Town Crier Articles

All October Articles (Text Only - No Photos)
Posted on October 1, 2020 6:00 AM by Town Crier Staff
June Dawkins
Did you know that you do not have to wait until Tuesday, November 3rd to vote in this year’s elections? And that there are several ways for you to cast your vote?  Early voting began on September 18th.  Any registered voter can request an Absentee Ballot or vote Early-In-Person at a designated polling place.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, James City County is encouraging all voters to vote from home or vote early to avoid the lines and crowding on Election Day. Here are the details:
STEP 1:  Check the Accuracy of Your Voter Registration or Register to Vote
You can check the accuracy of your current voter registration or register to vote for the first time online at the Virginia Department of Elections website:
The final day to register/update your information is Tuesday, October 13th.  Your registration must be received by the Registration/Elections Main Office at 5300 Palmer Lane (across from New Town off Ironbound Road) by that date.  
STEP 2:  Request Your Absentee Ballot
Virginia allows all registered voters to request online a vote-by-mail ballot with no excuse needed. Your request must be received by the Registrar by Friday, October 23rd and must be signed and dated.
STEP 3:  Cast Your Vote
Mail-In:  While your completed and signed Absentee Ballot must be postmarked to the Registrar by Election Day, Tuesday, November 3rd, it must be received by the Registrar by Friday, November 6th.  Given that the USPS is currently seeing service curtailed in some places and is expected to experience heavy mail volumes in advance of the election, mailing your ballot two weeks in advance is recommended. 
Drop Off:  Completed ballots can also be dropped off in the Ballot Box at the James City County (JCC) Recreation Center at 5301 Longhill Road through Saturday, October 31st.
Early-In-Person:  JCC Supervisors have also designated the JCC Rec Center as an Early-In-Person Voting location, also through Saturday, October 31st.  Hours are: 
Monday-Friday 8am until 5pm and
Saturday 9am to 5pm (October 24th and 31st only)
Election Day:  Cast your In-Person Vote on Tuesday, November 3rd at the JCC Rec Center, which is the regular polling place for New Town voters. Polls will be open from 6am to 7pm that day with curbside voting available.
STEP 4:  Track your vote at the JCC website:  
More Virginia General Election information can be found at: va   
Youtube: JCC County Podcast on Elections
New “Opt Out” Option for Your Landscaping Services
Landscape Advisory Committee
“If anyone asks what a first-class community looks like, it is well maintained property with healthy plantings and grass.” This is what drove Kelly Mihalcoe of the Landscape Advisory Committee (LAC) to investigate options to more clearly communicate to our landscape crews when a homeowner has chosen to do their own yard work.  
In the past, tracking of requests to stop landscape services has been sporadic. While Town Management collects official notifications from homeowners, the landscape company might not have the latest list. Some residents have communicated directly with landscape staff.  This created confusion for all parties. Complaints have followed from both homeowners and the contractor if the activity was or was not done. 
The LAC wants to minimize these difficulties in meeting residents’ landscape needs. Kelly explored a variety of approaches to the situation, including posting signs for different actions, e.g. no mowing, no pruning, etc. and determined that painting symbols on the curb was the most cost-effective option for the Association. There are four different symbols that will be used depending upon what service a homeowner is declining. Kelly has volunteered to lead the painting of these symbols. 
The Board of Directors approved an initial trial of the system at its August meeting, to begin in 2021. (Note: the form is no required for the remainder of 2020.) The Board can revisit the program next year once some experience is gained.
What is involved to “opt out?”
  • Complete the opt out form and submit it to Town Management.
  • When a group of forms has been submitted, Kelly’s crew will come to paint the appropriate symbol on your home’s front/back curb. (In order to minimize workload, this painting party will be done periodically.)
  • All homeowners are asked to submit a form by December 5th for the 2021 landscape season. 
What if I change my mind or am traveling so I can’t maintain my property?
Once you opt out, you are responsible for whatever action you asked to be stopped. Town Management will no longer ask a crew to mow a home “just once” for a vacation week. By opting out, you are making a commitment to the New Town community to do this work for the rest of the year. Kelly gave the example of a recent medical incapacitation, where knowing that she was obligated to maintain her lawn, she took the responsibility to hire or ask someone else to do the tasks for several months when she was unable to do them. 
