Mason Avenue Development Concessions Sought

Cape Charles Wave

April 7, 2014

The Cape Charles Board of Zoning Appeals meets today (Monday) at 4 p.m. at Town Hall to hear public comment and make a determination on variances requested by local developer Patrick Hand.

Hand proposes to demolish the former Be-Lo grocery store on Mason Avenue and build a commercial and residential building on the property. He is requesting reductions in setback requirements, permission to provide less than the required number of parking spaces, and a reduction in the amount of green space required by Town Code.

According to a background report from Town Planner Robert Testerman, the development would open the Strawberry Street viewshed to the harbor. But that might only happen if the town buys a portion of the property from Hand for an extension to Strawberry Street. Hand told Town Council March 27 that if the town did not purchase the property soon, he might sell it to someone else.

While the grocery store has been shuttered for many years, the property owner has allowed lots on either side of the building to be used for public parking. Hand had offered to sell part of one of the parking lots to the Town for public parking, but Town Council and Hand were unable to agree on a price. [Read more...]

Promote Economic Development — Not Rezoning

Reprinted by permission from ShoreLine, the newsletter of Citizens for a Better Eastern Shore. 


April 7, 2014

The reasoning behind the proposed revision of our zoning ordinance, we are told, is to pave the way to economic development. In that light, prompt disclosure of Northampton County’s actual efforts towards promoting economic development will be appreciated by her concerned citizens. We have recently hired a $100,000 per year Economic Development Director to direct us towards prosperity, and it behooves us to know what he has been doing these last 12 months to sell our place to the business world.

The Northampton County Board of Supervisors charged him with the task of revising and simplifying our zoning ordinance. That ordinance he has drafted with the aid of considerable staff, albeit lacking certain studies that could validate the work. The point of “simplifying” the ordinance for the benefit of economic development begs many questions: What are our goals? What is our business plan for marketing and selling the Shore to industry and business? What is our marketing budget, our inventory of real estate assets, our infrastructure assets — i.e. labor, training, materials, transportation, etc? What marketing aids such as brochures and pamphlets have been developed? What trade organizations are targeted? What presentations will we host at places where decision makers gather to meet? What advertising and publicity will we generate?

A good business plan includes a vision statement and the Three P’s: Product, Pricing, and Promotion. There is plenty of “product” zoned for business for sale, yet there appears to be no “promotion.” Our Development Director should build a partnership with the Shore’s real estate agents — our best sales people — who are on the front lines of economic development. Put the product up prominently on a shelf, advertise its availability to your customers, and go out and drum up business.

We hope that Mr. McSwain has not been sidetracked for zoning work. How many contacts has he generated, how many visits has he hosted and how many prospects have turned us down because of our so-called “preservationist” zoning? The County needs to entertain some “paying” customers and find out what their needs are before we attempt to fix something that we are not even sure needs fixing. The Supervisors need to supervise our star salesman to make some sales!

Let’s get down to brass tacks and let Mr. McSwain do what he does best. As well, our Planning Commission, and the public, ought to be privy to what our business plan is and how it is being fulfilled. I, for one, would like to see it in black and white or, better yet, in full color.

David Kabler is a Realtor, a local businessman, and a former Northampton County Planning Commissioner.

Submissions to COMMENTARY are welcome on any subject relevant to Cape Charles. Opinions expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily of this publication.


Employee Reunion Marks 50 Years Without a Ferry

Ferry reunion attendees assemble at Cape Charles Welcome Center.

Ferry reunion attendees assemble at Cape Charles Welcome Center.

Cape Charles Historical Society

April 7, 2014

On Saturday, March 15, the Cape Charles Historical Society hosted a reunion of Chesapeake Bay ferry employees. The ferry operations ended at Kiptopeke 50 years ago with the opening of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. Many of the ferry employees went to Delaware and New Jersey to work with the newly formed Cape May-Lewes ferries; others went to work on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, and a few went to new jobs working on ships in Panama.

Over 50 people attended including approximately 20 former ferry employees along with family members and other ferry enthusiasts. Ferry employees included captains, mates, deck hands, janitors, office staff, wheelsmen, boiler tenders, and engineers, as well as auxiliary support personnel. Also attending the reunion were representatives from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.

