LETTER: What Is Happening in Northampton County?
June 8, 2015
About a decade ago, family members relocated from our rural area in upstate New York to Northampton County, which they call “the lower Eastern Shore.” Retirement age, they were seeking a more serene way of life, and subsequently invested nearly $750,000 in property there, convinced that the rural and scenic county would meet and exceed their every need. My husband and I, also creeping up on the age where we might want to enjoy living in a milder climate, first visited their new home in 2006. A weekend stay then cocked our heads a bit, and we put a checkmark in the box next to “potential” prospects on our small but growing list.
Our next stay, the following summer, lasted nearly a week. During that time we dug a little deeper into what the county and incorporated towns offered, with a keen eye on whether or not the “lower Shore” would remain a contender. Within several years, our visits expanded to include more lengthy stays, burning up our vacation time between Northampton County and the Outer Banks, another possible retirement site.
The area where we live has seen its share of environmental incursions, from waste incinerators, coal burning plants, hard rock mines, oil pipelines, and construction and demolition landfills proposed for residential areas. Therefore, when looking for property that would be protected from these body blows, we looked very carefully at zoning ordinances and comprehensive plans in prospective retirement candidates, as those blueprints reflect the vision that the majority of residents hold for the future of their local and regional setting.
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The 2009 Comprehensive Plan and its supporting ordinance, both written with the input from residents through surveys, workshops, town hall meetings, and focus groups, was our jump-off point to help us really understand how solid the footing was on what we perceived to be a very stable and protective community. The roadmap for economic growth in those documents envisioned public, private, and governmental support for ”aquaculture, education, agriculture, tourism, nature-based recreational offerings, small business growth, and the arts.” Perfect. Just what we wanted.
So by 2013 we started actively looking for real estate in Northampton County. We knew what we wanted: open space, low density, rural, and protected. But after learning in 2014 from our relatives that the Northampton County Board of Supervisors was planning to rezone the entire county into a more crowded, industrial, commercial, and less-protected community, we put our potential investment plans in Northampton County on hold, and will not rekindle our consideration until this issue is well settled.
Some of the changes that we see that stop us dead in our tracks are the fact that waste incineration (now called waste management and resource recovery — I guess in an attempt to mask the real plans) and large-scale industrial chicken farms are being welcomed into the county.
Protections for drinking water (the quality of which we have heard might be less than perfect in areas close to the Atlantic Ocean and the mighty Chesapeake Bay) are being eliminated, with no restrictions on how much land can be paved over on each parcel. And as for how taxpayer resources are currently being handled by county government, given a small population of just over 12,000, that also is mind blowing.
We are hoping that people in the county take the time and effort to protect their investments, both current and prospective, as I am sure that we are not the only ones who will look elsewhere if the current “leaders” get their way.
SARAH and TIM LOUGHLIN
New York State