Rountree retools task force proposal

Published 5:22 pm Monday, February 5, 2024

Isle of Wight County Supervisor Renee Rountree has retooled her proposal for a “growth management” task force charged with evaluating the county’s readiness for a population surge from new housing developments.

Rountree revived the proposal at the supervisors’ Jan. 16 meeting, but the board again took no action other than to urge her to include representation by the county’s and two towns’ planning commissions.

Virginia law requires local governments to have their own planning commissions, appointed bodies that make recommendations on land-use decisions to their respective town or city councils or boards of supervisors. Planning commissions also share primary responsibility for developing and revising a locality’s state-required comprehensive plan to guide land-use decisions based on local growth and development trends.

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“I have appointed my planning commissioners for a reason,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Joel Acree said. “They are very good about vetting a lot of these; they are my experts.”

If Rountree’s task force is approved, Acree said his appointees to the body would be his district’s commissioners: George Rawls and Rick Sienkiewicz.

Rountree, who has since reworked her proposed task force to include planning commission representation, says she plans to again push for its creation when the supervisors reconvene on Feb. 15.

Isle of Wight County’s School Board has also asked to be included in the task force, though Rountree said she envisions the school system’s participation as being more of an advisory role than as a sitting member.

Rountree, on Jan. 23, suggested her task force proposal could serve as a “precursor” to the Planning Commission’s state-mandated five-year review of the “Envisioning the Isle” comprehensive plan. Her latest proposal for the task force calls for an 11-member body consisting of one supervisor, one council member or planning commissioner from each town, one Isle of Wight planning commissioner, one non-government representative from each of the county’s five voting districts and two at-large members, one from the Newport DSD and one from the Carrsville DSD on the southern end of the county.

Rountree, as part of her revised proposal, is calling for the updating of a 2020 study by Bethesda, Maryland-based TischlerBise Inc. The study, which had cost the county $79,000 to produce at the time, had forecast based on 2018 and 2019 data that the county would grow by roughly 0.8% per year to a countywide 39,255 residents by 2024 and wouldn’t cross the 40,000 mark until 2027. Census data, however, shows Isle of Wight has grown 4% over the past two years and had an estimated 40,151 residents as of mid-2022.

Another option Isle of Wight Planning Commission Vice Chairman Thomas Distefano proposed at the Jan. 23 meeting was for Rountree’s group to take the form of a subcommittee of the Planning Commission, asserting that much of what she is proposing “overlaps” with the Planning Commission’s responsibilities.