New Kent supervisors approve formation of broadband advisory committee, hearing to ban combat ranges

Staff writer

New Kent supervisors took the next step in addressing the county’s need for broadband internet access at the board’s May 13 meeting.

The board also discussed the possibility of adding combat ranges to the list of prohibited land uses in the New Kent county code following last year’s controversial proposal from Curtis Security Consulting Inc. to build shooting ranges, driving courses and housing facilities for trainees on a 266-acre property in Barhamsville.

Broadband, strategic plan work groups

Last March, the county’s Board of Supervisors approved a strategic broadband study with Rural Broadband Consulting LLC and the establishment of an advisory committee is necessary as part of that assessment, County Administrator Rodney Hathaway said.

“As you know, you have made the expansion of broadband throughout New Kent County a priority for the county, and in doing so, you have authorized me to sign an agreement with Rural Broadband Consulting LLC,” Hathaway said. “That project is underway, which involves Rural Broadband LLC developing a strategic broadband plan for the county, and part of that process will involve the development of an advisory committee.”

After unanimously approving the formation of the Broadband Advisory Committee, board members appointed Ron Durrer, Kate Ferris, Chris Stone, Kevin Eddowes, Leon Taliferro, Mark Flynn and Charles Karow to serve on the new work group.

Hathaway will serve as the group’s secretary, he said. As part of the motion to approve a charter for the formation of the advisory committee, board members agreed that a representative from the broadband work group will need to provide the Board of Supervisors with quarterly updates on its progress.

Also at the meeting, New Kent supervisors took the first steps toward forming a 20-year strategic plan for the county. The board approved the formation of a Strategic Plan Steering Committee and authorized Hathaway to begin requesting proposals for a consultant to lead the strategic planning process in a 4-1 vote.

“A strategic plan is a very comprehensive plan that doesn’t just deal with land use, but it deals with how we want social services to look in 20 years, how we want our schools to grow in 20 years, it really touches on every aspect of county services,” Hathaway said. “We are are growing rapidly in the county and changing dynamically.”

Members weren’t appointed to the strategic plan work group at Monday’s meeting, but the group will be comprised of two members from each of the county’s five districts; two at-large members and the county administrator, Hathaway said. While most board members were in agreement, Supervisor W.R. “Ray” Davis Jr. said he’s worked other strategic plans over the course of his career, and that each prior plan was largely ignored.

“I’ve done two for the county and three when I worked for the state, and none of them were worth the paper that they were written on,” Davis said. “Other people get elected and so forth, and nobody adheres to them. Unless you do something other than write the words down, they’re no good.”

Banning combat ranges in New Kent

Also at the meeting, the board voted 4-1 to request that the county’s Planning Commission review all existing prohibited land uses in the New Kent County code, and consider adding combat and tactical training facilities to the list of banned uses.

The motion, not included in the meeting’s agenda, was introduced by Chairman Thomas Tiller, who said he came to the decision after much thought and discussions with Hathaway and County Attorney Brendan Hefty. The idea drew questions from board members who have been opposed to the combat range since it was originally proposed.

“Mr. Chairman, I’d like to make a comment on that — where were you a year ago?” said Supervisor Ron Stiers. “I brought this up, I told you about my experiences going to visit a combat training facility. I talked to the residents of Barhamsville and I decided a year ago that this should be added to the list of businesses not allowed in the county. I felt that way then, I felt it in November, and I feel it now.”

During the meeting’s citizen comment period, Barhamsville resident John Lockwood said he was glad to see the possibility of banning any future combat range proposals move forward.

“It is really the only option as far as a combat range in New Kent County, and we’ve said that since the beginning,” Lockwood said. “I would imagine that you’ll probably be seeing quite a few folks in the room again, probably wearing their orange shirts.”

The New Kent County Planning Commission will consider the addition of combat ranges to the county’s list of prohibited land uses at its June meeting, Tiller said.

Arriaza can be reached at 757-790-9313 or on Twitter @rodrigoarriaza0.

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