From an article in the Va Gazette By Cortney Langley Dec. 2008
The recession slowed the growth of housing and commerce for the first time in 10 years. Still, there was plenty left to propose and oppose.
James City County set out to revise the Comprehensive Plan with various forums and committees taking the public pulse.
A new slow-growth group called J4C produced research papers challenging various assumptions and projects. The outgoing Democratic majority tightened a James City ordinance to expand stream buffers to 300 feet instead of 100. The new Republican majority promptly unwound that and eventually compromised at 225 feet, then defeated the whole measure. The stream buffers were among many disputes in which four of the five members criticized each other as politically partisan. Almost 900 Ford’s Colony residents petitioned to block a big continuing care facility across the road as too big, generating too much traffic and burdening the HOA. They found a zoning loophole to support their case legally.
The HOA agreed not to sue when management backed down on applying full residential rights to those in a proposed senior care facility. Others still opposed the project on grounds of traffic and scale, even after it was scaled back from 944 units to 739. Despite a last-minute gimmick to stop it, the James City supervisors approved, but the financing dried up during the national credit crisis.
Also near Ford’s Colony, a plan for 240 workforce housing units on News Road was pulled back to weave it into the new Comp Plan. It was considered DOA after the continuing care controversy. Ford’s Colony announced Westport as 100 large homesites across Centerville Road but removed from the controversial continuing care facility.
Two-year assessments found York home values up an average of 15%. The Board of Supervisors reduced the real esate tax rate from 69.75 cents per $100 of assessed value to 65.75 cents.
York county administrator James McReynolds said he needed $26 million worth of expansion and new buildings for his various departments.
A new task force promised to have ideas on developing workforce housing by summer. Work languished, but the group plans to take up the mantle in 2009.
High Street scaled back 99 townhouses to 36 in the first phase as real estate sales continued soft. The Movie Tavern theater that was supposed to open by Labor Day was delayed to November, and then to March along with the retail shops. By year-end, two of five apartment buildings at High Street began to be occupied.
Two new sets of stoplights were erected for High Street, bringing the total in greater Williamsburg to 87. Yet very few were synchronized to keep traffic moving.
The Salvation Army set out on a feasibility study for a $6 million complex of teen center, child care, computer lab, food pantry and other services to the community. The site is on Richmond Road near 199.
An extended runway was ruled out at Williamsburg-Jamestown Airport, which seemed to scotch any federal subsidy for acquisition. By year-end, it was going to take more than $3 million to buy the airport or $16 million to rebuild elsewhere. Some citizens were adamantly against James City County putting up the money. The death of co-owner Jean Waltrip complicated matters.
Philip Morris completed the expansion and conversion of the Route 143 plant to make spit-free tobacco. 1,200 acres were put on the market by Williamsburg Pottery, though Kim Maloney clarified the business would remain intact. With no buyers at hand, the property was later taken off the market. Longtime farmer Don Hunt closed Hill Pleasant Farm. He had no plans to sell to developers but asked for the land-use designation to change to mixed-use with the Comp Plan update. The York supervisors compromised on requiring Kiln Creek Golf Club & Resort owner Dick Ashe to cut the grass of its abandoned nine-hole course.
Overcrowding worsened at Stonehouse Elementary, but a 9th school was still two years away.
Pockets of retail vacancies were showing up at Patriot Plaza and were persisting at Williamsburg Crossing.
A revised version of controversial condos were approved on South Henry Street despite criticism that they were out of scale.
Williamsburg Community Chapel spent $15 million to expand to 70,000 square feet with an auditorium for 1,500.
York denied its first mixed-use development of apartments and stores, on Route 17 at Battlefield Road. 10 four-story buildings for mixed use at Route 17 and Battle Road worried York residents as too massive.
The York supervisors were lobbied heavily to approve in a 3-2 vote a house on the Chesapeake Bay that was within the 100-foot Chesapeake Bay resource protection area.
The Honda dealership in Norge sought to expand, but neighbors complained of encroachment. Neighbors in Chisel Run protested Prime Outlets expanding across Olde Towne Road after two dozen older trees were cut down. James City had a raft of road projects, but the state budget was cut in half to $3.5 million. Two James City supervisors had second thoughts about approving a $50 million contract with Newport News Waterworks. It’s good for up to 5 million gallons a day. Water rates raised 12%- 15%, with more to come.
VDOT ramped up its traffic studies in ways that would cost developers more time and money, but slow-growth advocates hailed the move for reflecting a more cumulative impact.
J4C came up with six pages of ways to prevent flooding through improved draining. The crux of the problem was assigning responsibility for flooding after a development is built.
Three days of citizen meetings led to a vision of the Eastern State campus for mixed uses and housing around various mental health components. Sites emerged for at least one new school, an office park, apartments, “Geriatric Square” for research, and faculty housing.
Neighbors near Hubbard Lane protested expansion plans for a mini-warehouse behind James-York Plaza. The Planning Commission recommended denial of the proposal and the application has yet to go to the Board of Supervisors.
Seasons Trace sought a second road out of the subdivision in the event of hurricane flooding.
The city budget was ho-hum except for a 15% hike in water rates to pay Newport News Waterworks in times of need. Last year the rates went up 10% and more hikes are coming, in part to cover costs of the new King William Reservoir. Geologist Gerald Johnson lost his fight to save the last patch of 5-million-year-old fossils along the bluffs of the James River. Kingsmill wanted the site for more homes.
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