Return to story
Stafford County supervisors finalized their urban development area plan last night, adding a seventh high-density development zone surrounding the Brooke Virginia Railway Express station.
The 5-2 vote came after the county's Planning Commission had twice recommended removing the Brooke UDA from the proposal. County attorneys said that the Planning Commission's recommendation could not be considered by the board, as it was not properly advertised. According to the attorneys, supervisors could not legally remove the Brooke UDA from the plan last night, either.
Essentially, supervisors were obligated to follow the plan they had advertised, which included the Brooke UDA. Supervisors Bob Woodson and Harry Crisp voted against the plan.
"It is rather frustrating at this point that we cannot consider changes with this plan," Crisp said before voting. "I did not give up my right to exercise my best judgment."
The legal restrictions also kept supervisors from considering a proposal from Vernon Blaisdell that was supported by the Planning Commission. His family has property near the U.S. 17 and Interstate 95 intersection adjacent to the existing Southern Gateway UDA. He advocated including his family property at last night's public hearing, knowing that the change would not be made.
"And that's a shame," he said, "because the public hearing should be heard." He went on to say that such legal hamstringing could keep the board from getting the proposal right.
But a majority of the speakers at last night's hearing thought the board got it right. About a dozen Stafford residents spoke in support of the Brooke UDA, citing it as an opportunity to build a mixed-use community focused on rail travel rather than interstate driving.
UDAs are state-mandated dense development zones envisioned as places where people can live, work and shop. Stafford officials designated 10,000 housing units in six UDAs when the supervisors passed the new Comprehensive Plan in December. But there were 4,000 housing units left without a UDA. Last night's Comprehensive Plan amendment allocated those remaining 4,000 units by creating the Brooke UDA and extending the boundaries of the six existing UDAs.
Supervisor Paul Milde said that putting a UDA in Brooke "just made common sense." He also mentioned language in the amendment that recommends using a transfer of development rights program to shift density from more rural areas into the Brooke UDA. Stafford County does not yet have a transfer of development rights program.
Ultimately, a majority of supervisors expressed a desire to finish what they said was a years-long process to finalize the county's new Comprehensive Plan. Some cited a legal responsibility to finalize the UDA plan before the state's July 1 deadline.
"I have serious reservations about Brooke," Supervisor Gary Snellings said. "I'm confused, I'm disappointed and quite frankly, I'm upset with the process. But I'm going to vote for it."
Jonas Beals: 540/368-5036