Town Crier Articles

All December Articles (Text Only - No Photos)
Posted on December 1, 2020 6:59 AM by Town Crier Staff
How Are You Celebrating New Year?
Alison Douglas

Twelve months ago, I was celebrating Christmas and New Year in the U.K. and as Brits this is our biggest celebration (unless you are Scottish and then it is all about ‘Hogmanay’).  On Christmas Eve, the kids will leave out a traditional British mince pie, a glass of sherry for Santa and a carrot for the reindeer.  This year, my boys are also leaving him a bottle of hand sanitizer to stop Santa turning into a one-man super spreader.  Christmas Day includes serving turkey with ‘pigs in blankets’ (sausages wrapped in bacon), pulling crackers (the tiny explosive devices that contain a paper hat, a joke, and an awful plastic toy) and watching the Queens speech at 3pm.  Traditionally celebrated with family and close friends, Christmas day rolls into Boxing Day, which is a national holiday in the U.K. and we continue our celebrations by visiting those we did not see on Christmas Day.   No sooner is that complete, and our thoughts turn to New Year, including what we should eat (it’s all about the food) and who we should celebrate with.  This year looks different for us with our family many miles away, so we thought we would take a look at how others are celebrating around the world.
One of the biggest Spanish (and Mexican) New Year’s traditions is to eat one grape on every chime of the last 12 seconds of the year so that by the time it strikes midnight, you will have stuffed a total of 12 grapes into your mouth. If you manage to chew and swallow them in time, it is said to bring you good luck for the entire year. 
In Scotland, New Year’s Eve is known as ‘Hogmany’, is celebrated traditionally through ‘first-footing’, which starts immediately after midnight. This involves being the first person to cross the threshold of a friend or neighbour and often involves the giving of symbolic gifts such as salt, coal, shortbread, whisky, and black bun (a rich fruit cake), intended to bring different kinds of luck to the householder. Food and drink (as the gifts) are then given to the guests.
New Year’s Eve is known as ‘Silvester’ in Germany and also marks the feast of St Sylvester.  Friends will wish each other ‘Prost Neujahr!’ or Guten Rausch, which literally means ‘good slide,’ and is said to wish someone good luck as the new year comes round. 
A little-known tradition in some parts of Germany is to melt small pieces of lead in a spoon over a candle, then pour the liquid into cold water. The bizarre shapes from the Bleigießen (lead pouring) are supposed to reveal what the year ahead will bring. If the lead forms a ball, luck will roll one’s way, while the shape of a crown means wealth; a cross signifies death and a star will bring happiness.
In some parts of the south of Ireland there is a custom called the "New Year's Swim".  In the morning of the New Year many people dive into the cold sea, but only for a few minutes.
In some areas of Mexico, it is traditional to leave lentils at your door on New Year’s eve or eat lentil soup before midnight, wear red (or yellow) underwear. 
If lentils are not appealing, then it is also traditional to wear brightly colored underwear.  Different colors symbolize different things, for example, red signifies love; white underwear brings peace and calm and attracts dignity; wear green for good health; and orange for wisdom.
You can also burn your negative thoughts – make a list and burn it (safely), and legend states that bad vibes won’t come back to haunt you.
A Danish New Year’s Eve tradition is to throw plates and dishes against friend’s and neighbor’s front doors. The bigger the pile of broken china is the next morning, the more friends and good luck you’ll have in the coming year. Another custom in Denmark is the jumping off chairs at midnight, symbolizing the leap into the New Year.
In Ecuador, people build scarecrow-like to set them alight. Burning the año viejo (old year) is meant to destroy all the bad things from the last year and cleanse for the new.
In Naples, people toss everything from toasters to fridges off their balconies. Getting rid of old possessions symbolizes a fresh start in the new year. It is worth knowing before you try this that most locals stick to small and soft objects to avoid injuries!
