Ship’s Blog

July 27, 2020
Citizen Participation is Important to the Process

By Gail Whittaker, Public Information Officer

The Comprehensive Plan Review Steering Committee – or York2040 as the group has become known – pressed “pause” on their meetings for a couple of months due to COVID-19. Meetings have resumed, albeit electronically.  And while the meetings are open to the public and there is an opportunity for citizens to provide comments, it’s important to remember the purpose of this committee.  This committee will oversee the review process, studying information and data, collecting and reviewing citizen input, and working with staff to develop the County’s updated Comprehensive Plan, “Charting the Course to 2040.”  

As a review committee, the individual members work collectively on the various aspects of the plan, which is the long-range plan for the county’s physical development. Questions that need to be asked:  What is relevant? No longer applicable? Are there amenities or services that need to be added or better addressed? 

As Mr. Tim Cross (Deputy Director of Planning & Development Services) wrote in his article at the end of May, COVID-19 has required that we approach the Comprehensive Plan from additional perspectives.  And that potentially means reviewing aspects of the plan that had already been studied or adding subject matter that this pandemic has revealed to be a need to members of our community.

The York2040 committee is made up of representatives from the Board of Supervisors, Planning Commission, Economic Development, county staffers, a citizen with a development perspective and one with experience in the arts. Still another is a member of the Youth Commission who brings a younger generational view of the plan. As with all group efforts, no single perspective is represented; rather, this is a joint effort and changes or additions made are those recommended by the majority of the group.  

Once the plan review is completed by York2040, it is forwarded to the Planning Commission and ultimately to the Board of Supervisors for adoption. There will be opportunities for public input throughout the process, including the citizen comment period mentioned in the first paragraph. These comments are permitted at the end of each York2040 meeting where citizens are given three minutes to speak.  Individuals who do not wish to participate in the live meetings to provide comments may put their thoughts in an email and send it to planning@yorkcounty.gov.

We look forward to hearing from our citizens throughout this review process.

May 26, 2020
COVID-19 and the Comprehensive Plan – What Comes Next?

By Timothy Cross, Deputy Director of Planning & Development Services 

Greetings from the Planning Office, which, like most County offices, is rather quiet and a little empty right now as we work to stem the spread of COVID-19 through “office thinning.” Some staff members are working from home these days, on a full- or part-time basis, and the office remains closed to the public for the time being.

What does this mean for the Comprehensive Plan review (required by state code every five years) that’s been underway since November 2018? Well, as directed by County Administrator, most County boards, commissions, and committees have postponed their meetings. That includes the Comprehensive Plan Review Steering Committee (aka the York 2040 Committee), which hasn’t met since March 4. The topic of that meeting was sea level rise. Little did we know at the time, as we considered the impact of a potential 1½-foot rise in sea levels over the next thirty years, that we would soon be facing a far more immediate threat in the form of a global pandemic that would turn the world upside down. Coincidentally, at the committee’s kickoff meeting, County Administrator Neil Morgan spoke about “disruptive change” and the fact that despite our best efforts to plan for the future, we need to recognize that the future will be affected by things that we don’t see coming. Suddenly last March, the truth behind those words became all too clear.

You may be wondering what, if any, implications the COVID-19 outbreak might have for the County’s long-range development plan. Here are a couple of examples. One of the items to be addressed in the updated Comp Plan, as required by state law, is broadband infrastructure. One thing this pandemic has brought to light is the importance of good, reliable internet service, not just as an economic development, education, and quality of life tool but, in times like these, as a basic human need. With meetings canceled, businesses and schools shut down and people following stay-at-home orders, we are relying more than ever on telework, telemedicine, online sales, virtual meetings, and Skype. Internet service in York County is generally pretty good: according to our scientific citizen survey, almost two-thirds of County residents are either satisfied or very satisfied with the quality of their internet service. And yet, did you know that U.S. Census data tells us that 8% of County households – almost two thousand households, many of which do not even have a computer – have no internet access at all? The updated Plan will include strategies for bridging this digital divide and keeping up with the ever-growing demand for broadband.

