Cape Charles Area Finally Gets a Vet

Dr. Nathan Higgins with a young patient.

Dr. Higgins with a young patient.

By DR. NATHAN HIGGINS

October 6, 2014

There are two questions that I generally get when I meet someone new. It’s either, “Do you have family here?” or “What brought you to the Eastern Shore?”

The first one is easy; no, we don’t have family here. The second is much more complicated and multi-faceted. From the moment we stepped on the Shore in April 2013, we found the contrast to our usual hustle and bustle to be so refreshing. Northampton County was filled with unobstructed charm along with caring people who took the time to get to know us.

We saw an exciting small town community that was growing steadily while keeping a safe, family atmosphere. But we were astounded to hear that there was no veterinary clinic in the county, and to learn how far people were traveling for pet care.

After only a few visits to Cape Charles, my wife Wendy and I knew this is where we were being called to be. Our children were at the perfect age, and Wendy could write from home, so we decided to chase our dream to the water.

I’m looking forward to the opening of my new clinic in Cape Charles and can’t wait to be of service to the community. Most people think the vet is just there to give shots, but vaccinations are only a small part of my job. We will be a full service hospital, able to perform surgeries, x-rays, and provide medical care for sick patients. [Read more...]

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Goodbye Sullivan’s, Hello Long & Foster

Out with the old, in with the new. (Composite photo)

Out with the old, in with the new. (Composite photo)

CAPE CHARLES WAVE

October 6, 2014

Last week former mayor Dora Sullivan closed her office supply store at 109 Mason Avenue, which had been the informal “town hall” for eight years. She had announced her retirement concurrent with stepping down as mayor last July, but kept the shop open until it could be sold or rented.

Meanwhile, Realtors Lynn Gray and Melanie Brown had closed their Eastern Shore of Virginia real estate office just up the street and joined Long & Foster in Onancock. That’s when L&F listings started appearing on For Sale signs in Cape Charles.

Business must be good, because Long & Foster now has leased the Sullivan’s storefront. No more trips to Onancock will be necessary.

Mason Avenue has somewhat of an incestuous working relationship. One of the principal agents at the new Long & Foster agency at 109 Mason is Betty Lou Charnock, fresh from Coldwell Banker Harbour Realty of 205 Mason — which, coincidently was formerly the address of Gray and Brown’s Eastern Shore realty office.

Meanwhile, a little further up the street at 225 Mason, Gray’s husband Chip Watson holds forth at Watson’s Realty and Watson’s Hardware. Right next door to him is Melanie Brown’s husband, Tim, who will “Hook U Up” with gourmet sandwiches and pizza. [Read more...]

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Bay Creek Property Owners Get Tax Scare

Northampton County legal notice threatens sale of Bay Creek private roads for back taxes.

Northampton County legal notice threatens sale of Bay Creek private roads for back taxes.

By GEORGE SOUTHERN
Cape Charles Wave

September 22, 2014

It took a few months, but an obscure legal notice published June 6 in the Eastern Shore Post finally attracted the attention of Bay Creek property owners when they heard that the private roads they drive on might be sold for back taxes.

The legal notice listed 47 properties owned by Bay Creek LLC, the company owned by Richard “Dickie” Foster. Most of Foster’s former holdings have been sold to Keyser-Sinclair, operating as Bay Creek South LLC. Another portion – the former Bay Creek Marina, Shops, and Aqua Restaurant – was foreclosed and sold to Robert Occhifinto in December 2012.

More than half the properties listed in the legal notice are lots on Stone Road coming into town that have nothing to do with Bay Creek other than that Foster owns them. Those lots have now been conveyed to another entity, “HJ Rail LLC,” also wholly owned by Foster — but the tax is still overdue.

Before the Stone Road lots were listed to be sold for back taxes, Foster offered six other Stone Road lots to the Town of Cape Charles for $100,000, and the town bought them for the asking price. The terms of sale required the $100,000 to be applied against Foster’s delinquent tax bill, both to the town and the county.

Blue-green lines indicate Bay Creek roads that Northampton County has threatened to sell for back taxes.

But what largely escaped notice until recently is that other properties in the legal notice include Bay Creek Parkway – the principal private road running through Bay Creek, and other common holdings. The blue-green outline on the map at left indicates portions of Bay Creek Parkway and other private roads listed in the legal notice.

When taxes become delinquent for several years, the Northampton County Treasurer’s office employs Yorktown tax attorney James W. Elliott to handle legal proceedings. It is Elliott who announced that “proceedings will be commenced” on July 7 to sell the properties. That does not mean a tax auction would have occurred on that date — only that a lengthy “proceeding” was to have begun at that time.

