Williamsburg’s plans for roadwork and construction projects in next year’s budget — including spending that would keep a library downtown — won support from the Planning Commission at its meeting Feb. 20.
As budgeting for the next fiscal year begins, Planning Commission completed an early step of the process by highlighting capital improvement projects board members feel should be prioritized by the city. City Manager Andrew Trivette will take the recommendations into consideration as he develops a proposed city budget for fiscal year 2020 that will then go to City Council for a final approval.
The draft capital improvement plan presented to Planning Commission included the Monticello Avenue streetscape redesign, along with longer-term projects scheduled for sometime in the next five years.
In their letter to council, Planning Commission members supported capital improvement spending that would go toward keeping the city library downtown, creating a multi-use path along Strawberry Plains Road, improving sidewalks at Merrimac Trail and addressing capacity needs at Williamsburg-James City County Schools.
At a previous Planning Commission meeting, board member Justin Shawler said that as a former resident of an apartment complex along Merrimac Trail, he’s seen the need for sidewalks on both sides of the street that include bike lanes, as well as bus stop improvements to address safety concerns he’s heard from pedestrians.
“It’s a very family-oriented part of town, with a lot of families taking their kids for walks or kids biking along the sidewalks, but it’s not a road that people treat like a 35 mile per hour road,” Shawler said. “There’s got to be some sort of traffic calming and a way to make pedestrians feel safer at the same time, so I think that’s needed in conjunction with wider sidewalks and bike lanes.”
Chairwoman Elaine McBeth said she’s heard similar safety concerns on Strawberry Plains Road brought to her attention by a College of William and Mary student. Planning Department Director Carolyn Murphy said the city expects to study the viability of a multi-use path along Strawberry Plains Road with wider walking and biking paths in fiscal year 2021.
In its letter to the city manager, Planning Commission also recommended the city work with the W-JCC School Board to address growing capacity needs. In the current draft of the fiscal year 2020 budget, the city expects to contribute $706,897 in capital improvement funds to the school system. That money will cover costs for HVAC, roof and carpet replacements, along with initial design costs for a new elementary school and an expansion to Warhill High School.
Finally, the board expressed support for devoting city funds toward renovating or expanding the city library on Scotland Street. About $60,000 is expected to be budgeted toward library renovations next year. Board member James Boswell said he teaches a class in the library’s auditorium and regularly hears his students express their desire to keep the library near the city’s downtown as a community hub.
“They all talk about how they’re always at the library, especially the older people in town that use the library regularly, so it’s part of the placemaking that brings people to a central point and establishes a feeling of community,” Boswell said. “
The city manager’s office is expected to release a proposed fiscal year 2020 budget on March 19. City Council will review it at a series of public hearings in April and is expected to adopt it May 19.
Arriaza can be reached at 757-790-9313 or on Twitter @rodrigoarriaza0.