Saturday, August 13, 2022

Upper James City County is growing. Here’s how county staff, supes are preparing ahead

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. (WYDaily/Courtesy Google Maps)
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. (WYDaily/Courtesy Google Maps)

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.

(WYDaily/Courtesy Hampton Roads Benchmarking Study)
(WYDaily/Courtesy Hampton Roads Benchmarking Study)

Estimating growth

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.

A house on the Taylor family's property sits in a large farm field on Richmond Road in Toano. In 2017, the family asked to have the property moved into the PSA and its land use designation changed to allow for future development. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)
A house on the Taylor family’s property sits in a large farm field on Richmond Road in Toano. In 2017, the family asked to have the property moved into the PSA and its land use designation changed to allow for possible future development. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)

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.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

Related Articles

MORE FROM AUTHOR