James City County Begins Process to Draft Strategic Plan

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MountsBaySignJames City County may have been established in 1634, but county leaders still want to plan for a time when the area “grows up.”

The James City County Board of Supervisors discussed the creation of a strategic plan for the county’s development during a work session Tuesday.

The county currently has a comprehensive plan to guide development, but a strategic plan would be the first of its kind for the county.

County Administrator Bryan Hill said the strategic plan would differ from the existing comprehensive plan, but one would inform the other. He compared a strategic plan to a dictionary, defining terms for use in a book — the comprehensive plan.

“When you hired me for this [job], you asked me for a comprehensive plan, but we can’t do a comp plan until we know where we want to go,” Hill said.

The supervisors were generally receptive to the idea of creating a strategic plan for James City County, considering the change the county has undergone in recent years.

Over the last 25 years, the population of James City County nearly doubled, from about 35,000 in 1990 to more than 67,000 in 2010. Economic development has also changed the character of the county from rural to suburban, while the building up of the Monticello Avenue corridor has shifted the county’s retail center.

Vice Chairman Kevin Onizuk (Jamestown) compared the county to a teenager coming of age and going through “growing pains.” Developing a strategic plan, Onizuk said, would help alleviate some of those pains.

“This seems to be something that’s important for James City County,” Onizuk said. “Who do we want to be when we grow up?”

John McGlennon (Roberts) said a comprehensive plan would help shape the county’s priorities for the future, and identify factors that have led to positive change.

Jim Kennedy (Stonehouse) took a more sober stance, but agreed a strategic plan could be beneficial for the county’s future.

“We do a lot of studies in James City County,” Kennedy said. “Most of them go in a drawer and never come out. We never do anything with them. This is a commitment.”

The county solicited bids from consulting firms for assistance in developing the strategic plans. Hill said 12 or 13 bids had been submitted to the county. Of the submissions, the county chose Clarion Associates – which submitted a bid of about $190,000 Hill said – as the firm for the project. A contract agreement is in the works.

Greg Dale, a Clarion representative, was present for Tuesday’s work session.

Dale said it would take about one year to develop a draft of the strategic plan and would require a “well thought-out public engagement process.”