AOPA welcomed the board’s 5-1 vote as “a victory in the effort to keep incompatible land use around airports at bay,” but urged airport supporters to remain vigilant for any renewed efforts to encroach on the airport, said John Collins, AOPA manager of airport policy.
The rezoning plan for a residential and commercial development called Oakenwold, was voted down, with one supervisor abstaining, at the board’s Sept. 16 meeting in Stafford, north of Fredericksburg. About 232 acres of agriculturally zoned land would have been reclassified under the proposal, with some of 650 planned residential units to be built at a distance of only 4,200 feet from Stafford Regional Airport’s 5,000-foot-long runway. The airport is home base to about 60 general aviation aircraft, has precision and nonprecision instrument approaches available, accommodates roughly 22,000 general aviation flight operations per year, and provides easy access to Interstate 95.
Collins, noting AOPA’s opposition to the development in an Aug. 19 letter to the supervisors, said allowing land use incompatible with airport operations usually results in increased complaints that local officials—not project developers—must contend with in the aftermath.
He urged the supervisors to wait until county and airport officials develop guidelines for compatible land uses near the airport before approving a project. As an example of what can happen otherwise, he pointed to nearby Dulles International Airport, which “used to be out in the middle of nowhere” but now is “hemmed in by residential development.”
A local newspaper reported that although airport authority and state aviation officials had expressed concern about Oakenwold’s possible effect on future flight operations, not all opposition was airport-related. Supervisors said during their pre-vote discussion that some opponents also criticized such plan elements as the balance of commercial and residential development.
At four previous meetings on the rezoning request, numerous residents had spoken against the proposal, and a letter-writing campaign had “produced the desired result,” added Scott Huff, AOPA’s Airport Support Network volunteer for Stafford Regional Airport.