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Stafford County panel rejects Oakenwold project

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A proposed development near the Stafford Regional Airport will go before the Stafford Board of Supervisors without the blessing of the county’s Planning Commission.

On Wednesday, the commission voted against recommending approval of the Oakenwold subdivision and commercial complex in a 5–2 vote. Commissioners Sherry Bailey and Steven Apicella voted in favor of the development.

The proposed project could bring 650 residential units and up to 250,000 square feet of commercial space to a 232-acre site bordered by Interstate 95 to the east, Centreport Parkway to the north, Mountain View Road to the west and an environmental conservation parcel to the south.

The president of a Woodbridge-based engineering firm, John “Skip” Groupe IV, and his son, John “Johnny” Groupe V, are under contract to purchase the site from the owner, Michelle Moncure. The purchase is contingent on the Stafford Board of Supervisors rezoning the property from agricultural to a Planned–Traditional Neighborhood Development.

About 116 acres would remain open space. Amenities would include a community center, trails, tennis courts and a pool. The applicants have also offered to set aside 3 acres for a public use site.

Most commissioners noted the development’s close proximity to the airport as a reason for not recommending it.

“I’m real concerned about clustering homes and townhouses this close to the airport,” Commissioner Roy Boswell said.

At its closest point, the project is 3,600 feet from the center of the runway. The first residential unit is about 4,200 feet from the runway, while most of the residential units would be more than a mile from the center of the runway.

One of the main sticking points over the proposal has been the noise that the airport could create for Oakenwold residents and how that may impact future growth of the airport.

In explaining his vote against the project, Commissioner Darrell English said that commissioners have an obligation to the safety and the welfare of the potential residents at Oakenwold. He also added that he didn’t think area schools would be able to handle the additional students.

After chronicling the financial investment that Stafford has given the airport since its inception, Commissioner Robert Gibbons agreed.

“I don’t think this application helps them at all in recovering in the down economy,” Gibbons said, referring to the county’s public safety services and schools.

The airport’s opposition to the proposal resulted in a committee tasked with creating a plan for how the land around the airport should be used. The committee isn’t expected to present that plan to the county until early fall.

Recent materials submitted by the applicant said that noise would dissipate based on the distance of the development from the runway, and be dampened by trees. The applicants have offered to increase the buffer between Centreport Parkway and the residences. They also added a requirement for noise reduction construction standards to ensure all noise was kept to acceptable levels.

The applicant also pointed to an industrial and commercial development currently surrounding the Manassas airport in Prince William County that is closer than the one proposed in Stafford.

Commissioner Sherry Bailey said that according to her own research, airports fare better when they are not surrounded by just rural areas.

Commissioner Thomas Coen took issue with the applicant’s plan for the commercial phase of the development, which he thought would be for the surrounding community, not just for residents of Oakenwold.

He also expressed concerns over a lack of planned entrance roads to the development, and plans to preserve an eagle’s nest on the site.

Clark Leming, the attorney representing the applicants, reminded the commission that when negotiations on the site began, a change to the county’s Comprehensive Plan that placed Oakenwold within an urban development area were still new.

Dr. Dean Bellas with Urban Analytics Inc. spoke on behalf of the applicants Wednesday and said that the economic benefit from building-out the area would exceed that of the airport.

The project will now go before the Stafford Board of Supervisors.

Vanessa Remmers: 540/735-1975

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