Isle of Wight hosts annual State of the County breakfast

Published 10:55 am Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Representatives from Isle of Wight’s Board of Supervisors and the town governments of Windsor and Smithfield spoke on the progress each government had made over the past year at the annual State of the County Breakfast on Tuesday morning, held at 8 a.m. in the Smithfield Center.

Also in attendance as guest speakers were Congressman Bobby Scott (D-3rd) and Dennis Treacy, chairman of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce. Scott opened the ceremony with comments on the importance of having good schools and keeping qualified workers in the county to attract businesses, and was followed by Carrsville District Supervisor and Board Chairman Rex Alphin, who spoke on comments he had received from county residents recently.

“I’ll say, ‘How do you like Isle of Wight County?’ and this is the reply I generally get; they say, “I love it here!” Alphin said. “They say, ‘We moved here in 1985 and we never moved away,’ or ‘We’re asking our kids to come here to this place.’ We have a place here that is not unique but fairly uncommon, because people here generally have a sense of place, a sense of connection and interaction with where they are, and that is a wonderful thing.”

Echoing Alphin’s comments about the lure of the county’s rural lifestyle was Windsor Mayor Carita Richardson, who said she first came to the area with her husband 47 years ago, and decided they both never wanted to leave.

“My biggest news from Windsor is that the northern [Route] 460 bypass is finally dead,” she said. “I feel I’ve spent the majority of my time as mayor fighting that. We have been invited to a meeting with Suffolk and VDOT to talk about improvements to the original 460 now, and they’re looking at doing a four-lane divided highway from Suffolk to Windsor. We’re asking for a center turn lane, we think it will be good for the entire county and spur growth in the intermodal park.”

She also discussed recent plans to create an Old Town Windsor area around Court Street where there are a lot of older style homes, to allow the owners of those homes to operate small businesses such as bed and breakfasts, cafes, art galleries and antique stores out of their homes, as well as live there.

Smithfield Mayor T. Carter Williams spoke on the town’s recent efforts to construct a boat launch on a parcel of land in Clontz Park they had secured from Smithfield Foods and on the progress in the construction of the Joseph W. Luter Sports Complex. He added that the town council was planning on holding a public hearing that evening on Smithfield’s budget for fiscal year 2017-2018.

“The real estate tax in 1994 was 23 cents, in 2005 they reduced it to 21 cents, in 2007 it was reduced to 16 cents to the present date, that’s 23 years with no tax increases, so if we raise something else, don’t be hollering at us,” he said.

Treacy spoke on Isle of Wight’s similarity to his home county of Hanover, which is north of Richmond and also very rural.

“Hanover has done the kinds of things you’re doing; they have very strict development rules,” he said. “Growth is welcomed there, but it’s controlled. Hanover bends, but it doesn’t break. There are controversies there just like everywhere else. A Walmart tired to set up there a few years ago. After much negotiation and discussing, Walmart is there, and none of the things they [residents] feared actually happened, but they were heard and Hanover is better for it.”

He also encouraged residents not to rely on generalized statements such as “I’m against regulations,” when planning for the future, and instead to look at which specific regulations actually affect business development, and suggested that local regulations, rather than those imposed by federal and state regulatory agencies, may actually be the culprit for deterring businesses.

“You have to want businesses for them to want you, and you have to talk to them and make them feel that this is their home, not just use catch phrases like, “We’re open for business,” he advised. “Don’t just complain, help solve problems. If there is a public hearing about a new business, show up.”

He then introduced Barry DuVal, president of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, who spoke on the Chamber’s Blueprint Virginia 2025 plan, which he likened to Isle of Wight’s Comprehensive Plan currently in development.

Breakfast was catered by The Cockeyed Rooster Cafe. Andrew Cripps, president of the Isle of Wight Chamber of Commerce, delivered the closing remarks.