At midnight, Buddhist temples all over Japan ring their bells 108 times to dispell the 108 evil passions all human beings have, according to Buddhism. Japanese believe that joyanokane, the ringing of the bells, will cleanse them from their sins of the previous year. Traditionally, 107 bells are rung on the last day of the year and the 108th in the new year. In addition, many people eat buckwheat noodles called toshikoshi soba on New Year’s Eve to symbolize the wish for a long life.
Who Maintains Your Streets & Sidewalks - Reporting Issues
Max Pfannebecker
While there’s no hard and fast rule to figuring out what person or entity is responsible for maintaining those slabs of concrete, asphalt, or bricks upon which we walk and drive, there are some quick rules of thumb.
Most of the streets that run through New Town are maintained by VDOT, but several of the Alleyways and smaller side streets in our neighborhoods are not. A good method of determining whether or not a street is maintained by VDOT in New Town is by noting availability of street parking and presence of two travel lanes. Casey Blvd and New Town Avenue are both VDOT maintained streets with street parking and two lanes of travel. Alleyways in New Town, like Eleanors Way, Melanies Way, and Victorias Way are all alleyways with a narrowed path of travel and a lack of street parking. These would be maintained by a private entity like Town Management.
As a general rule, the entity that owns the land on which the sidewalk sits bears responsibility for maintaining that sidewalk. These sidewalks would include a sidewalk leading from your residence or business to the street (running perpendicular to the street).
Sidewalks that run parallel to the street are typically the responsibility of the entity that maintains the street. For example, sidewalks that run parallel along Casey Boulevard would be the responsibility of VDOT because they maintain Casey Blvd and its respective right-of-way. The right-of-way in this case extends from the outer edge of the sidewalk across the street to the outer edge of the opposite sidewalk. Within that right-of-way, maintenance obligations fall to VDOT.
Sidewalks that run along alleyways (like the previously mentioned Melanies Way or Victorias Way) would not fall under VDOT because the alleyways themselves are not maintained by VDOT.
Additionally, VDOT usually will only maintain concrete and asphalt surfaces, meaning brick crosswalks are maintained by another association. One exception is the bumpy transition into crosswalks installed for ADA guidelines. VDOT will usually maintain those as a matter of public safety.
Who to Call, Where to Start
Town Management’s Randy Casey-Rutland notes that there are exceptions to every rule in knowing which entity is responsible, but the fastest way to make an issue known is to report to VDOT (to even when you’re not sure which entity is responsible. Even if the repair
Know Your Business: Award-winning Pet Sitting Service Moves to New Town:  Wagging Tails
Patti Vaticano
Seven years ago, Michelle Daikos, was an interior designer, until her then pet care provider, who was in need of some extra sitters, asked Michelle if she’d like to help out by walking a few dogs for her on the weekends.  Michelle did so--and loved the experience so much, she decided to start her own pet sitting company.  Wagging Tails has operated in the Greater Williamsburg Area since then, but Michelle, a brand-new resident in New Town, now manages Wagging Tails out of her new home in Chelsea Green.  Michelle “loves living in New Town,” where she can walk everywhere to services and entertainments and where “everyone is so friendly.”
And New Town is fortunate to have Wagging Tails in its midst.  Five-time winner of The Virginia Gazette’s Best Pet Sitting Business in Williamsburg and recently, the 2020 Neighborhood Favorite as the Best Pet Service in Williamsburg by Nextdoor, Wagging Tails is not the common variety pet sitting business that utilizes neighborhood amateurs.  “We are an elite service and have as many as 14 pet sitting professionals, throughout the year,” Michelle proudly declares.  “We strive, in every way, to excel in every category as the finest dog walking and pet sitting business in the Greater Williamsburg Area.  Many of New Town’s professionals who use our services tell us how much they value the care options we offer and the walking paths we make available.  We utilize New Town’s diversity of wooded trails and business routes to walk their dogs to not only address daily exercise needs but to enable their pets to socialize with their favorite four-legged neighbors.”  
Wagging Tails offers a variety of pet services to its clientele.  Besides pet walking, it offers a Pet Taxi service, transporting client pets to and from doggie day care or the vet and an overnight service which provides an overnight pet sitter in the client’s own home.  In addition, there is a “Bed and Biscuit” option that offers pet care in the sitter’s own home.
“We are expanding our services, currently,” says Michelle, “to include a new program called Nails and Trails which offers walking, nail trimming, and ear cleaning, as well.   We hope to offer a full line of pet grooming services in the very near future.”
In response to a question about the challenges of COVID for the business, Michelle replied, “Wagging Tails closely monitors the CDC and WHO recommendations in regards to containing the spread of COVID-19.  Our team members are committed to taking every health precaution possible and strictly abide by all the safety and health guidelines available.  In addition, we offer a no-contact service.  The safety of our clients and their pets and our own team members are, at all times, of utmost concern.  All our sitters wear facial masks and bring their own leashes.
Wagging Tails website can be found at or just pick up the phone and call Michelle at 757-230-7960.  You can email Michelle, as well, at
When you are out and about in New Town, keep an eye out for the Wagging Tails’ Pet Mobile!
LIVING IN HARMONY IN NEW TOWN – The Rules About Renting Your New Town Property
Mary Cheston
Welcome to a new periodic Crier feature – Know Your Rules.  Are you aware of the requirements for NTRA homeowners who wish to rent their New Town homes?
Under the NTRA Master Declaration, only leases of an entire home for at least 12 months are permitted (Article VI, Section 7.1dd), and the lease must expressly state that the tenant will abide by the NTRA’s governing documents. (Thinking of adding an in-law unit or “granny flat?” An accessory apartment that is proposed to be added to a property must be approved by the Board of Directors after review by both the Architectural Review Committee and New Town’s Design Review Board.) 
Short-term rentals are not permitted, including any vacation, room rentals or Airbnb-type usage.
In addition, homeowners must notify Town Management of 1) their new address and contact information and 2) the contacts for their tenant and property management company (NTRA Rules, Section II, Para. 21). Any property management company acting on behalf of a homeowner must provide the NTRA with current information for your tenants. Frequently, when tenants turn over, Town Management is not aware of new occupants. If possible, providing the first page of the lease will help Town Management to understand the rental period.
Why does the NTRA have such rental requirements? New Town was designed around fostering community through homeownership and owner occupancy. Besides liability insurance benefits, rental restrictions are viewed as a way to serve the best interests of the community by helping to maintain community standards and keep property values high.
So if you have tenants or neighbors who are tenants, reach out to let them know about the NTRA website. Encourage them to learn more about our Association and its requirements. Suggest that they volunteer on an NTRA Committee. Let’s all get to know our neighbors and take a vested interest in the long-term success of our community.
Kathy Mullins
In case you were unable, or chose not to attend the NTRA Budget Presentations held on two consecutive evenings via ZOOM, the take-away was this:   NTRA financial matters are in good hands.
The purpose of the two ZOOM meetings was to inform NTRA members about the challenges, deliberations and decisions that were involved as the Finance Committee (FC) drafted the Proposed NTRA 2021 Budget. The Board of Directors (BOD) weighed in, made suggestions and ultimately agreed to present the Proposed 2021 Budgets that were the subjects of these meetings. One very important reason to pay attention -- the final 2021 NTRA Budget becomes the basis for 2021 homeowner assessments.
Session I, convened on November 18 at 6:00 PM focused on Village Walk (VW), with 14 residents and 8 panelists from the Finance Committee (FC), Board of Directors (BOD) and Town Management in attendance.  Session II opened at 6:05 PM on November 19, with 21 NTRA members and 10 panelists from the above groups present. This meeting dealt with the overall NTRA 2021 Budget.  
