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Stafford survey seeks guidance on growth
BY KATIE THISDELL
Retail centers could be sleek, modern buildings or have a traditional, small-town feel.
Parking garages or landscaped parking lots could be required based on the size and type of the development.
Bike racks could be shaped like bicycles, while wooden benches could wrap around trees.
These are among the issues in a 155-question survey about what new construction could look like in Stafford County.
Results of the visual preference survey will be used to create the architectural guidelines for the county’s Comprehensive Plan, which guides future development.
The county Planning Department staff held a lightly attended meeting on the guidelines Wednesday evening. A second meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Porter Library, 2001 Parkway Blvd., in North Stafford.
The survey is also available on the county’s website. All are welcome to share their thoughts.
The architectural design guidelines will be just that—a guide, the staff said. The guidelines would be used as part of the evaluation measures when new development is proposed in the county. They won’t be retroactive, so no existing structures or those already approved to be built would be affected.
Specific architectural design guidelines are not included in the Comprehensive Plan, adopted in 2010 for growth through 2030. The most recent amendment to the plan was made in January and includes plans for implementation.
The architectural guidelines could be used as proffers from developers of new projects.
Survey takers are asked to rate a series of images, from
-3 (dislike a lot) to +3 (like a lot). They are then asked to choose which they like the best and least, and why, from the groups of photos, which include residential and commercial areas, as well as public fixtures and signs.
Skip Causey, division president at Drees Homes, said architectural guidelines are “near and dear” to his heart.
“My fear is that they’ll get too regimented, and that they’ll say, ‘We always have to do this’ or ‘We always have to do that’ and then you’re stuck,” Causey said after filling out the survey.
The county is on the verge of growth, said Causey, who was once a member of the steering committee for the Comprehensive Plan.
Different areas of the county also should be considered separately, he said.
“Some guidelines are good,” Causey said. “There should be minimums, there shouldn’t be such strong definitive guidelines on parking structures, and this and that.”
Causey also owns Potomac Point Winery, which he built in 2007 in the Widewater area.
“If I would have been limited to agricultural buildings, I wouldn’t have been able to build a Mediterranean-style building. But it’s successful, it’s unique, it’s out there, it’s not Stafford, but I wasn’t in an architecture-controlled area,” Causey said.
Tanya Gossett, a preservationist for the National Park Service, also filled out the survey on Wednesday.
As a member of the county’s Architectural Review Board, Gossett said she was interested to see how new growth would fit in with what already exists.
“It’s all modern stuff, so it’s interesting to see where they’re going with it,” Gossett said. “I think the biggest thing that concerns me with development isn’t modernism at all—I like modern stuff.
“It’s a matter of putting creative architecture and building forms and community things in place, rather than cookie-cutter, large-scale, non-pedestrian-friendly things that basically turn people off.”
Gossett added that the survey results could “affect how Stafford grows up.”
The Planning Commission will look at the staff’s interpretation of the results at its Aug. 15 meeting.
A work session could be held in September, with a public hearing in October. The recommendations would then go the Board of Supervisors.
Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975