Stafford officials are considering revamping the cluster development ordinance because it does not appear to be meeting the intended goals for land preservation and intended subdivision practices as envisioned by the Comprehensive Plan. The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing to receive public comments regarding the repeal of the regulations during its February 28 meeting. All citizens are invited to attend and add their input to the decision-making process.
Devising ways to balance the preservation of open spaces alongside responsible development is a priority for Stafford County. The Board of Supervisors is dedicated to trying multiple approaches to achieving this goal. Currently, this approach has saved more than 10,000 acres of open space while directing development to the areas with the infrastructure support already in place. Initially adopted in 2012, Policy 1.6.5 of the County’s Comprehensive Plan identifies cluster development practices as a means of supporting land preservation and rural character. Since the adoption of the cluster development regulations, some new subdivisions have been approved, and some are actively under construction.
“It’s very important to our Board of Supervisors to examine and re-examine our planning efforts to make sure we are doing all we can do to direct our growth and the right kind of growth in the appropriate areas,” said Director of Planning and Zoning Jeffrey Harvey. “Our current cluster development ordinance does not seem to be furthering that aim, so we are taking a closer look at it as well as asking for community input.”
The Virginia State Code requires Stafford County to have regulations that allow cluster development. Cluster development provides for reduced lot sizes for new residential subdivisions with reservation of open space areas for farmland, sensitive resources, and forested sections. The County is committed to ensuring quality development practices and believes that cluster development if done correctly, can result in rural neighborhoods that preserve farmland, forestland and rural landscapes. The Board of Supervisors is considering repealing the cluster development regulations on a temporary basis to reevaluate desired development practices.
The potential repeal of the cluster ordinance will affect a minimal number of property owners in the county. Letters will be sent out on Friday, February 16, 2018, to the 27,000 county citizens who own property that is Zoned A-1, Agricultural, A-2, Rural Residential and R-1 Suburban Residential to meet state notice requirements for repeal of the ordinance. A potential repeal of the regulations would affect the ability of property owners to receive approvals of new residential cluster subdivisions on a temporary basis until such time that the Board of Supervisors adopts new regulations.
The Planning Commission public hearing scheduled for February 28th is the first step in the process of hearing the comments from citizens. A potential repeal of the ordinance would also have to go through the public hearing process with the Board of Supervisors.