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

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TDR public hearing drew large crowd Tuesday

Thirty-three people spoke during Tuesday’s public hearing about transfer of development rights.

The last time that many people spoke on a specific public hearing item–aside from the annual budget hearings–may have been the repeal of BPOL a few years back.

From my unofficial count, 18 supported the TDR program, while 15 expressed some type of concerns. Because so many spoke, and since discussion lasted for some time, I wasn’t able to include any comments in my article, but I did want to share some of the comments here.

Some of the speakers supporting TDR were attorney Mark Jenkins, who shared what some Crow’s Nest Harbour lot owners think of the land-use program recently, as did other landowners, like Joe Samaha, who has one lot in the subdivision, and three other developers, who just bought a 123-acre tract on Marlborough Point Road. Other builders, developers, Realtors and lawyers also supported the pilot program’s expansion to include more eligible land in the Courthouse area to receive development rights from the Brooke area.

“We will be able to spring loose a market in which longstanding Crow’s Nest matters can be addressed effectively

in a way that can coincide with the interest of others and the public,” Jenkins said, supporting the expansion that would also enable his clients to participate in the transfer. Samaha noted that a mix of residential and commercial uses is important for a project’s viability, such as a town center around the Courthouse Area.

A few people used talking points emailed by Aquia Supervisor Paul Milde, a longtime proponent of TDR, earlier in the day. One man said that he hopes TDR would prevent the “mistakes up north,” in northern Virginia.

Attorney Debrarae Karnes, who works at the law firm Leming & Healy, said she was speaking for herself as she described how she used to hike with her father in Marlborough Point. “He would be ecstatic if he could see this today,” said Karnes, who said she lobbied hard for TDR and is excited to see it become a reality.

Bill Hoyt, director of the Stafford SPCA, compared TDR to a sniper rifle as a tool in the toolbox, a weapon to fight sprawl. “TDR isn’t your go-to weapon. It’s an elegant solution, the same way a sniper rifle is an elegant weapon. TDR is a long-range tool, a sniper rifle is a long-range weapon. TDR allows you to prevent a conflict, at a distance. The easiest way to win a fight is to avoid it entirely.” He said that TDR could be fine-tuned and used wisely. 

And in the camp against TDR were many people who live in the Paradise Estates trailer park on U.S. 1, south of Courthouse Road. They worried about what would happen to their homes if the property owner decides to sell. 

“This will cause great misfortune to many people,” one woman said. “It’s an injustice.” Moving trailer homes can be difficult and expensive, and impossible if models are too old to be accepted by other parks, people said. The manufactured homes zoning district may be removed when TDR comes back to the board on Oct. 15. ”Cut paradise estates out of this rezoning,” asked one man. “We aren’t asking much…. we’re doing the best we can.” 

Another Paradise Estates resident said TDR has nothing to do with the sale of the property–which could also be affected by the I-95 interchange project–but did say that many people may have to walk away with no compensation for their homes, if a suitable alternative wasn’t found within a 180-day notice period. “I would like to see there be something in writing that they have to offer some sort of compensation for help in relocating,” she said.

Valerie Setzer, who recently announced her candidacy for the Falmouth District Supervisor race, said that TDR sounds good on the surface, but hopes that the county will retain control in the Courthouse area, and the public will have adequate time to comment.

Cecilia Kirkan, a former planning commissioner and founder of Save Crow’s Nest, said that TDR does nothing to actually save Crow’s Nest, an ecologically sensitive area that’s partly preserved in an unopened natural area. “There’s no mechanism in the the ordinance to say the Crow’s Nest Harbour lots will be entered into the preserve,” she said. Camping and logging would be allowable uses for the rural land.