Oakland Pointe, a proposed workforce housing apartment complex in Norge, is becoming a flash point with voters concerned about the cost of rapid county growth.
A recent Op-Ed in the Gazette by Michael Grimes highlighted this. This is an excerpt: “Over-development is a death spiral. The more you build, the more infrastructure and services are needed. More schools, more police, more civil servants, more of everything to support it.”
Jack Haldeman made these comments at the Dec. 5 Planning Commission meeting, which approved the plans for Oakland Pointe: “I must question the models (for Oakland Pointe). If the 104 units right around the corner at the Station at Norge generate 73 school children how can we say that 126 units at Oakland Pointe will generate only 39? The Adequacy Test shows that (Warhill High School) has the capacity for the extra 13 students, but the School District’s last CIP application requested $5.1 million to expand the high school in 2022, claiming Warhill High School is currently over capacity and enrollment is projected to increase.”
A Dec. 6 Gazette article covered a meeting between county supervisors, Williamsburg City Council and the W-JCC School Board to discuss the need for more schools.
An excerpt from the article read: “Superintendent Olwen Herron recommended building a new elementary school in her proposed CIP due to projected enrollment growth: elementary school enrollment is expected to be 5,507 students in 2028. Elementary school capacity is 5,470 students, so the schools would be over capacity by 37 students.”
At the meeting, Supervisor Michael Hipple, Powhatan, suggested expanding current elementary schools. Supervisor Jim Icenhour, Jamestown, wanted W-JCC to explore more options before settling on building a new school. Supervisor Sue Sadler, Stonehouse, spoke of redistricting as an option to ease overcrowding. No one quoted in the article denied the growth or the need to do something.
Future growth? In the 2015 Comprehensive Plan, the county estimated residential development potential for land located in the Primary Service Area as 15,279 additional dwellings. This includes units at different points in the development pipeline, ranging from vacant platted lots to undeveloped large parcels requiring legislative approval.
There are more examples. In the county’s residential status report of 2017, the Stonehouse community was listed as having a 659 residential unit count, vacant parcels of 141, with a unit cap of 4,411.
Walnut Grove, a new community in Norge, is just starting to build. The same report lists Walnut Grove as having a cap of 88 new homes. Like the cap at Stonehouse, the final buildout will depend on what the Board of Supervisors approve.
Growth in these and other communities have a cumulative effect that drives up county costs. In the past, developers were allowed to offer proffers to help offset these costs. A change in state law now prohibits this type of proffer, so we are left with the possibility of higher taxes.
We have had two tax increases recently. The first was a significant increase to the county’s real estate property tax in 2015, and the latest was the 1 percent Historic Triangle sales tax.
Our leaders recognize the problem. An October 2015 Gazette article had this to say: “In terms of residential development, (Ruth) Larson said the county needs to deftly manage the number of outstanding building permits that have been issued but are not yet under construction. The first thing we need to do is make sure we're planning accordingly for the buildings we know are coming. How are we going to service that build? Do we want to keep putting a push on our public services without making sure we're supporting them?’"
These are still relevant questions. How will they be addressed in 2019?
Oakland Pointe is the kind of development that adds measurably to the problems associated with rapid county growth, while further reducing our green space. I ask the James City supervisors to vote no in February on Oakland Pointe.
Alexander is a James City County resident.