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Fredericksburg City Council and Stafford supervisors meet to discuss proposed easement.
By EMILY BATTLE
The most common line at a meeting last night between the Fredericksburg City Council and the Stafford Board of Supervisors about the city's river easement proposal was this:
"I would never support development along the river."
That was Stafford Supervisor Mark Dudenhefer's version of a sentence that came out of the mouth of nearly every elected official at the meeting.
The officials did not split along city/county lines, but on how they view the easement proposal.
Some of the easement's opponents view the document as a way of unnecessarily bringing in outside groups to do something that they believe the counties and city could take care of on their own.
"We have the tools to protect the river," Stafford board Chairman Bob Gibbons said. "Nobody wants to protect the river more than I do, but I don't think we have to go to a third party to accomplish that."
"Third party" refers to the groups to which the city proposes to sell development rights on its river land.
The current draft of the easement would sell those rights to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, the Nature Conservancy and the state Board of Game and Inland Fisheries. The city has also said the counties can buy into the easement on land that lies within their boundaries.
City Councilman Matt Kelly, who supports the easement, said he doesn't see the city as selling out to these outside groups. He said that in his view, the easement is a way for the city to bring partners to the table that can commit money, people and expertise toward protecting the river lands.
"We don't, as localities, have the resources or the expertise by ourselves to do this," he said.
Fredericksburg officials have projected that they'll need an endowment of $2.7 million to fund river protection efforts--to be led by a proposed river steward--for 40 years.
The Nature Conservancy has said it would pay $1.6 million for its share in the easement.
The city has proposed asking the counties to make up the difference of $1.1 million by contributing a portion of that amount that's based on what percentage of the overall river lands they own.
Stafford County's share would be around $382,000, and Spotsylvania's would be around $279,000.