City Council Candidates Q&A: Greg Granger

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Greg Granger, a lifelong Williamsburg resident, is running for City Council.
Greg Granger, a lifelong Williamsburg resident, is running for City Council.

WYDaily sent an identical questionnaire to each candidate running for City Council.

Greg Granger, a lifelong City of Williamsburg resident, is among a field of five candidates vying for three seats on council.

Granger’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?

Preservation of our unique and special quality of life. Deciding to line our streets with trash cans, recycling containers, and trash to save a few pennies per resident while diminishing our aesthetic quality, which must be preserved to be a great tourist destination, is an issue I would like to revisit.  Deer having their habitat eroded and then subsequently entering our habitat and destroying it may seem like karma, but we need to find solutions to this as it is not good for us or the deer.  Putting together a panel to exhaustively research this and keep up to date on our options is a good step in the right direction.  Revisiting some of our policies on fences may also be appropriate.

Housing. When students don’t live on campus, they live in houses other people might want to live in.   Students typically can pay more, as they rent in groups, and they rent before the end of the first semester for the following school year.  This eliminates the houses for future professors and families that may be looking for houses in the summer months.  It also makes it hard for workforce housing to be affordably obtained.  We need to foster student housing where students want to live and design it with them in mind.  It is up to us to make sure it is the housing we all think is best for the community, not housing by default.

Growing our economy through diversification.  We can’t do the same thing and expect a different result.  Yes, we have a great community, but we also have many businesses closed, for sale or for rent that have become stale.  We need to step up our game, offering products that today’s market wants and also exploring new ventures such as sports marketing for travel teams and club sports.  Partnering with our neighbors to create a sports venue for youth sports and competitions is a great step.  I would also like to see us develop a niche for research.  It is easy on the infrastructure and compatible with our existing resources.  We certainly have the intellectual power with our existing residents and those that graduate from our area schools to accomplish this.

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?

We need to work together to ensure the long-term visions of the City and the College complement one another.  The College has a bold master plan that will affect Jamestown Road and our entire community.  We must have candid discussions with the College without being adversarial.  Addressing issues like housing, parking, safety, and the economy will require frank and honest conversations and reasonable negotiations between the City and the College.

3. What is your vision for the Arts District? What steps need to be taken to achieve your vision?

The City has not created an arts district; it designated an area where tax incentives would be offered to creative economy businesses.  As it now stands, Domino’s Pizza and Qdoba are considered culinary arts.  Although WMBG AM 740 is considered an arts business because we create advertising and play music, I do not believe this is what most people expect to see in an Arts District.  Only artists can truly create an Arts District.  For our Arts District to become vibrant, thriving, and successful, it should be filled with all kinds of art, but primarily with what most people think of when they think of art.  A successful arts district will also need parking, lots of art events, and people.  I originally said the Arts District should be in the area around Prince George Street, The Chamber of Commerce building, the Stryker Building, and the Library.   That is where the Contemporary Arts Gallery is located, and where Occasion for the Arts, Art on the Square, Second Sundays, and many other events take place.  We have unique restaurants in that area and it is vibrant.

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.

Education is paramount to the success of any community.  I attended Mathew Whaley, Bruton Heights, James Blair, and Lafayette.  My two youngest children are currently at Lafayette.  We may have adequate facilities right now, but if we expect our students to strive for excellence and be more than adequate, then our facilities should represent that and inspire our students and faculty alike.  During my campaign, I have personally visited Mathew Whaley, Berkeley, and Lafayette, where most of Williamsburg’s children attend school.  I have also toured the existing James Blair facilities. Personally, I believe James Blair should have always been a school and never converted to administration offices.  Office uses are not that special; School sites are very special and require long-range planning. We will need to see how the traffic flows before we determine if phase two of the project, the administrative offices, should take place on the same location.

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?

The City has a long tradition of wise planning.  We should continue to do an excellent job with that, but we also need to have enough flexibility to be accepting of changes in the economy.  We need to make sure that our zoning laws and plans for the future are attractive to today’s businesses.   Appropriate tools would include making sure we have citizen input as to what we want, tourist input as to what our guests want, and examining ways to diversify our economy, like developing a research niche to expand our economy.

6. In what ways should City Council support local efforts to spur tourism to the area?

Busch Gardens expanded its season by two months when it created Christmastown, which frequently sells out.   Williamsburg must expand our season by exploring avenues such as sports tourism.  Other locations may have sports venues for teams to compete, such as indoor pools and soccer facilities, but they do not have all we have to offer. They do not have the combination of Colonial Williamsburg, Busch Gardens, great shopping, and lots of options for dining. Families travel and spend money for their children to be in sports tournaments. We should cooperate with our neighbors to develop facilities to promote this type of activity.  Expanding our convention accommodations would also expand our season.

7. Name specific goals you would like to set for City Council to achieve over the next four years.

Preserving our quality of life and the character of the City. Having grown up here, I remember when families lived in the “white houses” along Jamestown Road.  Before those houses became College offices, they were homes with people and families living in them.  The notion that they could be torn down and turned into large brick buildings is distressing.  Driving on Jamestown Road should be driving to Colonial Williamsburg or driving through town, not driving though campus, or Ukrop Drive.

Restoring the previous policy regarding trash collection.  Lining our streets with trash cans and litter while taking up parking spaces and diminishing the appearance of our beautiful city to save a few cents per week per resident does not make good sense to me.  It visually conflicts with our unique and beautiful city and our quality of life.

Understanding that problems affecting the College affect the entire city. When students at the College either can’t find on-campus housing or chooses to live off-campus because of the housing options and move into neighborhoods and apartments within the City, the College’s housing problem can no longer be considered a College problem.  This limits housing for others, such as families, professors, young professionals, and retirees.  When students park off campus because an on-campus parking lot has construction materials in it or the spaces cost too much, it becomes a City problem.  When Fraternity houses are built without social spaces, or on-campus rules force students off campus for social activity, it is not a campus problem: it is a city problem. We need to work together, as their problems become our problems.

Diversifying tourism. Sports marketing for families to bring tournaments and competitions to Williamsburg is one of the ways we can diversify our tourism base.  We should embrace this concept as it will bring families to the area, and help promote Williamsburg as a Family destination, as well as a resort and convention destination.