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Stafford Board of Supervisors Recap
May 15, 2023
Local politics, although affecting the lives of all those in that locality, is often ignored. To be well informed about local politics sometimes requires a TL;DR, and that is what the Talon can provide. This newest March 2, 2023, Stafford County Board of Supervisors meeting lasted a little over three hours, and touched on various issues ranging from infrastructure to Juneteenth.
The Board touched on many issues this meeting, and not all of them are applicable to everyone. So, to sort by which topic intrests you, select the top right “introduction” button and one may choose between the sixteen different segments with ease.
Dr. Pamela Yeung, Chairman of the board and supervisor of the Garrisonville District, began with brief remarks on the National Crime Victims Rights Week, Molly Gill awards program, a recognition of the foster families in Stafford County that foster children as May is Foster Care month, mothers day, and other miscellaneous remarks.
I want to thank the three of you for your selfless actions that prevented a tragedy here in Stafford County and how well you have represented the Marine Corps, a valued community member.
— Dr. Pamela Yeung
The board also honored and met virtually with Marines Cpl. John Darby, Cpl. Bradley Feldkamp, and LCpl. Nicholas Dural, who prevented a stabbing attack in a Stafford County Chick-Fil-A in April. The Marines were in Stafford at the time stationed at Quantico for embassy guard training, all three are currently in Africa in the nations of Nigeria and the Republic of the Congo.
“I want to thank the three of you for your selfless actions that prevented a tragedy here in Stafford County and how well you have represented the Marine Corps, a valued community member.” Dr. Pamela Yeung said.
Ms. Kristin Maxson was the first to speak, touching on the planning of five thousand new homes in the county, fragile infrastructure, budget reduction, and raised concerns about the wording used by the county in regards to condemned homes, reminding the county they cannot be sold as she thought the county had said.
The second to speak was Mr. Heath Hunter, a veteran with 30% disability. In his first statement he said in a sarcastic remark a thank you to the county for, “raising my taxes, enslaving me more to the government and keeping me from providing the best care that I think is best for my family.”
He then transitioned into addressing a quote said in the last meeting by Dr. Pamela Yeung, “We have veterans among us in our community, and I thank them for their service. Veterans that are 100% disabled do not pay taxes, and our county takes a big hit at this amount, and goes up every year because they want to live in an area that has amenities and services they need. That totals to about four million [dollars] and rising.”
“Let me explain for a moment how they did give back. They gave back by giving their lives to the greatest nation on Earth, in this case the veterans you referred to sacrificed their health so you could have the ability to make the ridiculous comments I heard in the last meeting. […] But I think it’s not too much for this nation, this state and the locality to give tax exemption to these individuals, nor criticize them for it.” Hunter said.
They gave back by giving their lives to the greatest nation on Earth, in this case the veterans you referred to sacrificed their health so you could have the ability to make the ridiculous comments I heard in the last meeting.
— Mr. Heath Hunter
Later in the meeting during the reports by the board, supervisors would acknowledge the statements made by Mr. Hunter, and would clarify that they as a board what they meant to say with their previous statements, with many citing their understanding of the comments made as many have family and loved ones in the armed forces.
“I just want to say thank you, and thank you to all of our veterans. We navigate some difficult conversations on this board, and not to speak to anyone else’s comments, but we’re all trying to do the best we can. We appreciate you. I believe everyone on this board does when it really comes down to it. So thank you for everything that you’ve done.” Ms. Monica Gary, Aquia District, said.
The third and last to speak was Mr. Allen Watkins, who brought to the attention of the board his opinions, and the wider opinions, of his neighborhood on the construction of an infrastructure project that would potentially cross into their neighborhood of England Run Lane. He worries that the project would detract from the serene neighborhood.
“England Run Lane is idyllic. […] It still remains relatively quiet and rural. The smallest piece of property there winds up being two acres. There are people who spend time jogging there, walking their dogs, and everything else. It’s certainly not Celebrate Parkway, but it is a very special place that would be ruined.” Watkins said.
Reports By Board Members
Mr. Thomas Coen, Vice chairman of the board of supervisors, George Washington District, started off the reports. He attended the Fredericksburg Chamber Gala, with other members. Attended an event for crime victims week and the Molly Gill award, and touched on a ceremony done by Stafford County Public Schools in which they recognized those educators who have been in their field for five years to forty years. He also gave a shout out to the graduates of Blu’s Academy.
