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Windsor debuts draft strategic plan

Higher-density housing, making Windsor more “walkable” and beautifying the Route 460 corridor are among the goals outlined in the town’s draft strategic plan – a document that, once finalized, is intended to guide current and future Town Council members’ decisions for the next 20 years.

Titled “Focus on the Future,” the document lists a total of 16 steps or “action items” as they are called to “provide stability and growth” and “assure the Town is a place that people want to live, work and play.”

Windsor’s Town Council began working on the plan in early 2019 after an October 2018 report by former planning and zoning administrator Ben Sullivan had concluded Windsor’s share of Western Tidewater’s total population and economy had shrunk significantly and would likely continue to do so through 2023 unless the town found new ways of attracting younger people and their dollars.

Once completed, “Focus on the Future” will stand separate from the town’s comprehensive plan, which the town’s Planning Commission oversees and last updated in 2016. According to Town Manager William Saunders, the comprehensive plan “primarily guides land use decisions” while a strategic plan “is a creature of Town Council” used as a “guidepost for a broader range of decisions,” some of which involve the expenditure of town tax dollars.

Action Item No. 2, for example, “develop a master plan for the properties along Route 460 and surrounding area” would involve not only amending the town’s comprehensive plan, but possibly meeting with county staff to discuss the potential for an intergovernmental retail recruitment strategy, which could involve obtaining estimates from consultants and including funding in the town’s budget for the project. Action Item No. 5, which suggests connecting Windsor to Smithfield via a bicycle trail, and Action Item No. 11, developing a property on Bank Street into a public park, would also require a source of funding. Others, such as Action Item No. 8 – working with the county on shared services such as emergency communications, parks and recreation and information technology – are already underway.

“We’re not starting from ground zero,” said Renee Rountree of RR Facilitation LLC, who served as the Town Council’s consultant in developing the draft plan.

In May of last year, the town received approval from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development for a grant of just under $10,000, which is expected to at least partially reimburse the town for the cost of hiring Rountree and mailing surveys to town residents in November 2019, just over 200 of whom responded.

Windsor’s Planning Commission got its first look at the draft on Dec. 8 during a joint meeting with Town Council members. The COVID-19 pandemic and significant staff turnover – with Windsor’s former town manager, planning and zoning administrator and treasurer all departing earlier this year – were factors in the months-long delay in getting a draft plan written this year, Saunders said.

The Planning Commission plans to review the document more thoroughly at its January meeting, with the Town Council taking action to formally adopt the plan in February.