Supervisors discuss legislative wishlist with state lawmakers

Staff writer

James City supervisors sat down with the area’s General Assembly representatives Tuesday to discuss the county’s legislative agenda — a wishlist of legislation that includes greater power for the county to regulate inoperative vehicles and increased ability to protect citizens from loose dogs among other requests.

Tuesday’s meeting was intended in part to gauge interest among the area’s state lawmakers — Sen. Thomas Norment (R-James City), Sen. Monty Mason (D-Williamsburg), Del. Brenda Pogge (R-Norge) and Del. Mike Mullin (D-Newport News) — in championing legislation to make the county’s wishes a reality.

And for the most part, the General Assembly members seemed to have mixed feelings on the requests as a whole.

The county wants its charter changed to expand its ability to regulate junk cars.

The charter amendment request comes as a different line of attack after the county watched legislation fail a couple times, said board chairwoman Ruth Larson. Previously, the county has requested a state code amendment to affect the same change.

The charter change would allow the county to regulate inoperative vehicles in accordance with an existing section of the state code that allows about 20 other localities to consider a vehicle inoperative if it lacks a valid inspection sticker or has invalid license plates.

Currently, the county’s power to regulate inoperative vehicles falls under another part of the code. On the subject of inspection stickers and license plates, both must be invalid before the county can do anything.

That’s proven a hurdle for non-Homeowners-Association neighborhoods that have come to the county looking for help ridding themselves of junk cars, Larson said.

The expanded regulation power would only apply to lots equal to or less than two acres, according to the agenda document.

That property-size limitation gave some comfort to Pogge, who broke with her three colleagues to vote against Senate Bill 454 during the 2018 session. The bill, which would have added James City to its preferred section of the code regarding inoperative vehicles, failed to pass the House.

“The less than two acres gives me a lot more comfort,” Pogge said, adding that her farmer constituents voiced opposition to the proposal.

The county also wants several changes to the state code to better control loose dogs.

Those changes include permitting courts to order restitution for emotional distress alongside physical damages caused by dangerous dogs, allowing localities the option to require all dogs be contained in an enclosure “appropriate to their size and strength “ while outdoors and allowing localities to slap dog owners with fines if the owner allows dogs to roam in packs of two or more animals while off the owner’s property, though hunting dogs would be excluded, according to the agenda document.

“These stemmed from meetings we had with citizens after a series of attacks took place up in Colonial Heritage,” Supervisor Sue Sadler said.

The General Assembly members demurred on the idea, one talking point being whether existing rules regarding dangerous dogs are being followed.

Mullin noted that dogs that are declared vicious are already required to be within an enclosure or on a lease at all times.

“I’m wondering whether or not, in the circumstances that led to this particular incident, whether or not one of those two pre-existing requirements were not being met,” he said.

The county also wants more funding for tourism, particularly for the Williamsburg region.

That’s something Norment wasn’t keen on.

“For many years we have been asking Virginia Tourism Corporation to put more money into advertising the Historic Triangle. … we were getting something between nothing and crumbs,” Norment said.

“I have no intention of asking the Virginia Tourism Corporation for more money. You just got a windfall,” he said, referring to Senate Bill 942, the legislation he sponsored to create a 1-percent increase to the sales tax to generate funds for marketing the region to overnight tourists.

Other items on the adopted agenda included increased ability to protect the county from developers who fail to complete projects and support for increased Virginia Department of Emergency Management funding.

The agenda also includes support for widening I-64 to to I-295 and permission to advertise public notices on localities’ websites rather than a newspaper with general circulation.

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to adopt the legislative agenda at its meeting Nov. 13 after a discussion on the agenda items at its Oct. 23 work session.

Jack Jacobs, 757-298-6007, jojacobs@vagazette.com, @jajacobs_

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