Mr. Darrell English, Hartwood District, began his reports by acknowledging the foster parents of the county, thanking Fire and Rescue for their service dealing with various damage done by heavy rainfall and also traditional emergencies. It was also stated that the second year of the Stafford Soap Box Derby will be held on June 10 at 95 Reservoir Road.
Mr. English also acknowledged the deaths of two Stafford residents, and gave his condolences to the families of the deceased.
Ms. Monica Gary, Aquia District, reported that she had attended the ceremony in which the Molly Gill Survivor award was presented, and encouraged residents to not drink and drive to avoid any scenario which may come of that decision.
One of the statements of the victims families that was read after a sentencing that had just occurred earlier that day really stuck out to me. In that they said, though the sentencing was just, the only thing that would bring peace, in their words, was Allah.
— Ms. Monica Gary
Gary also acknowledged mental health awareness month, maternal health awareness week, teacher appreciation day, and Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
Ms. Crystal Vanuch, Rock Hill District, started her report with an update on Lake Arrowhead, in which she said that letters have been sent for updates on the service districts and dam repair. Applications have also started to be filtered for the service district membership, and implored residents and property owners in Lake Arrowhead that are interested in serving in the service district mentioned to send in their application.
Vaunch attended the Chamber of Commerce Gala, attended the Molly Gill Awards Ceremony, and thanked those involved in the events. She also gave an update on the visit to the Governor’s office with Dr. Yeung, saying that it went “incredibly well” where they talked about the cost to compete and a potential budget amendment, and promised further updates on the budget process. She would also touch on the tax rate of veterans, providing the rate and policies in place, which were brought to the attention of the board by Mr. Hunter earlier in the meeting.
Ms. Tinesha Allen, Griffis-Widewater District, started her report by congratulating Full Distance Brewery for their upcoming grand opening, congratulating the Cyber Bytes Foundation on planning on opening up a new center with the goal of reintegrating veterans back into the civilian world.
Allen also confirmed that a road project in her district would be paved later this fall, or early next spring. And to conclude her report she acknowledged Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
Ms. Meg Bohmke, Falmouth District, began her report by thanking her colleagues for clarifying the statement made about disabled veterans. She thanked the organizers of the Molly Gill award, and stated she was unable to attend. The county has a Virginia Organization of Counties virtual meeting with region 8 May 11, and implores all those who wish to view the meeting.
Fredericksburg Area of Metropolitan Planning Organization (FAMPO) will have their next meeting May 15, 6pm at 86 Deacon Road discussing the river crossing infrastructure project previously mentioned in the meeting by Mr. Watkins, and it is planned to vote either for or against, or delay a NEPA study on the effects of the river crossing project.
Dr. Pamela Yeung, Chairman, Garrisonville District, thanked a volunteer planning to plant flowers at Hampton Oaks, and also thanked Stafford residents for contributing to the Cleaning for a Reason Program by cleaning homes of cancer patients. She also clarified her statement about veterans, apologizing as it caused some resentment.
County Administrator Reports
The ongoing process of the commercial development process review study is in stage five of six according to Paul Santay, Chief Director of Development Services, which has the end goal of changing the development process for the better, with a heavy emphasis on fees.
As the study plans to conclude it will result in another schedule for further review, bringing the county closer to this improved process.
Belmont Park Extension for Permit and Zoning Applications
The Belmont Park project had many modifications to the submission, including a VDOT change which resulted in a need for new access to the site, and the total size of the project was also reduced by a few acres of land.
The extension is requested to be until November, as to give further time to the project zoning and permit application process for commercial development and not residential development.
The resolution passed unanimously, with the board voting 7-0 to approve the extension requested.
Request for Zoning Reclassification
A request for zoning reclassification of a 4.98 acre parcel of land in the Falmouth district from zone B-3 to zone B-2 was the next issue, and also introduce a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to allow this rezoning into B-2.
The request for the rezoning from B-3 to B-2 was brought about as the requested zone provides more opportunities in development, as the developer claims.
The change in zone for the project would be subject to some restrictions however. The property on average should not exceed 1,000 vehicle trips per day, will have no more than two entrances connecting to Richmond Highway, the southern entrance would be only allotted to utility access and delivery, and also create eighty feet of right of way as to not impede traffic.
The request specifically involves the development of one hotel, with a maximum of 35 rooms. Conditions of the project also include a ban on over thirty day rentals for the project, and other miscellaneous conditions as to not disrupt other property views.
The board focused on the issues involved with the zones laying on a flood plain, and started a motion to defer the request so more information could be investigated to make the decision.
The final vote on the subject was 7-0 for a deferral of the request.
