Can Do Now to Help Save Crow’s Nest
[This page provides some technical details and supporting documents for the items that appeared in the Free Lance-Star editorial on Tuesday, September 20, 2005. Additional material is highlighted in a different color.]
There are ten things that the
Stafford County Board of Supervisors can do now, immediately, to ensure that the
best use is made of the land on Crow’s Nest, rich in natural, cultural and
historical resources. Best of all, most of these won’t cost
Board could direct the
· §28-249(b)(2), Content of Site Plans, states that all preliminary site development plans shall contain the location of streams and bodies of water.
· §28-249(b)(7), Content of Site Plans, states that all preliminary site development plans shall contain the limits of flood plains and critical resource protection areas.
· §28-249(b)(8), Content of Site Plans, states that all preliminary site development plans shall contain the location of all streams and drainage ways.
· §28-62(b)(1)(b), Critical Resource Protection Areas, states that development plans shall delineate the site-specific boundaries of CRPAs through an environmental assessment, and shall provide a site-specific determination of whether water bodies with perennial flows occur on site.
· §28-62(h)(2), Plan of development process, Environmental site assessment, further states that an environmental site assessment shall be submitted with any plan of development, and that such plan shall clearly delineate water bodies with perennial flow.
The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Chesapeake Bay Local Assistance (CBLA), has provided official guidance on how to properly field delineate the critical resource protection areas. This includes measuring, in the field with stakes and lines, the edge of the protected water resource and the edge of the buffer. CBLA provides very specific guidance on how to measure resource protection areas on steep slopes. The plan for the development of Crow’s Nest does not follow this guidance.
2. Rezone properties on the Crow’s Nest peninsula to be consistent with the adjacent properties, which are zoned A-1 (1 house per 3 acres). Currently, the properties held by Stafford Lakes Limited Partnership (also known as K&M Properties) are zoned A-2 (1 house per 1 acre). §28-35 of the Stafford County zoning ordinance states that the purpose of the A-2 district is to provide a transition between rural and urban areas when public water or sewer are provided. According to the comprehensive plan, these properties will not be served by public water and sewer. The Board should do the right thing. Rezone 48-1, 49-27 and associated properties to A-1.
It is important to note that the Stafford Circuit Court recently ruled that Stafford Lakes LP has not diligently pursued the development of the property, and therefore is not vested in a particular land use zoning (read the decision). Additionally, rezoning Crow’s Nest would not be “spot zoning” because the surrounding properties are A-1.
the steep slopes ordinance that the Board initiated nearly two years ago.
All that is needed to prohibit building on slopes 25% or greater is a public
hearing by the Board of Supervisors and a vote. That’s because on
4. Pass the Agricultural Performance Standards, an even more comprehensive ordinance. The Planning Commission did their job and held the public hearing and vote on this ordinance last year. Now it’s time for the Board to do their job. This ordinance would go a long way towards ensuring that appropriate construction takes place on properties with steep slopes and perennial streams because it prohibits building on slopes of 25% or higher, expands buffers around perennial creeks, and excludes steep slopes and buffers from the calculation of building lot sizes.
Amend the zoning ordinance to
Several localities have applied expanded Chesapeake Bay requirements selectively, requiring them only in particular areas of the locality, or only for specific streams.
6. Amend the comprehensive plan to designate the Crow’s Nest peninsula as open space/park land. Although largely symbolic, this would signify the County’s commitment to preserving Crow’s Nest, and would be the basis for future planning decisions.
7. Designate the Crow’s Nest peninsula as an historical overlay district. This would not prohibit building within the historical district, but would require building plans to be approved by the Architectural Review Board, which has the authority to order that buildings are consistent with the character of the district.
The board of supervisors may designate by ordinance historic resources to be included in the Historic Resource Overlay District. According to §28-58 of the Stafford County Code, the purpose of the Historical Resource Overlay District is to protect places which have special public value because of features relating to the heritage of the County, State and the Nation, and which warrant conservation and preservation. Perhaps most importantly, this ordinance specifies that the owner of a designated historical resource may not demolish or raze the resource unless the owner has made a "bona fida offer" to sell the property to the county or other organization who would agree to preserve the resource and the land, and given the county at least a year to purchase the resource at "...a price reasonably related to its fair market value."
to cooperate in providing road access to the planned subdivision. The
existing unimproved, dirt roads leading to the proposed subdivision on Crow’s
Nest were deeded to the County in the 1970’s. The County may not have to allow
these roads to be paved by developers. The
County can also refuse to pass a resolution asking VDOT to accept subdivision
roads on Crow’s Nest into the state system, which would mean that VDOT would
not maintain them (clear snow, pave, etc.).
Both actions would discourage inappropriate high density development on
9. Vote to accept the State’s $30 million low-interest loan to purchase Crow’s Nest. This would show the property owner—and citizens—that the County is serious about purchasing the property at a fair market value.
10. Use eminent domain as a last resort. The current Crow’s Nest property owners seem to be trying to extort windfall profits from taxpayers. Under eminent domain, the Court would establish the fair market value of a property. Although in the past year Stafford Lakes LP, and Kamel Tabarra, Walid Kattan, John O’Connell and Warren Montouri, the officers of the out-of-state controlling corporation, have reportedly demanded anywhere from $56 million or more for the property , when it comes to paying property taxes the owners haven’t challenged the County’s fair market value tax assessment: just $14 million for the land that may be under discussion for purchase. Eminent domain would protect taxpayer dollars, ensure a fair market return for the owners, and because no one lives on the properties, no one would be displaced.