Williamsburg, JCC Looking to Apply for Joint Enterprise Zone

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This map shows the proposed enterprise zone. (Courtesy James City County)
This map shows the proposed enterprise zone. (Courtesy James City County)

The City of Williamsburg and James City County are working together on a plan to land a joint enterprise zone from the state, a designation that allows for grants, permit fee waivers, reduced sewer fees and tax incentives for businesses located within the zone.

The James City County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to file an application with the state by the Aug. 1 deadline. The matter is set to go before Williamsburg city Council on July 9.

James City County currently has an enterprise zone designation on industrial lands near Toano and in Grove, however it is set to expire at the end of the year. The county’s zone is one of four up for grabs.

Economic development officials in the city and the county believe the designation is a valuable tool for attracting new businesses to the area, as they can offer enterprise zone perks to businesses looking to establish operations within the zone.

The designation lasts for 10 years, with two five-year renewals avaiable. All three Historic Triangle localities applied together for a designation in 2013, and they applied individually in 2014, however the state said no to each of the applications.

The application will be considered on several factors, including the “distress level” of the localities. That measures fiscal stress, unemployment, median house hold income and percentage of students receiving free or reduced lunches. James City and York counties have some of the lowest distress levels of any localities in the state, with 62 and 56.1, respectively.

Williamsburg’s distress level of 324 is middle-of-the-pack among Virginia localities. Distress levels count for up to 750 points of the 1,500 total points available. The remaining 750 points are awarded based off factors including general economic conditions, barriers to development and existing economic development efforts.

The city decided to submit a separate application in 2014 after the low distress score from James City and York counties pulled down their score. It is again joining James City County on the application after the solo effort also failed.

“We know it’s perhaps a long shot, but we thought it’s worth trying again,” said Michele DeWitt, the city’s director of economic development. “[Enterprise zones] are valuable incentive tools the state is providing, which is why they’re so hard to get.”

The localities will receive up to 75 extra points for applying together, prompting the two localities to join on the application.

“We’re hoping the regional approach outweighs the low economic distress score,” she said.

Much of James City County’s current zone would remain in place under the plan, though parts of Grove that have developed residentially would be removed. It would also add areas off Jamestown Road, including the Colony Square Shopping Center.

In the city, the zone would encompass the midtown area, where the Monticello and Williamsburg shopping centers are located. It would also include the Northeast Triangle, which features Capitol Landing Road, Second Street and Merrimac Trail.

Redeveloping the Northeast Triangle has been a focus of the city over the past few years, with investments made to underground infrastructure to improve the area’s appearance. It has also purchased distressed hotel properties along Capitol Landing Road with an eye on selling them for redevelopment. One of those properties, the Lord Paget Motel, is set to re-open as a micro-distillery.

The application is due to the state by Aug. 1. The state’s selections from the 2014 round of applications were announced in December.

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