Radio Tower Lease Amendment
The county in 1991 had agreed to a lease with SBC Tower, a radio tower, and only recently was the lease renewed.
The tower revenue was realized to have been $1 a year up until this point, and the county had been paying around $22,000 to lease the tower.
I would like to know how many contracts we have out there that we need to review, because this looks like it was a needle in a haystack.
— Dr. Pamela Yeung
The amendment proposed would mainly add a lump sum payment of $25,000 and a $21,000 a year payment to the county, allowing for the county to benefit off of the lease instead of losing thousands a year.
It also prompted conversation about other contracts the county may be losing money on without knowing. Dr. Yeung noted that this discovery could be a “needle in a haystack,” and would require more investigation into other contracts.
Secondary Six Year Plan
A presentation was given to the board on the timeline for the approval of the secondary six year plan (SSYP) which provides state funding for various small infrastructure projects.
Brent Point road, New Hope Church Road, and Cedar Grove Road, are examples of some roads that would use some of this SSYP funding.
Nearly all projects are still in development, with only Brent Point Road being complete, but a majority of projects are planned to be completed within the next year or two.
On the next board of supervisors meeting, May 16, the plan will be further discussed, and a public hearing will be held.
Comparative and Cooperative Partnership Application
There is a proposed regional cooperative partnership, where each county would get a grant for the Rappahannock Area Community Service Board (RACSB) to provide crisis services and also provide mobile medical assisted treatment for various medical emergencies.
Counties would, if agreeing to be a part of the cooperative, potentially receive a combined $695,000 for these various services. Stafford county for example, as it makes up 32% of calls which involve the services provided, would receive $247,000.
The county at this point would only have to opt into applying for this grant, with no further action needed at the time. However it is time sensitive, and if interested the board was advised to meet a decision shortly.
The first vote on the subject was to deem it “time sensitive,” and the board unanimously voted in a 7-0 decision in favor of deeming the resolution time sensitive.
Immediately after the two resolutions both needed for the application were approved unanimously.
Darrel English requested a discussion and subsequent presentation of the potential benefits and drawbacks of categorical funding in schools, as the budget has only grown and may require categorical funding.
A common worry about categorical funding however is that it may inhibit the control of local areas to control their own policies after relying on these federal funds, and also reduce effectiveness of said policies through delay.
The discussion on categorical funding was decided to come back at a later point, but conversation among the board was spurred in the discussion of categorical funding.
This was a very ugly budget process, and I think we need to just let it go. Categorical funding does not accomplish what we think it will accomplish.
— Ms. Meg Bohmke
“I’ll talk to anybody about categorical funding until the cows come home. While maybe we didn’t have the greatest budget process with the school board and superintendent I don’t want that to set the precedent for our community, and I believe that we can do better. […] This was a very ugly budget process, and I think we need to just let it go. Categorical funding does not accomplish what we think it will accomplish.” Ms. Meg Bohmke, Falmouth District, said.
Mr. Thomas Coen, George Washington District, would echo the comments made by Bohmke and state his opinion on categorical funding, “The logistics of how it would be implemented puts a great strain on our staff. […] I understand where the rationale is coming from, but I don’t think it gets anybody where they really want to go on an issue such as this.”
Most of the board agreed that categorical funding could be more of a detriment than an aid, but would still require some discussion. As a result, the discussion was again planned for a later date.
Recognition of May as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
Between the previous discussion and the following second public hearing, the board convened to recognize the month of May as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
I am so deeply honored to accept this proclamation on behalf of the Asian American community and the Asian Pacific Islander [community].
— Ms. Rose Doyle
The board welcomed Ms. Rose Doyle and her son Matthew Doyle, a Stafford Special Olympics participant and Sheriff Office Star Force Cadet, and both of Filipino heritage to accept the proclamation made by the county for May to be Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month on behalf of the wider community.
“I am so deeply honored to accept this proclamation on behalf of the Asian American community and the Asian Pacific Islander [community]” said Rose Doyle.
Second Public Presentations
Ms. Molly Dunham was the first to speak during the second set of public presentations. She started by stating she did not like always pointing out problems for others to fix, but she now finds it important as she “didn’t see this board coming together as a cohesive group of leaders.” Molly Dunham said.
“I thought it was interesting that a board member recently stated that they would continue the fight in Richmond for the resources to fund our county and our schools, which sounded nice, but I cant believe that same passion by the board wasn’t shown last month and there wasn’t a willingness to fight to make this funding happen without putting our hands out to others. I’m not sure where the board thinks Richmond is going to get their money, but I’ll give you a hint: she’s five foot nine, pays her state taxes, and her name sounds a lot like Molly.” Molly Dunham said.
