By Carol Vaughn —
Data from the 2020 U.S. census shows Accomack County’s population increased by 249 people since the 2010 census, a 0.8% change. The county has 33,413 residents, according to the latest census.
The U.S. Census Bureau released block data for the county Aug. 12.
The Accomack County Board of Supervisors heard a report on initial census data for the county at the Aug. 18 board meeting.
The Weldon Cooper Center for Public Study had estimated the county’s population would decrease by 1.4%, or 470, in the decade, according to a memorandum from Tom Brockenbrough, Accomack County GIS coordinator.
Chincoteague’s population increased by 13.7%. From 2,941 to 3,344, and Painter’s population showed an 18.8% increase, from 229 to 272.
Wachapreague also grew, with a 10.8% increase, from 232 to 257.
Onley also grew, with a 3.1% increase, from 516 to 532.
Bellle Haven, including the Northampton portion of the town, had a 2.1% increase, from 532 to 543.
Accomac and Bloxom’s population stayed the same, at 519 and 387, respectively.
Towns that lost population in the past decade include Hallwood, with a 1.9% decrease, from 206 to 202 residents; Keller, with a 19.1% decrease, from 178 to 144; Melfa, with a 2.9% decrease, from 408 to 396; Onancock, with a 7.4% decrease, from 1,263 to 1,169; Parksley, with a 3.1% decrease, from 842 to 816; Saxis, with a 28.6% decrease, from 241 to 172; and Tangier, which had a 39.8% decrease, going from 727 residents in 2010 to 438 in 2020.
The board next month will begin working on required changes to electoral district lines, based on the 2020 census figures.
Three electoral districts, ED2, ED1, and ED6, have changed population substantially, according to Accomack County Administrator Mike Mason.
ED2 gained 21.6%, ED1 (Chincoteague) gained 13.7%, and ED6, which includes Tangier and other areas, lost 8%.
For redistricting purposes, the ideal district size based on population is 3,713, with a deviation of plus or minus 5% accepted in the past, according to Brockenbrough’s memo.
Adjustments to the census figures, including for the incarcerated population, are expected in September.
Supervisor Donald L. Hart Jr. volunteered to assist Brockenbrough in preliminary work related to redistricting.
Economic Development Investment Application Received from Eastern Shore Microbes
Eastern Shore Microbes, currently located in Belle Haven, has applied for a grant of $76,087 through Accomack’s Economic Development Investment Program. The program was established in 2020 to support businesses the seek to create new jobs and new capital investment in the county.
Eastern Shore Microbes wants to invest $1.75 to expand its current business by acquiring property in Accomack County. The expansion is projected to create 15 new jobs in the next three years, according to a report by Accomack County Administrator Mike Mason.
The Accomack County Economic Development Authority recommended the board of supervisors award the grant.
The item will be on the board’s agenda in September.
Tall Grass Ordinance Sought
The board of supervisors voted to pursue a tall grass ordinance in agricultural areas in Accomack County, which requires asking the General Assembly to amend state law to allow for the county ordinance.
The ordinance would apply to residential lots of one acre or less in the agricultural district.
Accomack already has a code section requiring removal of tall grass, weeds, and other foreign growth from properties in other zoning districts.
In July, the board asked to have Sheriff Todd Wessells weigh in on the proposed ordinance.
“The sheriff is supportive of this effort, but did warn that it could result in the need of additional staffing at a later date,” Mason said.
Broadband Grant Sought
State employees in a meeting earlier this month encouraged Accomack County and the Eastern Shore Broadband Authority to expand its proposed service area for broadband, with a goal of universal coverage, related to an application being made for a state grant.
The Virginia Telecommunication Initiative (VATI) provides funds to extend broadband service to currently unserved areas.
VATI’s definition of universal coverage is that ESVBA would be within reach of all residents who are not within areas of the county for which federal funds have been invested for broadband expansion, which includes areas served by a wireless provider that received USDA funds, according to Mason.
Areas considered unserved under the VATI definition include Captains Cove, a large area on the bayside from the Maryland state line down to Mink Farm Road, Hacks Neck, and Upshur’s Neck, among others, Mason said.
The cost of the project in Accomack County is around $6 million, with an estimated local match of $1.5 million required. The match could come from federal American Rescue Plan Act funds.
It would include 110 miles of fiber, 22 miles of which are in Captains Cove.
So far, 114 applications have been submitted to VATI for grants in this round.