Some two months later, an alarmed Bay Creek property owner, Andrew Follmer, sent a letter to Dickie Foster and Gary Dorsch (president of Keyser Capital) stating that “both the County Treasurer’s Office and the Law Offices of James Elliott confirmed that taxes from 2011, 2012, and 2013 remain unpaid on these parcels — along with interest, penalties, and attorney’s fees — as published in a public notice in the Eastern Shore Post on June 6, 2014. According to Mr. Elliott’s office, the latest instructions from the county were to file suit to proceed with sale if the taxes were unpaid by Sept. 15, 2014.” The letter was copied to Bay Creek property owners and subsequently passed to the Wave. [Read more...]

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Mayor Proto Flip-Flops on County Sewage Issue

Mayor Proto takes oath of office. (Wave photo)

Mayor Proto takes oath of office. As president of the Cape Charles Business Association he opposed treating wastewater from commercial users on Route 13. But as mayor he has bought on to the idea. (Wave photo)

By GEORGE SOUTHERN
Cape Charles Wave

September 15, 2014

What a difference being mayor makes. Just seven months ago when George Proto was president of the Cape Charles Business Association he wrote a hard-hitting letter to then-Mayor Dora Sullivan, chastising her for failure to answer his questions about processing county sewage at the town’s new treatment plant. “My original questions have yet to be answered after almost 6 months,” he wrote.

Proto and the Business Association were concerned that running a sewer line to Route 13 would promote commercial competition on the highway. “There does not appear to be any significant benefit to the Town of Cape Charles from the proposed connection,” Proto wrote to Mayor Sullivan.

Now Proto is mayor, and acting Town Manager Bob Panek has convinced him, along with all other members of Town Council except Frank Wendell, that piping commercial sewage from Route 13 into town is a good idea. Panek’s argument is that (1) the income received will reduce town utility bills, and (2) if the town doesn’t take the sewage, the county will eventually build a plant elsewhere – perhaps on the Webster property in Cheriton — and the town will have forever lost the opportunity to operate a regional treatment plant.

Panek oversaw planning of the town’s new sewer plant, which with some modifications is large enough to treat all the wastewater in the lower part of the county, were there some means to get it there. Meanwhile, the fixed costs of the plant are eating the town and its ratepayers alive.

Town Council agreed September 11 (Wendell dissenting) to negotiate an agreement with the County’s Public Service Authority to accept wastewater for 1.5 cents per gallon. All Council members agreed that PSA customers must also pay the town a substantial facility hookup fee, even though Panek has opposed such a fee, fearing it would drive away potential customers.

As Business Association president, Proto had urged that the sewer line project be put on hold “until certain significant questions” were answered. The first question was, “What is the projected benefit to the town from the Route 13 sewer line?” [Read more...]

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Consultant Declares Town Staff Underpaid, Overworked

CAPE CHARLES WAVE

September 8, 2014

A consultant hired by the Town of Cape Charles has reported that town staff salary ranges are “significantly lower” than in comparable regional organizations. The consultant warned that because salaries are “below average market rates,” Cape Charles may experience difficulty hiring and retaining employees in the future.

The town paid Richmond consultant Springsted Inc. $8,400 to conduct the salary study, which entailed comparing Cape Charles town salaries with those in other municipalities. However, Springsted Senior Vice President John Anzivino said they were unable to obtain information from any other town on the Eastern Shore, including Onancock and Chincoteague. Most of the comparisons are with towns closer to Hampton Roads and Richmond, although both Northampton County and Accomack County salary schedules were obtained.

Springsted’s proposed salary schedule recommends increases for every town position surveyed, with more than half the town’s workforce currently earning less than even the minimum proposed salary for their grade.

The report recommends a maximum salary of $87,900 (not including benefits) for the Chief of Police, the Director of Public Works, the Treasurer, the Harbor Master, and the Code Official. Anzivino emphasized that the actual salary earned by a town employee was not considered — instead it is the salary range of the position that matters. That’s because a new, inexperienced employee will be paid much less than a long-time, seasoned staffer doing the same work.

The report suggests a maximum salary of $72,300 plus benefits for the Assistant Town Manager, the Town Clerk, the Town Planner, and the Librarian.

Maximum salary for the Wastewater Plant Operator in Charge would be $68,900.

The Recreation Coordinator could earn up to $65,600, while the Public Works Supervisor would see a maximum salary of $62,500.

Springsted also recommended that the town hire additional support staff in order to free up department heads for other duties. A “lack of internal support” has caused inefficiencies, with department heads forced to prepare their own reports, conduct research, answer phones, and conduct administrative support functions, Springsted found. [Read more...]

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GUEST EDITORIAL: No Town Halls, No Dialogue

cbes200By JOHN ORDEMAN
Citizens for a Better Eastern Shore

September 8, 2014

The ShoreLine editorial board announced several months ago that we have begun a campaign to get county Supervisors to hold occasional Town Hall meetings with their constituents, a practice that would give the people who elected them an opportunity to engage in meaningful discussion with their representatives and enable the Supervisors to be more responsive to the will of the electorate.

