The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Cluster project under review
BY KATIE THISDELL
Plans for a subdivision on some agricultural land off Truslow Road in Stafford could hinge on whether the county will allow the developer to tap into existing water and sewer lines.
The Stafford Planning Commission could decide the issue this week.
Up to 158 houses are proposed in the development, now undergoing a Comprehensive Plan compliance review.
The applicant, Barrie Peterson of Jumping Branch Farm LLC, hopes to build one of the first cluster developments under the county’s new ordinance. To do so, the housing units must connect to public utilities.
The urban services area is identified in the Comprehensive Plan essentially as the areas along the Interstate 95 corridor. Areas outside the boundaries would have to apply for well and septic permits.
Commissioners could decide Wednesday if they will allow the 317-acre Jumping Branch project to use the public utilities. The urban services area wouldn’t be expanded.
The seven-member commission has the final say on this type of review, unless there is an appeal to the Board of Supervisors.
Commissioners expressed concerns about allowing this development, saying it could affect growth in rural areas.
“It creates a slippery slope,” Commissioner Steven Apicella said during the mid-August hearing. “It’s basically leapfrogging water and sewer well beyond the boundaries of the urban services area.”
The developer has suggested three ways tap into existing utilities. Two options call for water and sewer lines to connect to a portion of the urban services area to the south of the tract, in the Cardinal Forest neighborhood across Truslow Road.
The third proposal shows the lines reaching to a pump station in the yet-to-be-built Staffordshire, a 336-lot development that was rezoned in 1992. The half-acre lots would be served by public utilities; the urban services area was extended to that property in 2010. Proffers also require a golf course be built there.
“I guess they have a little bit of chicken-and-egg kind of issue,” Planning Director Jeff Harvey said.
Jumping Branch would build the pump station if it’s not in place by the time construction of the subdivision would begin, according to a letter by the applicant’s attorney, Clark Leming of Stafford.
A utilities ordinance requires Jumping Branch to connect to the water lines to the south because of the proximity, Harvey said.
That leaves the issue of sewer lines to be determined.
“The broader issue is do you want the agricultural areas to continue to develop on well and septic or do you want to encourage something else?” Leming told the commission.
Commissioners noted that the Comprehensive Plan includes conflicting recommendations. It supports clustering, but the development calls for higher density than recommended there.
Commissioner Holly Hazard asked that a process be written down to serve as a guide for future cases.
“I’m just trying to make sure we don’t set a precedent of opening the door too far while we balance the things within the Comp Plan,” Hazard said.
First Use of Clustering
Pending the outcome of the review, Jumping Branch developers intend to submit a cluster plan application to county staff.
The ordinance, approved by the Board of Supervisors in June, calls for lots for single-family homes to be grouped in a way to maximize open space, which would account for half of the tract.
The Jumping Branch application would be one of the first cluster developments in Stafford.
Recently, the developer of the proposed Clift Farm Quarter has also applied for a cluster development. Supervisors are still considering that rezoning application. It’s scheduled to be discussed again on Sept. 18. The rezoning does not have bearing on the cluster plan.
Harvey said a compliance review may be required anytime part of a development is outside the Urban Services Area.
No public notification or hearings are required for cluster developments since they are allowed by-right.
Conventional by-right zoning practices for agricultural land (A-1 zoning) call for one unit per 3 acres.
Under the new ordinance, the minimum lot size is 1 acre with an average density of one lot per 1.5 acres if there is well and septic.
Having public utilities eliminates a requirement for an average density in a cluster development, essentially allowing more homes to be built if the land allows.
Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975