February 16, 2015
I read Wayne Creed’s article (“Animal Abuse, Theft Highlight Longtime Problems”) with great interest, being aware of the minimal care frequently afforded companion animals by their owners on the Eastern Shore. Friends who moved to Accomack three years ago were so distressed by the harsh treatment of dogs and other animals they observed in many yards that they started providing straw bedding, food and education, even doing repairs in some instances.
Their experience was that while some of the pet owners they helped were happy to receive the purchases and labor, it did not appear they would follow up on their own. Last time we talked, my friends said they had to step back from the toll the situation was taking on their own mental health and resources.
But it isn’t only dogs and cats who suffer from abuse and neglect on the Eastern Shore (and in other parts of Virginia). Chickens and many other animals suffer through every phase of their existence as a result of their status as agricultural animals.
Many of those who abuse and neglect their companion animals work in animal agribusiness where a total lack of compassion for animals, even pleasure in watching them suffer, prevails. People who spend their days being violent toward chickens and other farmed animals as part of their job often bring the violent culture of their employment home with them.
How many residents know that a Virginia statute titled “Care of Agricultural Animals by Owner” (Section 3.2-6503.1) allows the owners of agricultural animals to deprive their animals of food and water up to the point of starvation and dehydration and exempts the owners from providing bedding or shelter, regardless of the weather, for their animals? [Read more…]
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following letter from Ken Dufty was received just before press time and after two other stories had been scheduled for publication on the county re-zoning issue. Letters from readers with differing views are welcome.
January 9, 2015
It is apparent that the Northampton County Board of Supervisors, as directed and orchestrated by Parliamentarian and Administrator Katie Nunez, has the administrative pedal pressed firmly to the floor and is speeding towards a checkered flag in a race to completely rezone our county into something it was never meant to be. They claim that in order to keep on schedule, the Board will have to vote on the 200-page zoning revision by March 4, 2015. And on February 18 and 25, at the Kiptopeke Elementary School and Occohannock Elementary School respectively, “public information sessions” will be held to “inform” the public on the consensus of the Board on these major changes.
Claiming that the citizens are misinformed, and are indeed misinforming others, regarding the hundreds of changes to the current zoning that are being proposed, the county website directs the citizenry to access the “Citizen Information Paper” recently penned by economic development director Charles McSwain, which was widely distributed to town, village, and other officials throughout the county. This paper is available on the website, and indeed Mr. McSwain spends many pages refuting claims made by interested parties engaged in this debate.
One of the primary issues discussed by Mr. McSwain in his widely distributed public relations piece is the citizens’ claim that a wide variety of invasive uses would be allowed in agricultural lands that are not allowed in the current ordinance. So on page 16 McSwain presents a list of uses in agricultural lands that will be allowed by-right (no notice to abutting landowners, no public hearing), and those that will require a Special Use Permit. So the average person reading this list would believe that what is listed will be the extent of what we could expect if, and I say a big “if,” the proposed zoning ordinance is adopted and survives challenge (which is highly unlikely, I am happy to say). [Read more…]
February 2, 2015
A few years ago we discovered the gem that is Cape Charles and purchased a house on the north side of Peach Street. One of the selling features for me was the proximity to the park and basketball court. Although my basketball-playing days are drawing to a close I enjoyed ambling over to the court in the early evening to observe the games, offering tips to the younger players and engaging in playful banter with those closer to my age.
I was quite surprised when I learned the rims and backboard had been removed without notice and there was no replacement location identified for the court. Where will the community youth be able to play basketball? I wondered. After a few moments of reflection, I realized that the importance of the basketball court was expanded beyond simply a recreational location. The basketball court is a place where participants can learn life-skills. [Read more…]
January 26, 2015
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Penny Lusk wrote the following letter to Northampton County Supervisors, and requested the Wave to publish it. We are pleased to do so.)
To: Chairman Richard Hubbard, District 4; Granville Hogg, District 1; Larry Trala, District 5; Larry LeMond, District 2; Oliver Bennett, District 3
Outside of Fort Adkins, Wisconsin, in the hill country, you might come upon a sign on the side of an old barn. In large letters it reads, “Slow down. This is God’s country.” Is the sign meant to slow traffic or to get folks to stop and see beautiful nature, or, in the stopping and looking, to soul-search about what is important for good living? The stalwart agrarian folk of that area have a good handle on nature, hard work, and community.
