrangement — and who could argue with that? If people want to live where they work, let them! It’s one more way to take cars off the roads. That’s a goal everyone in Hanover could get behind.

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18 responses to “MX Districts in Hanover”

  1. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I’d like to see a POLL of folks who are opposed – to better understand why.

    but I suspect.. at least in part.. it’s the same issue that TMT alludes to.

    Developers LOVE density… more units to the acre… It’s the number one
    negotiation in most rezones…

    But many ordinary citizens.. worry that the required infrastructure to support density
    won’t get done… their taxes will go up .. and the quality-of-life down.

    Almost every time.. the planner types say “trust us” and almost everytime …the planner
    types are more interested in concepts than outcomes.

    For what it is worth – there ARE localities that cut to the chase. They establish Level of Service
    STANDARDS and each proposal .. must mitigate to that standard… regardless of density.

    Prince William is one of those localities that utilizes LOS in making decisions… if not mistaken.

  2. I imagine that folks that can afford to own a store can afford to live someplace nicer than over the store. They will rent those walk-ups to someone else.

  3. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    I keep wondering where these communities have been established and what are the results. I’ve seen plans for some mixed use and TOD communities that look quite nice and seem to have the potential to help reduce traffic. But I remain skeptical.

    What if Time Warner added housing and appropriate retail to the AOL campus. Would workers really live there? What percentage? How many would ditch at least one car?

    Reston Town Center contains a number of fine accounting, law and other professional service firms. It also contains a growing number of condos and apartments. How many employees/partners of these firms also live within the Town Center community? Even Kate Hanley “commutes” to her new job in Richmond.

  4. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    really good questions.

    mixed use – is opportunity for those who want to run a small business… it’s not for everyone but from what I understand.. small business creates more jobs than all the big players. put together…

    Isn’t the concept a “throw-back” to a time when you had cities with grid streets… shops at street level
    and apartments up top.. and folks walked around a lot?

    TMT – you asked for an example… here’s one:

    Downtown Fort Belvoir
    Army Post in Fairfax County Gets a Taste Of Off-Post Living With Its Own Town Center

    By Alec MacGillis
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Sunday, October 22, 2006; Page C01

    In the suburban jumble of southern Fairfax County lies an oasis of pleasant living straight out of a classic small town or cozy city neighborhood. Residents can roll out of bed and walk downstairs to a handsome Main Street lined with a coffeehouse, corner grocery and barber and adorned with vintage-style lampposts, signs and clocks. They can stroll along the sidewalk and greet their neighbors. They can walk to work without worrying about a car.

    If the Army can do it.. why not AOL or GOOGLE ? Note also.. the military also provides to localities a per student impact fee…(I think they still do this).

  5. “Isn’t the concept a “throw-back” to a time when you had cities with grid streets… shops at street level
    and apartments up top.. and folks walked around a lot?”

    You are dreaming. Those times are gone. Do not exist. And for good reason.

  6. Let me put it to you this way.

    Every thing I need is right here on the farm. With enough effort (and enough capital, JAB) I could live here, sustainably, forever.

    In our best years, we have achieved 75% of that, maybe. Still, we could learn an awful lot from our Amish and Mennonite friends.

    The problem is, that we can live a lot better and have more net income by driving 50 miles a day. Even if we only drove 25 miles a day, we could still live better, but not as well as if we drive 50. And even if we only drove 15 miles a day we could still live better, but not as well as if we drive 25.

    I can throw money away on cars and travel time, and even tolls, and still do better than I can here at home.

    That is the problem you need to fix.

  7. “…lies an oasis of pleasant living straight out of a classic small town or cozy city neighborhood.”

    I agree with you. I have lived in such places. Your description is a dead center description of downtown Vineyard Haven, Massachustts, in the old days, when I lived there.

    But Vineyard Haven has sprawled to an edge strip mall neighborhood. And that is despite the very best efforts of organizations with far more power and authority than PEC.

    And Vineyard Haven is on an island, where they are on a VERY strict land, and water diet.

    If those days are gone in a place like Vineyard Haven, then what chance does Reston Town Center have?

    We are barking up the wrong economic tree.

  8. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Ray – the issue is… should we ALLOW mixed use – as opposed to NOT allowing it.

    .. and then let the marketplace determine if it is an option for some folks who
    believe they “can” do well by making that choice.

