Warm and muggy weather will continue today. But storms on Thursday are expected to usher in much cooler temperatures, according to Meteorologist Myles Henderson of WTKR News 3.
The weekend will feel more fall-like, and the weather should be very pleasant for many of the local events coming up, like the Yorktown Folk Festival.
If you missed this week’s community calendar of events, you can find it here.
Have questions, comments or suggestions? Reach out any time by hitting “reply” to this email.
Now to the news.
1. Hundreds of additional affordable housing units may soon be coming to Williamsburg.
- The Williamsburg Planning Commission voted unanimously last week to approve an amendment designed to increase the availability of affordable housing units by converting existing hotels in the city.
- The plan would increase the number of adaptive housing units from 150 to 350. Facilities that participate in the project would be required to offer affordable rents to households with incomes at or below 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI). The plan would increase the number of participating properties from two to “no more than five.” Additionally, it aims to convert 20% of those units into two-bedroom dwellings.
- There are currently two properties in the city that have been converted into affordable adaptive housing units: The Flats of Williamsburg on York Street and Willow Creek Apartments on Parkway Drive. According to Tevya Griffin, Planning & Codes Compliance Director, The Flats currently have an occupancy rate of 98%, and 11% of residents are Housing Choice voucher recipients. Willow Creek has a 94% occupancy rate, and 24% of the residents there hold Housing Choice vouchers.
- City Attorney Christina Shelton explained that the original purpose of the hotel conversion program was not to provide more affordable housing but rather to allow underperforming hotels to be repurposed for a more suitable use. As a result, median income requirements for residents were not imposed for those facilities, but those requirements will be in place for future conversion projects.
- Griffin stated that the need for more affordable housing is evident because the turnover rate at these existing properties is very low, and families who inquire about living there are usually turned away due to a lack of availability. She also said that renters in the area tend to have larger families than homeowners, so affordable, multiple-bedroom units are badly needed.
- Griffin also said the demand for affordable housing remains high in the area, emphasizing that 15.2% of the city’s population lives in poverty, and 20% of the city’s children live in poverty. Most of the residents living in the currently available adaptive housing units work in the hospitality industry or at big box retail stores, grocery stores or restaurants. Nearly 100% of them work part-time or hold multiple part-time jobs.
- Commission member Greg Granger noted that the city is also concerned about ensuring that entry-level teachers and public service professionals are able to afford housing locally. He hopes the hotel conversions will make it easier for them to affordably live in close proximity to where they work.
“I’d like to make sure our entry-level teachers and firefighters and police can all qualify and can all afford to live here,” Granger said. “Hopefully, their income will be sufficient to live beyond this, but as the market changes and grows, I think it’s important that we make sure our teachers can live in our locality as well as people who work in our municipality. It’s a serious concern I have.”
- While there are 32 hotels and motels in the city, the planning commission identified 13 facilities that would be compatible with the goals of the project. Properties were removed from consideration if they were located adjacent to Richmond Road or on Capitol Landing Road. Properties owned by Colonial Williamsburg were also removed from the list of possible options.
- The remaining properties up for consideration include Bassett Motel, Rochambeau Motel, Budget Inn, Colonel Waller Motel, Econo Lodge, Rodeway Inn Historic, Red Roof/Royal Inn, Baymont by Wyndham, America’s Best Inn, MainStay Suites, Super 8, Travel Lodge and Best Western.
The Flats of Williamsburg, located on York Street, is one of two successful hotel conversion properties in the City of Williamsburg that currently offers affordable housing. The Planning Commission voted last Wednesday to approve an amendment that will increase the number of similar adaptive housing units from 150 to 350. (Photo by The Triangle).
2. The York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office is searching for a man who robbed a bank Friday morning.
- The York-Poquoson Sherriff’s Office (YPSO) is looking for a man who robbed a bank in York County – reportedly while wielding a hatchet – on Friday morning. The incident happened at Old Point National Bank on Kiln Creek Parkway, according to a post on the sheriff’s office’s Facebook page.
