vanessa-newVanessa Remmers covers Stafford County government and schools for and The Free Lance-Star.

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TDR program moves on to board

The proposed transfer-of-development rights program in Stafford County got the green light from the Planning Commission tonight, despite public concerns over the unintended consequences to preserving land in the now-defunct Crow’s Nest Harbour subdivision. I’ve reported in the past how the pilot land-use program aims to permanently conserve open space while directing development to high-growth areas. It will now go before the Board of Supervisors later this fall.

The nearly 350 Crow’s Nest Harbour lots would qualify for the TDR zoning requirement. (Here’s a past story about a petition from lot owners to the commission.)

During Wednesday night’s public hearing, former commissioner Cecilia Kirkman said the legislation, as written, fails to adequately save Crow’s Nest, save the historic and environmentally sensitive peninsula in eastern Stafford. TDR “uses taxpayer dollars to bail out real estate speculators and fails to permanently protect all of Crow’s Nest from development,” Kirkman told the commission.

She asked the county to modify the proposed ordinance and amendment to the Comprehensive Plan. “As written, the TDR legislation could be gamed to create a subdivision with 10-acre ‘estate’ lots by severing only a portion but not all of the development rights, vacating lot lines, and then creating large lots with one development right attached,” Kirkman said.

Also in opposition to the program was Patrick Coady, chairman of the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust, which has also worked to preserve Crow’s Nest. He wanted the trust to be able to play a useful role in the conservation, and was worried that TDR is not appropriate for the area, as compared with areas where the program saves large tracts of land.

Commissioner Scott Hirons voted against TDR because of concerns that the program takes a “micro-look” at growth, rather than as a real tool to aid in the county’s growth. “As a whole, this program really isn’t going to do much to save a heck of a lot of land, potentially,” Hirons said.

The TDR program was approved 6-1. “It’s time to give it a shot at this form we’ve promoted here,” said commissioner Steven Apicella. “It’ll give us a chance to tweak it with what works and what doesn’t work with very little risk and potentially great benefit.”

The full story will be in Thursday’s paper.