    It’s not for everyone but wouldn’t you agree that in a free market – it should
    be an option for those that find it suitable for their needs?

  9. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Here’s an interesting article that relates indirectly – in terms of parking.(exerpts)
    No Parking: Condos Leave Out Cars

    ANNEMIEKE CLARK and her boyfriend, Daniel Pasley, do not spend a lot of time driving. Ms. Clark, a 29-year-old nursing student at Oregon Health and Science University, takes the bus to school. Her boyfriend is a “crazy bike rider,” she said.

    So when they decided to buy their first home last winter, they chose a one-bedroom unit in the Civic, one of the first new developments in Portland to market condominiums without parking spaces.

    Ms. Clark said they bought the $175,000 condo, which will be ready next summer, because “it was absolutely the cheapest one selling.”

    “We talk about affordable housing as the most critical thing facing cities and the nation,” Mr. Cody said. “But we never talk about the costs of the automobile.” Since individual parking spaces cost about $40,000, reducing or eliminating parking is an effective way to lower housing prices, he said.”

    “Lenders traditionally balk at financing projects without parking, said David Hoy, who developed the Moda condos. The concern is that they would be difficult to resell.”

  10. Yep, there is some market for most anything. There are dozens of niche markets in the farming business, and you constantly see stories about how someone is making an adequate living selling kumquats, or that this or that will be the Next Big Thing that rejuvenates all of farming.

    It never happens because when everybody jumps in the market collapses.

    As for parking, in California there was a downtown re-development where officials restricted parking, and as a result the units never sold. the developers had to come back in and add more parking later, and then the units sold.

    What kind of parking space costs $40,000? For that kind of money I could put up a garage with heating and air conditioning? Sure, if you are talking about huge excavations for underground parking with massive structures to hold up the building overhead… but how much of that is the actual cost of the parking and how much is the cost of using the space twice, once for the foundation and once for the parking?

    I’m not surprised that a condo with no parking was the cheapest one selling. But, even if you believe a parking space costs $40,000, you have to ask yourself if that space buys you $40,000 worth of additional opportunities over what you can get when you show up to work by bike.

    Also, in Portland it is my understanding that the city frequently has to make large concessions or provide other kinds of support to developers in order to induce them to build “the Portland way.” The reason being that they are difficult to sell, because they are smaller and over priced.

  11. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    yeah.. it sounded a little steep…

    “In 1996, the International Parking Institute estimated that new parking garages cost betweeen $4,500 and $15,000 per space (depending, of course, on the type of construction, special features, etc.). A reliable average is approximately $7,000 per space for multi-level garages. Surface facilities can be built for around $1,500 per space in most cases. (More than 60 percent of paid off-street parking is in surface lots with the remaining 40 percent in garages.)

    # What does it cost to operate a parking garage each year?
    Again, the cost-per-space method seems to work best here. To light a parking garage, keep it clean, pay the people who work there, run the elevators, operate the cash registers and gate equipment, shovel the snow, etc. generally averages about $650 per year per space.

    If a company provides parking.. as a benefit to employees … is it a taxable benefit?

  12. “If a company provides parking.. as a benefit to employees … is it a taxable benefit? “

    Aah, now that’s more like it.

    I suppose the answer depends on whether the benefit accrues to the employee or to the company.

    I’d suggest that the company expects to make a profit on the employee, even after sallary and benefits. Company profit is already taxed.

    Wouldn’t taxing the parking benefit to employees amount to double taxation? If we tax employees for the benfit, then corporations would no longer be able to claim the benefit as a business expense, and their taxes would also go up, so it would be double taxation either way.

    Either way, the net result would be to encourtage businesses to locate where such rules do not exist, yet.

    I don’t think that attacking parking is a valid envrironmental strategy.

  13. Toomanytaxes Avatar

    I would agree that, as a general matter, the last thing we need are more taxes on anything, including parking. But how does society address the number of cars coming into and out of an expanded Tysons Corner, for example? If one accepts the premise that there are more cars in and around Tysons than can be handled today, how do we prevent more cars from coming and going tomorrow?

    As I’ve written more times than I’d care to, the developer’s proposal for Tysons I would add more new parking spaces for condos, offices and a hotel than are at the world’s largest office building — the Pentagon. Add to that the new parking spaces for parcels already rezoned and those for the other 20+ proposed changes to the Comprehensive Plan. Subtract what the Silver Line would carry. And we have gridlock to the fourth power!

