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Stafford eyes options to save open space
Stafford looking at two proposals to save open space in rural areas

Date published: 9/8/2010


The ongoing revision of Stafford County's Comprehensive Plan includes two concepts that may be essential for the preservation of open space in rural areas.

Purchase of Development Rights and Transfer of Development Rights programs both endeavor to shift development into urban areas.

"Building robust PDR and TDR programs are an important part of our current Comprehensive Plan," Supervisor Paul Milde said at last night's board meeting. "We need to do something besides talking about saving land in rural areas. It's not going to save itself."

Barring more effective options like downzoning, which Milde said would be too controversial and lacks support on the board, PDR and TDR programs may be the only options. But the former needs money to operate, and the latter will require an ordinance and proper language in the Comprehensive Plan.

Purchase of Development Rights

A PDR program takes potential development off the table by buying the development rights outright, retiring them forever and placing an easement on the property to ensure it is never developed.

Stafford has a PDR program in place, and it was used last year to preserve 98 acres of Silver Ridge Farm off Belle Plains Road.

That action depleted all of the county's PDR money--$600,000, half from a state grant and half from a one-time general fund appropriation.

There is no revenue stream in place to fund more purchases, but the Agricultural/Purchase of

Development Rights Committee suggested using a portion of the rollback taxes collected when property comes out of land use. If it were implemented, it would collect about $20,000 this year.

"It's certainly not the magic bullet," Stafford Commissioner of the Revenue Scott Mayausky said. "But it could be just another tool in our belt to generate money."

Land use assesses property by its agricultural use rather than its market value as real estate. If the agricultural use ends, the property owner is responsible for paying five years of back taxes. The intention of land use is to ease the tax burden on farmers, but any property owner can take advantage of the land use program if they meet the agricultural requirements--including


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