Correctional center, sanctuary drew crowds in 2019

Published 1:53 pm Tuesday, January 7, 2020

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By Diana McFarland

The Smithfield Times


Plans to put a juvenile correctional center near Windsor and the request that Isle of Wight declare itself a Second Amendment Sanctuary drew the biggest crowds, and the most impassioned speakers, to the Board of Supervisors’ meetings in 2019.

Also generating interest was the debate over whether to renovate or replace Hardy and Westside elementary schools, increased housing development activity and fears about the traffic it will bring, property reassessments and the opening of the long-awaited, but endlessly controversial Park-to-Park Trail.


The proposed juvenile correctional center, which would have been located on county-owned land along Route 258, was to house 60 male youth, ages 14-21. It was designed to represent a new concept for the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice — smaller facilities closer to where the youthful offenders call home, with a focus on academics, skills training and staff support.

Windsor area residents were adamant, however — they did not want it. The Supervisors did, claiming it would enhance economic development, provide a use for a vacant parcel in land in the intermodal park, as well as provide water and sewer along Route 258.

Bitter words were exchanged, distrust flared up, threats were alleged, two Economic Development Authority members quit in anger over the issue and passionate speeches against the project, and those who would be housed there, were made in the many hours of meetings and public hearings.

In the end, it was a flip vote by Board Chairman William McCarty, who had originally supported the plan, that caused the project to die.

He, along with Windsor District Supervisor Joel Acree and Carrsville District Supervisor Don Rosie, cast the other two votes needed to defeat the project.


It was standing room only again in December, when the Board was asked to consider an effort by the Virginia Citizen’s Defense League to have all Virginia counties declare themselves Second Amendment Sanctuaries. The push by the VCDL was in response to Democrats taking control of the Virginia statehouse and fears that they, in turn, will pass a long list of gun laws that could infringe on Second Amendment rights. The sanctuary piece means that Boards of Supervisors that adopted such a stance would not support any new gun laws passed by the General Assembly. Since Boards do not have that authority, the resolutions are considered symbolic and a message to the General Assembly.

The Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors stopped short of declaring a sanctuary and instead voted to declare the county a “Constitutional County,” meaning it supports the U.S. and Virginia constitutions.


Mostly dormant since the Great Recession, concern about rapid residential growth resurfaced in 2019, as plans for several large housing developments either entered the pipeline or are waiting in the wings. Worries mostly centered on two areas — traffic and schools.

Traffic along Route 17 in the Eagle Harbor area has become intense, particularly during morning and evening rush hours. The concern is compounded by the fact that the Virginia Department of Transportation has no plans to widen the James River Bridge anytime in the near future.

Benn’s Grant, with its approved 776 houses, as well as other approved 1,177 units in other developments, could be joined by Sweet Grass with its 685 houses along Benn’s Church Boulevard, Timber Preserve on Smith’s Neck Road with its proposed 340 units; and South Harbor with 340 units off Carrollton Boulevard.

Those numbers don’t include approved projects in Smithfield — or those in the works — such as Mallory Pointe with 265 houses or the Park @ Battery with 150 units.


The second looming concern is over school facilities — that is, are there enough to handle future growth. The Isle of Wight School Board proposed building a new elementary school in the northern end of the county — where development is most active — but that was put on the back burner when it became obvious that Hardy and Westside needed replacing, or renovations, sooner rather than later.

The consensus between the Board of Supervisors and School Board is to replace Hardy, in its current location, but to make it considerably larger to handle overflow from Carrollton. The two Boards are still deciding between renovating and replacing Westside. Either option could allow for future expansion.

Tax bite

For some Isle of Wight residents, their property values went up this year — a change, as values had remained fairly flat since 2012.  For some, the increase was hard to swallow, as they saw hikes of 20 percent or more on the value of their homes.  Others saw the value of their property drop — and could be seen as good or bad, depending on their plans.

Conducted every four years, the reassessment is, by law, to align closely with market values.

Overall, residential property values went up an average of 5 percent this year.

In turn, the Board of Supervisors decided to keep the tax rate at 85-cents, but also hold onto the additional revenue generated by the increased values — the equivalent of a 2.7 percent real estate property tax increase.

Open trail

And after years of effort — and controversy — a portion of the Park-to-Park trail opened in early 2019 and another section is under construction. At an overall cost of $8.1 million, it the price tag that continues to raise the ire of most detractors. When completed, the four mile trail will connect Carrollton Nike Park with South Church Street, via Battery Park Road, in Smithfield. The missing portion that will connect it to Windsor Castle Park and the historic downtown area, is up to the Smithfield Town Council and it has not yet nailed down the path it wants to take. Estimates for that portion range from $2-3 million, depending on the route chosen. Trail supporters have said the trail connects 12 housing areas to shopping and recreational facilities and provides an outlet for physical activity.

Incumbents return

Newport District Supervisor William McCarty, Smithfield District Supervisor Dick Grice and Windsor District Supervisor Joel Acree were all reelected to serve a second term on the Board of Supervisors. Commonwealth’s Attorney Georgette Phillips and Isle of Wight County Sheriff James Clarke were also voted back into office, as were Commissioner of Revenue Gerald Gwaltney and Treasurer Judy Wells.


DIANA MCFARLAND is the editor of The Smithfield Times. Contact her at