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WYDaily sent an identical questionnaire to each candidate running for the Berkeley District seat on the James City County Board of Supervisors.
Ruth Larson, who is currently a member of the Williamsburg-James City County School Board, faces incumbent Mary Jones. Larson’s answers are unedited and presented below.
The election takes place Nov. 3.
Read a completed questionnaire from Jones here.
1. What do you feel are the three major issues facing the county right now? What are your ideas on how to address those issues?
Infrastructure, Economic Development, Water. In terms of water, a decision about where to draw water is a vital issue facing the County because clean drinking water affects the future of every single citizen and business. The State Department of Environmental Quality has proposed to cut 25% of current JCC usage, and proposed new home construction would quickly add more stress to the available water. Regarding infrastructure, any prospective development must be planned in tandem with the infrastructure to avoid unnecessary disruption to current residents. If you are going to build, you need to support it with required roads, schools, etc. Economic Development is more important than ever. I plan to work hard to identify potential areas of economic expansion and innovation. Other areas in the Commonwealth have been successful in attracting new and innovative business, and I plan to put their best practices into use. The County Administrator has put forth a roadmap for the future of JCC, including an ongoing Strategic Plan, and I am behind it.
To deal with these issues and many more we will need to work together and collaborate as a board and a community. I am committed to full collaboration with fellow board members and in addition, I plan to go out into the community to work with my constituents to hear their ideas, vision and solutions for James City County
2. Talk about the effects of the real estate tax rate increase on the county and its citizens. If elected, what factors will you consider when setting the property tax rate for fiscal year 2017?
For starters, I do not believe there is any need for a tax increase in 2017. As stated above, I plan to work hard on Economic Development which will help us expand our tax base. The modest tax increase approved by the current board gives our citizens the infrastructure needed to sustain the property values and quality of life that we enjoy in James City County.
3. How do you propose to control growth in the county, particularly in light of concerns about the Primary Service Area’s effectiveness and school capacity?
It is simple..you don’t approve growth until you have a plan to provide the necessary infrastructure to accommodate the growth.
4. Stormwater issues were at the forefront of budget discussions earlier this year. County stormwater officials identified several communities that lack the drainage infrastructure needed to deal with runoff. How would you direct the county to manage drainage issues?
No citizen in this county should suffer the constant threat of flooding, sink holes or property damage from Stormwater. As a member of the board, I would ask county staff to conduct a full exhaustive assessment of where we are now and get the county administrator to work with the residents to prioritize the need and solve the problem. In doing so, I would make sure that there is a timeline and plan that is transparent to all.
5. The James City Service Authority is exploring alternative water sources in response to declining water levels in underground aquifers. One option is a multi-million deal JCSA first signed in 2008 to purchase water from Newport News Waterworks. How would you address the county’s water needs in light of a depleting groundwater supply? Would you look to renegotiate the deal James City County has with Newport News Waterworks? Why or why not?
We definitely need to find a solution for county water supply for the next several decades and beyond. I will look carefully for the most efficient and environmentally responsible approach and seek assistance from state legislators to lobby on behalf of JCC to make equitable cuts in groundwater permits. Either option currently being considered, building a desalinization plant for river water or building new pipes to access Newport News water is going to be costly. With these two options, we are hopefully in a better position to negotiate with the Department of Environmental Quality and Newport News. This is an issue we must address now.
6. James City County has sought state grants to help fund some of its major transportation initiatives and road projects. Which transportation issues do you think should be priorities for the county, if any?
JCC has done a 50/50 match with VDOT to accelerate certain traffic projects like Longhill Road and the Skiffs Creek Corridor. I think the Commonwealth will expect us to continue that approach in the future. It is important to stay proactive in all approaches to transportation needs and not continuing to play catchup. It puts a tremendous strain on citizens and businesses. it is imperative to James City County that we work closely with our Regional partners & our State legislators to move forward the widening of I-64 to increase our Economic Development initiatives, tourism possibilities and for our residents that work east or west of us relief from their daily commute. The bottleneck we are currently experiencing is frustrating on many levels. It is time to get this issue solved.
7. The James City County Board of Supervisors has expressed its opposition to Dominion’s preference to build a switching station on county land. What is your opinion on Dominion’s proposed power line crossing the James River and the proposed switching station? Would you vote to grant Dominion’s rezoning request? Why or why not?
This is scheduled to be decided in late Nov. 2015, so it will likely be decided before I am scheduled to come onto the board. If the decision has not been made, before voting, I would like to have a much broader discussion of what the alternatives are and how we might work with Dominion to find a solution that serves all citizens. In fact, this is an example of how we need to anticipate and plan for all growth prior to approval.
8. The Board of Supervisors redesigned its public comment period earlier this year to give more consistency to the start time of public hearings. How do you feel about the change? Would you adjust it or keep the new system?
If the new system is working for the board and they are able to hear comment and do the work of the board, then I would say it is working but I would encourage an evaluation after a period to see if the outcome is the one that was expected. Public comment is essential and I value that dedicated part of all board meetings. If there is insufficient time at a regular board meetings to hear from all those interested in commenting on a county issue, then outside ‘town hall’ meetings are a reasonable way of accommodating public input. That sort of effort would be an important part of my service as a board member.