Isle of Wight comprehensive plan subcommittee plans first meeting

Published 12:00 pm Tuesday, July 9, 2024

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A comprehensive plan-focused stakeholder working group under Isle of Wight County’s Planning Commission is tentatively scheduled to hold its first meeting on July 9 at 6 p.m., though not all of its members have been appointed.

The meeting may be postponed to Aug. 13, the first date a third-party consultant will be available. 

As of July 1, appointees included Shane Cook and Bishop Turner Fuller, each representing District 1; Keith Meadows representing District 2; Jonathan Hartley representing District 3; and Trent Gwaltney and Amber Wells, each representing District 5.

The group is intended to have two representatives from each of the county’s five voting districts, but is still missing a second District 2 representative and two from the Windsor-centric District 4.

The working group is the latest iteration of a “growth management” task force Isle of Wight County supervisors voted to create in February at the urging of District 1 Supervisor Renee Rountree, which she proposed tasking with evaluating the county’s readiness for a population surge from new housing and commercial developments.

A draft timeline Isle of Wight Community Development Director Amy Ring presented in March called for a “growth rate impact scenario study” by an outside consultant, the findings of which would be incorporated into the working group’s updates to the “Envisioning The Isle” comprehensive plan the county adopted in 2020. Under state law, that plan must be reviewed every five years.

According to Ring, one of the working group’s first orders of business will be deciding whether to create a growth management-focused subcommittee.

At the commission’s June 25 meeting, Ring said she’d solicited four consultants and had received bids from two ranging from $39,000 to $59,000 for a 12-month commitment, though each has reportedly pledged to be able to complete the work in six months.

Ring’s March timeline had called for the group to break into smaller subsets, each of which would delve into a specific section of the 2020 comprehensive plan. Currently, the plan is divided into 10 chapters: “Guide the Isle,” “Preserve the Isle,” “Shape the Isle,” “Connect the Isle,” “Serve the Isle,” “Educate the Isle,” “Enhance the Isle,” “Envision the Isle,” “Create the Isle” and “Share the Isle.” Growth management could be an overarching focus of the full group or the focus of one of these subsets, Ring suggested in March.

Isle of Wight, already the sixth or seventh fastest-growing county in the state according to differing census data and rankings by the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center, saw seven rezoning applications for new and expanded subdivisions in 2023 that would collectively add more than 1,900 new houses to the county’s northern end. Another 2,200 homes spread across eight developments approved prior to 2023 are either in progress or could break ground soon.  

The resulting influx of more than 1,000 new students from northern-end developments could put four of the county’s nine schools at or above capacity, according to enrollment projections Isle of Wight County Schools shared with Smithfield’s and Isle of Wight’s Planning Commissions in December. A competing study Weldon Cooper released in January showed only a 2% uptick in enrollment through 2029, but did not take into account the impact of housing starts.

The 2020 plan had estimated 0.8% annual population growth, though Isle of Wight actually saw closer to 2% per year in the past three.