The LAC is hopeful that the painted symbols approach will be more effective than current practices. “This may or may not be the perfect system, but we need to implement it and adjust it as we go, if needed”, remarked Kelly.
For more information on this new opt-out program and to obtain a form, log into the NTRA website for a variety of resources (see Fact Sheet and Frequently Asked Questions - Landscaping).
Navigating the World of Virtual Schooling!
Alison Douglas
A new term has started and kids are back at school, but it looks very different to this time last year - classrooms are virtual; schools are online and Zoom is the way forward.  Technology is amazing, but with the quirks of zoom calls; printer fails; Canvass assignments failing to load; navigating the myriad of different systems; as well as children missing their friends and comfort of familiar school routine, teachers, students, parents and grandparents are navigating a complicated and sometimes frustrating new way of online learning.  
For those parents out there reaching for the ‘help’ button at the start of a new school week, here are some thoughts from other parents and a New Town teacher to help you navigate the new way of schooling!  
It may not seem like it sometimes, but we should remember to congratulate ourselves on how adaptable, resilient and patient we all are.  New Town resident, Susan Schlimme is an ex-educator with three girls going through education.  She says that when it’s frustrating, don’t forget to ‘take a breath’ and remember ‘these are different times with different expectations’.  We are all learning that our expectations can change – these are strange times.  She also says that there is no right or wrong way of learning and teaching – be good to yourself! We are all doing what we can!  Easy things that she says we can do to make a difference to the school day include having easy access to the supplies your children need; and read, read, read!
Another New Town resident and parent, Sarah Yeneza, says that as you help your children to support the online learning and support them to understand what they are being taught, it can be fun to trawl your memory and re-learn what you think you have forgotten.  
Although some children feel more comfortable in a remote world, some need the interactions to build confidence and independence.  It is not the same, but Susan and Sarah’s advice both say make sure you build in lots of ‘active’ breaks (such as being outside or playing a game) to a consistent schedule (consistency should stretch to a familiar and consistent place to learn).   
Don’t forget that our children are learning from us as well as the teacher and the biggest lesson they are learning is how to deal with challenging times.  
Tips from the teacher
A final word from D.J. Montague Elementary teacher, Mrs Ford…
First of all, give yourself and your teacher some grace. Glitches happen and you are not going to mess up your child’s education or future just because you can’t get onto Zoom every so often!
Secondly, keep in touch.  If you are having any issues, let the teacher know – communication is key!
Thirdly, use the provided schedule as a guide so make the day work according to your schedule – it is not meant to mimic the hours your child would be in a classroom.  If your child works better in the morning, set aside time then to complete assignments.
Fourthly, read aloud with your child to help them enjoy reading.
Finally, although this is frustrating at times, please remember it will end.  Teachers want to be in the classroom – it’s what they do best and they’re giving it everything they have to make this work, while keeping everyone safe.  
Communication Helps It Happen! Part One: Communicating with Your Homeowners Association
Mary Cheston, Communications Committee Chair
Now that we homeowners control the Board of Directors, many residents have ideas (and complaints) to share, and share we have!  Perhaps we were just waiting for a changing of the guard to see if things could improve? Perhaps Covid-19 restrictions have given us more time to walk through neighborhoods and observe. Whatever the reason, Town Management and individual Directors on the Board have received a deluge of emails and calls about a variety of issues, some of which are outside the NTRA’s control. 
So let’s focus on COMMUNICATIONS to the NTRA – how, when, who and what. 
1) How? The primary vehicle for reporting a problem or concern to the Association is the NTRA website “Report an Issue” feature (See Residents page dropdown box All NTRA Committees including the Board of Directors receive the comments submitted in their subject area.
  • Why is this the first place residents should go? It creates a ticket, similar to an HOA work order, where both the Board and Town Management, as well as the resident, can track issues. If we send something privately to an individual, there is no traceability. Help us to improve accountability on the part of the Association by using this website system.
  •   “I have not had timely or satisfactory responses from using this feature.” We feel your pain. Know that the delays are not due to any lack of responsiveness by the website team. Town Management controls this system.  Sometimes it takes time for a Committee or the Board to provide Town Management with a reply.
