Stafford County recently sought out public input through the Healthy Growth public engagement process. Overall, the process received a robust response reaching over 30,000 people directly with project information, 2,500 online in education and dialogue, and at least 200 individuals attending at least one in-person session. The public was engaged through a series of articles (from both Stafford and local media), individual interviews, roundtables, public information sessions, social media posts and a Facebook Live event.
The Board of Supervisors primary goal is to gather the public’s thoughts on moving Stafford forward into the desired state of healthy growth as the County continues to see an ongoing increase in population. The Board made Healthy Growth a priority of Stafford’s first ever 2040 Vision and Strategic Plan, which was adopted in 2018 (www.staffordcountyva.gov/2040). The plan includes a long-term desired state achieved with the help of short-term priorities. The goal of the Healthy Growth initiative is to identify and execute growth management strategies that align our Comprehensive Plan and infrastructure without negatively impacting taxation, which includes incentivizing development in our growth areas as well as preserving our rural character.
The outreach and response were on a scale not seen before in Stafford County. At the May 7, 2019, Board of Supervisors meeting, Stafford’s consultant, Stantec, and County staff reported on the results of that outreach.
Participants indicated general support for:
- Continued public education and involvement
- Infrastructure improvements concurrent with the development
- Potential of mixed-use urban forms to support increased density, including desired amenities
- Clear and timely approval paths to create desired projects in Targeted Growth Areas (TGAs)
- Solutions that allow rural property owners to realize the value of their property without development, including voluntary partnerships – incentivizing not punishing
- Potential use of cluster development to preserve resources and protect agricultural activities
The above results of the public engagement process were presented to the Board of Supervisors on May 7, 2019, for informational purposes before the work session next Tuesday. The Board of Supervisors will take up the discussion on possible healthy growth strategies at a Work Session on Tuesday, May 21, 2019, at 11:00 a.m. in the Board Chambers of the George L. Gordon, Jr., Government Center, 1300 Courthouse Road, Stafford, VA 22554. The strategies under consideration will include those gathered during the public process and options developed during staff research.
Stafford’s Comprehensive Plan, a long-range vision for the County based on shared community values, calls for a goal of 80% development in the Urban Services Area (USA) and 20% in the rural area. Currently, Stafford has about 77.7% of growth located in the USA and 22.3% in the rural area. With a future trend projecting 73.5% of growth in the USA and 26.5% in the rural area, including both built and approved lots. This indicator along with changing conditions such as Stafford’s population growth of 16% since 2010 and accelerated rural residential development since the recession, resulting in the loss of rural character, has increased the importance of not just a discussion on healthy growth but the need for a strategy and plan.
Individuals may continue to comment at Board meetings and are welcome to attend any special meetings and work sessions. Stafford will continue its efforts at community outreach throughout the process. More information may be found at www.staffordcountyva.gov/healthygrowth.