The Virginia Association of Counties (VaCo) has awarded Botetourt County two Achievement Awards recognizing local government programs that exemplify innovation, that can be replicated in other localities, and that partner and collaborate with local governments, private enterprises, or state and federal governments. The two programs honored by the program are Botetourt’s Broadband Strategy and Housing Strategy.
“Botetourt has always looked for ways to be on the leading edge of creative solutions to the many challenges that we face as a dynamic, 21st century community,” said Billy Martin, chairman of the Board of Supervisors. “The board, senior staff, and community leaders have been working on expanding broadband and housing opportunities for the past three years. I am thrilled to see our hard work recognized in this way!”
The first VaCo award is for the Botetourt Broadband Strategy, a multi-part and long-term effort designed to deliver fiber-to-the-home and other high-speed internet options to the residents and businesses of Botetourt County. Beginning in 2017 with an extensive survey and report of the community, the county has spent nearly three years building organizational infrastructure and intentional partnerships to bridge the digital divide. Both the creation of the Botetourt County Broadband Commission, made up of regional technology and community leaders, and the Broadband Summit have brought national attention to the efforts of the county to solve the rural broadband problem.
As a result, the county has partnered with private providers, electrical cooperatives, and other regional entities to ensure that broadband services can continue to be expanded in the county at a quicker pace than originally conceived. These efforts continue into 2020 as the global pandemic has made the need for broadband even more acute. The county said that all of these efforts have served to make Botetourt County a leader in the world of rural broadband deployment. It is anticipated that more than 1,000 additional homes will have the availability of fiber to the home before the end of 2020.
“Broadband is a necessity, and we work every day to promote its expansion,” said Dr. Mac Scothorn, vice chairman of the Board of Supervisors and chair of the Botetourt County Broadband Commission. “For years, we have pursued every opportunity and approach to increase broadband access and deployment. This VaCo award recognizes our successes and our strategic analysis.”
The second VaCo award is for the Botetourt Housing Strategy. For most of its history, Botetourt County has been a predominantly rural and suburban county. This led to a traditional housing stock of mostly low density, single-family homes that are owner occupied. As a result, broad access to and availability of housing options in the county were severely limited. As economic development activity has picked up and more jobs have been announced in the county, a goal emerged for those who work in the county to have the ability to live in the county. From that goal, the Housing Strategy was born.
Overall, the county said that the Housing Strategy has been a success. From inception to execution, the county has been able to increase both its number and type of available housing, more than doubling the initial goals set for the program. The county said that the Housing Summit and the Housing Toolkit have put Botetourt on the map for developers who are looking for creative approaches to housing, and the Board and community have been generally receptive to those approaches. Approximately 1,100 new housing units have been developed or approved since the Housing Summit in 2017.
“Botetourt County is on the move,” said County Administrator Gary Larrowe. “The opportunities for the county have greatly expanded, and we continue to see people choose Botetourt as the place to work, to raise a family, and to find a community to call home. The team we have put together to solve the county’s challenges really shines and is proven to be one of the best in the Virginia!”
Representatives from VaCo will present the awards to the county at a Board of Supervisors meeting in the coming months.