Unfortunately, the ticketing system is a work in progress. Some Board members recently met with Town Management to review and expedite open tickets. Several status categories were added to clarify what is happening with each ticket. Town Management has committed to improve its transparency in replying helpfully to every resident. (Residents can also close out tickets if they know the issue has been addressed.)
2) When? If there is a true emergency situation requiring immediate attention, e.g. the recent overflow of the pool after hours, then a call to Town Management is best. 
3) Who? The Board of Directors are volunteers, as are all NTRA Committee members. Their time is their own, not ours. The new Board has been looking at a wide range of issues – in just the past 90 days, they have officially met 11 times, with individual Directors also meeting separately with their assigned Committees. Distractions from calls and emails only add to this workload. Remember that the Board acts collectively, not individually, so while it may feel good to vent on our favorite Director, there is not likely to be resolution within her/his power. Send your comments to the Board through the website, and let the system work. 
4) What? Finally, some things that may be annoying to us are not within the Association’s purview. Complaints about median strips, trails, construction crews, and US Post Office practices should be redirected. If you contact the appropriate source and learn something about New Town that you weren’t aware of, chances are your neighbor isn’t either. Share what you learned with the Communications Committee to add to the website’s Frequently Asked Questions. Contact We all benefit when we communicate precisely.
So let me take a page from “Miss Manners” book, and encourage all of us to follow communication chains. Although your friend/neighbor may now be on the Board, there is a protocol to follow to ensure that concerns from the community are shared in a timely and respectful manner.  
Next month, I’ll focus on communications from the NTRA. What have we been doing to keep you informed of New Town matters?
Tenants: Bring Your Energy and Ideas to the NTRA!
Town Crier Staff
At its September 24th meeting, the Board of Directors approved changes to five New Town Committee charters permitting the addition of New Town tenants as non-voting members of NTRA Committees. Previously, only homeowners--full Members of the Association--could serve on all Committees.
Tenants now join homeowners in the New Town Commercial Association as auxiliary members in a nonvoting capacity. If you are renting in New Town, you may volunteer for the Activities, Communications, Emergency Preparedness, Landscape Advisory Committee or the Pool Committee.  We’d love to have your enthusiasm working for our community. 
A New Town Streetlight Primer
Kathy Mullins
Among many attributes that make New Town unique are the handsome streetlights that adorn our residential neighborhoods. Myriad factors were considered when these fixtures were selected: compliance with local and state regulations; design attributes that would enhance the character and mood of the streetscape; illumination appropriate for ambience and safety concerns; satisfactory environmental criteria; capacity to add utility (adding signage or seasonal decoration); and, costs - installation and maintenance ... and more.  
This article will focus on the last factor, the one that generates the most questions: maintenance.  What’s involved and how can homeowners help keep the lights on?
Here are some enlightening facts about our streetlight assets.
There are approximately 225 residential streetlights in New Town.
The NTRA is responsible for maintaining and repairing the streetlights in New Town. In the main, this includes those on streets and alleys, in parks and within many, but not all, parking lots. Since some lines of responsibility are difficult to delineate (as in “many, but not all”), the most efficient way for oversight to function at present, is for all problem reports to be submitted through the STREETLIGHT PROBLEM reporting system on the website. (See below). Town Management will receive and review all reports, and redirect any that should be handled by the Commercial Association or another entity. 
Neither V-DOT nor Dominion Power is involved with maintaining or repairing streetlights in New Town. 
Around 2013 NTRA initiated a program to retrofit the existing decorative streetlamps for the use of energy-efficient LED bulbs. The intent was to lower costs associated with frequent bulb replacement and to conserve energy. The changeovers occurred gradually, usually when bulb replacement or other maintenance was needed. To date about 50% of the residential streetlamps have been retrofit for LED usage (lighting for the new construction in Shirley Park is LED.) The remainder continue to use older-style bulbs, such as Mercury-Halide or CFL. Other types of exterior street lighting can be found in the commercial areas and parking lots.  
There are regular inspections of assets requiring maintenance (dog waste bins, street lights, walking paths, etc. Town Management personnel, maintenance staff, and NTRA committees, such as the Asset Maintenance Committee, assist. Because lighting problems are more easily detected at night, residents can be extremely helpful by reporting any issues seen in a timely fashion. 
