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

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TDRs to take a “breather”

Stafford County supervisors want to take a “breather” on a pilot land-use program that has been in discussions for years. Transfer-of-development rights programs aim to preserve open spaces while limiting urban sprawl; development can be moved to areas deemed more appropriate for growth.

However, after hearing concerns from the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust, the Board of Supervisors decided to look at several problematic areas of the program, rather than moving it on to public hearing.

“This is so bad that even if I voted for it because it’s better than nothing, it’s not much better than nothing,” said Aquia supervisor Paul Milde said, who has pushed the TDR program. He will discuss the issues on a subcommittee with Gary Snellings (Hartwood) and Bob Thomas (George Washington). (Those two districts are rural, and have been said to possibly benefit from TDR.)

Patrick Coady, chairman of the NVCT, pointed out that because the program as written only focuses on voluntary preservation for one limited area of the county, there are “unintended consequences.” His goal is ultimately for the now-defunct Crow’s Nest Harbour subdivision to become part of the neighboring nearly 3,000-acre Crow’s Nest Natural Area Preserve.

The proposed “sending area” was identified as the two peninsulas along the Potomac River between Aquia and Potomac creeks, which includes the nearly 350 lots of Crow’s Nest Harbour that were never developed and are now owned primarily by a handful of limited liability corporations. Property owners could have sent the density rights (the ability to build homes on a property) to the “receiving area,” which was identified as the Courthouse urban development area.

One line in the TDR proposal allows construction of buildings no more than 6,000 square feet for agricultural or forestall uses. However, most eligible lots are about 2 acres each. TDR is ideally meant to preserve large tracts of land. “In the large parcel case, allowing structures and to continue to farm or timber makes sense,” Coady wrote in a letter to the board. “It is clearly not appropriate for the small lot situation that exists at Crows Nest Harbour.”

Coady was also concerned about how to combine lots after they severed their development rights. Otherwise, there could be a “checkerboard” pattern of ownership, he said. NVCT owns four of the lots.

The full story will be in the paper later this week.