Kingsmill homeowners respond to Escalante plans for development

  From the KCSA Elected Board of Directors   Over the past several months, the KCSA elected board members have dedicated their efforts to actively gather feedback from the community concerning Escalante’s development plans and the establishment of a new Kingsmill Community Park. The feedback from over 220 residents attending 19 community meetings was summarized in a report and sent to Escalante and the community in May 2023.  
KCSA elected board members have been crafting their own Formal Request Letter to Escalante regarding future development and the community retaining the current soccer field.
This letter is rooted in feedback gathered from our community meetings and requests moderation in development plans, lower home building density, and preservation of the Kingsmill park-like design.   Escalante is moving forward and has recently submitted conceptual plans for their proposed development to James City County. A meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 21, at 4 p.m., in Building A of the County Government Center. We encourage residents to attend. KCSA will keep the community updated on this process.  
Below are details from an email sent by John Risinger, Senior Planner for James City County, dated Friday, June 16, 2023.  
Development applications that have been submitted to the County can be searched for and viewed on the County’s PermitLink website. Here is a link to the materials for the current Kingsmill conceptual plan, C-23-0032, specifically. Meeting agendas for the Planning Commission, Board of Supervisors, and others, are posted on the County’s Agendas and Minutes webpage. C-23-0032 will be discussed at the June 21, 2023, Development Review Committee meeting for initial feedback from the committee members. That meeting will take place in Building F of the County Government Center, 101 Mounts Bay Road, at 4 p.m. Here is a link to the agenda of that meeting.

Over the past several months, the elected members of the KCSA Board of Directors and
members of the Strategic Planning Working Group have listened to both Escalante
representatives and Kingsmill residents regarding Escalante’s preliminary plans to further
develop the community. It is clear to us that there is a need to balance the interests of both
organizations in order to better serve the community, promote the lifestyle expected by
residents, and support the development needs of Escalante to ensure a healthy and viable
We disagree with and have questions about parts of the conceptual plan as submitted
to the James City County planning staff.
To that end, we recognize and support the following:

  • Need for reasonable residential development to sustain a vibrant community and ensure
    increasing property values.
  • Community’s desire to retain the natural setting and design concepts of the original
    master plan for Kingsmill on the James.
  • Importance of the “soccer field” as a central venue for Kingsmill recreational and
    community events.
    Escalante’s Commitments and Efforts
    Escalante is making efforts to improve the Resort and the Kingsmill community. This is
    illustrated by the following:
  • Escalante has committed to investing $25 million in the Resort upgrades, starting with a
    renovation of the sports club and resurfacing the tennis courts.
  • Escalante owners and staff held an open house to share and communicate preliminary
    Resort and real estate development plans.
  • Escalante has made commitments to the community to help build an alternative athletic
    field, gatehouses, and entrances.
    All these plans and commitments are recognized as Escalante’s desire to maintain the viability
    of the Resort, develop real estate, and increase club memberships.
    Maintain the Kingsmill Community Design and Future Development
    As cited in the original developer’s promotional brochure, “Kingsmill was built around one idea.
    Mother Nature. Mother Nature made Kingsmill a beautiful place to live. And in the design of
    this resort/residential community, great care was taken to complement the natural advantages
    of the land.” (Washington Post, 1976, see attached brochure)
    Kingsmill, a forerunner of HOA communities, was conceived as a “community in a park” with a
    centrally located resort, championship golf courses, and multiple tennis courts. In architectural
    publications, Kingsmill has been cited as an example of blending a community into a park-like
    setting. Some examples include:
  • Kingsmill entrances have setbacks a quarter of a mile from the connecting highways.
  • None of the main arterial roads are open to residential driveways.
  • All multifamily parcels, except the Enclave, have setbacks from the roads, interior open
    greenspace, and amenities, e.g., a swimming pool or tennis court.
  • All multifamily parcels, except the Enclave, contain off-street parking.
  • Minimal removal of trees to create buffers
    Kingsmill residential properties have higher price-per-square foot sales than other similar
    Williamsburg area properties largely because of the park-like community setting and design.
    Our Views on Moving Forward
    As we approach the 50th anniversary of Kingsmill, we need to grow and refresh the existing
    infrastructure. Association residents are diligently reserving funding to upgrade community-owned properties. Escalante has also made commitments to rebuild Resort amenities and has
    prepared a real estate development plan that includes refreshing Kingsmill entryways, building
    new gatehouses, and developing 240 new residential homes.
    This preliminary development plan has been commented on in the summary report based on
    feedback from 220 residents who attended KCSA’s community meetings. Based on this
    feedback and our own observations, we are requesting the following modifications to the
    proposed Escalante conceptual real estate development plan:
  1. Retain the soccer field, pavilion, and historic buildings as central open greenspace for
    the community to continue to enjoy as they have for many decades. This site was
    actually promoted in the attached marketing publication for Kingsmill as the “Kingsmill
    Athletic Field.” Past developers recognized the significance of this land to Kingsmill
    residents and chose to plan their real estate development in other areas, such as the
    Woods Golf Course.
    This objective can best be achieved by transferring the soccer field, pavilion, and
    surrounding open greenspace to KCSA for use as the Kingsmill Community Park. The
    cost to improve and maintain this property is far less than all other alternatives.
    Transferring this property to KCSA will reduce the footprint for the proposed Frances
    Thacker Homes development to the current areas of employee parking, maintenance
    shop, and dump site near the cell towers. As an alternative to single-family homes,
    Escalante might also consider building multifamily residences. This will greatly reduce
    the traffic and safety concerns of the surrounding neighborhoods and allow the soccer
    field, pavilion, and historic buildings to remain community amenities.
  2. Take advantage of the strong market appeal of building homesites at the Woods Golf
    Course, as reported by Escalante’s current real estate marketing opportunity analysis
    report (RCLCO, June 2021). There are many advantages to consider:
  • Lower housing unit density in River Course 5/6 and Wareham Pond Estate Lots
    and still achieve the goal of building 240 units by building next to the Woods Golf
  • Reduce traffic concerns on Wareham’s Pond Road by opening another gate at
    the end of Busch Road and providing a third access to Kingsmill.
  • Minimize clearing trees that are currently acting as a buffer to the brewery and
    amusement park.
  • Retain the original design integrity and natural feel of the Kingsmill community.
  1. Redesign the development plans for River Course 5/6 by reducing housing density and
    adding ample setbacks, adequate buffering, off-street parking, and more open
    green space. The new plans would be much more acceptable to the Kingsmill
    community, and more than likely the County, which must approve rezoning plans. The
    importance of adding and retaining adequate buffering to the brewery for light and
    sound reduction can’t be over-emphasized.
  2. Reduce the number of Wareham’s Estate Lots, especially those beginning at the Woods
    Golf Course turn-off, in order to maintain adequate buffering to the amusement park and
    retain the natural beauty of the Country Road.
    Alternative Sites for Open Space – Areas 2 and 13
    Area 2 and 13 have significant drawbacks to development as the Kingsmill Community Park
    and represent a costly option. As natural open spaces, these areas provide buffers to Rt. 199
    and McLaws Circle in addition to protecting the Country Road. It is our opinion that the land is
    best served as perpetual open spaces for the Kingsmill community. Accordingly, we are
    requesting the land be transferred to KCSA.
    Our objectives are to represent the best interests of the community and support the financial
    viability of the Resort. We believe our changes accomplish these objectives. We want an
    opportunity to negotiate our requested changes in order to gain community support.
    We look forward to your response

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