Stafford has a new Comprehensive Plan for the first time in 22 years.

On December 14, the Stafford County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a new Comprehensive Plan for the County. The Plan provides a blueprint for the future of Stafford, and is the first one to be approved since 1988. The work that went into the proposed Comprehensive Plan was extensive and exhaustive. There were 127 public meeting at which the Comp Plan was discussed, 34 such meetings in 2010 alone.

The new Comprehensive Plan confronts and deals with some of the most difficult challenges facing Stafford County. Stafford’s proximity to the nation’s capital means that it will continue to experience growth pressures. Some have advocated an approach to handling this situation that would consist largely of just saying “no” to almost all proposed growth. In a recent Harbour View column, Supervisor Paul Milde noted that such a policy has never worked. “While this strategy appears attractive, it has repeatedly failed everywhere it has been tried,” Milde wrote. “It is an approach that brings short-term self-gratification with long-term negative consequences. “As Stafford County has learned the hard way, courts of law are not amused by capricious attempts to thwart property rights. They are compelled to follow the law. Those localities, including Stafford, that have attempted a “just say no” approach to growth have ultimately paid for it dearly. In the end, they not only fail to stop growth, but instead get the growth and lose any influence they might have had over the quality of the resulting development. It is the worst of all possible outcomes.” The new Comprehensive Plan adopts a different approach to preserving the natural beauty of Stafford County and to ensure its livability into the future.

Using the best tools available through Virginia law, it focuses growth to areas where the County can best provide the infrastructure to support it. And, it brings the County more in line with establishing land use predictability, which will preserve property rights while limiting sprawl. Moreover, this approach will also limit the County’s exposure and time in the Commonwealth’s courts. Milde further noted, “This Plan provides a vision for Stafford’s future that directly confronts the challenges we’re experiencing because of where we’re located, and ensures that Stafford will continue to be a leader in providing a high quality of life for its residents. “The citizens who participated in this process – those who served on the Steering Committee and those who offered constructive criticism during the multiple opportunities for public comment – are to be thanked for their selfless contributions and congratulated on a job well done. “As a result of the work of scores of citizens committed to preserving Stafford’s natural beauty and improving our quality of life, we finally have a Comprehensive Plan that provides a vision for a very bright future.”

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