Welcome!   "Save Crow's Nest" is a non-partisan group of private citizens who believe that the Crow's Nest peninsula--Stafford County's largest tract of undeveloped land--is a treasure that should not be spoiled by development. 
     What do we want? We want our elected officials and the property owners to work together to save the entire Crow's Nest peninsula from any development, and to create a natural area park with public access for low-impact recreational and  educational activities.  

Join "Save Crow's Nest"!  We need your help, your support and your input.   
Contact us: savecrowsnest@savecrowsnest.org 

What's new? (archive)

Board follows SCN recommendation, halts implementation of Transfer of Development Rights ordinance 

After deferring action on the proposed text amendments to the Transfer of Development ordinance and changes to the Comprehensive Plan at it's September meeting, on October 15, 2013, the Stafford County Board of Supervisors voted 3-4 against implementing and expanding Stafford's Transfer of Development Rights ordinance. (Read the news story.)

Save Crow's Nest supported this action to delay implementation of the TDR program because, as proposed, the ordinance and related amendments were fundamentally flawed. First, it failed to achieve the desired outcomes of protecting the rural and agricultural parts of our County, and in particular, saving all of Crow’s Nest. In fact, it failed to provide any public access to lands placed in the TDR program. Second, expansion of the program had the potential to cost taxpayers $52 million in lost proffer revenues. Finally, it would have removed what are essentially high density rezonings from the control of the Board and placed them out of sight from the public.  

An analysis by Save Crow's Nest of the impact of the TDR ordinance previously approved by the Board can be found here. During the Planning Commission meetings on the TDR, Save Crow's Nest proposed a viable alternative to the current TDR ordinance that would have reduced the financial burden of the TDR ordinance, and created incentives for public use of some properties placed in the TDR program. That proposal sought to balance the public good with the cost to taxpayers, and did so by creating separate park and agricultural sending areas; limiting the total number of transferable development rights to 830, and for those areas currently designated as public park in the comprehensive plan, limiting the residual uses to public parks. View the presentation to the Planning Commission.

Opposition to Transfer of Development Rights ordinance growing 

Planning Commissioner and school board candidate Scott Hirons (Falmouth) is urging Stafford constituents to contact the Board of Supervisors to oppose the TDR ordinance. Referencing the news story in yesterday's Free Lance Star, Mr. Hirons said:

"The first sentence of this article says it all "developers are considering how they could use Stafford County’s newest land-use program". The Stafford County TDR program (and this proposed expansion) is not about saving farms in the county or even environmentally sensitive land. It's all about how developers can USE the program to benefit them. That equals more apartments, more traffic, more overcrowded schools and more burden on county services - with NO proffered mitigation. Let your voice be heard - email members of the Board of Supervisors. Use this webform to send a message to members of the Board of Supervisors - http://bit.ly/199wObp"

You can read Mr. Hirons message to the Board of Supervisors here.

Board of Supervisors to hold hearing on amended Transfer of Development Rights ordinance; revised ordinance could cost taxpayers $53 million 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013, at 7 pm, the Stafford Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on amendments to the Transfer of Development Rights ordinance. The proposed amendments will increase the number of potential development rights for transfer to 1,236; expand the size of the area to which the development rights can be transferred; increases by-right residential and commercial density in the receiving area. Potential lost proffer revenues could exceed $53 million under the proposed amendments, while failing to guarantee any public access to lands in the TDR program. The staff report on the amendments can be found here. Read the news story: Will TDR program expand in Stafford?

Split Planning Commission recommends approval of amendments to Transfer of Development Rights ordinance

Wednesday, August 28, 2013, in a split 5-2 vote, the Planning Commission recommended approval of amendments to the TDR ordinance. Planning Commissioners Scott Hirons (Falmouth) and Darrell English (Hartwood) opposed the amendments. The majority on the Commission failed to act on recommendations of Save Crow's Nest to reduce the number of development rights and create incentives to add TDR properties on Crow's Nest to the Crow's Nest Natural Area Preserve. Read the SCN letter to the Planning Commission and the news story: Stafford’s program for growth debated

Crow's Nest Harbour property owners file lawsuit against Stafford Board of Supervisors over the Transfer of Development Rights ordinance

On March 22, 2013, owners of properties in the Crow's Nest Harbour subdivision, located within the Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) sending area, filed a lawsuit against the Board of Supervisors and the County of Stafford. The lawsuit claims that advertisement of the TDR ordinance was inadequate; the ordinance violated Virginia law by making significant modifications from the advertised ordinance; the Board's action was arbitrary and capricious because of it's removal of a two acre provision in the ordinance; the Board exceeded the authority granted by the state legislation because it required "common ownership" for parcels less than twenty acres to qualify for TDR; and the Board failed to timely adopt the sending and receiving area maps, rendering the TDR ordinance void. The lawsuit asks the Court to declare the TDR ordinance void and unenforceable. Read the news article.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include corporate landowners 7K Investments LLC (holding lots transferred from Stafford Lakes LP); JCM East LLC (trustees to the lots held by the Marriott estate); Heron Harbor LLC (a Garrett company); Five Cedars LLC; and four individual owners. As of April 2, 2013, the lawsuit did not yet appear to have been served. Read the lawsuit.

Board of Supervisors approves Transfer of Development Rights ordinance that fails to protect Crow's Nest; legislation could cost taxpayers $30 million 

On Tuesday, February 19, 2013, the Stafford Board of Supervisors approved a Transfer of Development Rights ordinance on a 5-2 vote, with Chair Susan Stimpson (R-Falmouth) and Supervisor Cord Sterling (R-Rock Hill) opposing the ordinance (read the news story). The ordinance allows some property owners to transfer development rights off of the “sending” area”--an area in the Aquia District, including the Crow’s Nest peninsula—to properties in the “receiving area” in the Courthouse area (read the ordinance, including maps of the sending and receiving areas).

