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

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TDRs back to subcommittee

After a second public hearing before the Stafford Board of Supervisors in a year, a land-use plan proposed for the Brooke area will be back in a subcommittee.

Transfer of development rights is intended to be a growth management tool. Essentially, landowners can “send” their right to build on a lot in a rural area to another lot in an area that is more suited for growth.

Since first proposed, the TDR pilot program, with various changes, has been before the Planning Commission for four public hearings and the board for two.

Aquia Supervisor Paul Milde, who has pushed for TDRs from the beginning, said he’d like to look at other zoning categories to include in the program.

A subcommittee created in July—the last time supervisors wanted to examine TDRs—will be revived. It includes Gary Snellings and Bob Thomas, whose districts include rural areas that could be preserved with a countywide TDR program.

But the pilot program centers on the two peninsulas along the Potomac River between Aquia and Potomac Creeks. That area includes the nearly 350 lots of Crow’s Nest Harbour subdivision that were never developed and are now owned primarily by a handful of limited liability corporations.

Any transferred rights under the pilot would go to the Courthouse area, as by-right development. County staff suggested waiting 60 days before implementing a program to allow time for applications and permit tracking programs to be created.

Resident Alane Callander said the program sounded like an “administrative nightmare for the county.”

Cecilia Kirkman, a former Planning Commissioner and Save Crow’s Nest activist, said legislation as written is not right for the county. “You’ll want staff to do your own numbers, but it is remarkable to me that the staff report does not include any fiscal analysis of the impact of this legislation,” Kirkman said.

There are 913 possible development rights that could be transferred. She said that if the board doesn’t collect the voluntary $43,101 proffer for single family homes, which would be negotiated through a rezoning process, that could come to $39.5 million loss in revenue.

Planning Director Jeff Harvey said no more homes could be built than what is currently allowed–the rights would just be in a different area and could be on smaller lots.

Joe Samaha, who owns a lot in Crow’s Nest Harbour and said he was speaking on behalf of many other lot owners, said TDR is a win-win-win situation for lot owners, the county and conservationists, without treading on anyone’s rights.

Also in support of the program was the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust, which has objected to various aspects of the TDR ordinance over its development. “We have a lot of ways we’d like to work with landowners and the county to achieve our goal,” NVCT chairman Patrick Coady said.

No timeline was set for the subcommittee.