I’m not sure where the board thinks Richmond is going to get their money, but I’ll give you a hint: she’s five foot nine, pays her state taxes, and her name sounds a lot like Molly.
— Ms. Molly Dunham
She said this in reference to the last funding decision, in which the county lacked the means to fund schools to a complete point which prompted a need for the county to search for other means of funding.
Shannon Fingerholz was the second to speak and started her speech in a lightning quick put down of funding schools with categorical funding, stating that categorical funding was a bad idea.
She would then turn her eye towards the board, and would analyze the social media postings of the board member who introduced the idea of categorical funding in her speech. She stated that, “Since January 1st he has made roughly 209 posts, about 2.4% of those were in relation to the schools in some way. Why would engaged constituents want someone who only thinks of the school 2.4% of the time deciding their funding? I am sick and tired of hearing ‘I don’t think the public understands’ we aren’t fools. I don’t need your ignorant pity. I need you to listen to our advocacy, I need you to actually work in the work sessions.”
I am sick and tired of hearing ‘I don’t think the public understands’ we aren’t fools. I don’t need your ignorant pity. I need you to listen to our advocacy, I need you to actually work in the work sessions.
— Ms. Shannon Fingerholz
During the end of her speech she touched on the school board not visiting schools, not talking to teachers, and instead of being open to the community instead being closed off. And finally she also stated that the schools had not come to the board at the 11th hour requesting funding, and instead the board put it off until it was too late.
Ms. Kristin Maxson returned to the podium for her second time to speak that day. She started off her time by addressing some confusion in the room, and stating that “We don’t want frustration to be the element of the courthouse area. So if we can help, let us know,” Maxson said.
She then transitioned to talking about capital and transportation projects, specifically Brooke Road. She cited that the road floods many times, thirteen to be exact, and impacted hundreds of residents in the area, and believes that the road should be considered for improvement or aid instead of being forgotten.
Mr. Allen Watkins, who also spoke at the beginning of the meeting, was the last in public presentations to speak. He began his speech by thanking board member Coen for talking to his community and visiting to get a sense of the neighborhood pre-river crossing project.
He also invited the rest of the board to visit to see the neighborhood, while also stating his understanding of those who want the river crossing constructed.
Please regard the human factor when examining all information that comes your way,
— Mr. Allen Watkins
He then stated that each of the options for the river crossing project had their drawbacks, no matter where it was built, and would have to be diligently assessed. However, the board had only requested a study on one of the four options to save money.
“All the options have detractors and create problems, but the only option, the one option that causes eight to ten homes to be torn down, would be option number two, where I live. Please regard the human factor when examining all information that comes your way,” Watkins said.
Authorization of Right-of-Way Use
A local business requested the use of a portion of right-of-way road in the Falmouth district.
The road would bisect the property to connect with other infrastructure, providing emergency access use only.
The authorization would also not block access to any surrounding areas, and is key to the building of a self storage facility on the property.
Areas around the site, including a neighborhood and trailer park right next to the area, provided community support for this project.
Public comments were then opened up in regard to the request, and Ms. Kristin Maxson would take the podium, with the concern that the new buildings would take a lot of plumbing and water infrastructure, and also brought the main concern of a lack of green space provided in the project.
I’m not going to support this because I haven’t been supportive from day one because I feel like it’s going to be a hazard coming off that route right there by Drew Middle School,
— Mr. Darrell English
Approval was then granted by the board in a vote, but was split nearly down the middle in a 4-3 vote. Mr. Darrell English, Ms. Crystal Vanuch, and Dr. Pamela Yeung would vote to not approve the use while the other four members voted to allow the use.
“I’m not going to support this because I haven’t been supportive from day one because I feel like it’s going to be a hazard coming off that route right there by Drew Middle School, even if the access road is not going to make it.” Mr. Darrell English said.
Amendment of Restricted Parking Designation in Brooksmill Estates
A potential change in the restricted parking areas in the Brooksmill Estates Subdivision was the last of the topics voted on by the board.
The Brooksmill HOA requested restricted parking areas along many streets within their subdivision, restricted parking areas were requested due to safety concerns of blindspots as some cargo trailers would park on the shoulders of these streets.
Questions regarding the amendment by board members was nearly non-existent, and no one from the public spoke on the issue when called upon.
For the final vote of the day, all members voted unanimously to approve the requested amendment.