Please, please, Northampton Board of Supervisors, slow down with these new zoning plans. Eastern Shore families have the same basic values as those rural Wisconsin folk. If rural is unattractive, why are so many young adults coming back. They are black, white, and Latino. They are medical professionals, entrepreneurs, small business starters, teachers, lawyers, contractors, aquaculture farmers and workers, organic farmers, artists, and tour guides. Many employ others, and all pay taxes. Some work several jobs just for the privilege of living here and raising their children in this rural environment.
The economic crash of ’08, mostly due to speculation gone awry, left us here in Northampton County with many subdivided lots sitting empty, causing costs to the county and loss of state funds for our schools.
On the plus side, since then, aquaculture and tourism have boomed and more small businesses have come and stayed. Organic farming is growing, our conventional farming is stronger, and our nursery businesses remain healthy. How incredible is all this that such a tiny county with a limited aquifer and a fragile but very special environment with rare habitat could prevail!
We are also blessed with retired citizens who have come with experience and expertise because they like what we are and what is here. They have seen their worlds paved over in the name of progress. They bring their grandchildren here to see the stars. We really do shine in today’s world. [Read more…]
January 12, 2015
I am writing to add my voice publicly to those who have already spoken and written their objections to the way in which Northampton County’s new proposed rezoning is being handled. I was a participant in several of the citizen workshops held when the present zoning was being reviewed, and am appalled at the way this is being handled now.
I am an elected public servant, having served on the Eastville Town Council for over 20 years, but I write this as a private property owner and business owner. I sent an earlier version of this letter as an email to the Northampton County Board of Supervisors in late March 2014. I received no reply from any of them.
Everything about the way this matter is being handled makes me suspicious that it is being driven by interests that DO NOT have the interests of Northampton County citizens and taxpayers in mind.
I, as a resident, property owner, rental home owner, bed and breakfast owner, and taxpayer, feel betrayed. I understand a desire on local government’s part to do something, anything, to improve the economic situation, but this is not the answer.
Eastville, on a much smaller scale, of course, has gone through the same process of Comprehensive Plan review and updating of its zoning text and map, and it was a steep learning curve for us on the town council at the time. County staff was fantastic, helping us in every way they could, including bringing in planning and zoning experts from as far away as Colorado. Zoning is complicated and doesn’t interest everyone. But whether you care or not, your community’s zoning does affect you and your property values. This proposed county rezoning is opening a Pandora’s Box. [Read more…]
December 22, 2014
First of all, thanks to the Cape Charles Wave and reporter Dorie Southern for the expert coverage of the”Occupy the Old Courthouse” rally in Eastville on Tuesday evening, December 9. As Ms. Southern reported [CLICK], the Northampton County Board of Supervisors’ meeting that followed the rousing but cordial rally on the Courthouse green drew a packed house with standing room only. Out of the 18 speakers, many of whom were former county officials and current heads of civic and environmental organizations, only one speaker spoke in favor of the Board’s unilateral attempt to completely rewrite Northampton County’s zoning ordinance with virtually and literally no public involvement (except for our obligatory three-minute comment period at the BOS meetings). This same lone speaker also submitted a lengthy letter to a local newspaper which was printed on the same day as the lead story about the rally, and I greatly appreciate this opportunity to respond to several of her comments.
The writer insinuates that those of us who merely want to be more involved in the decision-making process that will dictate the future economic and environmental future of this great county are misinformed and using scare tactics to prevent Northampton County from growing and prospering in this otherwise difficult fiscal climate. She cites many examples of our alleged “fear mongering” and refutes many of the claims made by those opposing the unilateral changes proposed by the Board.
Upon information and belief, the writer is a real estate professional with roots in Virginia Beach. And while we all love to visit Virginia Beach and its many offerings, we do not choose to live there. Frankly, it is just too crowded for the likes of many of us, and most do not want to pay the high taxes of living in such a congested area. Note VB’s taxes are about 50% higher than Northampton County’s. That said, the writer’s theory that we need to develop Northampton County in a more intensive and commercial manner to bring more revenue into the county is belied by the tax profile in Virginia Beach, as well as Ocean City, Maryland.
