Editor’s note: This is the first installment in a three-part series covering growth in the upper part of James City County. This installment will focus on where the growth is in the county, and how officials are preparing for the anticipated influx of residents. The other two installments will look at affordable housing and how officials are working to balance James City County’s rural heritage with development.
In upper James City County, a historically quiet, rural life has collided with development.
About a mile from the New Kent line, the entrance to the Stonehouse neighborhood sits prominently along the edge of Route 30, the white word “Stonehouse” mounted to a high stone wall in scripted font.
“Stonehouse, White Hall — some new developments over the past five or six years have added hundreds of units,” said Jason Purse, assistant county administrator for James City County. “They’ve all been expanding in the north end of the county.”
Because of space, some supervisors and county staff anticipate much of that growth will be in the upper county, which has remained more rural as southern areas of the county have grown.
The county has gained more than 27,000 residents since the turn of the century — about one third of its current population are newcomers.
A growing county means planning ahead — sometimes decades ahead — to serve those who will someday live here, Purse said. More residential neighborhoods and more people mean an increased need for fire-rescue services, schools, transportation and more.
“You really have to envision where that growth is going to go and how you’re going to serve those people,” Purse said.
James City County uses several mechanisms to project growth and localize where it may happen, including the Virginia Employment Commission’s quarterly Labor Market Information report and the 2018 Hampton Roads Regional Benchmarking Study.
As of July 2017, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated the population in James City County is about 75,500 people.
By 2040, the Virginia Employment Commission projects James City County’s population will top 110,000.
The Hampton Roads Benchmarking study shows James City County had the second-highest population and employment growth rate in the region between 2012 and 2017.
That growth rate hovered between 8 and 10 percent.
Targeting growth and services
There are some tactics the county uses to concentrate growth in particular areas.
Part of upper James City County is in the Primary Service Area, an area designated for residential, commercial and industrial development that has access to public utilities and other public services.
“We’ve always used that as a basis … to guide us as far as places where we can add growth in a proper way,” said Sue Sadler, supervisor for the Stonehouse District.
Development outside of the PSA is strongly discouraged. Most of the Stonehouse neighborhood is within the PSA.
“We are trying to contain it to that area in the upper end of the county,” Purse said.
To help alleviate a possible strain on emergency and school services, Purse said the county is also looking to encourage economic development in certain areas, so growth is not solely residential.
Putting together a plan
The county regularly makes short- and long-term plans to accommodate future growth.
“We always need room for some growth in the county, every locality needs to grow but we need to make sure it’s in a way we can pay for it and can support our police and schools,” Sadler said.
This spring, county staff will begin their five-year update of the county’s 2035 Strategic Plan, a road map for the county’s future financial investments and projects.
The county also recently added several police officers to the force during its last budget cycle, bringing the force up to about 100 sworn officers. Officials are also considering adding a sixth fire station in the county at some point, but a location is not yet set.
The county has also identified the future need to build a school, although talks with the Williamsburg-James City County School Board are still in early stages.
“You have to plan for it and you have to know what’s coming,” Purse said.
WYDaily reporter Alexa Doiron contributed to this report.