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

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More about TDR before tonight’s public hearing, possible expansion

An article in today’s paper describes how three developers plan to use TDR for a 123-acre property on Marlborough Point Road. You can read it here. This afternoon, supporters and opponents are still being urged to speak at the 7 p.m. public hearing.

If you’re interested in learning more about the specific property, you can find its online listing here. To clarify, this piece of land is already eligible in the TDR program, and isn’t affected by the proposed expansion which increases the size of the receiving area to be the entire Courthouse Redevelopment Area.

Most recently, Save Crow’s Nest sent this email, in its entirety:

Dear friend,

Your action is need today.

We are contacting you today to ask you to get in touch with the Board of Supervisors to ask them to say “no” to amendments to the Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) ordinance, and to repeal the existing TDR ordinance in it’s entirety. As always, you can go directly to our website at for more information.

The good, the bad and the ugly about Stafford’s TDR program.

Save Crow’s Nest has always believed that a properly structured Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) ordinance could go a long way towards permanently protecting all of Crow’s Nest from development. However the current TDR, as passed by the Board, fails to provide any incentives for protecting Crow’s Nest, allowing logging and other uses on land placed in the TDR program; and fails to provide any public access to lands in the TDR program–all at a potential cost of $53 million to taxpayers.

Tonight the Board will consider amendments to the TDR ordinance that will make it even worse–increasing the number of development rights by nearly 50%; expanding the “receiving” area where by-right dense development can occur without any public input or review; and dramatically increasing the residential and commercial density allowed in that receiving area.

Opposition to the TDR is growing across the political spectrum. Planning Commissioner and school board candidate Scott Hirons (Falmouth) is urging Stafford constituents to contact the Board of Supervisors to oppose the TDR ordinance. Referencing a news story in yesterday’s Free Lance-Star, Mr. Hirons said:

“The first sentence of this article says it all “developers are considering how they could use Stafford County’s newest land-use program”. The Stafford County TDR program (and this proposed expansion) is not about saving farms in the county or even environmentally sensitive land. It’s all about how developers can USE the program to benefit them. That equals more apartments, more traffic, more overcrowded schools and more burden on county services – with NO proffered mitigation. Let your voice be heard – email members of the Board of Supervisors. Use this webform to send a message to members of the Board of Supervisors –”

In support of the program, Supervisor Paul Milde emailed constituents Monday:

Hi Neighbor:

If you live in the Brooke area, you know it is not close to infrastructure and it cannot sustain more sprawl and development.The Transfer of Development Rights ordinance (TDR) is a sound alternative to rampant growth. With this tool in place, we can move the potential development of hundreds of new homes, which can be *built by-right, from Crows Nest and other areas east of Brooke Road. See a map to the Courthouse area which the Board of Supervisors designated as a growth area. Since more growth and development will occur in Stafford, including the Aquia District, no matter what we do, it just makes good sense to steer it toward areas where the necessary infrastructure exists. Contrary to the false and outrageous accusations, there will be NO loss in proffers. Lets look at the reality. If you move *by-right units that don’t require proffers from one location to another, you can’t lose what you wouldn’t have in the first place.

If you care about preserving Stafford’s fastly disappearing rural areas and character, then TDRs will not only help save 1000s of acres from development, but will help save even more of Crows Nest. Over the past several weeks, representatives of Crows Nest landowners have been talking to both public and private entities about donating and forever preserving their property. This can only happen if we make the necessary changes as proposed by the Planning Commission. We have this one additional opportunity to use this growth management tool to keep more homes from being developed along the Brooke Peninsula. This area includes The Crows Nest, Indian Point, Marlborough Point, Aquia Landing and the eastern end of Courthouse Road. Now is the time and TDR is the tool that we can use to make a difference for Stafford families and future generations.

This common sense law is under attack by the same people who opposed the deal that saved the first 3000 acres of The Crow’s Nest and the successful Purchase of Development Rights program. Don’t buy into the misinformation and perpetual falsehoods. I urge you to come to the Tuesday, September 17 Board of Supervisors public hearing , at 7:00 pm and make your voices heard. The demand for homesites in Stafford is back with a vengeance and if we don’t act quickly our rural character will be lost forever. Click here for talking points and more information on TDRs.

Click here to read about how TDR can help save the 125 acre Lynn Farm at 400 Marlborough Point Road.

And against the expansion of the pilot TDR program, Planning Commissioner Scott Hirons issued this email to some supervisors:

Dear Board Member,

I hope you will consider your vote carefully on the TDR expansion before the Board tomorrow night. The adopted TDR ordinance is bad enough, but the changes in this expansion are absolutely horrible.

The expansion of the sending area is not good. If this is truly designed as a “pilot” program and not a political payback scheme for developers then it should stand to reason the smaller the sending area the better. If TDRs are a functional tool that will work in Stafford County then we should keep the sending and receiving areas small, and judge the success from there.

I don’t think including the environmentally sensitive areas of Crow’s Nest Harbor is wise. If the lot owners do take advantage of the TDR ordinance there is very little that can be done to ensure those lots are protected in the future. The county/state loses all leverage. The lot owners can still timber the lots which could basically result in clear cutting of the land which would be significantly damaging from and environmental point of view.

However, as you know my larger concern is the receiving area. I do not understand the logic behind allowing apartments by-right in B-3 zoned property. At the Planning Commission we recently had a public hearing for the Abberly South development. In that development there is an apartment complex in which we conversed with the developer and staff at three of our meetings about things down to the color and type of siding to be used on the buildings. I suspect the Board is going to have similar discussion on that project. If we care that much about a development like that, why would we allow an apartment development in adjacent property with no Planning Commission or BOS review? We will increase density in one area which will result in overburdening schools in that area, while having no input on the development and receive no proffer mitigation for schools, roads or public safety.

That issue along with still allowing A-1 zoned property in the receiving area is just bad policy. The increased density in A-1 property is detrimental to the intent the A-1 zoning. It does not matter the property is near or adjacent to more urban uses. If that is the case and the county wants to increase density on A-1 property in the area then perhaps the county should initiate rezoning of it to a more residential/urban use. Otherwise we are turning a blind eye to the adjacent property owners.

I also stand by my comments as quoted in the Free Lance Star :

“We could potentially have development that we have no input on, no public review on, in an area that we have spent a significant amount of money to say what kinds of development we want,” Hirons said. He encouraged the commission members to strongly consider their votes.

“We have absolutely no review, in an area closer to the town center that’s envisioned by citizens,” he said. “We’re really saying to citizens, we don’t care about your input.”

We have spent a large amount of tax money in redevelopment plans in the Courthouse area. We had an unprecedented amount of public input in developing the redevelopment plans. We are absolutely saying we do not care about citizen input if we go forward with this TDR expansion.

Please take your time and consider the vote. I hope you and the majority of the Board will realize this is a very bad plan. You need to vote no and ensure the Board does not approve this TDR expansion.