The Cape Charles Museum was filled with laughter and the sound of stories being told, memories being rekindled, and friendships being renewed. The nostalgic atmosphere was enhanced by the many ferry model displays, paintings, and pictures as video clips of old ferry scenes ran on several televisions and computers. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel also provided an interesting display of memorabilia collected over the years.

Ron West and Butch Baxter presented a slideshow with commentary about the history of the concrete ships making up the breakwater at Kiptopeke and the final destination of the ferries, most of which have been scrapped. Interesting facts presented included accounts of the sinking of the Northampton when she struck an unmarked reef (Suwanee Rock) in the Gulf of California’s Lorenzo Channel leading into La Paz, Mexico, on June 19, 1975, and the sinking of the Princess Anne in May 1993 off Palm Beach, Florida, to create a fishing reef. The Virginia Beach is still running as a ferry in Connecticut. The Old Point Comfort was grounded and abandoned on the Rio Parana’ River in San Nicolas, Argentina, in 1993. The Accomac (once the Virginia Lee) burned May 28,1964, and was later towed to Mallows Bay on the Potomac and partially scrapped. Her remains are still visible today.

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel displays and paintings will remain in the museum for the season to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Bridge-Tunnel.

The Cape Charles Historical Society was extremely pleased to be a part of such a timely event recognizing the people who were a pivotal part of an important era in the history of our region.

The Museum will open the last week of April and remain open until the end of November. Hours are 10-2 Monday through Friday, 10-5 Saturdays, and 1-5  Sundays. Admission is free.

Speakers inside museum

Speakers revisited history of the ferries at the museum.

Cape Charles Christian Competes in Odyssey of Mind



Cape Charles Christian School

April 7, 2014

Students at Cape Charles Christian School expanded their minds this academic year by participating in the Odyssey of the Mind program. Students in grades 4-7 were able to participate in a weekly after school program that provides creative problem-solving opportunities. Team members are encouraged to apply their creativity to solve problems ranging from building mechanical devices to presenting their own interpretation of literary classics. 

The 4th and  5th grade team of six students under the direction of Kate Tayloe worked on a “Not So Haunted House.”  They created a haunted house that used mechanisms to create special effects that were intended to frighten, but actually produced a different effect. CCCS teacher Holly Hubbard coached four middle school aged students on the project they selected which was called “Drivers Test.” The overall project was to create a vehicle that moved forward using one propulsion system and backward using a different propulsion system.  They had to write a skit that included a driver’s test and accomplished three separate tasks along the way.  “Our students put an Eastern Shore spin on the problem by making their driver’s test a boat driving test and including channel markers as their directional signals. They also make mention of Cobb Island, and include a lesson about the harmful effects of mylar balloons on the sea turtle population.” said Hubbard.

“ I was really impressed with the creativity and imagination students put into the projects and that they did all of the work themselves” said Kate Tayloe, CCCS teacher and OTM coach. Students must do all of the work as a team, planning and executing the solution for the problem they select.  The role of the coach is to guide students in their problem solving and collaboration, not do it for them.

Cape Charles Christian School along with other Northampton and Accomac students participated in the Tidewater Region 6 Odyssey of the Mind Tournament on March 29 at Tabb High School in Yorktown, VA.  As they packed up their projects, they were filled with excitement over participating in this event for the first time. They had no expectations of winning. They were quite simply just excited to participate and of course to embark on a road trip! The CCCS community was humbled by the recognition the middle school “Drivers Test” team received as they were named the Division Two Region 6 champions for this problem. They came back to Cape Charles with happy hearts and eager minds, ready to prepare to compete at the state level on April 26 in Rocky Mount. “Our kids have collaborated to solve a very complicated problem. Odyssey of the Mind is an amazing experience for our students where they are forced to think and problem solve in a hands on project. They are developing skills they will take with them and use in real life experiences,” said middle school team coach Hubbard.

Follow the student’s adventure on the CCCS Facebook page at Cape Charles Christian School. Enrolling now for the 2014-15 academic year. Forward questions about the Cape Charles Christian School to 757-331-1717 or [email protected].