All of the Northampton Supervisors responded to a query from ShoreLine asking whether they would schedule meetings with their constituents.

Granville Hogg, who has been holding Town Hall meetings ever since he joined the Board of Supervisors in January, wrote: “I have always thought Ron Wolff [the Accomack Supervisor who holds monthly public meetings] did a great job by meeting with his constituents. I decided it would be good for me to adopt a similar policy so long as residents were interested in what was happening. I would try to keep them informed and listen to what they thought was important. At those meetings I would exchange information with constituents. If there was disagreement, why did they disagree and what information were they relying on? In some cases, they had better information than I possessed; hence, I took that information into consideration for future decisions.”

Hogg’s statement is an excellent summary of what can be accomplished at Town Hall meetings, and it is remarkable that Hogg’s colleagues will not follow his example and give their constituents the opportunity to exchange information and debate issues with them.

Larry LeMond’s response to the query was, “I thought about holding a town hall meeting last year, but never got around to it. But I do think it is a good idea and I plan to hold one or two this year – probably the first one will be in July or August.”

Rick Hubbard wrote, “I will give your idea some consideration and look into possibly doing it sometime.”

Larry Trala sent word through Janice Williams that “he has no problem or objection to having constituent meetings.”

Oliver Bennett replied, “No comment.”

None of the Supervisors, other than Hogg, has held a Town Hall meeting in spite of the fact that Northampton County is embroiled in the most contentious issue — the proposed overhaul of zoning regulations — that residents have had to deal with in recent memory. [Read more...]

TIGER BEETLE HABITAT
Bay Creek Beaches Must Be ‘Left to Nature’

CAPE CHARLES WAVE

September 2, 2014

The lowly Northeastern beach tiger beetle, a threatened species, has won out over Bay Creek beach goers — with the help of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

The Bay Creek Homeowners Association used to rake the Bay Creek beaches to remove whatever washed up with the tide, such as seaweed, grasses, and the like — just as Cape Charles does at the town’s public beach. But the raking, especially with a tractor, is highly damaging to the Northeastern beach tiger beetle, whose habitat has been reduced to two areas: Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts and some relatively undisturbed beaches on the Chesapeake Bay.

That counts out the town public beach, where the tiger beetle gave up long ago. But the Bay Creek beaches, having become frequented by people only in recent times, still host the tiger beetle. So the beaches at Bayside Village and at The Colony/Kings Bay have been designated by the F&WS as tiger beetle habitat and may not be disturbed. 

“This means that the beach must be left to nature with the exception that human pedestrian traffic is permitted, as well as the hand removal of glass, metal, plastic, etc. In years past the beach at Bay Creek was mechanically raked and maintained. This practice was suspended when the F&WS Enforcement branch placed the management of the Home Owners Association on notice that cleaning the beach is a violation of law subject to criminal prosecution and heavy daily fines for continued violations,” the Bay Creek HOA reported to its members in August. [Read more...]

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Town Again Postpones Decision on County Sewage Rate

Assistant Town Manager Bob Panek has yet to convince Town Council to subsidize out-of-town sewage collection. (Wave photo)

Assistant Town Manager Bob Panek has yet to convince Town Council to subsidize out-of-town sewage collection. (Wave photo)

By GEORGE SOUTHERN
Cape Charles Wave

August 25, 2014

Despite Assistant Town Manager Bob Panek’s best efforts, Cape Charles Town Council once again has sidestepped any decision on how much to charge to accept sewage from out-of-town commercial properties on and near Route 13. Panek recommended providing the county with “updated cost estimates” to process sewage, but Town Council balked at their August 21 meeting, voting instead to hold a work session to further consider the matter.

The “update” would be to an earlier cost estimate that Panek provided the County Public Service Authority without authorization from Town Council. That was when Panek was also chairman of the PSA, a position he lost following complaints of conflict of interest. But he remains the town’s representative to the PSA.

Almost a year has passed since Town Council last wrestled with the question of how much to charge for sewage coming from the highway. Since then, one strong opponent of subsidizing out-of-town businesses – Mike Sullivan — has left the council. That leaves Frank Wendell as adamantly opposed, with Joan Natali and Chris Bannon on Panek’s side. Mayor George Proto and Councilman Steve Bennett also expressed reservations at last Thursday’s meeting, which prevented Panek from getting his wish.

Newly elected Councilman Sambo Brown said he believed the county simply wanted to know whether the town was willing to accept sewage, to which Panek responded “That’s right.” Panek did not explain to the new councilman that Town Council had already twice indicated a willingness to accept county sewage, first informally at a June 24, 2010, work session, and later, at Panek’s insistence, on August 9, 2012, with a formal motion. All council members approved that motion with the exception of Wendell. [Read more...]

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