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Supporters of the Jamestown Yacht Basin say James City County officials should direct resources to the “wet part” of the marina, rather than the “dry part,” which the Board of Supervisors authorized the Economic Development Authority to lease last week.
The board voted 4 to 1 to allow the EDA to lease about 10 acres of the 38-acre site, which it would then sublease to a prospective tenant.
During the Sept. 22 meeting, Assistant County Administrator Adam Kinsman said the county has received inquiries from private businesses that want to lease the site, including restaurants and breweries, and said the EDA would be better suited to negotiate a lease than the office of economic development.
“The bulkheads are in disrepair, the buildings are not great out there. It is an older property that has not had a whole lot of capital investment,” Kinsman said. “It does need a lot of work. I think we all know that.”
If the EDA chooses to sublease the property, which includes a building and adjacent land, rent money received would go toward economic development projects. The county’s lease to the EDA would last no more than 20 years, Kinsman said.
“This would provide the EDA with a revenue stream they do not currently have,” Kinsman said, adding the county does not fund the EDA and it is primarily financed through bonds.
Jim Kennedy (Stonehouse) said building a brewery at the site could “be a spark” to increase the property’s value.
“We can either do something with it or let it continue to rot,” Kennedy said. “What we’re going to do with it is allow the EDA to market it and hopefully bring in some folks here that create another tourist attraction and an attraction for our citizens.”
But Steve Rose, founder and chairman of Eco Discovery Park, a nonprofit that offered kayak and bicycle rentals at the marina until May when its lease expired, said he did not think the EDA lease was a “positive step forward.”
“It’s basically just using the buildings that are there and it’s not really taking care of the marina infrastructure,” Rose said. “It doesn’t really make sense to me.”
Rose, who had planned to develop the marina property into hub for environmental and sustainability education, said Eco Discovery Park had completed “quite a lot of work” at the building on the site, including adding bathrooms and kitchen area so it could operate as a café.
Corey Fenton, captain and owner of Jamestown Discovery Boat Tours, which operates out of the marina, said a restaurant for locals would be a good use for the building, but added Eco Discovery Park was “by far the best thing that could have happened to that property” and was disappointed that the board of supervisors did not act to protect the area for locals.
“I think it needs to be improved for the historic needs and beauty of Williamsburg, for the use of locals,” Fenton said.
John McGlennon (Roberts), who cast the dissenting vote, said he would “feel better” when the board identifies any uses it may not want to approve for the site that the zoning permits.