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Stafford may revise cluster ordinance

Date published: 11/27/2012


A threatened lawsuit, conflicting requirements for public utilities and public concerns about sprawl may lead the Stafford County Board of Supervisors to revise its recently adopted cluster ordinance.

Passed in June, the ordinance essentially calls for houses to be built closer together in order to keep a large area as open space. Connections to public water and sewer allow a developer to reduce the minimum lot size from 1 acres to one.

Getting that hookup to public utilities may be tricky, though, if a project is outside the urban services area, designated as where the county will extend water and sewer lines. County staff contends that a review would be needed first to see if a project fits with the county's Comprehensive Plan, which is essentially a guide for growth.

At last Tuesday's board meeting, land-use attorney Clark Leming presented appeals for two cluster projects. Clift Farm Quarter is appealing a staff decision that a review is needed, while Jumping Branch Farm is appealing the Planning Commission's recent denial of utilities.

"In all my experience, I don't think I've come across a series of issues where there's so much confusion and conflict because of competing issues of the county code and Comprehensive Plan," Leming told supervisors. "If there's a serious effort to cluster, the county desperately needs to clarify some of these issues involving water and sewer."

The state requires localities to have a cluster-plan option on their books. Stafford revised its plan earlier this summer, adding the density bonus where public utilities are available. Cluster plans do not need public notice or public hearings, and are meant to be handled administratively.

"The point of this, I think, is that there be no politics in it--this is supposed to be a by-right function," Leming said.


Earlier this year, the board took up a 141-acre mixed-use rezoning for 585 housing units and commercial space at Clift Farm Quarter, owned by national builder D.R. Horton. But the late-night public hearing in March, when many people commented in support of the athletic fields tied in with the project, was never finished.

County Administrator Anthony Romanello said the county and developer have been talking back and forth.

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