What should residents do when they notice a streetlight problem?
All homeowners should become familiar with the NTRA website which provides a simple means of reporting problems.  From the MENU, under the RESIDENTS tab, select “REPORT AN ISSUE.”  From 11 options (e.g., Pool & Playgrounds, Finance, etc.) choose the newest tab, “STREETLIGHT PROBLEM.” 
Fill in requested information to help speed the repair:
  • Your name and email address (in case more specific details are needed) 
  • Pole Number. An I.D. plate is attached near the base of every streetlight pole (see photo) with coded information that conveys information to the electrician. The label in this photo indicates that the street light is attached to the Phase 2 electrical panel, it is located on Casey Blvd and is the first pole in the sequence of that group. Copy this information down to include with a problem report. Tim Grueter of Town Management, says that including this number is a huge help, as is noting the address of the nearest home or intersection.
  • Describe details. For example, only one bulb is unlit, the lamp has become very dim, the light remains on all day, or several lamps are out along the street. If an outage occurred after a shovel cut a wire or a sign was inserted near the pole, include that possibility so the electrician arrives with the necessary tools. 
  • Be specific with details if you are reporting something other than an electrical issue; for example, physical damage to the light pole, broken glass in the globe or a disconnected armature. The situation may require someone other than an electrician.
Town Management works with a roster of local electricians who are familiar with our streetlights and prepared with necessary parts to service them. At least once a month, and more frequently when indicated, an electrician is dispatched to deal with repairs/LED replacement (in a batch). There have been problems that hampered repairs during this pandemic period with shortages of certain supplies, particularly retrofit units, and of personnel at distributor facilities. These issues seem to be resolving.
Note that this article concerns Streetlight Issues, not major power outages that might occur due to a storm or hurricane. In those circumstances, residents would report outages to Dominion Virginia Power. Report the outage using a cell phone: 1-866-DOM-HELP (1-866-366-4357).
We can all help keep the lights on. 
Enhancements Are on Their Way through the Volunteer Efforts of Our Community
Mary Cheston
Notice anything new in Elizabeth Davis park? Well, it’s not really new, but refinishing has brought new life to one of New Town’s 24 wooden benches. Thanks to the efforts of Charlotte Park residents Mike Reilly and Bob Dennis, refurbishing our aging teak benches has begun. 
New Town’s benches were identified as an upcoming capital expense item on the Asset Maintenance Committee’s recent inspection of New Town common area property. Given an estimated replacement cost of between $24,000 to $30,000, President Chuck Stetler asked avid woodworkers Mike and Bob to look at what might be done to salvage the benches. After recruiting other neighbors with trucks to move the benches, Mike and Bob power washed, sanded and applied a special protective coating and shield which returned the bench to its natural teak color. They presented the refinished bench as a prototype for the Board’s consideration. (See photos) As an alternative to purchasing new benches, on September 14th the Board of Directors approved Mike and Bob’s proposal to refurbish all 24 of the NTRA’s wooden benches. A few benches have deteriorated to the point that they will require replacement of slats in the bench backs. Supplies for their entire project will run about $3,000.   
While this work has started, their efforts will largely be a winter garage project, explained Mike, since both the Reillys and the Dennises are new grandfathers. Mike and Bob are donating their labor as a service to the New Town community. (If you’d like to be considered as backup or support for these grandpas, contact Mike at or 843 450-5665).
Kudos to Mike and Bob for stepping up and demonstrating that New Town residents are willing to be part of the solution! Their efforts are saving the Association about $25,000. 
By mid-October the long-awaited expansion of the pool playground will also be starting. The Board of Directors has approved the purchase and installation of a “Whistle Stop” play structure similar to the one pictured. This equipment addition is possible through a payment by the developer, New Town Associates, to the NTRA to satisfy James City County proffers.  Many thanks to Bill Voliva and all the members of the Playground Work Group who can finally see the fruition of their 2017 deliberations.  (See the March 2020 Town Crier for the full background on this playground project).
The Board has also approved the installation of a birdhouse on the greens of Magnolia Park. This architectural treat is currently under construction by another New Town resident. Stay tuned for the full story in our November Town Crier issue!
