Economic development, infrastructure, fiscal sustainability and the character of the community – imagined as a four-legged chair of concerns – should be considered when approaching future challenges in James City County.
This was one of the takeaways from the county’s strategic planning process kickoff meeting, which brought members of the JCC Board of Supervisors and representatives from Clarion Associates together to focus the direction of the strategic plan.
The goal of meeting, held Oct. 19, was to solicit ideas from the board about “where James City County needs to go” in the next 10 or 15 years, County Administrator Bryan Hill said.
The meeting was facilitated by Leigh Anne King, a principal and planner with Clarion, and Greg Dale, a founding principal with the Cincinnati affiliate of Clarion, McBride Dale Clarion. JCC hired Clarion Associates to guide the county in its planning.
“We want this to be a really results-oriented plan and geared toward telling people what to do and how to use resources so we can make those outcomes actually happen.” King said.
Dale encouraged the board to think about the “big strategic planning issues” the county will face. Prior to the meeting, the board had named water supply, stormwater issues, education, economic development and the county’s appearance as its top five strategic initiatives.
All five current members offered themes ranging from technology infrastructure and business climate to transportation and engaging different demographic groups.
From the list of themes, Dale suggested the “overarching theme” was the “interrelationship between economic development, infrastructure and public services and fiscal sustainability,” visualizing the concept as a three-legged stool.
John McGlennon (Roberts), who recently won another term on the board, added the fourth leg: maintaining the distinctive nature of the community, which attracts residents to move to James City County.
Jim Kennedy (Stonehouse) said all of the listed themes have come up in his time on the board and the Planning Commission, but the goal is to address all of them as the community changes.
“The path changes every once in a while as you’re heading down the road. You don’t know what the change is going to be, but you have to be able to deviate at times,” said Kennedy, who will not return to the board when the new term begins Jan. 1. “If you have a goal, if you have a strategic plan, you really want to meet it. That’s the toughest thing to get with folks.”
Vice chairman Kevin Onizuk (Jamestown) proposed orienting questions, returning to a comparison he made in August of the strategic plan relating to the county’s coming of age.
“Who are we going to be when we grow up?” Onizuk said. “If we can come out of this with a plan that can be communicated, I think that would be a very significant win for us and for our community.”
Dale said the concept of growing up implies the county will grow up, meaning it could hit a population “sweet spot” and the board should envision what the county may look like or feel like when it reaches its ideal population.
King said creating the strategic plan would be a five-step process with opportunities for public input.
The kickoff meeting was part of phase one, which sets the direction of the process. A report covering the vision for the county’s economic future will be the outcome of phase one and progress on the plan will be presented at a public open house this winter, King said.
Subsequent steps include focusing efforts, focusing implementation, determining how implementation will be monitored and presenting a plan during another open house, King said. Adoption hearings for the strategic plan could be held as early as next fall, King said.
“I believe we’re in a pretty good place to address not all, but many of the issues that have come up today. We just need to get a prioritized list for what comes next,” Hill said.
Board chairman Michael Hipple (Powhatan) said residents need to remember there is “a cost and a saving and a benefit” to everything the county brings into its community to achieve its goals, including devising the strategic plan.
“This is just another piece to make James City County solid in its footing and its foundation leading the rest of the communities around us and showing them what we’re capable of doing,” Hipple said.