Information presented at both sessions was detailed, clearly laid out and delivered in a logical sequence that drew those attending into the budgeting process. The FC posted the proposed budget for each session, with commentary, in advance on the NTRA website.  This seemed to boost member interest in and understanding of issues. Both sessions allowed ample time for questions.  
The two meetings followed the same format.  First, Jim Carey, FC Secretary, reviewed how Zoom tools could be utilized during the meeting and laid out the overall timetable for budget review.  Then Everett Lunsford, FC Chair, walked attendees through the proposed budget, page by page, adding further detail as needed. Questions were held until he finished.
Exterior Maintenance issues at VW have significantly impacted expenses.  During Session I, there was clarification that VW homeowners receive additional services that are not part of the standard NTRA home maintenance plan, including for example, exterior painting, irrigation, maintenance, repair and replacement of roofing and more.  These additional costs are reflected in the assessments of VW homeowners. 
One of the challenges in 2020 was the discovery that amounts budgeted for VW maintenance were in some cases, inadequate. In some instances, needs were overlooked; in others, costs were underestimated.
Lunsford noted that $1.5K was budgeted for 2020 irrigation system repairs. Actual costs, however, are now approaching $12K. Lack of mapping of the 130-zone irrigation system has made it extremely difficult to obtain accurate estimates for repairs and maintenance. An outside contractor will begin mapping the system in 2021. 
Exterior painting of VW homes is a Replacement Reserve expense, but painting was not included in the 2019 Replacement Reserve Study. A quote has been received for roughly $240K to repaint the exteriors of all VW residences over a five (5) year period beginning in 2023.
At times, while reviewing the proposed budget, Lunsford stated that the FC had changed spending projections or altered long-range budget recommendations. He would then continue with a description of the rationale that led the FC to reach those decisions.  This likely reduced the number of questions raised during the Q & A, all of which were answered thoroughly. 
Session II reviewed the overall budget for the whole of NTRA, presented in a 30-page report. The FC and BOD have been immersed in budget issues and decisions since early October. The 2021 Proposed NTRA Budget was presented with year-to-year comparative figures clearly indicating shifts in spending.  
The FC has identified several areas that need to be carefully managed to ensure smooth sailing in the years ahead.  Some that were mentioned include:  funding the maintenance requirements of VW homes; monitoring Capital Contribution and Administrative Fees generated from home sales; managing the Replacement Reserve of VW and NTRA; and increased awareness of long-term maintenance and community needs. 
Everett Lunsford noted that the budget includes a financial audit of the managing agent, Town Management, which is industry practice when an HOA is turned over to owners. This will be a one-time expense of $7 – 9K.
With limited sources of funding, unexpected expenditures are difficult to handle. In 2020, Covid-19 necessitated approximately $10K in expenditures for extra pool personnel, new signage, additional cleaning supplies and services. This expense is likely to continue in the coming year. Money previously earmarked for major landscape projects and 2020 seasonal Activities were redirected to cover these costs and safe, socially distanced activities, Zoom account, etc.
In addition to considering the maintenance timetables recommended for HOA communities, the FC is keeping an eye on actual New Town maintenance requirements. Lunsford again used the VW situation as an example. The NTRA is required to repaint VW exteriors on a periodic basis as part of their exterior maintenance fee.  Based on contractor estimates and recommendations, the NTRA expects to begin a five-year repainting program in 2023. Since these homes are mostly clad with factory-painted cement board siding, the recommendation is to repaint every 7 years. However, some homeowners are reporting issues, such as exterior mold problems, that might alter maintenance or repainting schedules. 
The Landscape Advisory Committee (LAC) researched and planned projects to replace dead trees and upgrade the appearance of New Town’s common areas. Funding for these Special Projects was originally approved for 2020 but the money was diverted to cover unexpected expenses. NTRA members that have been asking about the status of those projects were pleased to hear Lunsford say that the LAC plans have been prioritized and are detailed in the 2021 PROPOSED NTRA BUDGET REPORT
The two meetings were an opportunity for NTRA members to dig into the details of NTRA 2020 spending, and ask questions about the details of the 2021 budget on which 2021 homeowner assessments are based. 
