"We don't want all of our streets named after trees and flowers," said Stafford County planner William Threlkeld. "And we want to get rid of the numbers."
Which is why, for the second time in two years, officials are embarking on the creative and sometimes frustrating task of naming streets, this time in the county's south end.
Last year officials gave names to 120 numbered state routes and private lanes in north Stafford, sometimes amid heated disputes verging on slander, Threlkeld said.
This year there are at least 220 roads and lanes awaiting names.
The street-naming process, established last year, has many components. An ad hoc street-naming committee makes recommendations to the planning commission, which in turn makes recommendations to the Board of Supervisors. The board advertises about 60 names at a time and then holds lengthy public hearings.
Sometimes the board turns down a final recommendation and the process must begin again, Threlkeld said. Because of controversy, naming streets in the county's north end began in February 1985, and was not finished until fall.
One road, for instance, was to be named after a woman who had lived on it the longest. But the name was changed to a bucolic-sounding one after it was discovered that the majority of the woman's neighbors disliked her.
At least 75 percent of the residents involved must oppose a name before it will be changed from one that has been recommended, Threlkeld said.
The reason there is controversy during the process, officials said, is twofold: The county encourages opinions from its residents and "everybody has their own version of history," Threlkeld said.
It is often the history of a road or lane that determines what it has been called by custom. It is only when officials attempt to make the name formal that a problem can arise.
Rte. 712 in north Stafford had long been called Wood Landing Road because there had been a landing at the end of its wooded path. But residents of a subdivision on the road asked the county to change it to Japazaws Road after a bit of history that apparently could not be proved. Japazaws is somehow related, Threlkeld said, to the Indian princess Pocahontas who bartered for John Smith's life. "It may be the name of her tribe. All I know is some residents believed that the historical event happened close to this road and it should be named Japazaws."
Other residents said that it happened across Potomac Creek on Marlborough Point and that Japazaws was being proposed because it was the name of a subdivision, Threlkeld recalled. Wood Landing Road won.
Last year, an intense controversy swirled around a lane with few people living on it. Since it has always been called Dishpan Lane for Howard (Dishpan) Dent, its first resident, officials opted to keep that name. "We always try to keep old names when they are appropriate," said unofficial Stafford historian and commissioner of revenue, George Gordon.
Gordon, 67, sits on the Street Naming Committee, known fondly as SNICK by county staff members. But newer residents objected to Dishpan Lane on the grounds that the name was undignified.
Because the name was unusual and custom was behind it, the supervisors retained it. Dent maintained his personal dignity throughout the proceedings, which sometimes bordered on slander, Threlkeld said.
Some names are obvious and tend to be requested repeatedly. This time around, there have been 15 requests for Dogwood Lane, Virginia's state flower.
Boondocks Lane is, where else, in the boondocks. And then there is Main Street. County legend has it that a resident got drunk one night and put up his own Main Street sign in the dust of a country lane. Despite one board member's fears that the county might want a more important road named Main Street someday, the name stuck.
After the dust of street naming dies down, the planning office computer will spit out all the duplicates, Threlkeld said. And the Board of Supervisors will be asked to do some renaming. It is unlikely, however, that there will be more than one Stone's Throw Way, so named because it is not a very long lane. Or two Wildcat Corner roads, called that by custom because, Threlkeld said, "people say some pretty shady things used to go on there." He did not elaborate.
Other names have held for as long as 200 years or more. According to Gordon, White Oak Road was informally called that for nearly 300 years before the county officially christened it last year. Butler Road has been Butler Road since the Civil War.
While custom and history are important, sometimes public comments are everything, Threlkeld said. Some residents on Rte. 653 in north Stafford wanted to name Snellings Road after a prominent landowner in the area. Other residents wanted to name it Hulls Chapel Road after the little chapel that sits back from the road a bit.
A woman whose mother lives on the road flew from Connecticut four times to attend public hearings to ask that it be named Hulls Chapel. She wrote letters and made phone calls to "anyone and everyone who had any pull," Threlkeld said. Despite a petition signed by people who preferred Snellings, the board chose Hulls Chapel.
Board member Phil Hornung said, "We enjoy this job [naming streets]. But we're getting a kick out of gibing the board members from north Stafford who gave the rest of us a hard time last year. You have to keep your sense of humor with this thing."
In addition to naming streets, the county will also assign addresses in lieu of rural box numbers to facilitate fire and rescue operations, Threlkeld said.