Somewhat related to the issue of broadband is another Comp Plan topic – public facilities, or more specifically, County office space. The County’s unplanned experiment with teleworking during the public health crisis has taught us that for a number of positions, working at home can be a viable alternative to working in an office. As we think about the County’s office space needs over the next twenty years, we need to consider the increased use of telework and its potential as a cost-saving way to help meet the need through technology rather than construction.

In closing, I want to emphasize that even though the York 2040 Committee hasn’t met for a while, progress on the Comp Plan update is being made. The Planning staff continues to work on the background research and writing that go into updating a Comp Plan, so we remain hopeful that the COVID-19 pandemic won’t put us too far behind schedule and that we can stay on track toward our goal of having a draft updated Plan available for public review and comment by the end of the year. We look forward to reconnecting with the committee members and the citizens as soon as it’s safe to do so. In the meantime, we encourage you to email your thoughts and suggestions about the future growth and development of York County to us at planning@yorkcounty.gov.

February 12, 2020
Space - the Final Frontier

by Gail Whittaker, York County Public Information Officer

Well, maybe not that kind of space. This is about space needs in terms of county facilities. At recent meetings of the York2040 group, county staffers have presented information about our buildings and parks with information regarding what we have, what we need, and what is planned. 

  • County Offices – Things are looking up for the County offices with a bit more space to better serve our citizens.  Space was recently rented at the Washington Square Shopping Centers, which now houses the Voter Registrar, Parks & Recreation, and Virginia Cooperative Extension.  So, like a game of chess, we have moved our pieces strategically across the playing board that is York County (deep, huh?).  So, with the relocation of the Voter Registrar’s office from the County Administration Building, that space will be renovated to house Human Resources, which will then move from the Finance Building on Alexander Hamilton Boulevard, freeing up an already overcrowded second floor.  Parks & Recreation and Cooperative Extension’s move from their building (along with Tourism’s move to historic Yorktown) freed up their building for the placement of the Planning Division and Building Safety allowing both to be co-located alongside the offices of Zoning/Code Enforcement, Site Plan/Subdivision, and their administrative offices.  Once Planning moved from the lower level of County Administration, our WYCG TV staff moved in, vacating York High School annex and allowing our Information Technology folks to move there from the Tabb Library.  Seriously, we need a diagram!  It all comes down to better accessibility for our citizens and more streamlined services.
  • Parks and Recreation – The division has worked over the past few decades to grow the school/park concept in which school facilities establish a basic core of available playing areas:  gymnasium, playground areas, youth baseball/softball field, soccer field, and two outdoor basketball courts.  These areas are able to be utilized by the county after school hours for sports activities and programs. York County’s participation in sports programs has grown from 140,000 in fiscal year 2018 to 151,000 in 2019. Way to play, York County!  Our parks are popular spots with locals especially those with water access.  We have six public boat ramps in the lower portion of the County. Also, New Quarter Park in the northern area has a kayak/canoe launch, and there are 27 miles of water trails.  There is a demand for additional boat launches and staff is studying areas where one (or more) can be installed. Another focus – greenways: linear parks, alternative transportation routes, or other open space that provides passive recreational opportunities, pedestrian/bike paths, or natural areas.
  • Tourism – We have all been the beneficiaries of the events and attractions planned by this group of people.  Riverwalk Landing opened in 2005 and with it came a Saturday market, several concerts, visiting tall ships, art shows, and more.  Coming up for our Tourism Development folks (who recently moved into the “on the hill” building on Alexander Hamilton Boulevard) are items in the Capital Improvement Plan – a new Dockmaster Building that includes Public Restrooms, a permanent structure behind the Freight Shed (currently, when the weather is favorable, a tent is installed for us in functions), and a permanent stage/tent for use by bands performing during our concert season.
  • Fire & Life Safety/Sheriff’s Office (Public Safety Building) – Hopefully, everyone has driven past the new fire station on Dare Road.  This beautiful facility replaced the aging structure on Route 17 and allows for the placement of multiple vehicles, provides additional training space, and gives firefighters private bunk space for rest and study. All told, there are six neighborhood fire stations located strategically throughout the County.  And there is the Fire Administration office located in the Public Safety Building on Goodwin Neck Road – a facility that is shared with the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office and York-Poquoson Social Services.  That space has reached capacity and, coming soon, we will see a new Law Enforcement Center that will house the Sheriff’s Office.  The current Public Safety Building will see some renovations to better house Fire Administration and Social Services. In addition, a 5,000 square foot expansion will be built for Social Services’ needs.  Planning for the future, staff is looking to the potential for a fire station in the Mooretown/Bypass roads area…necessitated by population growth.  In addition, current fire stations will need renovating before too much longer as they too are decades-old facilities.
  • School Facilities – The school division keeps track of trends in growth and population to better plan for the educating of our youngest citizens.  Planning for future needs helps keep schools from becoming overcrowded.  We currently have schools that are near instructional capacity and have utilized additional portable units for class need.  Strategies that may be considered by the school division, in addition to the temporary portable classrooms – include adjusting attendance zones as feasible, building additional classrooms, and constructing a new elementary space.  But, what is currently recommended is:  searching for and building/acquiring existing property for a centralized pre-school, add on to Seaford Elementary, and build an addition to Dare Elementary (following the pre-school and Seaford projects).
  • Yorktown Library – The expansion of the Yorktown branch of the library will be to the west of the current facility – into the parking lot.  The new parking lot will be built on the corner lot along Battle Road and Route 17.  When completed, the library will have additional meeting space, a reading nook with fireplace, expanded children’s area, a reading garden, and updated furnishings and technology.