Taking a Fall Stroll? Discover the Best Local Spots
Max Pfannebecker
Here we are…it’s Fall already and social distancing is still front and center in every interaction and activity. Who would have guessed?
Whether you’re looking to recover from the last six months of Covid-induced cabin fever or stave it off for the months to come, most would agree that a stroll outdoors, a bike ride, or a paddle on one of our many scenic blue ways is a great cure.
By land and by sea (or river or lake), here’s everything you could need to get socially distanced fresh air this fall, courtesy of our area Parks & Rec departments and Visit Williamsburg:
Local Hiking Trails
In addition to New Town’s own conveniently located hiking trails that encircle most of the residential area of our neighborhoods, here are some links to some other beautiful and SOLE-ful spots to stretch your legs.
Visit Williamsburg -
Williamsburg Parks & Rec -
James City County Parks & Rec Trail Guide -
York County Parks & Rec -
Kayaking / Canoeing / Boating
Rental Information:
James City County Kayak Rentals (JCC Marina, Chickahominy Riverfront Park) -
City of Williamsburg Rentals (Waller Mill)  -
Best Spots:
Visit Williamsburg's Popular Spots -
Go Paddling Map - Go Paddling is a smartphone app that shows popular (and some less known) launch sites for Kayakers
Visit Williamsburg -
BOARD BUZZ October 2020
Jean Brown, Vice President - Board of Directors
Conversation: #HARDATWORK
You can find this phrase in my bio which is a supporting statement that this Board of Director (BOD) member has vision. Your BOD has been hard at work since day one. We began with the training for new board members, an exploration of what Town Management (TM) does for New Town Residential Association (NTRA); a review of  assets, insurance coverage, governing documents, and a check-in with committees to name a few undertakings. 
Let me highlight some of the above endeavors:
  • Susan Tarley of Tarley Robinson, PLC as the NTRA attorney provided instructions on the roles and responsibilities of board members.
  • TM provides management services to the NTRA. TM is hired by the NTRA Board specifically to assist the Board to fulfill its responsibilities as defined in the Association documents, including assisting the Board to educate, encourage, and enforce owner compliance with NTRA rules. Helps the Board to manage the assets, funds, and common properties and interests of the NTRA. Supports the efforts of the Board to nurture a lively, healthy, and vital community. NTRA going from a Developer’s board to a Residential board needs a management company that can provide continuity, history, an abundance of experience and professionalism in addition to the services mentioned above. TM brings that to the table for us.
  • Committee support in governance is a treasure to a thriving community. We foster good working relationships and saw the need to formulize Roles and Responsibilities of the Board of Director with Committees.
When it comes to transitioning everything is not wrapped in a tidy package with a pretty bow upon it. Such is the case when the Developer’s Board turned NTRA over to the residents.
It had come to all attention that Savannah Square neighborhood due to a clerical error resulted in the neighborhood being part of the New Town COMMERCIAL Association instead of the New Town RESIDENTIAL Association. This led to a Ballot: Approval of the first amendment to the NTRA Master Declaration and Covenants to be included during the voting of NTRA first residential board. The Association needed about 100 more votes to pass the Declaration Amendment for Savannah Square so that Savannah Square could be fully and promptly restored into the New Town Residential Association. The goal was not met.
Formula: NTRA has approximately 500 properties. A 2/3 vote (334 votes) is needed to pass the Amendment. Voting time, 247 votes had been cast in favor of the Amendment.  
The newly elected board had to put a plan into action to gain the remaining votes which was led by Angela Lesnett since electronic reminders did not gain the required number of votes.
  • Plan: provide each non-voting homeowner with a paper ballot and a stamped envelope to return to NTRA . New Town residents would get a doorknob bag that included the ballot.  Addresses outside of New Town (approximately 158 of the 500 New Town properties) would have the ballots mailed to them.
Savannah Square neighborhood is officially part of NTRA because the action taken by the BOD was successful; however, several homeowners did not sign the Savannah Square neighborhood Supplemental Declaration showing their desire to be part of the Association. To date, there are about a dozen who have not signed, so they are still part of the Commercial Association.
In summation, much work has been done and there is much work to do, but with the support of both our committees and residents, the BOD is very confident and engaged in making our community work!
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