Normally we wouldn’t write about upcoming municipal proceedings regarding a future Busch Gardens Williamsburg project because, frankly, James City County has consistently fulfilled every consequential request the park has made in recent memory. That said, the height waiver for what we are calling “Project 2021,” the mysterious, planned attraction slated to follow Project 2020/MMXX, hasn’t gone quite as smoothly.
Even more importantly, there’s something we believe our community can do about it. Stay tuned till the end of this article for information on how you can help.
Roughly a month ago, James City County’s Board of Supervisors was slated to hold a vote on the 355 foot height waiver Busch Gardens Williamsburg requested back in April. We learned a fair amount about the project from that hearing, but the outcome wasn’t what we were expecting. Due to a forceful outcry from Kingsmill residents, the James City County Board of Supervisors voted to delay the final vote for a month to allow additional time for public comment. That rescheduled vote is on the docket for tomorrow’s Board of Supervisors meeting.
The official agenda published ahead of tomorrow’s meeting includes emails sent to James City County by a small handful of unhappy Kingsmill residents who are encouraging James City County’s Board of Supervisors to deny Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s request. If this happens, it would likely have huge consequences on Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s 2021 project.
So, what are the objections? I encourage you all to at least scan through the full document of citizen correspondence, but since I know few will, I’ve included some fun snippets below.
If the request is approved, the result would be to incorporate Kingsmill into the shadow of the amusement park, effectively incorporating it into the overall festive environment. Many of us would prefer the quiet enjoyment of our property, but this will make that impossible.
~ Michael H. Kettering
Please do not approve this height waiver action. The consequences of doing so will be enormous to our Kingsmill community. This ride will be equivalent to a 40-story building in height and far surpasses the treetops; it will be visible to hundreds of residents! Furthermore, the height waiver proposal does absolutely nothing to address or mitigate the noise -Nothing – this waiver provides Busch Gardens “Carte Blanche.” This ride would literally be 2-300 yards from the Warheads Pond Road and its recreation center and a constant visible omnipresent present reminder to residents about how our elected officials were only concerned about incremental tax revenue from the park, but at the expense of significantly declining property values and a permanent scaring of relationship between Kingsmill resident and JCC.
~ William J. Mutell
Reducing the height by at least 75% and providing an effective noise reduction plan would go along way to improve the situation. Lacking these changes, the waiver as presented should be rejected as being detrimental to the residents that neighbor Busch Gardens and also to the community at large.
~ Jonathan L. Stolz
The proposed “Height Limitation Waiver Resolution” only addresses the lighting and color scheme of the structure. There is NO mention of ANY noise mitigation requirements. Can you imagine the screams coming from the top of a 40-story structure??? You can bet that Busch Gardens will market and advertise this thrillseeker’s delight of an attraction, with no regard for its impact on the Park’s neighbors. Meanwhile, the nearby residents will be forced to endure an endless chorus of blood-curdling screams and sight of this monstrously tall structure, which will reduce their property values (oh, yes…and the James City County tax base) and greatly impact their quality of life. THIS DOESN’T HAVE TO HAPPEN. YOU CAN VOTE “NO”.
~ Susan Mutell
I urge you to oppose the waiver and ask Busch Gardens to revise their plan for the new ride. I would further want to express to their management that people are not drawn to their park for extreme rides. There are many other parks in the country with much more extreme rides. People come to Williamsburg and this Busch Gardens because of its natural beauty, the birds and wildlife that abound not only in their park but outside of it. They are drawn by a park that provides a safe and beautiful area to spend time with their families. Do not take away the magic of this place by allowing a ride that will dominate the beautiful tree line on interstate 60, in Kingsmill, and from the James River. Do not take away the tranquility of the sound of birds that is audible every time you step outside. Ask Busch Gardens to come up with a better plan that does not disturb the sight lines and natural tranquility for Kingsmill residents, the wider community, and visitors.
~ Christine Mutell
As you can tell from the quotes above, the vast majority of the objections from Kingsmill residents are rooted in the visual and noise level impacts of the addition. Many of the people objecting to this proposal went further, accusing Busch Gardens Williamsburg of doing nothing to mitigate the impacts of the proposed attraction.
