If you live in Stafford, you likely have noticed the booming growth in the area. That growth affects everything from school over-crowding and traffic to our police and firemen's ability to respond in a crisis. Much of the growth stems from what is called "by-right" development, which allows anyone to build a single home on a 3 acre or larger lot of land without any prior approval from the Board of Supervisors. The BOS can't do too much about this growth because any large land holder has the right to sell his land to a developer. The only way for the BOS to change this would be to increase the acreage requirement for each lot from 3 acres to something higher, like 5 or 10 acres, which has been done in counties to our north. Our current BOS not only does not have the will to make such a change, they won't even discuss it as an option.
However, one way that our BOS can directly influence growth in our area is through housing development rezonings. If a developer wants to build townhomes on land that is zoned for single family homes of 3 acres lots, they can petition the BOS to change the zoning of that area. When the BOS approves these changes, they add more people to the county who need to go to schools, drive on the roads and be protected by our first responders. Citizens aren't always aware when the BOS has such an issue on it's agenda, never mind knowing how their own supervisor may have voted. The FLS rarely reports information about how individual supervisors vote on such items and the county does not keep track. In order to find out for yourself, you would have to dig through the entire online archive to find every meeting that had a rezoning vote and search through it's minutes to determine who voted for what. It's a tedious process.
Fortunately, the folks over at the Facebook page Save Our Stafford Schools have done the dirty work for us. They have tabulated all of the rezoning votes from 2014 to the present and made a handy list of how each supervisor voted. There is a short video posted to the page that I highly recommend you check out, it shows the actual archive footage of each vote as proof, I love it.
From the video, we can see the following list of all 11 rezonings that have been approved by the BOS since 2014. The total number of housing units added is 1437.
(Source: Save Our Stafford Schools FB Page)
Below is the scorecard created by SOSS that shows exactly who voted for what. It also tabulates the number of new homes approved by each supervisor and the impact on schools each supervisor's vote created. It is important to note that Cord Sterling's seat in the Rock Hill district turned over to current Rock Hill Supervisor Wendy Maurer during this time frame, which is why his votes are also tabulated on the chart.
(Source: Save Our Stafford Schools)
This is an exceptionally instructive chart. Out of 11 housing rezoning requests, Gary Snellings (Hartwood) voted to approve rezonings 9 times. Jack Cavalier (Griffiths-Widewater) voted for rezonings 9 times as well, with one abstention and Laura Sellers (Garrisonville) wins the day by voting for housing rezonings 10 out of 11 times! Keep in mind, many of these homes have not yet been built so we have not felt the full impact of these rezonings.
If you have a problem with all of the unplanned, booming growth happening in Stafford, you should know that your supervisors do play a role in that growth. I have heard a few try to downplay it. Even at public meetings, some have attempted to minimize their impact and blame it all on "by-right" development. But you can't argue with the facts.
If you are in one of the districts that is currently in election season, i.e. Aquia, Hartwood, Falmouth and Garrisoville, you may hear your supervisors indicate that due to the now extremely limited proffer law (the law that governs how much money the county can get from developers) the BOS will not be entertaining any more rezonings. That may be true, although they are legally unable to make that definitive statement. However, it does not diminish the burden that some on the board have unnecessarily inflicted on the county over these last few years.
Thanks so much to Save Our Stafford Schools for spending the time on gathering this important data!