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Ferry Farm to expand, seek zoning change
Ferry Farm up for rezoning that could allow reconstruction of George Washington's boyhood home.

Date published: 10/7/2012


Ferry Farm, where George Washington spent his childhood, could soon expand its offerings to visitors with a reconstruction of the boyhood home.

That would be possible under a new zoning designation for the southern Stafford attraction.

On Wednesday, the Stafford County Planning Commission will take up the rezoning of the 107-acre property to be designated as a Heritage Interpretation Zoning District. Currently, about half the land is zoned for agricultural use, and the other half is for urban commercial.

A public hearing begins at 6:30 p.m., under the Planning Commission's new bylaws. Public hearings used to start at 7:30 p.m.

The county is applying for the rezoning on behalf of the George Washington Foundation, which runs Ferry Farm and Historic Kenmore Plantation in Fredericksburg. The application was first authorized by the Board of Supervisors in 2008.

George Washington lived in the family's home at Ferry Farm along the Rappahannock River from when he was 6 years old until he was 20.

All that's left of that house was uncovered in an archaeological dig.

Ferry Farm, off State Route 3, is designated as a National Historic Landmark.

"We believe this proposal will help achieve the goals of the foundation, and many others, to better commemorate and interpret George Washington and his family," said William Garner, president of the George Washington Foundation. "We look forward to the economic impacts this project will bring to the Fredericksburg area and Stafford County."

Ferry Farm has had several owners over the years since the Washington family sold it in 1774. In the 1990s, part of the land was zoned for commercial use.

A proposal by Walmart to build a store on that property was met with fierce opposition from residents and historic preservationists from around the nation. The store instead was built further east on Route 3.

Under ownership of the foundation, about 16,000 people visit the site every year. They can tour a visitor center and archaeology lab, along with gardens.

In 2008, the county adopted a Heritage Interpretation Zoning District for preservation, restoration and education related to historic sites.

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Urban development areas will be the subject of a work session before Wednesday's Planning Commission meeting.

UDAs had been mandated by the state for areas with projected high population growth, but then this year, they were made optional.

That has put Stafford in a tough spot. Seven areas had been marked to be mixed-use developments with a "live-work-play" atmosphere. But little has been done aside from initial planning for a pilot program in the Courthouse UDA.

In June, the Board of Supervisors asked the Planning Commission to take another look at the UDAs. The Planning Commission hoped to look at population projections, but current information is not yet available.

The Planning Commission must have some sort of recommendation regarding UDAs to the board by Jan. 3. That gives them five meetings to work on the program as a seven-member group.

The work session will be held Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.

--Katie Thisdell