In a surprise vote, the Stafford Board of Supervisors removed a public hearing regarding development near the Crow’s Nest Natural Area Preserve from its Tuesday agenda.
The public hearing had to do with subdivision plats requiring lots in the Crow’s Nest Harbour subdivision being served by public water and sewer. The subdivision was approved in the 1970s but never developed. It is now adjacent to the 2,872-acre Crow’s Nest Natural Area Preserve.
Owners of a combined 260 lots in the 346-lot subdivision wanted supervisors to remove that public-utilities requirement after the public hearing.
Supervisors Meg Bohmke and Paul Milde cast the two votes against taking the public hearing off the agenda.
“I think we have talked about this for too long,” Milde said. He thought supervisors should reject the request to remove the public water and sewer requirement on Tuesday.
Three other supervisors wouldn’t comment on why they removed the public hearing from the agenda.
“We all have the same goal, no development,” Milde later said. He added that he and Bohmke agree about one way of reaching that goal, but other supervisors want to take a different approach. Milde wouldn’t elaborate because of legal issues.
Clark Leming, the attorney representing some Crow’s Nest Harbour lot owners, has said that if supervisors decided to keep the public-utilities requirement for the plats, then it could become a problem legally.
In materials submitted to the county, Leming wrote that the developers have been put in a no-win situation.
Supervisors already rejected the developers’ request to extend public water and sewer lines to their lots, which are now more than 2 miles east of the public-utilities service area. The developers would have covered the approximately $1 million cost of the extension, but Milde has said that the county’s ultimate goal is to put the land under conservation.
Another Crow’s Nest Harbour lot owner had previously approached the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals for permission to put wells and septic systems on his land, but that request was denied because the plats require public water and sewer. The BZA’s decision was upheld by a Stafford County Circuit Court judge, who referenced the public water and sewer requirement in the subdivision plats.
The subdivision plats were recorded after the development was approved in 1973. Original plans for the development called for a 4,500-acre community that included golf courses, marinas, an airport, a convention center and schools. But after a developer filed for bankruptcy in 1975, the county down-zoned the property to A–2, rural residential, and dropped plans for public water and sewer service there.
But the county is required to make infrastructure improvements to the subdivision by March 2015 to follow a 1995 court order. At the time, that order settled what should be done with more than $1 million in bonds that were issued by Safeco Insurance Co. to ensure completion of water, sewer and roads for the development. The funds ended up being placed in an escrow account now held by the county. The balance of that account is now more than $2 million with the interest it has accumulated.