In reality, Busch Gardens Williamsburg commissioned height and noise impact surveys ahead of filing for this height waiver.
The results of the balloon test can be found here. I’ve also included what I’d consider to be the most impactful viewpoint from within the Kingsmill community below.
I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t call that visual impact “detrimental to the residents that neighbor Busch Gardens,” as Jonathan L. Stolz asserted in his comments to James City County.
As for the noise study, Busch Gardens reports that the loudest the attraction would be from Kingsmill property would be roughly 54 decibels. For comparison, Suzy Cheely pointed out that the average household AC unit produces roughly 80 to 90 decibels of noise pollution. An attraction that produces significantly less noise than a home’s HVAC unit, certainly doesn’t sound like something that will have “a significant detrimental effect on home values and quality of life” for the people of Kingsmill as Dan and Shannon Woloszynowski claimed in their letter to JCC.
Furthermore, according to the park’s testimony at last month’s meeting, BGW has already moved the highest point of Project 2021 further away from Kingsmill in an effort to minimize the impact on neighboring properties. Hyperbolic statements from Kingsmill residents claiming that there is “NO NOISE MITIGATION PLAN” (as claimed by Bill and Sue Mutell in their email to JCC) are simply absurd. The fact of the matter is that Busch Gardens Williamsburg has already taken steps to mitigate the noise from this proposed attraction. I’ve included a clip below of Suzy Cheely’s statement to that effect.
How to Help
So, now that you’ve seen all of the fist-shaking from Kingsmill residents in response to Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s request to build a 355 foot tall attraction in Festhaus Park, you may be wondering if there’s any way to push back and help Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s case. There is.
Whether you are a James City County resident and believe Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s ability to continue to compete is an asset to your community or you are someone from outside the immediate area that visits James City County regularly who spends a great deal on park tickets, merch, food, lodging, other area attractions, etc., you should consider making your voice heard before or even at tomorrow’s meeting.
Now, I could just tell you how to do that myself, but where’s the fun in that? Bill and Sue Mutell sent an email to a long list of other James City County residents asking them to file their objections to BGW’s 2021 project. Through doing so, they gave some pretty great pointers on how best to voice your opinions on this vote. Hence, I’ve included the relevant portion of their email below.
Here is what you can do right now:
Pass this note to neighbors, and ask them to send it along to others. Knock on your neighbor’s doors. Either show-up at the County offices at 5PM this Tuesday (101 Mounts Bay Road, Bldg. F) or send emails to the Board of Supervisors, especially our local [Kingsmill] representative, John McGlennon. Do so immediately please. Additionally, send an email to Roberta Sulouff. She is the County Planning Point Person for this project. If you do so, your comments will be entered in the “record” at the meeting on Tuesday; it’s the same as showing-up and speaking your mind. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Please add all the supervisors to your email.
email@example.com John McGlennon (Roberts District) ** Kingsmill
firstname.lastname@example.org Jim Icenhour (Jamestown District)
email@example.com Ruth Larson (Berkeley District)
firstname.lastname@example.org Sue Sadler (Storehouse District)
email@example.com Michael Hipple (Powhatan District)
Thanks for your time and the courtesy of spreading the word quickly. Please forward to anyone else.
~ Bill and Sue Mutell
If you do decide to send an email supporting Busch Gardens 355 foot height waiver before tomorrow’s meeting, we’d love to see what you drafted! Feel free to share them with us via our various social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) or to the BGW Project 2021 thread on ParkFans.net! We may even share a few of our favorites in the hours ahead!
If you opt instead to show up to tomorrow’s Board of Supervisors meeting to make a public comment in support of the approval of this height waiver, please have a reasonable case prepared, dress nicely, and be respectful. I’d also recommend watching last month’s full meeting to get a feel for how things work and what the current state of play is.
In closing, I want to say one more thing.
Many readers will wonder why this article is being published (exactly) 24 hours before the Board of Supervisors meeting. Well, a key objection to approving the 355 foot height waiver last month was that Kingsmill hadn’t been given enough time to properly inform and mobilize their residents. I believe we can dwarf the response they managed to drum up with less than 24 hours of notice. Let’s see if that holds true. 😎