It was recently brought to FAAR’s attention that Stafford County is looking to repeal the state-mandated cluster subdivision ordinance that they have had in place since 2009. The General Assembly mandated that high growth counties such as Stafford have a cluster ordinance in place that ideally allows development to occur in a smaller footprint by clustering homes in a certain area and then preserving green space in others.
The County’s concerns are focused on the use of this ordinance in rural areas such as Hartwood. The County contends that the green space that is being “saved” by using this ordinance is actually unusable land anyway like wetlands, stormwater management areas, or community drainfields. The County is concerned that the ordinance is not actually preserving any usable green space while allowing development to accelerate outside of the areas targeted in the Comprehensive Plan.
The Board of Supervisors passed a resolution in January directing the Planning Commission to hold a public hearing on this scheduled for Wednesday, February 28 and to come back with recommendations to repeal the ordinance. The resolution indicates that County staff would like to see the ordinance eliminated and then work with stakeholders to draft a new ordinance to replace it with.
FAAR has heard from Realtors® who are concerned about complete elimination without replacing it with something else as they have properties that are under contract with the intent of using the current ordinance and its elimination would render those deals obsolete. In addition, there are developers who have invested considerable resources into developing projects under the current ordinance which will not be grandfathered and will lose out on all of that investment.
The FAAR Board of Directors voted on Tuesday, February 20 to oppose complete elimination of the ordinance in favor of working with stakeholders to revise the current ordinance to address the County’s concerns. It’s unfair to change the rules of the game halfway through when Realtors® and developers have been using legal code language to inform their deals. FAAR President Kevin McGrath sent this letter to both the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors outlining FAAR’s position. Realtor® and affiliate members concerned about this proposed change to the cluster ordinance are encouraged to attend the Stafford County Planning Commission meeting. This meeting will take place on Wednesday, February 28 at 6:30pm in the Board of Supervisors Chambers located at the Government Center, 1300 Courthouse Road, Stafford, VA, 22554.