Sunday, December 3, 2023

Draft revitalization plans for James City County Marina include more boat slips, parking

Billsburg Brewery at the James City County Marina held its grand opening Oct. 27, 2017. (WYDaily/File photo)
Billsburg Brewery at the James City County Marina held its grand opening Oct. 27, 2017. (WYDaily/File photo)

James City County Parks and Recreation, with the help of Billsburg Brewery, has developed renovation plans for the James City County Marina, including additional boat slips, a possible restaurant and more parking.

The plan is still in its draft phase, but the $6 million improvements — in two phases — could begin as soon as December, Parks and Recreation Director John Carnifax said during an Economic Development Authority meeting Tuesday.

The Board of Supervisors first approved the James City County Master Plan in 2009, which included a “Shaping Our Shores” plan to update and revitalize the marina.

While the draft improvements were approved as part of the master plan, the Board of Supervisors “didn’t feel real strong” about certain aspects, including commercial residential condos onsite, Carnifax said.

“We’ve scaled it back quite a bit,” Carnifax said.

Since 2009, the plan has been changed to better reflect the community needs and interests in the area, he added.

Much of the plan involves replacing existing facilities on site with new, improved ones such as existing boat slips. A new building could be constructed to house a new business such as a restaurant. Plans also include adding a third boat slip facility and dry storage to meet the needs of the current slip waitlist. 

“We’re creating a destination area,” said Robin Bledsoe, chairwoman of the Economic Development Authority.

Of the approximately $6 million cost, about $3 million was allocated in the current fiscal year 2020 budget to replace the front area of the marina with a living shoreline and floating dock system. Carnifax said they’re working on “permitting issues” involving relocating the gas tank, adding he hopes to put the project out to bid in October.

The second phase of the project will also cost just over $3 million and includes dredging in the basin. The dredging alone will cost about $1 million of the total cost. The Army Corps of Engineers has already approved a permit for dredging.

Some of the challenges of revitalizing the marina involve the lower part of the infrastructure being in a flood plain. Both a large white marina building and the gas tanks need to be moved out of the flood zone.

Billsburg Brewery and founder Dave Baum were instrumental in reshaping the plan.

Billsburg was born from an initiative to revitalize the marina area, which the county unsuccessfully tried to sell for five or six years.

“For us, really it’s a — the step’s in the right direction to give us the infrastructure we need,” Baum said. “We’ve been working with John [Carnifax] about … explaining where we really want the community to buy into this.”

Billsburg will celebrate its second birthday Oct. 27. Since it opened, it has seen 33.6 percent growth, Baum said.

Once work is complete, Carnifax said the marina rates and operating standards will be changed to more closely match other public marinas in the region, from Richmond down to Virginia Beach.

“We will probably hear a little fuss about that,” Carnifax added.

Carnifax said the James City County Marina rates are under the market average for public marinas because of the condition of the marina. The county also offers leases for three- or six-month periods, while many others only offer yearlong leases.

Sarah Fearing
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.

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