When properly implemented, TDRs protect sensitive areas from development while moving development to more appropriate areas with adequate infrastructure. However, as approved, the Stafford TDR is NOT such an ordinance.  Instead, it uses taxpayer dollars to subsidize a windfall for developers while hiding behind the false claim that it offers protection for environmentally sensitive lands (another news story). There are three particularly problematic aspects to Stafford’s TDR legislation:

First, Stafford’s TDR ordinance fails to achieve the desired outcomes of protecting the rural and agricultural parts of our County, and in particular, saving all of Crow’s Nest.

In reality, the TDR ordinance does very little to protect Crow’s Nest. As can be seen from the map accompanying the TDR ordinance (map on the right), only a small portion of the Crow’s Nest Harbour lots are eligible for TDR (the dark green areas on the map with blue hatching). 

 

In the map to the left, the area in red is the area, including Crow's Nest Harbour, that has not been included in previous purchases. (Parcel "A" in green is the first purchase completed in 2008 and Parcel "B" in yellow is the Phase 2 purchase completed in 2009.) The map from the TDR ordinance, on the left, shows the Harbour lots (outlined in white and shaded dark green), and those lots that are eligible for TDR (only the dark green areas with blue hatching).

The TDR ordinance does not contain a single provision guaranteeing that land placed in the TDR program will become part of the Crow’s Nest Natural Area Preserve. The legislation does not even provide for public access to land placed in the TDR program. Not only that, the legislation allows uses such as logging, commercial campgrounds, and construction of buildings up to 6,000 square feet.  

Not only does this ordinance fail to protect much of the remaining acreage, it is fundamentally unfair to individual lot owners in Crow's Nest Harbour. Because of the "common ownership" requirements in the TDR ordinance, only the lots in the Harbour owned by corporations will be eligible for TDR.

Second, the TDR ordinance could cost Stafford County taxpayers $30 million in lost revenues.

The Courthouse receiving area has A-1 and R-1 properties, both of which call for single family dwelling units, so presumably a development right for those land uses is equal to at least the County’s cash proffer guideline amount of $43,101 per unit. Since the Board cannot collect those proffers on units built using transferred development rights, 688 development rights coming from the sending area equate to $29.7 million in lost cash proffer revenue. In the alternative, property owners can chose to take a property tax waiver (a tax “abatement”) in the amount equal to the value of the development right, equating to a similar loss in property tax revenue.

 

Third, the TDR ordinance removes what are essentially high density rezonings from the control of the Board and places them out of sight from the public.

The TDR program is an administrative process and will happen out of sight from the public. Sending areas will place properties in the TDR program administratively, with no public notice process. Receiving areas will get by-right increases in density without any public hearings held.

The 83 acres of A-1 land in the receiving area currently could produce a maximum of 27 houses. Under this TDR ordinance, the number of houses by-right could leap to 187 on the A-1 properties—and the Board would have no say in it. And even more alarming, for the R-1 properties on 42 acres in the receiving area, the number of houses could skyrocket nearly tenfold, from 63 to 591—again, with no say so from the Board.

What next?

Now that the TDR legislation has been passed, the Planning Commission must approve a related amendment to the Comprehensive Plan. The Board of Supervisors has mandated that the Planning Commission act on that amendment within the next 60 days, then the amendment will go back to the Board for approval.

 

Take action!

Save Crow’s Nest continues to believe that a properly constructed TDR ordinance can protect property rights and taxpayers, while furthering the goals of developing a sustainable commercial tax base, locating development within appropriate areas of the county, and protecting priority areas such as Crow’s Nest from development. The Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission can amend the TDR ordinance and the Comprehensive Plan amendment to make it right. Please contact them now to urge them to make these amendments:

  • Make all the Crow's Nest Harbour lots eligible for TDR;

  • Require eligible properties to be designated as public parks in the comprehensive plan for a public park sending area, and create a separate active farm sending area;

  • Eliminate A-1 agricultural properties in the receiving area (so that development would not occur in rural lands) and add “B” commercial properties, to encourage use of TDRs for commercial development;

  • Eliminate the property tax waiver (tax abatement); and

  • Require a public hearing process for increased density in the receiving areas.

Other news

The Preservation of Crow’s Nest

Beginning in 2003, the organizing efforts of supporters of Save Crow’s Nest helped to stop proposed development on the 4,000-acre peninsula and served as a catalyst for renewed efforts to purchase and preserve the land. 

The effort to assemble funds to save Crow’s Nest was propelled forward when Governor Tim Kaine launched his “Renew Virginia” initiative. The purchase of approximately 2,800 acres on Crow’s Nest became a part of this initiative, becoming the Crow's Nest Natural Area Preserve.

Thousands of acres on Crow's Nest remain vulnerable to development, including more than 1,000 acres associated with the Crow's Nest Harbour subdivision.

Election Year Q&A

Every four years we are contacted by folks asking about claims being made—especially in the Aquia District where Crow’s Nest is located. Since some voters seem to believe these claims are being made in the name of Save Crow’s Nest, we have issued this clarification in the form of several questions and answers.   

Save Crow’s Nest remains non-partisan, supporting any and all efforts to save all of Crow’s Nest in a fiscally responsible manner.

This site last updated on Wednesday, October 30, 2013

We need your help, your support and your input.  Join us!

Contact us: savecrowsnest@savecrowsnest.org

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