Planning Commission Sets Another Public Hearing to Rezone Old School Property

Echelon Resources developer David McCormack meets publicly for first time with Town officials and residents.

Cape Charles Wave

July 11, 2012

The Cape Charles Planning Commission voted last night to schedule further public hearings to consider rezoning Central Park’s old school building, basketball court, and parking lot from “Open Space” to “R-1” (single family residential).

Simultaneously, the Planning Commission will conduct a hearing for a special use permit to allow conversion of the school to a 17-unit apartment building.

Several public hearings have already been held, but residents, backed by an attorney, have pointed out a number of deficiencies in the process, leading the Town to schedule further hearings.

For example, the April 3 public hearing occurred without required notification to adjacent property owners.

Some dozen persons came to the meeting last night to object to rezoning the property. Only Bob Panek, the Assistant Town Manager (who explained that he was speaking in his private capacity), endorsed the project.

Odessa Sullivan said that “the town has not inspired trust that procedures are being followed.”

Debra Bender noted that the Town’s 2009 Comprehensive Plan calls for public space for public needs. “This plan would take away parking for the children’s playground. As a grandmother I use the parking to take my grandson to the park on a regular basis.”

Wayne Creed, president of Old School Cape Charles, LLC, said, “Town Council has ignored the advice of the Town attorney, who said there should be a buyback option and a performance bond. The developer scuttled our high-paid attorney’s advice.”

George Southern claimed the Conditional Use Permit application was “fraudulent,” because it contained a signed statement representing the owner of the property as Echelon Resources, when in fact the Town is the owner. The application also claimed to contain a “disclosure statement signed and notarized verifying ownership,” which was lacking. He also said no required survey had been done to determine where the property would be subdivided between the playground and the apartment building.

Newly elected Councilman Frank Wendell drew attention to extensive email correspondence between the Echelon Resources developers and Town staff members Bob Panek and Town Manager Heather Arcos, which was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. Wendell took umbrage over Echelon’s Edwin Gaskin’s characterization of opponents of the development as the “idiots of the world.”

Wendell also contrasted the lack of requirements by the Town on Echelon Resources compared to those expected of Old School Cape Charles.

Following the meeting, Echelon developer McCormack spoke informally with residents. Some of them expressed unhappiness that the negotiations over the property had been done in secret, and that Town Council had refused to entertain other proposals and petitions. “You may be venting on me when I’m not the bad guy,” McCormack said.