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WYDaily sent an identical questionnaire to each candidate running for City Council.
Elaine McBeth, a member of the City of Williamsburg’s Planning Commission and an economics professor at the College of William & Mary, is among a field of five candidates vying for three seats on council.
McBeth’s answers are unedited and presented below.
The election takes place May 3.
Read a completed questionnaire from the other candidates:
1. What do you feel are the three major issues facing the City of Williamsburg right now? What are your ideas on how to address those issues?
For me, the three major issues are the cornerstones of my campaign: Economic Development – Education – Neighborhoods. Put another way: Jobs, Affordable Housing, and Sense of Community…these are the key features for all categories of potential residents.
Economic Development – As we move out of the recession into a growing economic time, we need to support the projects that stalled with the financial crisis, projects that are prepared to take off now, while growing business to step into place in the years ahead. It is critical that the City do all that is feasible to push us along that path.
Education – Pre-K through Higher Ed: Providing leadership and support to our School Board members in their roles as our representatives for the combined school system and working with the leaders at William and Mary and Thomas Nelson. Education is a common good that City residents value and are willing to support. In addition, recognizing that one of our “brands” is education – be it W&M or Colonial Williamsburg – this part of the education cycle is integral to jobs, tourism, the overall health of our community.
Neighborhoods – Williamsburg is a wonderful community for all, it is just that some groups see that more clearly. We need to promote living and working in Williamsburg, working with the hiring offices of our major employers
2. Talk about the relationship between the city and college and what changes, if any, you would like to see. How can you achieve those changes through City Council?
Overall City/College relationship is good, better than it has been in some periods in the past. That said, as the College increases the student population, both graduate and undergraduate, the College and the City need to work together to protect the character of downtown (businesses and neighborhoods) that is vital to the future for both. I believe this is an area that City Council can take an active role to balance the need for more student housing with the need for regulations to protect the health and safety of students and residents.
3. What is your vision for the Arts District? What steps need to be taken to achieve your vision?
The Arts District came from the visioning exercises associated with the 2008 Comprehensive Plan, so I have been active in the planning and guiding of the Arts District from day one. My Vision for the Arts District is for a vibrant/walkable area where artists live and work. Currently the Arts District has the feel that it is “stalling” and we need a new push, new incentives to help revitalize that area.
One idea I have been developing is small, but the kind of thing the City can do and will have results. The Arts District is currently part of the AP – 3 zone for Design Review Guidelines. This zone includes three very disparate areas of the City: Pine Crest, Crispus Attucks, and the Arts District. I propose we develop a new district, perhaps AP – AD. This new district will be respectful to our community’s heritage while allowing artists to be innovative in their land use and house presentations. I believe we can call for this review of guidelines for AP – AD and approve them within six months.
4. Members of the James City County Board of Supervisors have not been in agreement regarding the need for a fourth middle school in Williamsburg-James City County Schools; the current City Council members agree there is a need. Do you believe the school division should move forward with its plans? Explain.
Yes, we should move forward. From the data I received from the Planning Commission hearings on this subject, I fully supported the 4th middle school during the Fall 2015 discussion period. Subsequently in February/March when it appeared that the school project was going to be pulled, at the March 2016 meeting, the Planning Commission re-affirmed our support of this project with regard to the need for the school and the re-use of the James Blair site for it.
5. The city has made building and implementing redevelopment strategies a priority. How much influence should City Council have in reshaping select corridors in the city? What tools are available to the city and how should they be used?
As the leaders for the City, City Council has a central role in establishing redevelopment strategies. To date, Council has also taken the lead in implementation. In my role as the Planning Commission’s liaison to the Economic Development Authority, I know there is space to share the workload with EDA who are specialist in this area and I would support this joint collaboration.
With regard to tools, the City has a variety of program from tax incentives, sign replacement cost sharing, google street view to e-commerce grants. The City is open for business and ready to work with businesses who want to be in Williamsburg.
6. In what ways should City Council support local efforts to spur tourism to the area?
The City should and does support local efforts to spur tourism. Most importantly with our partnerships with the Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance and Colonial Williamsburg. I believe it is appropriate for the City to financially support these institutions as the tourism economic drivers of our community. In addition, I believe the City should work more cooperatively with the College. The College supports a “quiet” tourism in the visitation of families as pre-freshman visit the College, as out-of-towners come for the Muscarelle or the Shakespeare Festival, as sports enthusiasts come for games three seasons of the year.
7. Name specific goals you would like to set for City Council to achieve over the next four years.
The next four years is one of taking advantage of opportunity as we drive our economy out of the recession and long period of slow growth. As drivers of housing and jobs, that means further build out of High Street and Quarterpath and starting the redevelopment of the Richmond Rd/Monticello Ave corridor. I would like to see year over year increases in occupancy that would drive the vitality of these areas.