Home improvements retailer Lowe’s is planning to put a 1.1 million-square-foot distribution center on the site of the former Camptown Races property in northern Hanover County.
Plans call for the distribution center — on 190 acres off Hickory Hill Road about 2 miles north of Ashland — to be ready by spring 2022.
But neighbors in this bucolic part of Hanover oppose the distribution center, saying they are concerned about the influx of tractor trailers and other traffic on the narrow two-lane roads that trucks will have to use to travel the half mile from U.S. 1 to the warehouse.
Neighbors say they were told by a representative of the developer of the Graymont Industrial Park that 200 to 300 trucks would travel on Hickory Hill and Elletts Crossing roads each day. Plus, the distribution center is expected to employ about 100 people.
“The whole reason I purchased this property [in July 2018] was because of the serenity of it,” said Gretchen Mitchell, who owns the 11-acre Whispering Rain Farm directly across Hickory Hill Road from the planned distribution center.
She operates H.U.S.H. with Horses, a business serving people who are sick, grieving or going through a difficult time by pairing them with one of her horses to help them. (H.U.S.H. stands for hope, understanding, serenity and healing.)
“It is going to be really hard for my horses to do what they do with all of those trucks going up and down the road,” Mitchell said.
Nate Simon moved from Jackson Ward in Richmond when he and his wife bought two acres across the street in June. He’s in the process of renovating the 1917-era home.
“I got out of the city and moved out here to get out of the rat race,” Simon said. “I don’t think anyone would want to live in front of a distribution center. And that’s going to be a huge distribution center.”
He’s also worried about the traffic. His front porch is less than 30 feet from Hickory Hill Road.
Trucks also will have to go south on the narrow Elletts Crossing Road from Hickory Hill Road to get to U.S. 1, he said. Trucks won’t be able to go north on Elletts Crossing Road because a train trestle on the northern portion of that road is too low and too narrow.
Becknell Industrial, an Indianapolis-based developer of warehouse distribution centers across the nation, including some in the Richmond region, is developing the warehouse for Lowe’s, the retailer’s spokesperson Steve Salazar said.
No site plan for the project has been filed yet with the county.
“This facility will serve as a bulk distribution center that will provide daily shipments of appliances and other bulky items such as riding mowers, grills and patio furniture to Lowe’s cross-dock facilities for last-mile delivery to customers,” Salazar said.
“The Ashland distribution center also will replenish inventory at more than 100 stores, serving locations in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia,” he said. “We plan to begin shipping appliances and other highly deliverable items out of the Ashland bulk distribution center by spring 2022.”
The distribution center will not be run by Lowe’s but by a third unnamed party, he said.
The warehouse is needed, he said, to enable Lowe’s to provide faster and more predictable deliveries to customers in the Mid-Atlantic. The new center is part of the retail chain’s $1.7 billion investment in transforming its supply chain through 2023.
“These new facilities will enable next-day deliveries for a broader range of products and give customers a more consistent experience,” Salazar said.
The Lowe’s warehouse would be smaller than the 1.7-million-square-foot distribution center that supermarket retailer Wegmans is planning to build about 2 miles from the Atlee-Elmont exit off Interstate 95 in Hanover.
The Lowe’s warehouse would be more than three times bigger than the Vitamin Shoppe’s 312,000-square-foot distribution center and the 300,000-square-foot Republic National Distributing Co. warehouse, both next to each other off U.S. 1 less than a mile south of the Graymont Industrial Park property.
Plans for the Lowe’s warehouse were first reported by Richmond BizSense.
The property was originally rezoned in 1996 for M-2 industrial, and the zoning was amended in 2012, said David P. Maloney, Hanover’s planning director.
A site plan would need to be approved and necessary building permits applied for before construction can start, Maloney said.
An early land disturbance permit was filed with the county’s Public Works department by engineering and construction management firm McKinney & Co. on behalf of Becknell Services LLC, which is listed as the construction activity operator.
That land disturbance permit is under review. But contractors began staging equipment and installing erosion and sediment-control fencing before obtaining the land disturbance permit, said Mike Flagg, the county’s director of public works.
“They should not have started installing the erosion-control fencing prior to obtaining a permit,” Flagg said. “They have submitted some plans that are in review, but they have not submitted a complete land disturbance permit application at this time.”
Hanover issued a stop-work order on Feb. 16 once the county became aware of the activity. The county also has levied a $2,000 civil penalty for beginning work without a permit, he said.
“If you are going to do it, do it the way it is supposed to be done. They should play by the rules and do it by the books,” said Simon, the neighbor who lives across the street from the planned warehouse.
A representative from Becknell Industrial did not return repeated phone calls or emails seeking comment about the project.
The 190-acre property for the Graymont Industrial Park consists of two parcels. Both are owned by Henrico County-based Brooks Investments, according to Hanover’s online property records.
Brooks Investments acquired the 157.6-acre parcel in late 2006 for $860,000 from Camptown Charities, the entity that had operated the Camptown Races on that site since 1987. The annual horse racing event with its half-mile oval track ended there in the early 2000s. The property was assessed in 2021 for $1.234 million.
The second parcel of nearly 32 acres was acquired by Brooks Investments in 2005 for $835,000. The Bourne family, who had lived in the Graymont Farm manor house for decades, sold the 1920-era home and land. It was assessed this year for $758,300.