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Still a Cluster, but a smaller one

The Board of Supervisors at their March 20th meeting adopted a resolution that severely curtailed cluster developments in the county.  After listening to nearly two and half hours of public comment the board moved quickly to adopted a revised resolution to adopt a map that reduces the amount of county land on which a clustered development can be built.

This action comes after the Planning Commission held a similar meeting and recommended to the Board of Supervisors to repeal the Cluster Ordinance in a vote of 5-2.   The Board adopted their ordinance on a vote of 6-1.  Jack Cavalier was the only Supervisor voting against the motion after he stated he was not going to vote for appeal because the County Attorney had advised the Board was going to be out of compliance with state law if the ordinance was appealed.  He did not support the map that was eventually adopted because in his opinion there was not enough review and study of the new map.

Virginia state code requires jurisdictions of Stafford’s size and population growth rate to have a cluster ordinance.  Cluster development is intended to build house closer together and leave significant land as open space in rural setting developments.   However, the perception in Stafford County was that the cluster ordinance was not doing what it was intended to do and developers were using it as a means to build more houses.

Stafford County Growth

Stafford County’s rapid growth is not a secret to anyone. Over the past couple of years the ill effects of residential growth have become more apparent and caused many citizens to get involved and start taking action to encourage the Board of Supervisors to take measures to slow the growth. Over the past week the Planning Commission held two public hearings that highlighted citizen activism and the call for slowing growth.

The first public hearing the Planning Commission held was on a residential proposal known as Cardinal Meadows. Located adjacent to Rodney Thompson Middle School and the Amyclae subdivision, the application proposed 72 new homes. The public hearing brought out a number of residents of Amyclae and the surrounding area to express their thoughts about the application. Most spoke against the application and asked the Planning Commissioners to vote “no” and send the Board the Supervisors a recommendation of “Denial” on the application.

The Commission voted unanimously 7-0 to recommend “Denial” of the application to the Board of Supervisors.

The second pubic hearing brought out even more people to the public comment potion.  The subject of the public hearing was to provide the Board of Supervisors a recommendation regarding repeal of the Cluster Ordinance.

The intent of the Cluster Ordinance is to preserve green space and cluster homes sites closer together in developments.   It is supposed to create open space in rural areas that can be used for various recreational activities.   By state code Stafford County is supposed to have a cluster option in land development due to its size and growth rate.

The Board of Supervisors and others are concerned the Cluster Ordinance as it is currently implemented does little to preserve open space and that developers have taken advantage of the ordinance to gain bonus density and to claim land that cannot otherwise be built on as open space.  However, that open space then does not meet the recreation requirement of the ordinance.

After nearly two and half hours of citizen comment time the members of the Planning Commission voted 5-2 to recommend to the Board of Supervisors to repeal the Cluster Ordinance and recommend they work with the community and development community to create an ordinance that works for everyone.

There will certainly be more to come as these issues move on to the Board of Supervisors.

For more information on both of these issues, citizen published blogs and FB page Break the Wheel and Stafford Growing Pains have been covering both of these issues in great detail.