by Lisa Hinton-Valdrighi
WHITE STONE—Mayor Randy Reeves remembers when White Stone was once a “booming town,” where residents could do most of their shopping and find entertainment. He’d like to see that past as the town’s future.
Reeves read his vision statement for White Stone at last Thursday’s meeting, which included a public hearing on input for a downtown revitalization project. No one from the business community attended and there were no public comments.
The hearing is one of three required as part of a reapplication for a Virginia Department of Housing and Community (DHCD) block grant for a commercial renovation project. White Stone was not on the list of recipients for a grant when it was released in the fall 2016. However, town manager Patrick Frere and the town council plan to resubmit an application in 2017.
Council will hold other public hearings on February 2 and March 2.
Following the hearing last week, town planning commission chairman John Taliaferro asked council members if they had thought about their visions for the downtown area. Taliaferro had asked council to come up with individual plans at the December meeting.
“I would like to see a business area contained down the corridor of Route 3 and Route 200,” said Reeves. “These businesses would consist of small family-owned businesses and small chain stores such as dollar stores, a grocery store, fast food restaurant, and specialty stores.
“I believe after these stores are built, the traveling public going through our town will then take the opportunity to stop and shop in our quaint little town.”
Reeves said at one time the town included grocery, drug, general merchandise and clothing stores, along with a movie theater and bowling alley. Residents seldom left to go to Kilmarnock to shop.
He said he’s realistic and knows many of those businesses won’t return to White Stone, but he would like to see residents have more options for shopping and entertainment.
“I don’t want to see huge commercial growth,” said Reeves. “But I do want the town to be large enough that you can shop for main household items and necessities but still be able to raise your children in a safe and rural setting.”
Council members Paul Elbourn, Kelli Blankenship, Blair Kenyon, Drew Hubbard, Will Hubbard and Irving Brittingham said they agreed with Reeves’s vision. Council member Joe Sliakis was absent.
Brittingham said he sees the town’s new public sewer project opening up all kinds of options for business development.
Council decided at a special meeting on December 15 to reapply for the downtown revitalization grant and Frere then began the process.
“A lot of this is repetitive,” he said. The town’s public hearings for the grant were well-attended last spring and Bowman Consulting Group of Williamsburg was hired for a preliminary engineering report (PER).
That report has to be updated for the reapplication. Council voted unanimously, 6-0, to accept a new estimate of $2,500 for a revised PER. Brittingham made the motion to accept the estimate from Bowman and Blankenship made the second.
In a related issue, council voted unanimously to adopt a resolution regarding pre-contract documents for the downtown Community Development Block Grant application.
The resolution is also a requirement of the grant process. Kenyon made the motion to accept and D. Hubbard seconded.
In other business, council voted unanimously to place a memorial brick in the Village Green for John “Jack” Price Johnson III, who served on the council from 2000-08. Johnson died on January 2, 2017.