- The suspect was identified by authorities Tuesday as Justin Michael Craver, 45, of Chesapeake. He was described by a witness as a tall, white male with white hair and a muscular build, though the most recent images released by police show the man with brown hair. He was wearing blue jeans and a gray or white long-sleeve shirt, a black facemask, sunglasses, a straw hat and blue medical gloves.
- Craver fled the bank on foot, and police don’t know where he is. No injuries were reported during the incident, but Craver is wanted on a felony armed robbery charge. Anyone with information about this incident or the man’s whereabouts is asked to contact the sheriff’s office crime line at 757-840-4999.
3. Colonial Williamsburg held a naturalization ceremony for the first time since the pandemic.
- Forty-one people became U.S citizens during Colonial Williamsburg’s first naturalization ceremony since 2019, 13NewsNow reports. The event has been held annually since 1976 but was called off for the past two years in a row because of the pandemic.
- The group of new citizens represented 30 countries. They took their Oaths of Allegiance on the Colonial capitol lawn on Friday, kicking off Constitution Day celebrations at Colonial Williamsburg. The oath is the last step in the process of becoming a naturalized citizen.
“Seven of the framers of the Constitution were immigrants,” said Bryan Austin, a Colonial Williamsburg interpreter and actor who delivered the keynote address. “This is one of the rare instances where the sentiment, ‘This is what this country is,’ is extending out of love, out of charity, out of fraternity.”
- The event was particularly poignant because the rights of American citizenship were first established in 1776 at the Williamsburg Capitol amid the creation of the Virginia Declaration of Rights. The ceremony was organized and hosted by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation along with the Williamsburg Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
4. Newport News has begun working on a new project that will improve access to the James River and create a new space for events.
- City leaders broke ground on a new project on the James River waterfront Thursday. The nearly $5 million project will be known as the James River Strand.
- The project includes the development of new walkways to connect Christopher Newport Park, the Victory Arch and Victory Landing Park. An outdoor amphitheater for entertainment will also be built, along with terraced lawn seating and other amenities to support small-scale performances and special events.
“The James River Strand Project will transform the downtown waterfront in Newport News,” says Newport News Mayor McKinley L. Price. “Residents and visitors will soon be able to enjoy unique entertainment while taking in the most spectacular views in Hampton Roads. Additional park enhancements will help guests of all ages connect with nature and create lasting memories in our great city.”
- The initiative is part of the city’s Downtown Reimagined Plan, which aims to create a vibrant, walkable community for everyone. Another major goal is to encourage more investment and development in the city’s Yard District.
- During the construction phase, Christopher Newport Park will be closed for about one year, and 26th Street will remain closed to vehicles and pedestrians from West Avenue to the end of the cul-de-sac. Victory Landing Park, along with the other parks in the city, will stay open.
- Additional information on the Downtown Reimagined Plan is available on the city’s website.
5. A 14-year-old Bruton High School student was charged after making school threats.
- The York Poquoson Sheriff’s Office announced that a 14-year-old student at Bruton High School was charged last week after threatening to bomb the school and harm a staff member.
- The sheriff’s office added that the department – as well as the York County School Division – “take all reports seriously and investigate them thoroughly.”
- Officials declined to share additional information but asked parents to talk to their children about the serious consequences that can come from making such threats. They also urged the public to directly report threats of concern to the police department.
“This is an opportunity for us to remember our words have meaning, and we cannot and will not dismiss reported threats as pranks, jokes, or lapses in judgment,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement.
- School threats have become increasingly common across Hampton Roads in recent days. Police are actively investigating threats made against schools in Newport News, Virginia Beach and Suffolk, WAVY News reports. So far this week, at least ten schools across Virginia have reported threats, according to WFXR News 8. While they all appear to be false, many have triggered police responses and lockdowns.