NHS Students Construct Cabinet for American Legion

Northampton High cabinetmakers (Photo courtesy Dave Steward)

Northampton High cabinetmakers (Photo courtesy Dave Steward)

American Legion Post 56

April 7, 2014

Despite being one of the oldest Posts in America, American Legion Post 56 had to literally restart from the ashes of a fire that completely consumed it decades ago when it was located in Cape Charles. The past few years have seen a transformation within the Post, including not only an internal structural change but also a collection of items and mementos that reflect the proud military service of its membership.

Ever mindful that Post 56 evolved from a well-known supermarket that was once a gas station and car dealership, the Post’s leadership, under the skillful direction of Commander Dave Steward, has made great efforts to preserve Post history. More important is the effort to preserve the veterans’ stories and the culture of the Shore where the veterans reside. [Read more...]

April Fool’s Comes but Once a Year


April 2, 2014

Quite a few more readers than we expected were fooled by yesterday’s story reporting that Town Council was selling the Inner Harbor for $10. We thought we had planted enough clues to make everybody realize it was a joke, but in retrospect we realize the story was close enough to reality to be somewhat believable.

For example, after the first sentence reporting the $10 sale, we wrote: “The original offer was $1, but was raised ten-fold as a demonstration of goodwill by the buyer.” But that’s exactly what happened with the old school property: the buyer originally offered $1 and then raised it to $10.

The next clue was the Harbor purchaser: J. David Schmick of St. Petersburg, Russia, owner of Sketch-Along Resourcing LLC. Readers who have closely followed the sale of the school and park property know the buyer was J. David McCormack of Petersburg, Virginia, owner of Echelon Resources LLC. But not everyone remembers that, so it wasn’t enough to give the hoax away.

But then we reported that Schmick planned to turn the Shanty into a Hong Kong style floating restaurant, and that he might rebrand it as a McCormick & Schmick’s restaurant. If that wasn’t a giveaway, we thought that surely the Disney waterslide, jet ski race course, and ferry boat casino would not pass the reality test. An added clue was that Charade Adventures LLC would operate the ferryboat casino. The contract to buy the old school was with Echelon Resources, but the town actually sold it to another McCormack company – Cheron Ventures. [Read more...]


EXTRA! Town Council to Sell Inner Harbor for $10

In this view of Cape Charles Town Harbor, the new Yacht Center will utilize the rectangular cutout at middle back of photo.

Inner Harbor at left rear will be sold, but the new Outer Harbor at front will remain, as will Coast Guard station and new yacht repair facility.


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.) [Read more...]


Big Mason Avenue Project Raises Parking Concerns

Developer Patrick Hand supplied this sketch of one of the buildings he proposes to construct on the site of the old Be-Lo grocery.

Developer Patrick Hand supplied this sketch of one of the buildings he proposes to construct on the site of the old Be-Lo grocery.

Cape Charles Wave

March 31, 2014

Local real estate developer Patrick Hand outlined to Cape Charles Town Council last Thursday his plans to demolish the vacant grocery store building on Mason Avenue and replace it with two new buildings with stores on the ground floors and condos above. But while a prominent eyesore would disappear, so would more than 100 public parking spaces.

Hand envisions an extension of Strawberry Street running through the middle of where the 1950s-era grocery store building is located, with a new structure flanking each side of the street. He suggested that the town buy the property from him needed for the extension and turn it into a pedestrian mall.

The proposed buildings would be constructed and occupied in phases, beginning with a three-story structure across the street from the Wilson Building on the corner of Mason and Strawberry. A second building two to four stories high would be built later, east of the first building. The first building would contain 28 units, five of them ground-floor commercial storefronts and the rest mostly one-bedroom condo apartments. Some corner units would have two bedrooms.

Hand has a contract to buy the 1.45-acre Be-Lo building and parking lots for an undisclosed price. Although Hand does not yet own the property, he has been negotiating with the town to sell it a portion of the property to be turned into a pedestrian mall, and another portion to be used as public parking. Negotiations have so far not been successful.

Hand also is asking the town for several concessions, including a deferral of water and sewer connection fees, a reduced setback requirement, and a blanket parking variance. Hand said he has requested a hearing by the Board of Zoning Appeals, but there are no details on the town website. [Read more...]


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