Katie Thisdell reports on news from Stafford County. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 540/735-1975.
TDR program dies Tuesday
A long-debated land-use program is dead before it fully went into effect in Stafford County.
The transfer-of-development rights pilot program was designed to reduce building in the rural Brooke area while increasing growth in the Courthouse area. The program had been approved in February, but it was missing a critical component—maps of the areas involved—that would have actually allowed it to work.
The Stafford Board of Supervisors took up a “housecleaning” item Tuesday evening that could have also expanded the program, but instead, the board killed it.
“There is no appetite here besides my own to expand,” said Aquia Supervisor Paul Milde, a longtime advocate for TDR. “The only option even viable right now is a housecleaning item for what we originally passed. It keeps TDR exactly as envisioned.”
That failed on a 3-4 vote, with Milde and Supervisors Bob Thomas and Jack Cavalier supporting the TDR program. Supervisors Susan Stimpson, Cord Sterling, Gary Snellings and Ty Schieber voted against.
On Tuesday, the board considered adding the map needed to make the program usable. They also considered expanding the eligible lands in the eastern part of the county from which development rights could be “sent” and the “receiving” area of those rights around the Courthouse. The TDR program would not have changed the total number of houses that could be built, just the locations. Those transfers would not have been subject to public hearings or the county’s design guidelines.
That led Sterling Tuesday to propose deferring adoption of the program until next July, after the General Assembly addresses one of the county’s legislative requests to require TDR development to comply with architectural standards. Sterling had also asked in September to defer.
But Stimpson again said it was time to vote on the program that she has long opposed. “We talk about how this is going to preserve land, but there’s no guarantee the way it’s written now,” she said.
She said the ordinance would have allowed landowners or developers of large tracts to transfer development rights and secure a conservation easement on acreage where construction could be difficult, while still developing the buildable land. “It’s such an egregious loophole,” she said, “that it benefits the very developers or investment owners that have the property that they can’t build in anyway.”