Local economic growth, the worth of Eastern State Hospital and the importance of maintaining the features that make the city attractive to revenue-generating tourists were among the main topics discussed at November’s Neighborhood Council meeting.
According to Williamsburg City Manager Jackson Tuttle, Williamsburg citizens have enjoyed rapidly rising residential property values over the last five years. From 2001 to 2006, residential properties have increased at an average annual growth rate of 13.4 percent, as compared to a 3.3 percent rise in commercial property values. Tuttle pointed out that real property tax only comprises 24.7 percent of all tax revenue. The City, he said, relies heavily on revenue from sales, room and meal taxes.
Mayor Jeanne Zeidler emphasized the importance of continuing to generate revenue from tourism.
“Encourage people to buy tickets instead of just walking down the [Duke of Gloucester] street,” Zeidler said.
Zeidler was optimistic about commercial growth in Williamsburg that will take pressure off city residents, citing the plans for a Yankee Candle store on Richmond Road.
“I think it’s another example of the healthy economy we have in the city,” she said.
Hospital officials discussed the importance of Eastern State Hospital and its assistance to state, local and non-profit agencies, including its “operation of a psychology internship program in collaboration with the Medical College of Hampton Roads and the College of William and Mary.”
Recent concern over the prospect of a for-profit, Florida-based corporation privatizing the hospital in the name of what legislators say will be increased efficiency has sparked dialogue over the hospital’s function. Citizens voiced concern that the quality of care at the nation’s first public psychiatric hospital will be compromised with privatization by an out-of-state corporation.
City leaders also touched upon the maintenance of attractive external features which draw tourists, and therefore revenue, to the city.
Tuttle, responding to a citizen complaint, emphasized the need to remove graffiti from buildings on Second Street, a high traffic area.
Zeidler mentioned the new initiative by the city to install wireless internet in the Merchant’s Square area: “It keeps us on the cutting edge of what’s going on.”
Citizens suggested the creation of financial incentives for the renovation of homes and businesses, a move that many say would spur the changes that would increase the appeal of the city to visitors.