- According to WTKR News 3, students with guns have also been reported at schools in Hampton Roads in the past week, with incidents prompting police investigations at three different schools in Suffolk. A 16-year-old student was arrested amid one of those investigations.
- The problem spans well beyond Virginia: Large-scale police responses and even FBI investigations were triggered by false bomb or shooting threats made last week in Albuquerque; Denver; the Houston area; Wichita, Kansas; Pine Bluff, Arkansas and multiple counties in both North Carolina and Florida.
6. An Ashanti Alert has been issued for a missing Newport News man.
- State police have issued an Ashanti Alert for a Newport News man who has been missing for over a month. 41-year-old James Philip Allen was last seen near the James River Bridge in the early morning hours on August 13.
- Investigators say they believe there is a “credible threat to his health and safety.”
- Allen is 5 feet, 10 inches tall and weighs 165 pounds. He has blue eyes, brown hair and a scar over his eye and on his chin.
- Anyone with information about Allen’s whereabouts or appearance is asked to call the Newport News Police Department at 757-247–2500. Tips can also be submitted anonymously by calling 1-888-LOCK-U-UP.
State police issued an Ashanti Alert for James Philip Allen, who was last seen in Newport News at about 5:30 am on August 13, 2022. (Photo courtesy of the Virginia State Police).
Lowest Gas Prices Today
Local Covid-19 Update
New cases: ➕ VDH reports that an additional 11,600 people in Virginia tested positive for Covid-19 last week (down from 13,195 cases reported during the previous week). Localities on the Peninsula with the biggest increases in new cases (over 100) last week include Newport News (+212), Hampton (+192) and James City County (+129), according to WTVR News 6.
Hospitalizations and deaths: An additional 231 people were hospitalized with Covid-19 in Virginia last week (down from 235 the week before), according to VDH data. 92 Covid-19-related deaths also occurred in the state last week (up from 124 reported in the week before).
Vaccination rate: 72.5% of Virginians are fully vaccinated (up from 72.4% last week).
In the National News
- Putin Mobilizes Reservists: President Vladimir Putin has ordered Russia’s first mobilization of reservists since World War II, Reuters reports. Putin made the announcement Wednesday while issuing a new set of warnings against the West, vowing that Moscow will respond with all of its might if its territorial aims are threatened. The mobilization will call up 300,000 reservists and will include those who served in the military previously. The move signals that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is not going nearly as well as Putin intended. “Clearly [the mobilization] is something that we should take very seriously because, you know, we’re not in control – I’m not sure he’s in control either, really.” British foreign office minister Gillian Keegan told Sky News. “This is obviously an escalation.”
- Queen Elizabeth II Laid to Rest: More than 2,000 guests – including over 100 world leaders – arrived in London to attend a state funeral for Queen Elizabeth II Monday at Westminster Abbey. Over a million mourners lined the streets as the Queen’s coffin was transported to Windsor Castle amid a military-led procession. Britain’s longest reigning monarch was then buried at Windsor Castle alongside Prince Philip, her husband of 70 years. The state funeral, which included a two-minute nationwide moment of silence, was the U.K’s first since the death of Sir Winston Churchill. More than 4.1 billion people worldwide tuned into the service, making it the most-watched televised event in history, Newsweek reports.
- Panel Recommends Routine Anxiety Screenings: An influential U.S health guidelines panel has called for all U.S doctors to routinely screen adults under age 65 for anxiety, the AP reports. The recommendations were made by the U.S Preventive Services Task Force, which consists of a panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine. While the proposal is open for public comment until October 17, the group almost always upholds its draft guidance. According to the task force, data shows there is a great deal of evidence to support the screenings, particularly given the surge in mental health strain associated with pandemic isolation and stress. Anxiety disorders are one of the most commonly reported mental health complaints and affect 40% of women and more than 1 in 4 men in the U.S, the group said.
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