    There simply are not enough roads or potential roads to carry this traffic. A group of people from the Vienna-Fairfax areas have estimated from reviewing all of the proposed zoning changes (which excludes those already approved) that the added traffic trips generated by TOD Tysons would be twice as many as those that would have occurred if the Loudoun County Board had approved the 33,000 new homes.

    This is beyond insanity. The late Justice Jackson wrote that the Constitution is not a suicide pact. Neither should the Comprehensive Plan for Tysons Corner be a suicide pact.

    If Tysons becomes an urban area, it must do so with far fewer motor vehicles. There are only two ways to limit vehicles/parking. Either limit the number by regulation or tax, tax, tax parking spaces.

  14. “If Tysons becomes an urban area, it must do so with far fewer motor vehicles.”

    That is a nice sentiment.

    Anyone know how many motor vehicles there are in Manhattan at rush hour? What does that work out to, in vehicles per squre mile, compared to Tysons?

    Where are the metrics?

  15. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I actually was having the same thought.

    NYC, Chicago, Boston, etc … if you look at their density of people per square mile..
    both residential and employer – I’ll bet it’s 10 times Tysons… and has a LOT less private autos.

    In NYC.. unless you are a rock star with a chauffeur-driven limo, you walk, take the subway or a cab to get around.

    If you COMMUTE… you usually get on a commuter train…

    So… let’s just ask the question.

    Are those that ENVISION Tysons to become a “city” – thinking the same way as I allude to above?

    If they ARE – and folks like TMT are NOT – then one can clearly “see” the “divide”.

    I’m mostly pragmatic. I’d like to see the Smart Growth efforts succeed… I’m interested in what things can/should be done to ultimately make them a reality… but right now.. we’re dealing with the “here and now” and clearly, the leadership in Fairfax… see’s it’s future in terms of a “new” (mini) NYC rather than … a suburb in New Jersey.

    I think it CAN work… if it follows the NYC model.

    I’m also saying that this kind of an outcome may not “work” for folks who prefer Fairfax to remain more “suburby” that citified.

    There are quite a few folks who work in NYC.. that commute to get away from it at night but there are also quite a few folks.. he hop the subway to their homes.

    I would not be surprised… if Fairfax.. in in a state of transition of a trajectory that is headed in the NYC direction.

    But then… if I were such a genius .. I wouldn’t have time to blather on in a blog… either.

  16. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    okay … so I got a little curious about the numbers…

    NYC – Persons per square mile, 2000 26,402.9; Median value of owner-occupied housing units, 2000 $211,900

    Fairfax -Persons per square mile, 2000 2,454.8; Median value of owner-occupied housing units, 2000 $233,300

    I’m NOT advocating that this is what SHOULD happen to Fairfax or that it is inevitable but I am saying that I don’t see any reason why… it could NOT evolve in this way with the reasons cited as not enough infrastructure and not enough roads for cars.

    What I AM saying is that there very likely is a difference in VISIONs about what Fairfax should grow to be.

    Clearly – the leadership in Fairfax have a vision that is different from some (many?) folks who live there. The bigger question is are their are majority of voters in Fairfax that disagree with their elected leaders vision.

    But methinks it’s hard to argue against Tysons .. on the basis of infrastructure and cars.. when there are clear examples of other cities that overcame those perceived obstacles to growth.

  17. Yeah, but what is the auto density per square mile? New Yorkers also used a substantial shared vehicle system. It is called taxis.

    New Yorkers have the best trand most heavily used transit system, and also the longest commute times, by far.

  18. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    does it really matter what the auto density is – if.. in fact, an area 10 times more dense than Fairfax does NOT have all day gridlock .. which is the specter feared by folks in NoVa.

    I think the fact that much more dense urban areas exist .. are not gridlocked.. and are viable as places to work and live… that Fairfax could evolve the same way – that NYC did… with cabs, shared vehicles and transit.

    I’m not advocating this and I’m not saying it is “right” for existing Fairfax residents. I’m only saying that it is not inconceivable… for reasons of traffic congestion.. and density.

    I think everyone needs to recognize this – and not fall into the same unrealistic trap of saying “growth must be stopped”.

    Growth IS going to happen. The choice is how it will be accommodated.

    Pushing growth from Fairfax to Spotsylvania is no more realistic than Spotsylvania thinking growth will be redirected back to Fairfax.

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