JCC Supes Vote to Disband Regional Issues Committee

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jcc_new_logoThe James City County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 Tuesday to disband a regional group formed almost 20 years ago to spur conversations between the Historic Triangle localities.

Williamsburg’s City Council has previously voted to disband the committee. The York County Board of Supervisors must still vote to disband the group, which was originally formed in 1987 to advise the three localities on issues affecting the entire region.

York County’s board is set to vote on the issue Tuesday.

During its life, the Regional Issues Committee has worked on several studies, including looks at the areas bikeways and natural resources. It also brought the localities together during the past decade as they considered simultaneous reviews of their own comprehensive plans, which are documents outlining how the localities should grow.

But now that work is done and the committee became little more than a place to share information. There are plenty of other regional groups now in place to consider cross-jurisdictional issues, prompting committee members to vote 7-2 in April to recommend the group be disbanded.

Those groups include the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization and the Historic Triangle Collaborative. The HTC is the only one exclusively focused on the Triangle. The other two primarily consider issues affecting all of Hampton Roads.

The HTC’s membership is largely identical to the committee in that they both include staff members from the three localities, elected officials from the three localities and representatives from the College of William & Mary, Colonial Williamsburg, the Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance and Busch Gardens and Water Country USA.

While the Regional Issues Committee opened its meetings to the public, the HTC meets behind closed doors. That prompted Supervisor Mary Jones (Berkeley) to vote against disbanding the committee.

“It is imperative that the HTC operate under public meeting laws, so I will not be supporting discontinuance of [the Regional Issues Committee],” she said.

Supervisor Jim Kennedy (Stonehouse) has served on the HTC and agreed with Jones’ desire to see it open to the public.

“It’s my feeling and it’s been my feeling that it’s funded with tax dollars we should have a more open and transparent committee where the public can attend if they would like to,” he said. “I hope we can get the support of the board that we can request that of the HTC at the next meeting.”

The HTC was formed in 2008 after people who planned the 2007 celebration of Jamestown’s 400th anniversary decided they wanted to keep the channels of communication open between them, according to Sandy Wanner, a former James City County administrator who chairs the HTC.

Wanner said the issue of the HTC’s closed meetings is a “legitimate question” and he plans to discuss whether that should continue during the group’s June meeting. While the meetings are closed, the group does post meeting minutes on its website.

During its life, the HTC has been behind several studies into the area’s economy, including two economic diversification reports that explore how the area can grow sectors of the economy not directly tied to tourism. It has also advocated to the General Assembly on behalf of issues important to Triangle leaders, such as keeping school start times after Labor Day.