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No Downzoning Website: Scare tactics meant to purposely mislead you

Sorry but I call BS

Hey guys, I've apparently struck a chord with this blog. It seems the citizens of Stafford actually respond to news targeted directly at them, which is fantastic. I think it's great that people want to be involved in county business, especially when they get their information from places like Stafford Growing Pains, your's truly or any reputable information outlet. It's why I started the blog, to get info out to people who want it.

Unfortunately, some folks want to take advantage of this desire for Stafford specific information by creating websites that are purposely misleading. First, there was the site created by the anonymous "Stafford Citizens for Smart Growth" intended to scare people about the DoD medical center proposed for the Stafford Hospital campus. Fortunately, that plan failed miserably and the much needed medical center will be coming after all. The site was never claimed by anyone and it's speculated that it was created by a competing contractor who wanted the DoD to set up shop in Spotsy, very tricky. Now, it seems there is another shady website that has been set up to scare and mislead Stafford residents.

You may have noticed some signs around town that advertise a site called Apparently, someone with the money to print signs and build a website (let's think for a moment about who that might be and circle back in a minute) is against a potential change the BoS is reviewing that will affect how new homes will be coming to Stafford in the future.

Now, I plan to write an article that explains the changes the BoS are considering and the difference between downsizing and cluster ordinances, two very different things. But you don't need to know ANYTHING about that stuff to see that this site is nothing but inflammatory nonsense, all you need is some common sense. Let's start with:

1) Look at that image above and tell me any board would ever do anything that would decrease the value of all of their voters' properties by 50%. There is no way any supervisor would sabotage themselves that way, much less an entire board, it makes zero sense. How would such a move benefit the county? It wouldn't. Moving on to Exhibit B...

Above: Exhibit B

2) First of all, the word they are looking for is AFFECT, not EFFECT, a word that can be used as a verb but should not be in this case. If you want to use the word effect you would say something like "What is the effect on your property value?" and the answer would be nada, zip, zilch unless you own 20 or more acres of land in Stafford. My guess is that you don't and the vast majority of the people visiting the site or driving past the signs don't either. In fact, from the county's new feature, the incredibly generically named "County News" created by Community Engagement Director Andrew Spence, only 27,000 residents in all of Stafford County are property owners that might be affected and they were all sent letters explaining the issue last week.

The value of large areas of land would most likely decrease if the BoS implements downzoning or changes the cluster ordinance, which both ultimately limit the number of homes that can be built on a large tract of land. This would negatively affect some people, no doubt. However, let me make this perfectly clear, nothing the BoS is considering will decrease your home's value or your property value if you live in a neighborhood or live on less than 20 acres. If you live in Augustine, Embrey Mill, Vista Woods, Grafton Village, Rosewood Estates, etc., then you have nothing to worry about. In fact, the value of your home could eventually GO UP if the BoS takes steps to reduce the number of homes that can be built in the county. This is basic supply and demand: fewer homes + high demand = an increase in home values. Any discussed changes would only affect large land owners who are holding onto their property to eventually sell off to developers.

3) The site further posits that the BoS has set out to break state law by repealing the cluster ordinance. See below:

To get a little perspective here, again from "County News" :

"Stafford officials are considering revamping the cluster development ordinance because it does not appear to be meeting the intended goals for land preservation and intended subdivision practices as envisioned by the Comprehensive Plan...The Board of Supervisors is considering repealing the cluster development regulations on a temporary basis {Ed note: please not the use of the word temporary} to reevaluate desired development practices...The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing to receive public comments regarding the repeal of the regulations during its February 28 meeting. All citizens are invited to attend and add their input to the decision-making process"

So, the BoS is re-evaluating the cluster ordinance's effectiveness and the Planning Commission is holding a public hearing to get feedback from the community regarding whether they believe the cluster ordinance is working as intended. Not exactly nefarious. Isn't this exactly what we want from our elected officials, for them to assess what the county is doing to see if it is working? Who doesn't want that?

4) Who, indeed. Just like the site that opposed the medical center, this propaganda site is not claimed by anyone. Whenever you have an attempt at an uprising such as this, your spidey-senses should immediately start tingling when the rabble rousers in question remain anonymous. In this case, the people who have the most to lose if downzoning or a cluster ordinance change happen are developers and the local lawyers who work for them. They would also have the money to purchase a website, print signs and distribute them before the notice for the public hearing was even released. If I had to make a bet, I would say that these efforts have been coordinated not by ordinary citizens who are outraged, but by the developers who don't want to see an end to their healthy revenue streams.

Pictured: an actual stream, the kind we want preserved as opposed to more homes we can't support

Stafford County has been growing at an alarming rate, something I have been writing about for a year now. We don't have the money for the vital services that need to be provided to county residents as it is and we still have over 8000 new homes already scheduled to be built. Those homes and their residents, who will need schools and police protection and fire/rescue services, will come and there is nothing we can do to stop them. Fortunately, the new BoS understands that new growth needs to be managed and they are doing the research that needs to be done to determine the best way to do just that. I applaud their efforts and am so glad that they are tackling this incredibly important issue right out of the gate. Like I said, I am looking forward to what the new BoS can do for Stafford, the growth management conversation they are having is a great place for them to start.

The one opinion I share with our anonymous site posters is that Stafford County residents should attend both the Planning Commission meeting on February 28th and the BoS meeting on March 20th to hear for themselves what the facts really are. If you don't have time for all that, I will be updating my site as things develop. In the meantime, don't be misled by the scaremongering of those with ulterior motives.