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Stafford planners OK Ferry Farm rezoning

By Katie Thisdell

Walking through a model of George Washington’s boyhood home is closer to being possible.

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The Stafford County Planning Commission OK’d a rezoning for Ferry Farm that would allow reconstruction of the home where the president spent his youth.

Plans from the George Washington Foundation also call for a new visitors center and administration building, and later, a ferry crossing over the Rappahannock River.

Bill Garner, president of the foundation, thanked the many groups involved to get Ferry Farm to this point.

“I’ve challenged myself to find a site with this

many special elements to it, and I haven’t been able to do it,” Garner told the commission Wednesday.

All that’s left of the house is a foundation, identified as such in 2008 following a years-long archaeological dig that yielded 6,000 artifacts. A small building nearby is a surveyor’s shed.

“The majority of the property will remain in the state it’s in now, the natural state,” said Assistant Planning Director Kathy Baker at Wednesday’s meeting.

Ferry Farm didn’t get its name until long after the Washington family left the property, which was at one time more than 600 acres.

In 1990, about half the now 107-acre property was rezoned for commercial use. A proposed retail center was denied. The other portion is zoned for agricultural use.

The Heritage Interpretation Zoning District classification was adopted in 2008 specifically to preserve and enhance historic sites. The county is the applicant for the rezoning.

The National Park Service has an easement on Ferry Farm, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register.

The number of visitors at build-out could drastically increase, according to one study—from 16,000 annually now to 113,000 annually, or nearly 16,000 in a peak month.

Improvements would be needed to create a new entrance at the State Route 3/Ferry Road intersection.

Planning Commissioner James Schwartz said the expanded historic site looks “extremely impressive” and will be beneficial to the county and the entire country.

Eventually, the Stafford attraction would be the endpoint on a pedestrian and bicycle trail that runs along the southern part of the county, connecting Ferry Farm to the Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont.

Discussion about where and how that trail would end at Ferry Farm is ongoing, Garner said, “as long as there is a safe way to accomplish this and it makes sense to both the county and foundation.”

Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975