Final Appeal Tonight on Hotel Cape Charles
By GEORGE SOUTHERN
Cape Charles Wave
February 21, 2013
The scene: A 1950s movie. Two teenagers in hotrods are playing a deadly game of chicken on a deserted dark highway. As they roar head-on toward one another, one of them has to swerve. If neither gives up, they both die.
Tonight, the Town of Cape Charles and Hotel Cape Charles face off in their own version of “chicken.” Either one party wins and the other loses, or if neither side gives in, they both go down in flames.
The stand-off is over the design of the hotel building — specifically the glass-walled balconies. When hotel owner David Gammino originally submitted his design proposals to the Town’s Historic District Review Board, the balconies were shown in wrought iron, and that’s what the Board approved.
Gammino later changed his mind, but never advised the Board. And although the Town was supposed to monitor the construction, no one noticed that the building didn’t look like the approved design until it was too late.
The hotel received a temporary occupancy permit, allowing it to open last summer. Meanwhile, the Historic Review Board instructed Gammino to go back to the drawing board and come up with balcony walls that looked more “historic.”
Gammino dutifully sent new architectural drawings showing wood surrounds on the glass. But the Review Board rejected the proposal, and turned the case over to Town Council.
And so tonight, six citizens who have never claimed any expertise in historic architectural style will determine whether Hotel Cape Charles is allowed to reopen.
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The decision seems sure to be a political one, not an architectural one.
If Town Council denies Gammino’s appeal, under Town rules the $3 million hotel will remain closed, causing untold damage to the Town’s reputation as well as to the local economy.
Given the widespread acclaim the hotel’s design has enjoyed, Town Council would be crucified if it shut down the hotel. Both sides would be the losers.
But if Town Council plays the chicken and gives in, it overrules the Historic District Review Board for doing the job they were appointed to do.
OTHER TOWN COUNCIL BUSINESS
Harbor Access Road: Council is expected to pass an ordinance expressing support for state construction of a connector between Stone Road (SR 184) and the Town Harbor and Bayshore Concrete that would bypass the Town’s business district. Northampton County Board of Supervisors has a similar resolution.
The proposed ordinance urges the Virginia Department of Transportation to abandon plans to upgrade Old Cape Charles Road and instead construct the connector road.
No map accompanies the resolution.
Harbor District Density: As the Wave reported February 7, the Town Planning Commission has asked Town Council to sign off on a new method for calculating density in the Harbor District, and Town Council is expected to do so tonight.
There has been no opportunity for public input on the proposal, either to the Planning Commission or to Town Council.
The plan appears to be first to finalize decisions by the Planning Commission and by Town Council on Harbor density, and then to hold the public hearings required by law.