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Development back on agenda

March 8, 2012 12:10 am

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BY KATIE THISDELL

BY KATIE THISDELL

Stafford County is considering its largest rezoning in the county in nearly a decade.

While the Clift Farm Quarter development has many guaranteed supporters because of its plans for athletic fields, members of the Board of Supervisors voiced concerns Tuesday about many details of the project.

No decision will be made on the rezoning of the site in central Stafford until May at the earliest.

A public hearing Tuesday lasted past midnight, disappointing many residents who waited until 11 p.m. to speak.

Supervisors and the applicant's attorney chose to continue the discussion on May 1. The public hearing may be continued on that date as well.

D.R. Horton Inc. is asking the county to rezone 141 acres just south of of the intersection of U.S. 1 and Eskimo Hill Road. The land is east of Stafford Regional Airport and west of the Rappahannock Regional Landfill.

"I haven't had anything like it in my two years. That's why we're asking a lot of questions," board Chairwoman Susan Stimpson said. "We're trying to get to know the project and understand it."

The development would be within both the Falmouth and Aquia districts.

The Fort Worth, Texas-based developer wants to change the zoning from agricultural use to Planned Traditional Neighborhood Design, or PTND. This calls for compact, pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods with a mix of commercial and residential uses, a variety of housing types, and public places where residents can socialize.

Clift Farm would include a maximum of 585 residential units--a mix of single-family homes, townhouses and multi-family units.

The last major rezoning in Stafford came in 2003 when supervisors cleared the remaining hurdles for the nearly 1,5000-acre Celebrate Virginia North off U.S. 17 after several years of debate.

Clift Farm Quarter would make up 60 percent of the density planned for the Eskimo Hill Urban Development Area, one of seven in the designated high-growth areas in Stafford.

Supervisors are concerned about the impact that this many homes would have on the county school system and roads.

Also included is a maximum of 206,500 square feet of commercial space. Of that, 24,500 square feet would be located centrally in the development.

The UDA plans call for 200 acres with 879 dwellings and 588,000 square feet of commercial space.

Former Supervisor David Beiler expressed concerns that Clift Farm provides only 35 percent of the commercial space that the county has planned.

He also questioned the location of the project in the county's steeply sloped, tree-covered center.

"There's hardly any amenities because there's hardly any neighbors, and there's hardly any neighbors because no one wants to live here," Beiler said. "It's wedged in between the pound and the dump and the prison camp."

Reb Benson was one of few supporters for the project as a whole.

"It's the right kind of area to put this community into," said Benson, former president of the Stafford Area Soccer Association. "The development is right."

Many players, coaches and families involved with SASA attended Tuesday's meeting to support the fields that the project would bring.

Part of the proffers of Clift Farm Quarter include 262 acres to become 15 irrigated, rectangular fields. Construction on the first four would begin no later than six months after approval for the first phase of the subdivision, according to revised proffers proposed late Monday.

A second option for the proffer would be for six lighted and irrigated fields.

Barry Hill, general manager of SASA, said the county needs more fields to provide adequate playing space for the program. He said tournaments could bring in $1 million for the county.

"We're taking away the opportunity to have money come into the county by having our kids play outside the county," Hill said.

The county is currently acquiring land in unspecified areas for an athletic-field complex, as part of the 2009 parks and recreation bond referendum. The project could be complete by 2015.

Clark Leming, attorney for D.R. Horton, said it may be time for the county to reassess how it does proffers.

He said the developer puts an estimated value of $20.2 million on the current proffer contributions. The county's estimate of the proffers is $12.5 million.

Other proffered contributions include land for a school, an animal control facility and a commuter parking lot, or $780,000 for VRE parking improvements at Brooke.

In 2006, developer Rob Gollahon proposed building 1,600 housing units at the Clift Farm site for a project known as Stafford Town Station.

The original rezoning application included $50 million in proffers. The project was withdrawn in 2007.

At Tuesday night's hearing, Gollahon supported the Clift Farm development.

"This is the backbone or the spine of the UDA," Gollahon said, but he said it will take a good road system to make it work.

Stafford has hired consultants to design the Courthouse UDA, which was intended to be the pilot program for the state-mandated developments to accommodate high growth.

For that plan, the county has focused on creating a connected network of roads.

As for the proximity to Stafford Regional Airport, Hank Scharpenberg, chairman of the airport authority, said the development would likely not violate any federal aviation rules. Planes currently take off toward the west, but patterns will be changing for the airport.

If planes take off toward the east, they would fly directly over Clift Farm.

Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975
Email: kthisdell@freelancestar.com





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