As you can see, there is A LOT going on in terms of facility expansion/improvements.  The list above is by no means in any type of order of importance.  It’s merely a recap of what has occurred recently and information about what is to come.  As the York2040 group continues its review of the existing Comprehensive Plan – and as it Charts the Course to 2040 – public facilities will remain an important consideration as we boldly go and steer our starship to the next 20 years.

December 20, 2019
A Year of Review 

by Gail Whittaker, York County Public Information Officer

In many cases, a year-end article/blog entry would talk about a year in review.  This one is a bit different in that it’s a year of review.  In other words, the Comprehensive Plan Review Steering Committee – York2040 for short since the former is a major mouthful – has been reviewing the various components of the Comprehensive Plan throughout the year.  And judging by the review timeline, there is more to do.  BUT, meeting by meeting, they are getting much closer to the review of a draft plan.  Coming up after the first of the year….Historic Resources, Parks and Recreation, Tourism, Fire and Life Safety, Schools, Libraries, Sea Level Rise, Land Use Policies and the Land Use Map.  All of these are important items in the Comprehensive Plan.  Just reviewed was Housing and Public Facilities.  Both important aspects in the long-range plan in that a) will tomorrow’s homeowners be able to afford the current housing stock and do they want to?  Or are they looking for smaller homes with minimal yards to maintain? And b) do we have the facilities needed for our employees to best serve the citizens?  Do we need to build today in order to provide the best for tomorrow?  We have built and opened a new fire station, the Law Enforcement Building is next on the list as is the expansion of the Yorktown Library. Also, the Registrar’s Office, Parks and Recreation, and Virginia Cooperative Extension recently moved into storefronts at Washington Square Shopping Center.  Those moves open up office space for staff and allowed us to relocate county functions for more streamline service that ultimately benefits the citizen or county customer.

According to the timeline, this time next year we will be holding public feedback meetings on the draft Comprehensive Plan – Charting the Course to 2040. And, following review by the Planning Commission and then the Board of Supervisors, it will be presented to the Board for final approval in the fall of 2021. 

If you’ve been sticking with us this far, our thanks!  You really do make a difference and you play a part in this process.  You may be following these blogs or participated in the survey. You may have attended a public meeting or commented on our Facebook posts.  It’s quite possible we met you at the Pirates Invade Yorktown event in April this year.  In whatever way you have participated, we thank you.  In closing, we wish you all a very happy holiday season and a joyous New Year!  See you in 2020.

