- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 21, 2006

STAFFORD, Va. (AP) — Stafford County officials have filed condemnation papers for nearly 2,900 acres near the Potomac River to protect a heron rookery from development of hundreds of homes.

The action is the latest in a protracted effort by the county and private groups to preserve Crow’s Nest, an environmentally sensitive peninsula that also is home to dense hardwoods, some 4 feet in diameter.

County officials want to preserve the land as a public park.

“It’s such a jewel,” Paul Milde, a member of the Stafford Board of Supervisors, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “It’s its own ecosystem.”

The county’s filing of condemnation papers Friday was a last resort, he said, adding that he still hopes the parties can reach a deal.

K&M; Properties of McLean, doing business as Stafford Lakes Limited Partnership, wants to build 688 homes on about 3,200 acres.

The developer estimates the property’s value at $60 million, nearly twice as much as the county offered in September.

Clark Leming, the attorney for the developers, said K&M; presented the county with four options, which he declined to specify. He said they included a range of rezonings and purchase prices that would have netted the county 1,800 acres.

“Apparently, the county rejected those out of hand,” Mr. Leming said.

Mr. Milde acknowledged that the county’s condemnation effort does not encompass the entire Crow’s Nest area, which includes an additional 1,200 acres.

He said the county set its sights on the most environmentally sensitive area, given Stafford’s fiscal resources.

The county has available about $10 million from the state and $10 million through a low-interest loan.

Mr. Milde said the county could make up the difference through offers, some of them already on the table, by other developers seeking to build elsewhere in the county.

Cecelia Kirkman of the nonprofit Save Crow’s Nest said many support condemning the peninsula to preserve it because of explosive residential growth.

“I think there is broad-based support to use eminent domain, and I think that’s because it’s being used as a last resort,” she said.

Preservation advocates say Crow’s Nest has historical significance, too.

Capt. John Smith visited the Potomac Indians in the area in 1608. Pocahontas is thought to have been taken hostage five years later when she was visiting the Patawomeke (Potomac) village at Indian Point, just across from Crow’s Nest.

Researchers say Crow’s Nest was later named for a ship that harbored in deep waters near the peninsula, which is bordered by the Accokeek and Potomac creeks near where they feed into the Potomac River.

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