Bracing for Change: A Breakdown

Jun 29, 2022

City of Thomas: Everyone’s Hometown

Tucker County emerged in 2020 as one of the hottest outdoor recreation spots in the country—and just like the nation’s other top outdoor destinations, the onslaught of accumulated visitors has been a blessing and a curse. The problem of too many visitors is something most West Virginia towns wish they had. However, it has caused more than a few critical issues in the towns of Thomas, Davis, and Tucker County, magnifying pressure on the county’s already overstrained resources and infrastructure.

As these issues escalate in Tucker County, the City of Thomas commissioned Downstream Strategies to conduct a comprehensive market study to help them understand the rapidly unfolding dynamics playing out in the area. Downstream Strategies published the results of that study in its 2021 report, “Bracing for Change: A Market Study of Community Needs, the Built Environment, and Projected Growth in Thomas, West Virginia.” We have detailed a summary of that report below.

  • Growth:
    • With record levels of tourism in 2020 and 2021 and the announcement of the Hyperloop Certification Center, the greater Thomas area faces significant pressure for development.
  • Housing: 
    • Driven by a surge in demand from out-of-state homebuyers, sales and prices of homes in eastern Tucker County have soared since 2020. At the same time, local incomes have largely stagnated, and the overall supply of housing is declining as sold properties are being rapidly converted into short-term rentals. This combination of factors is deepening the county’s housing crisis, particularly in Thomas, Davis, and Canaan Valley.
    • While there are at least 192 known housing units in varying stages of planning coming to Thomas and Davis in the coming years, the area needs 129 additional units of workforce housing to meet its existing needs. On top of that, several hundred additional housing units will be needed to accommodate growth from the planned Hyperloop Certification Center.
  • Workforce: 
    • With exceedingly few quality housing options under $300,000, many people working essential jobs in the area—including in education, health care, service industry, and more—cannot afford to live in Thomas, Davis, or the surrounding area. Fueled in large part by lack of housing, businesses throughout the area are experiencing widespread staffing shortages.
  • Land and infrastructure: 
    • County economic developers maintain growing lists of businesses and individuals seeking to locate in the area; however, the lack of available, developable land and limited wastewater capacity present major bottlenecks to development county-wide.
  • Infill development: This report identifies nearly 22 unbuilt acres and 46,211 square feet of existing building space in Thomas and Davis as prime for infill development to meet the area’s need for additional housing and business space. However, the need greatly exceeds the current availability of available, developable space in eastern Tucker County.

As shown throughout the report, there is a tremendous opportunity on the horizon for Tucker County to grow both its economy and population. While this growth could benefit the County and its municipalities, it also raises fundamental, undeniable issues.

As a result, the question now is how to manage growth—and accommodate more visitors and more residents—in a way that maintains community character, preserves the area’s natural treasures, increases the quality of life for residents, and maximizes economic benefit.

Downstream Strategies: Consulting With a Conscience.
Downstream Strategies isn’t your average environmental consulting firm. With years of experience, expertise, and creativity to solve your most complex environmental problems, a simple list of dos and don’ts won’t do the trick.

We have the passion to get the job done the right way, right away. Contact us today by calling (304)292-2450 or filling out the contact form on our site.