Welcome! "Save Crow's
Nest" is a non-partisan group of private citizens who believe that the Crow's Nest peninsula--Stafford
County's largest tract of undeveloped land--is a treasure that should not be spoiled by
What do we
want? We want our elected officials and the property owners to work
together to save the entire Crow's Nest
peninsula from any development, and to create a natural area park with public
access for low-impact recreational and educational activities.
Join "Save Crow's Nest"! We need your help, your support and your input.
What's new? (archive)
Nest Harbour property owners file lawsuit against Stafford Board of
Supervisors over the Transfer of Development Rights ordinance
On March 22, 2013, owners of
properties in the Crow's Nest Harbour subdivision, located within the
Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) sending area, filed a lawsuit against
the Board of Supervisors and the County of Stafford. The lawsuit claims
that advertisement of the TDR ordinance was inadequate; the ordinance
violated Virginia law by making significant modifications from the
advertised ordinance; the Board's action was arbitrary and capricious
because of it's removal of a two acre provision in the ordinance; the
Board exceeded the authority granted by the state legislation because it
required "common ownership" for parcels less than twenty acres
to qualify for TDR; and the Board failed to timely adopt the sending and
receiving area maps, rendering the TDR ordinance void. The lawsuit asks
the Court to declare the TDR ordinance void and unenforceable. Read the news
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include
corporate landowners 7K Investments LLC (holding lots transferred from
Stafford Lakes LP); JCM East LLC (trustees to the lots held by the
Marriott estate); Heron Harbor LLC (a Garrett company); Five Cedars LLC;
and four individual owners. As of April 2, 2013, the lawsuit did not yet
appear to have been served. Read the lawsuit.
of Supervisors approves Transfer of Development Rights ordinance that
fails to protect Crow's Nest; legislation could cost taxpayers $30
On Tuesday, February 19, 2013, the
Stafford Board of Supervisors approved a Transfer of Development Rights
ordinance on a 5-2 vote, with Chair Susan Stimpson (R-Falmouth) and
Supervisor Cord Sterling (R-Rock Hill) opposing the ordinance (read the news
story). The ordinance allows some property owners to transfer
development rights off of the “sending” area”--an area in the Aquia
District, including the Crow’s Nest peninsula—to properties in the
“receiving area” in the Courthouse area (read the ordinance,
including maps of the sending and receiving areas).
When properly implemented, TDRs
protect sensitive areas from development while moving development to more
appropriate areas with adequate infrastructure. However, as approved, the
Stafford TDR is NOT such an ordinance. Instead, it uses taxpayer
dollars to subsidize a windfall for developers while hiding behind the
false claim that it offers protection for environmentally sensitive lands
There are three particularly problematic aspects to Stafford’s TDR
Stafford’s TDR ordinance fails to achieve the desired outcomes of
protecting the rural and agricultural parts of our County, and in
particular, saving all of Crow’s Nest.
In reality, the TDR ordinance does very
little to protect Crow’s Nest. As
can be seen from the map accompanying the TDR ordinance (map on the
right), only a small
portion of the Crow’s Nest Harbour lots are eligible for TDR (the dark
green areas on the map with blue hatching).
the map to the left, the area in red is the area, including Crow's Nest
Harbour, that has not been included in previous purchases. (Parcel
"A" in green is the first purchase completed in 2008 and Parcel "B"
in yellow is the Phase 2 purchase completed in 2009.) The map from the TDR
ordinance, on the left, shows the Harbour lots (outlined in white and
shaded dark green), and those lots that are eligible for TDR (only the
dark green areas with blue hatching).
The TDR ordinance does
not contain a single provision guaranteeing that land placed in the TDR
program will become part of the Crow’s Nest Natural Area Preserve. The
legislation does not even provide for public access to land placed in the
TDR program. Not only that, the legislation allows uses such as logging,
commercial campgrounds, and construction of buildings up to 6,000 square
Not only does this
ordinance fail to protect much of the remaining acreage, it is
fundamentally unfair to individual lot owners in Crow's Nest Harbour.
Because of the "common ownership" requirements in the TDR
ordinance, only the lots in the Harbour owned by corporations will be
eligible for TDR.
the TDR ordinance could cost Stafford County taxpayers $30 million in lost
Courthouse receiving area has A-1 and R-1 properties, both of which call
for single family dwelling units, so presumably a development right for
those land uses is equal to at least the County’s cash proffer guideline
amount of $43,101 per unit. Since the Board cannot collect those proffers
on units built using transferred development rights, 688 development
rights coming from the sending area equate to $29.7 million in lost cash
proffer revenue. In the alternative, property owners can chose to take a
property tax waiver (a tax “abatement”) in the amount equal to the
value of the development right, equating to a similar loss in property tax
the TDR ordinance removes what are essentially high density rezonings from
the control of the Board and places them out of sight from the public.
TDR program is an administrative process and will happen out of sight from
the public. Sending areas will place properties in the TDR program
administratively, with no public notice process. Receiving areas will get
by-right increases in density without any public hearings held.
The 83 acres of A-1 land
in the receiving area currently could produce a maximum of 27 houses.
Under this TDR ordinance, the number of houses by-right could leap to 187
on the A-1 properties—and the Board would have no say in it. And even
more alarming, for the R-1 properties on 42 acres in the receiving area,
the number of houses could skyrocket nearly tenfold, from 63 to
591—again, with no say so from the Board.
that the TDR legislation has been passed, the Planning Commission must
approve a related amendment to the Comprehensive Plan. The Board of
Supervisors has mandated that the Planning Commission act on that
amendment within the next 60 days, then the amendment will go back to the
Board for approval.
Crow’s Nest continues to believe that a properly constructed TDR
ordinance can protect property rights and taxpayers, while furthering the
goals of developing a sustainable commercial tax base, locating
development within appropriate areas of the county, and protecting
priority areas such as Crow’s Nest from development. The Board of
Supervisors and the Planning Commission can amend the TDR ordinance and
the Comprehensive Plan amendment to make it right. Please contact
them now to urge them to make these amendments:
Make all the Crow's
Nest Harbour lots eligible for TDR;
properties to be designated as public parks in the comprehensive plan
for a public park sending area, and create a separate active farm
agricultural properties in the receiving area (so that development
would not occur in rural lands) and add “B” commercial properties,
to encourage use of TDRs for commercial development;
property tax waiver (tax abatement); and
Require a public
hearing process for increased density in the receiving areas.
Preservation of Crow’s Nest
in 2003, the organizing efforts of supporters of Save Crow’s Nest helped
to stop proposed development on the 4,000-acre peninsula and served as a
catalyst for renewed efforts to purchase and preserve the land.
effort to assemble funds to save Crow’s Nest was propelled forward when
Governor Tim Kaine launched his “Renew Virginia” initiative. The
purchase of approximately 2,800 acres on Crow’s Nest became a part of
this initiative, becoming the Crow's
Nest Natural Area Preserve.
of acres on Crow's Nest remain vulnerable to development, including more
than 1,000 acres associated with the Crow's Nest Harbour subdivision.
Every four years we are contacted by folks
asking about claims being made—especially in the Aquia District where
Crow’s Nest is located. Since some voters seem to believe these claims
are being made in the name of Save Crow’s Nest, we have issued this clarification
in the form of several questions and answers.
Crow’s Nest remains non-partisan, supporting any and all efforts to save
all of Crow’s Nest in a fiscally responsible manner.
This site last updated on Thursday, April 04, 2013