As for the misinformation that has been put out by the major organizations which have been intricately involved in this proposed zoning revision, there is not one clear example of what has been presented that has been wrong. Indeed, much of the information distributed in newsletters, flyers, and letters has been based on in-depth analysis and careful consideration by former Planning Commissioners and other county officials who were intensely involved in writing the current zoning ordinance, and also in reviewing the proposed zoning revisions while they still served in an official capacity on the Planning Commission. [Read more…]
December 8, 2014
I have sent the following letter to the Board of Supervisors:
Dear Northampton County Board of Supervisors,
In considering the need for a central sewer system, I’d like you to study the attached report, produced by Northampton County. You’ve probably heard before that Northampton County is losing population. The attached report illustrates how the county population has declined steadily from 18,565 people in the 1930 census to just over 12,000 today (see Figures 3.2 and 3.3 in the attached report). We currently have less people in our county than in any time in the past century. We are nearing the point where we will have lost 50% of our population. This trend is predicted to continue for the forseeable future. Projections going out to 2040 predict a continued decline in population (see Table 3.3). [CLICK to download report.]
Population density has a direct bearing on the ability of an area to treat sewage effectively with septic systems as opposed to centralized sewer systems. “On June 28, 2013, EPA released a model program for onsite wastewater treatment systems in the Chesapeake Bay watershed to help states more effectively prevent nutrients from entering the Bay from onsite or septic systems, which will improve water quality. When properly designed, sited and maintained, decentralized systems like septic systems can treat wastewater effectively and protect surface water and groundwater.” (http://water.epa.gov/
The EPA also “concluded in its 1997 Response to Congress that “adequately managed decentralized wastewater systems are a cost-effective and long-term option for meeting public health and water quality goals, particularly in less densely populated areas.” (http://water.epa.gov/
November 24, 2014
In regard to the Northampton County Board of Supervisors’ unilateral plan to change the current zoning ordinance to resemble an Ocean City or Virginia Beach model of development, it raises my ire when Supervisors such as Larry Trala dismiss those of us seeking more of a voice in this process as “come-heres.” This conjurs up the “pot and the kettle” scenario considering we have been told Larry may have roots in Detroit.
I take this dismissal personally, and must respond to several issues regarding various statements made by the Supervisors who are promoting the rezoning campaign. In response to the “come-here” remark, I have two comments. First, those who have discovered Northampton County and have decided to move here and invest much of their life’s savings in this great county do so because they have fallen in love with what we have to offer. Their tax dollars support our schools, our roads, our businesses, our support services, and our cultural resources. Rather than branding them something less than what they are as “come-heres,” we should open our arms and realize that they are here because they are “wanna-be-heres” as Art Schwarzschild recently stated at a public forum on the rezoning debate, and have fallen in love with the county for what it isn’t (Ocean City or Virginia Beach) — a scenario that is being threatened by this closed-door scheme.
As for this “come here,” I don’t think so. In fact, my father’s family, the Schoolfields, came to the Eastern Shore with the contingents that accompanied Lord Baltimore in the 1600s. My maternal great-grandfather, G. Russel Smith, was a horse-and-buggy doctor in Cheriton in the 19th century. His daughter, my grandmother, and her husband, Gansevoort Hurlbut, bought the majestic Wellington estate on the Nassawadox in the 1930s and later purchased the smaller Refuge estate, now the home of the county attorney (one of the prime movers of the “let anyone do anything they want on their property” zoning revision). My grandmother also worked at the Northampton-Accomack Memorial Hospital and helped raise the funds necessary to build that facility. I was born in that hospital 60 years ago (wow, where does the time go?) and spent many years and indeed every summer of my life on the Nassawadox Creek with my children. And as for my “come-here” husband, Ken, he is a “brought-here” — by me — and his involvement in the zoning debate is partly because I asked him to do so because I owe it to my heritage to protect this county from impending assault, and partly because we both want to protect our many investments in Northampton County and the Town of Exmore. [Read more…]