Taylor family farm land-use application moves forward

WYDaily.com is your source for free news and information in Williamsburg, James City & York Counties.

A house on the Taylor family's property sits in a large farm field on Richmond Road in Toano. (Sarah Fearing/WYDaily)
A house on the Taylor family’s property sits in a large farm field on Richmond Road in Toano. (Sarah Fearing/WYDaily)

For nearly three years, the Taylor family has worked to secure alternatives for the future of their 217-acre swath of farmland at near Anderson’s Corner in Toano.

Family members from multiple generations have written letters, attended and spoken at county board and commission meetings, and worked with planning staff to find a suitable alternative for their property’s future.

Now, an application to change the land use designation of the property – submitted by the family in 2014 – is one step closer to approval.

At a Wednesday night meeting, the James City County Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend a change to the property’s land use designation. The change would designate the property as “economic opportunity,” and allow the family to develop the property for industrial, light industrial and office uses, according to planning staff documents.

The Board of Supervisors will review the family’s land-use application at a future meeting, where supervisors will vote on the land change designation.

“This would create the opportunity for this parcel to become marketable and have a master plan put in place for that area,” Planning Commission member Tim O’Connor said.

The Taylor property, located at 8491 Richmond Rd., has been used for agriculture since the family purchased the land in 1951, according to family members’ letters. They now seeking alternatives because farmers who previously worked the fields are either aging or have passed away. Operating a mid-size farm, such as the Taylor’s, is no longer financially sustainable.

“Nobody in the family farms anymore,” family member Randy Taylor said Wednesday night. “We have a New Kent farmer leasing the land right now, but he’s getting up in age himself.”

“We have no desire to see this property developed, but against one day down the road, whether it’s my generation or my children, farming is not going to be viable and there’s no telling what the future holds.”

The Taylor family says they have no immediate plans to develop the land, but family members have written letters stating keeping the property as farmland forever will not be sustainable. (Courtesy James City County tax parcel map)
The Taylor family says they have no immediate plans to develop the land, but family members have written letters stating keeping the property as farmland forever will not be sustainable. (Courtesy James City County tax parcel map)

The family’s application also requests officials place their entire property within the existing Public Service Area, an area designated for residential, commercial and industrial development that has access to public utilities and other public services.

The PSA line cuts through the front fifth of the property, including only about 45.5 acres along Richmond Road.

The Planning Commission voted 4-3 to recommend the entire 217-acre parcel placed within the PSA. The commission discussed the family’s application for over an hour, with concerns about maintaining the area’s rural character.

The economic opportunity designation would allow up to 10 percent of the property to be used for residential purposes, according to Planning Commission agenda documents.

“Any residential use should supplement economic development uses and should not be placed in areas suitable for economic development,” Principal Planner Tammy Rosario read from documents.

County planning staff previously recommended the application be denied because developing the Taylor property could mean increased water usage in the county, according to agenda documents.

The Taylor family’s application was put on hold in 2014 while county staff worked to renew a water withdrawal permit from the Department of Environmental Quality. At the time, the DEQ proposed cutting James City County’s water withdrawal permit almost in half.

In early 2017, the DEQ issued a permit that only cut James City County’s water withdrawal by a small amount, but administrators are still working to find an “ironclad” water source alternative, County Administrator Bryan Hill has said.

Planning Commission Chairman Richard Krapf voted against putting the land into the PSA, saying a property newly admitted into the PSA would have “first dibs” on any water withdrawal if they chose to develop before existing properties.

“I don’t feel comfortable bringing 141 acres into the PSA without an evaluation of the water impact,” Krapf said.

Planning Commission member Danny Schmidt agreed with Krapf, voting against moving the property into the PSA.

“There will be opportunities later for the property to expand, assuming the county secures that long term [water source] solution,” Schmidt said.

Sarah Fearing may be reached at sarah.f@localvoicemedia.com.

Related coverage: