Submitted by Sarah Carey and Jim Ducibella
July 13 looms as potentially one of the most important dates in the history of New Town.
That night, representatives of Atlantic Builders of Virginia (ABVA) and New Town residents will appear before the James City County Board of Supervisors – ABVA with a plan to extend New Town onto property it currently has a contract to purchase at Eastern State Hospital. Given the reaction of many residents during July 6 and 7 Legacy Hall meetings, opposition to that plan is heating up.
Even if the Board of Supervisors approves the land use change, there will still be much to be considered, including numerous studies on issues such as increased traffic.
Public meetings on July 6 and 7 provided information many residents were unaware of.
Present at the July 6 Q&A session at Legacy Hall were John Hopke of Hopke and Associates Architecture firm, Vernon Geddy, attorney for Atlantia Builders of Virginia (ABVA), Jason Grimes of AES Consulting Engineers, Mike Youngblood of Twiddy Realty, also a partner and marketing consultant for ABVA.
Dick Durst, president of the New Town Residential Association (NTRA) Board of Directors, presided.
Perhaps the most important development from the meeting was ABVA’s pledge not to extend the intersection of Rollison Drive and Olive Drive, as initially appeared on its site plan. Instead, representatives said they will amend their plan to route traffic down Discovery Park Boulevard and around to the Eastern State site – if their more detailed zoning plan is approved by a James City County review and then by the County Board of Supervisors.
“Connecting with Charlotte Park is off the table,” Grimes said. [Crier Staff Note:
On Friday, July 9th, ABVA wrote a letter to Mr. Icenhour and Mr. Durst with its commitments/plan changes. You may read it here
Revised conceptual plan from ABVA
Jim Icenhour, Jamestown District’s JCC Supervisor, who also attended the meeting and hosted another the next night, said a final decision might not come for at least several weeks after the July 13 hearing. Icenhour noted that another applicant’s development of two other surplus parcels of Eastern State Hospital land (north side) could add up to 1100 new residences.
Icenhour made several suggestions as to how residents can proceed and speak at the upcoming meeting. It is important, he said, that the presence of all residents at this meeting be recognized, i.e. stand as a group when one of our three speakers addresses the Board. (Dick Durst, Board President and two residents are scheduled to speak for our community.)
Icenhour challenged the audience to strongly consider what the community wants, and to make sure that it is in our best interest. Do we want to limit growth so that the area doesn’t resemble the sprawl that characterizes Northern Virginia? Do we want to share amenities? Do we want the potential development to include “New Town” in its name?
Questions were raised about increases in traffic. Can construction traffic be limited to Discovery Park Boulevard, and not continue down Casey Boulevard? Can there be designated times during which construction vehicles can enter our area? Icenhour answered that it could be done but would be difficult to enforce. Among other studies, VDOT would conduct one on traffic. Does there need to be emergency access, and could that ultimately impact the Rollison-Olive intersection?
At one point during the July 7 meeting, a resident asked attendees to raise their hands if they did not want this proposed development to be part of our HOA. Approximately two-thirds of those in attendance indicated they were opposed to such an arrangement.
Icenhour stated that this potential development has been unusual because it was raised during COVID when communication was limited; also, that while the state owns the property, the application came from the developer.
Icenhour noted that if ABVA pulls out of the contract, there are other developers who have already expressed an interest in the Eastern State property, which is owned by the Commonwealth of Virginia – and which the Commonwealth is highly motivated to sell. Those developers would have to go through the same process as ABVA is at present and might also include the Rollison/Olive connecting road in its proposal.
Other newsworthy items included the possible connection of the Eastern State development with NTRA. That is not a given; New Town residents, either the NTRA or the New Town Commercial Association, could reject having the new addition, and the new development would then have to form its own homeowners association.