Recently, the House passed a bill requiring all areas with a growth rate of 15% and population of a minimum of 20,000 to submit plans of an Urban Development Area by the end of 2011. On Tuesday, June 19th, Stafford County hosted a meeting to discuss the proposed UDA in the Courthouse vicinity.
A UDA must plan for the future 10-20 years of an area, taking into consideration pedestrian friendly planning, road networks, increased high density residencies and mixed use buildings. The goal of a UDA is to transform suburban areas into “downtown” areas, where most things are accessible within walking distances. The Courthouse UDA would be centered around Courthouse Road and Route 1, going as far West as Jason Mooney Dr, as far East as the Stafford Hospital’s property which backs to Courthouse Road, and spanning North to South from the County Fare building to the Southern entrance of the UDA, just above Accoceek Creek.
As of the meeting on the 19th, there were two plans discussed: The “Historical Downtown” and The “New Downtown.” The Historical Downtown plan proposed mixed use space around the courthouse area (think: the building on Rt. 1 where Robert Irvine took over County Fare: restaurants or businesses on the bottom, office space or residential space on the top) and retail dispersed throughout the UDA. The New Downtown offers a plan of more office space to support the hospital center and a central retail area surrounded by residential areas. The New Downtown also incorporates the area west of Rt. 1 and south of the I-95 interchange.
The consensus from the meeting was that a mix of both plans were preferred: the New Downtown plan with slightly less office space, more high density residential areas, two centralized areas with half-mile walking distances each, and retail concentrated in the Northern sector of the UDA, around the Courthouse.
So what would a UDA in Stafford mean for those living here?
Picture Arlington, or Old Town Alexandria: less suburban, more urban. There would be an increase in apartments and townhouses, and single family homes within the UDA would be plotted on a maximum of quarter acres. There would be designated parked garages and from there, residents would be able to walk to restaurants, retail shops, and even their work. “Green spaces” would be left for parks and other recreational uses.
In addition to convenience, UDA’s greatly stimulate local economies. With more retail, businesses and restaurants, Stafford could become a “go-to” place instead of just a place to re-fuel your car for those passing by on I-95.
The next meeting to discuss the Courthouse UDA is scheduled for August 16, in which the plans will be presented to the Board of Supervisors. For more information contact Kathy Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org.