Last spring, Stafford County successfully concluded a public engagement campaign to seek public input on Healthy Growth. The County received a robust response from citizens and other interested persons through individual interviews, roundtables, public information sessions, social media placements and a Facebook Live event. The goal was to gauge the public’s thoughts on moving Stafford forward into the desired state of healthy growth for a rapidly growing Stafford County. Stafford’s Board of Supervisors listened to the participants and asked staff to propose actions moving forward that would incorporate those responses.
At the Board’s June 4, 2019, meeting, the Board conducted a work session to discuss three potential growth management strategies to promote Healthy Growth. The three approaches were:
- Adopt a change in lot sizes to decrease the number of future homes to be built in the rural areas of the County.
- Adopt incentives for both rural land conservation and the development in the Targeted Growth Areas without a change in lot size. These could include Transfer of Development Rights (TDR), Purchase of Development Rights (PDR), assistance with Voluntary Conservation and other means.
- Adopt a change in lot sizes coupled with a revised and publically-enriched TDR program that practicably maintains the value of an owner's development rights by providing several development units which could be sold equal to developers before the lot size amendment.
“The Board chose to pursue a variant of option three – a combination of reducing residential development density in rural areas and utilizing the Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program to offset the potential loss of development for those landowners,” said Jeff Harvey, Stafford’s Director of Planning and Zoning. “Accomplishing this will require an amendment to the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance.”
The Board opted to continue this work to fashion the amendment and questions raised by it through open work sessions which will include an opportunity for public input. In particular, the Board will need to decide: the areas of the County to be considered for an expanded TDR program; what offsets should be allowed when determining residential development density on rural lands; what additional incentives should be considered to ensure the success of an expanded TDR program; and should adjustments be considered for the TGA development envisioned in the Comprehensive Plan.
The Healthy Growth initiative arose out of a desire by the Board to adhere to Stafford’s Comprehensive Plan, a long-range vision for the County based on shared community values and preferences that calls for a goal of 80% development in the Urban Services Area (USA) and 20% in the rural area. Currently, Stafford has about 77.7% of growth located in the USA and 22.3% in the rural area. If every currently approved lot were built-out, 73.5% of growth would be in the USA and 26.5% in the rural area, which is an unsustainable path considering the public safety, road improvement and school impacts it would create.
The Board gave direction to begin work this summer and through the rest of the year via work sessions. More information may be found at the link below.