Pottery awarded state funds to assess large-scale development potential

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A map of the KingsLand USA property. (Courtesy Virginia Business Ready Site Program site characterization, as completed by York and James City Counties and acquired via a FOIA request.)
A map of the proposed development property.
(Courtesy Virginia Business Ready Site Program site characterization, as completed by York and James City Counties and acquired via a FOIA request.)

The Williamsburg Pottery owns over 700 acres of unused land and two local governments may have big plans for the property.

James City and York counties are making use of the Commonwealth’s Virginia Business Ready Sites Program to evaluate the Pottery’s property and assess its readiness for development, according to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

“The Pottery is uniquely positioned for economic development,” Jim Noel, director of economic development for York County, wrote in an application for the Virginia Business Ready Sites Program. “The site has adequate access to public facilities, is properly zoned and is well positioned for access to I-64.”

The grant, totaling $2,500, will be used to alleviate some of the site’s development assessment costs. Once a site is admitted into the program, it is placed into a tiered system and ranked by its readiness for development, Noel said. 

According to documents obtained through a FOIA request to James City County, the application process was initiated and submitted by York County’s Economic Development Authority. The grant application was co-signed by James City County’s EDA and Pottery owner Kim Maloney.  

In September, WYDaily broke the news that the Pottery had plans to construct a multi-purpose attraction called Kingsland USA on the 700 acres alongside the Williamsburg Pottery.

The Kingsland USA website lists concept designs for several potential attractions that could be constructed on the property, including an indoor theme park, water park, virtual reality center, international culture performance center, bio-dome, timeshares and hotels, as well as a senior assisted living community.

“As you are aware, we are currently marketing the property for ‘KingsLand,’ a mixed-use tourism investment opportunity,” Maloney wrote in a letter to Noel on Aug. 31. “As part of this initiative, we are willing to sell this property, or portions of this property, at competitive-sale pricing for desired users.”

According to Virginia Business Ready Sites Program’s site characterization, roughly 50 percent of York County land is non-taxable, and the development of the KingsLand USA property could lead to revenue generation for the county.

“The site is controlled by an owner who is actively marketing the property for development,” Noel wrote in the grant application. “The owner has developed marketing materials aimed at a ‘mixed-use tourism investment opportunity.’”

Although the Pottery is already maintaining a website dedicated to the KingsLand USA project and has made clear its plans for development, Noel says the county’s move to assess the site’s readiness for development is not related to the proposed project.

“This grant is not directly related to Kingsland,” Noel said. “It’s simply an opportunity to get state money to see where the property is in its development stage.”

According to a press release from Governor McAuliffe’s office, the Virginia Business Ready Sites Program provides an opportunity to help localities assess parcels of land. Once an assessment is complete and the properties are placed within a tier, localities will have a better understanding of what is needed to market the property to prospective businesses.

“We’re hoping they’ll come back and say where we’re at, to evaluate and see where it’d fit in the tier system,” said Russ Seymour, the economic development director for James City County. “It was a great opportunity for them to take a look at that parcel.”

Seymour says the vacant land occupies both York and James City counties and the two localities worked together to take advantage of the statewide program.

According to the grant application, the Greater Williamsburg Partnership — a regional EDA made up of representatives from the City of Williamsburg, James City and York counties — has featured the site “prominently” in local, regional, and state marketing materials.

“The OED [Office of Economic Development of York County] and the EDA have identified this site as one of the top development opportunities in the county,” the application stated. “The OED and EDA have, in the past, marketed this site to targeted end users, in cooperation with the property owners.”

According to the application, one such target end user was the Legoland theme park franchise, which has locations in Florida and California.

“A concerted effort was made to attract Legoland to this location,” the application stated. “The owner has marketed this property both domestically and internationally.”

Adrienne Berard and Steve Roberts, Jr. contributed reporting.