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Will UDAs be DOA in Stafford?

MORE: Read more Stafford County news

BY KATIE THISDELL

THE FREE LANCE-STAR

A three-letter acronym that has caused much consternation in Stafford County may be removed from the Comprehensive Plan.

UDAs, or Urban Development Areas, were state-mandated for counties with high growth projections, including Stafford.

The idea was that the high-density, mixed-use developments would help reduce suburban sprawl.

But this year, the General Assembly went back on its 2010 decision. As of July 1, UDAs will be optional.

Stafford Supervisor Paul Milde, originally a strong supporter of the “live, work, play” areas, said that redoing the Comprehensive Plan now would be a “nightmare.”

“It was a very bold move from the General Assembly, and I thought their retraction of it was less bold,” Milde said.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors discussed how to proceed with the development plans, which call for seven areas in Stafford to offer a mix of residential areas, retail, restaurants, offices and other businesses.

In February, the board had created an Urban Development zoning district, but asked the county Planning Commission to review possible maximum densities.

Now the commissioners need direction on whether the county intends to keep the designation.

“If we call it ‘UDA,’ we have to do the whole kit and caboodle that comes with UDA,” Supervisor Bob Thomas said. “If we could somehow keep some features of our Comprehensive Plan that were good things out of that, and maybe look at it from that perspective, I think that would be a worthwhile exercise.”

For the past year, the county has worked with Rhodeside & Harwell, a consultant hired by the Virginia Department of Transportation, to develop the Courthouse UDA as a pilot program.

Since density guidelines are not concrete requirements anymore, Planning Director Jeff Harvey said plans can be broader and “more realistic.”

No rezonings have been done for the UDAs, which had a 10-year time frame attached.

Harvey said that while the state’s growth projections should still be used, a longer timeline could be set.

“I think you can put in all your planning concepts and things like that and structure it without using the name ‘UDA,’” County Attorney Charles Shumate said. “I don’t think we’re stuck with having to use ‘UDAs’ anymore.”

Supervisors will send a formal referral to the Planning Commission on June 5.

Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975

kthisdell@freelancestar.com

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