October 4, 2019
Can You Read This Now? 

by Gail Whittaker, York County Public Information Officer

Hi there.  Remember us?  While it may seem that the York2040 committee has been quiet, the fact is we have!  Well, in the sense that we haven’t been out in the community gathering input, then yes, that’s true.  BUT, the committee is active and meets every month to gather information in order to make sound recommendations for the updates to the York County Comprehensive Plan – Charting the Course to 2040.

This month, we learned about broadband, internet connectivity.  Interestingly enough, broadband is no longer just a nice thing to have.  In fact, the state has mandated that localities look into the long-term broadband needs for each community. 

The impact of broadband is immense.  Whatever you can imagine doing or expanding with broadband, multiply it.  By 100.  Virtual offices and meetings where employees truly work from home but are “seen” in the office.  School classrooms that allow students to explore the universe in ways we’ve never before imagined.  The elderly or infirm being able to remain in their homes with devices and appliances that will respond to however they are best able to communicate.

Truly, the possibilities are endless.  Check out the meeting materials complete with maps showing the current coverage of York County.

September 10, 2019
Stormwater and BMPs

by Gail Whittaker, York County Public Information Officer

Stormwater management was the topic of the September York2040 (Comprehensive Plan) meeting. Anna Drake and Amy Green, Stormwater Engineers in our Department of Public Works, presented information about BMPs and drainage, which was especially timely with the approach of Hurricane Dorian later that week and the potential for flooding in low-lying areas.  Did you know that the requirements for setbacks and shoreline revitalization all come from either the Department of Environmental Quality or the Environmental Protection Agency?  Our Stormwater Engineers are required to ensure that York County agencies, residents, and developers adhere to these requirements.

Discussion at the meeting included individual HOA responsibility for stormwater ponds and dredging of these bodies of water.  Cleaning these out could cost a neighborhood upwards of $100,000!  So, the committee will be looking into stormwater management and how best to recommend updates to the Comprehensive Plan to include BMPs and resource protection.

This was quite an interesting presentation and the materials are available here on York2040.com.  If you have any questions about Stormwater in York County, please call Public Works at 890-3750.

July 30, 2019
The Business of Business

by Gail Whittaker, York County Public Information Officer

At the most recent Comprehensive Plan Review Steering Committee meeting, the members received a highly informative presentation from Jim Noel, Director of the Office of Economic Development.  In his presentation, Mr. Noel discussed the ongoing challenge of business development and retention – not only in York County but across the nation.  While many residents will decry the presence of empty “box stores” up and down 17, the reality is that ongoing consumerism is leading away from brick-and-mortar and more towards online services and delivery.  We can see this in shopping malls, too.  It seems as though every few weeks we receive notice that another business is closing across the nation or reducing the number of retail stores.  An interesting trend in mall space is the leasing of former store fronts to physicians, thereby filling the space with a rent-paying tenant and also providing a service to the community.  The physician gets already built space with ample parking for patients and the mall gets a paying tenant.

Getting back to Route 17….while many of us (myself included) wonder why we can’t fill existing business space with a new retailer, let’s consider that a) rent may be a concern, b) the lease requirement might be for several years and what start-up has the capital to commit to that length of time, c) perhaps the new business’ demographics or customer base won’t fit the location of the existing business space and therefore benefits from a new location, and so on.  Let’s also consider that if one restaurant wasn’t successful in a specific location, then why would a different restaurant consider the site?  Also, a main reason may be zoning.  Do our zoning ordinances allow for certain types of businesses – things that are prevalent in the community today rather than years ago when these ordinances were put in place.  Those are the questions we need to be asking and addressing.  It’s another reason why we need to hear from the business community AND from business customers.

