As we predicted might happen, on Tuesday December 18, 2007, at their very last meeting and during a closed afternoon session, the lame-duck Stafford Board of Supervisors agreed to a deal to purchase a portion of the Crow’s Nest peninsula. However, most of the peninsula remains unprotected.

It is not clear if all the Supervisors even knew what they were voting for since the agreement was not made available to them in advance of the meeting.  Supervisor Joe Brito (I-Hartwood) abstained from the vote saying he did not have enough time to read the purchase agreement.  Supervisor Pete Fields (D-George Washington) voted against the deal. In our discussions with Mr. Fields, he stated he voted against the proposal because the price was too high, and it did not guarantee that all of Crow’s Nest would be permanently protected against development. The remaining five supervisors–Milde (R-Aquia), Dudenhefer (R-Garrisonville), Gibbons (R-Rock Hill), Cavalier (I-Griffis-Widewater) and Schwartz (D-Falmouth)–voted in favor.

What we know
To understand the deal, you must first understand that there are three different portions of the Crow’s Nest peninsula to be considered

  • Parcel “A” is in two parts and covers 1720 acres (tinted green on the map below)
  • Parcel “B” covers 1167 acres (yellow on the map)
  • Crow’s Nest Harbour and the area just west covers about 1,120 acres (red on the map)

This deal guarantees purchase only of parcel “A” (green)–about 40% of the peninsula–for $19 million.  It has an option, but does not guarantee, purchase of Parcel “B” (yellow), for $16 million.  It does NOT cover the Crow’s Nest Harbour and nearby lots (red).


Is this good or bad?
Saving at least a portion of Crow’s Nest may seem like a step in the right direction.  Unfortunately, in this case the Board has approved a bad deal that:

  • spends too many taxpayer dollars
  • to save too little of the peninsula
  • while virtually guaranteeing development will occur on the remainder of Crow’s Nest

Real estate prices are dropping in Stafford County .  Developers and land speculators like the principle owners of Crow’s Nest, Stafford Lakes LP (a.k.a. K&M Properties) are facing a difficult time.  Now, the Board has agreed to pay what appears to be above-market value for the land least likely to be developed because of marshes and steep slopes, while leaving the remainder of the peninsula unprotected from development.  The landowners walk away with a sweet deal, while taxpayers are left paying an inflated price.

The Board could have used the lull in the real estate market to end its long-stalled eminent domain effort, initiate new “quick-take” eminent domain proceedings, and purchase the entire peninsula at current fair market prices.  This would have been fiscally responsible and environmentally sound.

Instead, the Board’s actions, paradoxically, almost guarantee development will now occur.  One of the most sought-after amenities for new developments in this region is open space and walking trails.  By purchasing only a portion of Crow’s Nest, the Board has made it all the more attractive to develop the remaining acreage.  Indeed, development plans already exist for the Crow’s Nest Harbour lots and adjacent areas.  If they proceed with by-right development, taxpayers will again pay by footing the bill for the necessary additional roads and services, while developers will again reap the profits.

Save Crow’s Nest wrote to the Department of Conservation and Recreation to outline these and other concerns about the deal to purchase only part of Crow’s Nest.

What Now?
Crow’s Nest faces new development dangers in the coming months.  This current deal can be salvaged only if the new Board of Supervisors acts to protect taxpayers and the environment, rather than bailing out developers.

Specifically, the new Board should:

  1. pass the Water Resource Overlay ordinance and designate the Crow’s Nest peninsula a sensitive water resource;
  2. designate the Crow’s Nest peninsula an historical district, which will facilitate protection of cultural and historical resources on the peninsula;
  3. right-zone the properties on Crow’s Nest from A-2 to A-1 to be consistent with surrounding properties.  This would mean one house per 3-acres instead of one house per 1-acre;
  4. purchase and preserve the entire peninsula.

We will be contacting you in January to let you know how you can help make this happen.

A note on the problem of secrecy
A key problem plaguing the entire process leading up to this deal has been the secrecy of the Board of Supervisors.  They have met behind closed doors, not only to discuss price, but to negotiate a deal with the landowners in secret without public scrutiny or input.  Even now, we can only base our analysis of this deal on what has been made public.  We do not know if other secret deals were made.   We certainly hope the new Board of Supervisors taking office in January will bring a spirit of openness to this process.

Links to media reports