West Point looks to the future with new comprehensive plan draft

aluck@tidewaterreview.com

West Point officials dream of a future with a marina and more new businesses.

Officials recently released a draft of their new comprehensive plan, the last such plan was written in 2000, according to community development director Holly McGowan.

McGowan said she, interns and town staff have worked on the draft of the new comprehensive plan for the past five years.

“I’ve wanted to refresh the plan ever since I started almost 10 years ago,” McGowan said. “This will give the town direction on where we want to go in the next 15 to 20 years.”

Subdivisions

The draft plan includes the completion of two subdivisions in West Point that have been in the planning and development process for 10 years.

Pointers subdivision and Magnolia Meadows were both introduced to the area between 2006-2008. Pointers was approved in 2006, but phase two of Magnolia Meadows has been at a standstill for a few years and will need to go through an approval process again, according to McGowan.

Both planned subdivisions are located between Thompson Avenue and Magnolia Avenue off Bagby Street.

Pointers is in the process of developing storm drainage reservoirs and improving infrastructure in the area before beginning construction, according to McGowan.

“There will be 21 lots in Pointers, which includes two common areas,” McGowan said.

The Pointers subdivision development has been delayed 10-plus years due to a slow buyer’s market and new requirements since the subdivision was approved in 2006, according to Paul White Builder and Development Inc. office manager Diane Newman.

“Things are constantly changing in the market and we’ve seen so many changes since 2006,” Newman said. “New requirements for the town, water/sewer requirements from Hampton Roads Sanitation District, permits from Virginia Department of Transportation. This all costs a lot, especially when the market has been slow.”

A few homes in phase one of Magnolia Meadows were completed a few years ago, according to Newman.

Construction of seven homes in Pointers is expected to start in the spring. The projected cost and completion dates of both subdivisions are to be determined, according to Newman.

Marina, water access

The town has a marina site in its draft and will continue to pursue any possible options for one, according to McGowan.

“We’ve tried to pursue options in the past and we will continue to try and remain open to anything that comes our way for our marina,” McGowan said.

McGowan said the town has had discussions with a property owner near Three Rivers Seafood off Seventh Street who is interested in partnering for a town marina.

“Nothing has panned out yet and we are looking at all options for this asset to our town,” McGowan said. “It is in our future plan and we hope to develop a marina or waterfront restaurant.”

The town has public boat ramps and water access points such as Glass Island and Beach Park, but would like to utilize those features more.

“Waterfront development or businesses that emphasize that feature but don’t go against environmental regulations,” McGowan said. “Or simply more water access points.”

Town manager John Edwards said the town is working with the planning commission and public access authority to create an online map of access points.

“It would go from Zoar State Park to the Guinea Marshes,” Edwards said. “It would just show all of the access points around the local area for kayakers and boats to enjoy.”

Population

The draft includes a count of the overall population for the past few years, with the elderly or retirement population steadily growing.

In 2017, West Point had a population of 3,312; the age cohort of 45-54 increased from 292 to 423 from 2000 to 2010; and the 65 and older age group increased from 512 to 531 during that same period, according to the comprehensive plan.

The town would consider retirement housing for the growing chunk of the population in the future, according to McGowan.

“We do have Winter’s Point and King William Village apartments, which are based on income; Winter’s Point is a Bay Aging facility,” McGowan said. “Both facilities have age requirements of 62-years-old or for disabled residents of any age.”

As the town grows, McGowan said she foresees an expansion of the Town Hall building.

“We would have to possibly extend some departments and add more services,” McGowan said. “As well as provide better parking for our citizens and expand our council chambers.”

Citizen survey results

The comprehensive plan took citizen input into consideration from a survey that was available online last summer. The survey got 77 responses, according to the comprehensive plan draft.

Anonymous remarks included comments on the excellence of the schools, desire for more quality food options, the need to improve efforts to attract new businesses, congestion on roads by trucks going to the WestRock paper mill and dust/dirt from the mill.

In terms of development, McGowan said the town has limited space.

“Lots of businesses want to solely be downtown,” McGowan said. “But I feel if it’s a needed service, that it can thrive anywhere in town.”

McGowan said some businesses, such as other fast-food chains and sit-down restaurants, require a specific amount of traffic to open a location.

“We have high traffic count during the summer,” McGowan said. “But during the rest of the year we don’t, and a lot of it is people passing through, which makes it hard to attract potential chains or businesses.”

The town has seen several businesses open downtown in 2018 and McGowan said she hopes that continues into this year.

“It is hard to find a parking spot downtown now,” McGowan said. “People are enjoying the new businesses down there.”

Input

McGowan said the new comprehensive plan would help the current and future administration of the town.

“This plan has all of the goals we want to accomplish for our town and residents,” McGowan said.

Edwards said he thinks McGowan and the interns she worked with really laid the road map for the future of the town.

The final draft of the plan is under consideration by the Planning Commission, and a public hearing is planned for April 3. If approved, it will go to Town Council for consideration, according to McGowan.

The final draft of the comprehensive plan is available for viewing on the town’s Facebook page, the town website’s homepage and at town hall.

Comments on the final draft can be made on Facebook or directed to McGowan at hmcgowan@west-point.va.us, 804-843-3563, or by mail to Holly McGowan, P.O. Box 152, West Point, VA 23181.

The public hearing for the final draft of the comprehensive plan will be at the town’s planning commission meeting at 5 p.m. April 3 in Town Hall, 329 Sixth St., West Point.

Data from the citizen survey

» 60 percent of respondents rated the town “good” as a place to live.

» 29.5 percent surveyed rated the town “fair” as a place to work.

» 86.5 percent of respondents rated the town’s education as “excellent.”

» 395 of respondents rated the town’s access to affordable quality food as “fair.”

» 67 percent of respondents rated the town’s retail growth as “much too slow.”

» 52 percent of respondents said they feel “very safe” against any violent crime in town.

Luck can be reached at 757-291-2038, aluck@tidewaterreview.com or @ashleyrluck on Twitter

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