EXTRA! Town Council to Sell Inner Harbor for $10
CAPE CHARLES WAVE
April 1, 2014
Cape Charles Town Council has tentatively agreed in closed session to accept an unsolicited confidential proposal to buy the inner portion of the Town Harbor for $10. The original offer was $1, but was raised ten-fold as a demonstration of goodwill by the buyer. “Even though we don’t receive a whole lot of money up front, we can expect to benefit in the future from property taxes, water bills, and increased tourism,” explained one Council member who supports the deal.
The purchaser is J. David Schmick, originally from St. Petersburg, Russia, owner of Sketch-Along Resourcing LLC. Schmick, an international entrepreneur, promises that Sketch-Along’s investments in Cape Charles will invigorate the entire Eastern Shore, beginning with the Shanty, which will become a floating restaurant after the style of those in Hong Kong.
Drawing a sketch on a Shanty napkin, Schmick outlined his plan to relocate the Shanty onto a floating dock in mid-harbor. There will be a harbor taxi service to ferry customers, and Cape Charles Water Sports would be a logical supplier of the service, he said. There is also the opportunity for tourists to rent a jet ski to get to the Shanty, eat, and then zoom over to the public beach.
According to an official, the town’s newly increased transient occupancy tax will also be levied on customers of the harbor taxi. “What could be more transient than that,” reasoned the official.
However, at least one close observer is worried that Schmick’s development plans could destroy the small-town charm of Cape Charles. For example, it is already rumored that Schmick will take control of the Shanty and rebrand it as a McCormick & Schmick’s seafood restaurant. Schmick is not known to be associated with the famous restaurant chain, but admits to an affinity for the company that shares his unusual last name.
Entrepreneur Schmick was able to convince Town Council to essentially give him the Inner Harbor to fulfill his vision for a water theme park replacing the current boat slips. Schmick claims to have financing already in place to build a Disney-style “Slip ‘n’ Slide” along with paddle boats, a competition jet ski race course, and an “Ol’ Tyme Ferry Boat” modeled after a Mississippi riverboat casino. (The ferry boat casino would come in Phase 2, with a yet-to-be-determined start date, operated by a separate firm doing business as Charade Adventures LLC.)
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Schmick explained to Council members that the Harbor currently is a liability, not an asset. He pointed out that not only does it produce no tax revenue, but it is also in debt to the maximum allowed by law. “It’s time to liquidate the Harbor,” he said.
One Council member confided that they became sold when town financial advisor Wally Webber of Wally Webber & Associates endorsed the deal. Webber further claimed that the town might have obtained a much higher price for the Harbor were it not for “negative reporting in the Wave.” (CLICK for the Wave’s report on the “red tide” released into the harbor from the town waterworks.)
Meetings between Town Council and J. David Schmick were held without public knowledge. A notice was given of an executive meeting to consider an “unsolicited confidential proposal,” but there was no mention that the Harbor was involved. According to the same Council member, the fear was that if word got out prematurely, Schmick might have decided to buy a different harbor for $10. “Oyster, Willis Wharf, Watchapreague, Onancock – there’s a lot to choose from,” they said. “We’re lucky he got us first.”
But there is still the formality of a public hearing, which has been scheduled for 6 a.m. Sunday, April 6, at St. Charles Parish Hall. Three Council members who are St. Charles parishioners said they recommended the early hour for two reasons: first, it would not conflict with other scheduled activities, and second, members of the public were invited to remain afterward at St. Charles for early mass and to ask Father Mike what Jesus would have done about the Harbor. To encourage a large turnout, an ecumenical group will be serving bread and fish following the public hearing. Riverside Farms is donating five loaves, and Nottingham Seafood is providing two fishes. There is expected to be food left over.
This is not the first time the town has planned to give away a portion of the harbor. In 1988, a Port Authority grant was available to construct docks, but the town had no money for matching funds. Eastern Shore Railroad offered to take control of the north side of the Harbor, where the boat ramps are now, and supply the matching funds. The deal was ready to go through until newly elected Town Council member Frank Wendell organized opposition.
Almost 26 years later, Wendell is now trying to stop the Harbor giveaway to Schmick. He had planned to post large signs in his vacant building next to the Coffee Shop reading SCHMICK IS A SCHMUCK. However, under the new town sign ordinance this would be illegal.
CLICK for complete details of the Harbor sale.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Those reading this story after the initial date of publication should be sure to also read the follow-up story. CLICK HERE.)