At the close of the meeting several people recognized the enormous amount of time these committee members have spent on this task and praised the excellent result of their efforts. Comments are welcome through December 3rd. The final BOD-approved budget will be presented at the Annual Members Meeting December 10 on Zoom.
BMP and BRBs in New Town: A Retention Pond Primer
Patti Vaticano

Stormwater Management Facilities or Best Management Practices (BMPs)— “Stormwater BMPs”—are an integral part of any new construction or land development project, today, whether commercial or residential.  They are recognized by James City County as key components in improving water quality of all waterways in the Tidewater Area by removing pollutants from rainwater. As defined on the County’s website, rainwater falling on the ground and running across the earth’s surface as stormwater “collects leaves, grass clippings, pet waste, litter, lawn fertilizers, pesticides and more” into area streams, ponds, and rivers, and BMPs are key in minimizing the negative effects of these pollutants on our water ways. There are nearly 800 BMPs in the County, 27 of which are located in New Town, and all are inspected by the County every 5 years using industry standard reporting.  Owners of the properties upon which BMPs are located are legally responsible for providing basic annual maintenance to the structures and to make any repairs that may be needed. Typical BMP owners are homeowner associations (HOA), private communities, commercial retail properties, and business property owners.
Of the 27 BMPs in New Town, only three are true BMPs, retention ponds that contain water at all times, and are clearly visible to passersby.  The remaining structures are “bio-filters” or Bio Retention Basins (BRBs) that help with the maintenance of the BMPs. BRBs are water filters which syphon off stormwater impurities before reaching the BMPs. They do this through a layered system of gravel and mulch in an effort to maintain the integrity of the BMPs and to avoid expensive dredging costs more often than should be necessary for maintaining the BMPs according to County standards. James City County’s criteria for maintaining BMPs contains specific strategies.  Bi-annual mowing, generally in the spring and the fall, no more than 6-8 inches from the ground, repair of holes and bare areas in all concrete structures, and maintenance of flow pipes to make sure they are not broken or overgrown with vegetation.  
New Town employs two contractors to meet the County BMP criteria for structural maintenance.  Mowings are covered in our current landscaping contract and the structural and water treatment needs are contracted to Aquatic Resources Management (ARM) for which $3,200 is currently budgeted. ARM repairs broken concrete, treats for mosquitoes by adding an algaecide colorant dye to the water to inhibit larvae from hatching, and applies a herbicide preventative to the water to inhibit cattail growth.
Of the three BMPs, the large wet pond at the end of Olive Drive in Charlotte Park will be turned over to NTRA ownership in the very near future. The two remaining BMPs (located behind the Goddard School and adjacent to the SunTrust parking lot) are owned by the New Town Commercial Association.  New Town’s BRBs are more numerous.  Four are owned outright by the NTRA and are located at the corner of Casey and Town Creek Drive, the corner of Town Creek Drive and Lydias Drive, and in Magnolia Park (Rollison Drive and Luanne Way). Four BRBs are currently owned by Atlantic Homes but will similarly transfer to the NTRA in the very near future.  All are located in Charlotte Park: at the termination of Rollison Drive, behind the homes on Olive Drive, (most notably behind 4408 Olive) and at the termination of Christine Court. Two BRBs in Shirley Park are also owned by Atlantic Homes but will be turned over to the NTRA later.  As with the BMPs, the BRBs are also governed by JCC maintenance guidelines.  In 2018 for example, several BRBs, including the one at Christine Court, were cited for contaminating silt and in need of repair or replacement of special soil, mulch, and vegetation.