June 11, 2019
Open House Meetings Conclude; What Happens Next?

by Gail Whittaker, York County Public Information Officer

Did you have a chance to visit one of our Open House Public Meetings?  Four were scheduled – two in the upper County and two more in the lower County – and the input we received was great!  Monday, June 10, was our last Open House Public Meeting where citizens could join staff and committee members to discuss the current Comprehensive Plan and provide input on the future of York County through 2040.  A recurring theme quickly emerged….bike lanes and sidewalks are two items that are of interest to our citizens.  Of course, there are other opinions that have emerged through our outreach efforts.  For example, on Facebook posts about the Comprehensive Plan, comments included calls for more rec space including a dog park.  Also, great ideas were shared regarding crosswalks at major intersections for increased pedestrian safety.  Today’s County resident appears to be interested in walkability, which would, of course, relieve the traffic on our roads.

Our online survey has been taken by several hundred County residents.  So, a big THANK YOU for taking the time to answer the questions.  The online survey, along with the telephone survey, is used to gauge the wants/needs of the community and helps us build our draft Comprehensive Plan: Charting the Course to 2040. 

Open House at Tabb Library

So, what happens next?  Once the data is collected, the York2040 committee works to put together a draft.  The draft is reviewed by the Planning Commission and ultimately the Board of Supervisors for discussion and adoption.  But, there will be an opportunity for the public to comment on the draft plan because we want to get this right!  Remember, the Comprehensive Plan guides the development of the County over the next 20 years and that is not nothing. 

April 30, 2019
Did we see you at Market Days?

by Gail Whittaker, York County Public Information Officer

On Saturday, April 27, the York2040 committee set up a table at the Yorktown Market Days.  As this market coincided with the Pirates Invade Yorktown event, we had a feeling we would meet many neighbors.  Boy, did we ever!  While we didn’t keep a count, we know at least 300 people stopped by our tables to look at land use maps (they’re more interesting than they sound!) and chat about our upcoming online survey.  We passed out the website address and a couple of freebies.  But, the best part of all was meeting YOU. 

 If you did not attend the event, please know that we will be having four public open meetings end of May/beginning of June to gather your input.  We won’t be making any presentations.  Rather, these are informal sessions where you can stroll from table to table and look at maps, gather information, and jot down your suggestions.  Keep an eye on this website and York County’s Facebook page for those dates. 

We have completed our telephone survey.  SIR, the company hired to perform the scientific phone survey reaching randomly selected numbers, is compiling the information and will share the data with us before too much longer.  In the meantime, SIR’s online survey will be available with a link right here!  So be sure to stop back in a week or two and take the survey.  If surveys are not your bag, then consider calling the phone line – 890-DATA (3282) - and leaving a recorded message, or send us an email to planning@yorkcounty.gov.

April 8, 2019
Road Usage, Capacity, and…Sea Level Rise?

by Gail Whittaker, York County Public Information Officer

Not long ago, a portion of Route 17 was widened from four lanes to six.  While the work impacted travel, the increased capacity was desperately needed.  In fact, plans are for the widening to continue further up Route 17 towards the historic area.  At the April 8 meeting of the Comprehensive Plan Review Steering Committee – or York2040 – a Historic Triangle Transportation Study provided interesting and sometimes brow-raising information.  For example, currently, daily vehicle travels on Route 17 total approximately 44,000.  That’s per day!  In 2040, that number is estimated to be 80,000.  Other facts…freight tonnage in 2012 (the latest figures) on Route 17 was between 500,000 to 1 million tons per year; jump to 2040 and that number is estimated to increase to 1 to 3 million.  The number of York County traffic crashes reached a 13 year high in 2017 with 1,101 crashes.  And that’s not to mention the figures on potential submergence of roadways by 2045 due to projected sea level rise! 

The Williamsburg Area Transit Authority serves the Williamsburg area with some coverage into York County.  Ridership is increasing.  But is our area conducive to busses for daily commutes?

As York2040 continues to gather information before updating the county’s Comprehensive Plan, Charting the Course to 2040, the committee members are faced with this data and how to best address situations such as these in the comprehensive plan. 

What would you do?  What do you suggest?  Additional public transit including transfer hubs?  Incentives for businesses with carpooling initiatives?

Our phone line is up for your use.  Simply dial 890-DATA (3282) and leave a message with your comments and suggestions.  Please leave your name and address so that we can ensure you are a York County resident.  While we love to hear from our visitors and neighbors, this is York’s plan and we especially need to hear from our neighbors.