Village Walk has two BMPs, and their management and maintenance have not had smooth sailing.  Among other problems, they have had serious conservation issues such as damaged fencing and invasive vegetation that have threatened the integrity of their retainment walls, one 15 feet high and upon which the homes on Greenview are located, and another 30 feet high next to the homes on Trailview & Trailside. (See photos) Addressing the maintenance needs of these BMPs has been problematic, because their conservation has been compromised by the insolvency of AIG Baker the original developer of Settlers Market who once owned them.  Without clear ownership, meeting the County criteria for structural repairs and maintenance has not been possible. There has, however, been a recent breakthrough in the conundrum.   
An October walk-about with County representatives and interested Village Walk homeowners reviewed all the issues needing correction to meet County BMP maintenance criteria, such as the removal of vegetation growth, silt fencing repair, the cleaning out of basin trash and debris, and structural repairs and modifications of pipes and channels. With assistance from County staff, the Board of Directors was able to contact the current responsible party--Rosenthal, a property management company based in Northern Virginia. Rosenthal will be addressing the County concerns and has hired Triad Construction Company to begin maintenance of both BMPs soon.  All County conservation issues will be addressed on these BMPs, including the removal of invasive vegetation that can be very destructive to the retaining structures and repair of damaged fencing. Phase I, to include the clearing of the access roads to both ponds, the removal of old silt fencing, and the eradication of all brush between fence and retaining walls, begins this week. Crews working 10-hour days should be able to complete Phase I in 3 to 4 weeks. Larger repairs will be addressed in the new year.
Chuck Stetler, President
Happy Holidays! 
This has been a very unsettling year for our country and our little community. But we are all hoping for a healthy, prosperous New Year.
Unfortunately, we had to cancel our holiday party in December. Plus, the Covid virus impacted opening of the pool .. Despite the restrictions caused by the coronavirus, the Activities Committee carried out a successful and well attended Halloween party and parade at Sullivan Square.   
The Board of Directors is searching for a person to fill the non-voting position of Secretary.  This is such an important job, which was performed by Dave Holtgrieve who will be resigning in December.    
Recently we had informative Town Hall meetings to explain the proposed 2021 NTRA budget and the proposed exterior maintenance program for Village Walk. This assessment was increased because both painting and power washing the homes in Village Walk were not included in the 2019 Reserve study.
The transition to homeowner control of the NTRA has been challenging and demanding of the newly elected members of the Board of Directors. Thanks to these volunteers who have contributed their time to work and resolve many issues.
Thank you to all volunteers who participated on our committees this past year. Your help was appreciated in carrying out the necessary activities that benefit our HOA.
This coming year we will need new volunteers to participate on both the Landscape and Communication committees. Consider joining one of these important groups.
The 2020 Annual Members Meeting has been scheduled for December 10th. Please watch for the Zoom link to the virtual meeting.
Welcome to the New Year....2021!!!!
Kimberly Kearney
Mariellynn Maurer is the Director of Conference & Event Services and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at William & Mary.  She is an alumna of William & Mary and her field of studies were English and Secondary Education.  She is an active member of several professional associations within the tourism, hospitality, events, and continuing education sectors.  Mariellynn is an active member in the Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance and an alumna of the LEAD Historic Triangle Program.  She is the President of the Professional and Professional Staff Assembly of W&M and sits on the university’s Strategic Planning Committee.  Mariellynn’s experience is not limited to the world of higher education, she also spent more than 11 years working in hotel sales and marketing.  She is a strong believer that you never stop learning and is honored to be able to speak with you about opportunities available for lifelong learning and volunteering with the Osher Lifelong Institute at William & Mary.  
Mariellynn and Carrie will share information about Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at William & Mary.  They will share program highlights, areas of study, volunteer opportunities, membership information, upcoming key dates for your calendars, and the current mode of delivery given the pandemic circumstances we are currently working, living, and learning under.   Time will be reserved during the presentation for questions and answers as well.
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