If you don’t want to leave a recorded message, please send us an email to planning@yorkcounty.gov

York2040 is making plans for public outreach and that means in person, face-to-face, chatting about the future of your county.  First up, Yorktown Market Days on April 27.  That happens to be the Pirates Invade Yorktown weekend and we will set up with tablets and a quick survey.  Give us your opinion and get some swag.  There’s a special treat for the kids in attendance!  So, please stop by, meeting the committee members and staff, and let us know what you think.  Thanks in advance and see you on April 27.

February 18, 2019
Walking and Biking - two very popular ways of getting around and also great for you!

by Gail Whittaker, York County Public Information Officer

Walking and biking – two very popular ways of getting around and also great for you!  Bike paths and sidewalks were the topic of conversation at the March 6 meeting of the Comprehensive Plan Review Steering Committee (or York2040 for short).  With presentations from York County staff as well as the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization, the committee – as well as a few members of the community and newspaper reps – learned about what is already in place, what is funded, and what is proposed.

As our society moves toward environmentally-friendly activity, the call for bike paths and sidewalks increases.  And that’s not unique to York County.  Be sure to take a look at the presentation materials that were discussed at the meeting.

The County has hired SIR (Southeastern Institute of Research) to conduct a random telephone survey to gather public input.  This, along with an online survey, will help the York2040 committee to determine the direction in which the Comprehensive Plan could proceed.  If you receive a call, please take the five to ten minutes required to complete the survey.  You’ll be helping your community!  Also, once the survey is available online, be sure to visit this website to complete it.  Your opinion matters.

If you do not wish to complete the survey – or are not selected to receive a call – but have some ideas, please send an email to planning@yorkcounty.gov.  We are establishing a phone line where you can leave your input – 890-DATA (3282). 

If you haven’t already, please sign up to receive notices of website updates.  You’ll be the first to know when new meeting items are posted, a video is loaded onto the page, and even comments from your neighbors. 

February 1, 2019
Weigh Anchor and Set Sail for 2040
(The Comprehensive Plan Review process is underway)

by Gail Whittaker, York County Public Information Officer

Welcome to the Ship’s Blog – the official online journal of the Comprehensive Plan Review Steering Committee. As the members of the committee work to gather citizen input and review the draft plan – Charting the Course to 2040 – we will update this blog to keep you informed of where we are in the review process, what we’ve heard from the public about the vision for York County in the next 20 years, and the perspective of committee members regarding the importance of citizen participation.

Here’s a quick review of where we are….

The Comprehensive Plan Review Steering Committee was appointed by the Board of Supervisors in 2018 and is made up of your neighbors!  In addition, for the first time, we have on the committee a member of the York County Youth Commission.  Jacob Rizzio is a sophomore at York High School and brings a young person’s perspective about the County and what people in his age group would like to have available.  This means that people Jacob’s age now will be in their late 30’s in the year 2040, and many that age will have a career and/or will be raising a family.  They will have searched for (or will be searching for) the right community in which to live.  What will lure them to York County?  Or, what will cause people to stay in York County?  Those are the questions we need help answering.

But, back to our review…

The committee met in November and December.  At both meetings, members received a presentation from staff about the plan review process and demographics in and around York County and the region.   Members shared a wide variety of perspectives and it was interesting to listen to what their experience brings to the table. 

One item that was clear….the committee definitely wants to hear from the public (aka YOU!) and ensure that a sound and functional draft plan is developed.  The committee will be discussing several outreach methods to use in gaining citizen opinion of York County in 2040.  So, be on the lookout for these outreach methods.  You may even receive a telephone survey.  If you do, don’t hang up!  Your opinion is extremely valuable and helps us determine the long-range plan for the development of the County.  Are you on Facebook?  We will be there, too.  Watch for videos updating you on the committee’s progress.  We may even post a poll or two. 

The Steering Committee’s next meeting is in February, so keep checking back for updated information.  In the meantime, thanks for visiting.