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…]
November 24, 2014
Several of our key Northampton elected and salaried officials apparently have taken zoning matters into their own hands thus necessitating the Shore citizens groups’ volunteer forum November 6 to bring us up to speed — in a cordial, impressively professional manner — on the complexities of the disturbing scenario. We owe CBES [Citizens for a Better Eastern Shore] and Shorekeeper our gratitude and respect.
Four centuries ago the original Shore inhabitants were blindsided with the arrival of Europeans who in short order — a generation or so — transformed forever their heritage and way of life by relocating them (displacement) to a reservation, the 52 acre fragment of which remains today as Indiantown Park, Eastville seaside. No matter that the natives were friendly and peaceful, used coastal waterways as their highways, and were not prone to fouling their own nests as they moved back and forth seasonally from their small scattered settlements.
Equally soon by early spring of 1651-1652 the invasive settlers found cause to protest excessive taxation in the first such demonstration in American history. So, you see, dramatic earth shaking and shaping events can happen very quickly. We may be on a similar precipice.
Thus far our elected officials — save one — propose opening Pandora’s box for unbridled development on our rural lower peninsula, not only with the potential for a bar in Franktown as our hospital closes down, but also more seriously with unannounced nasty wastes and dangerous biomass uses. Their unleashed rezoning ignores state code requiring a (formerly carefully crafted) Comprehensive Plan as its foundation, the format of which was defined by Northampton citizen input over an extended period. Thankfully our Comp Plan, aka the backbone approved by state code, remains a flexible document in that it can be adjusted or amended when necessary. Critics of rezoning often have cited this key advantage. So if it ain’t broke, why fix it? [Read more…]
November 17, 2014
Keep your kitties inside! Evidentially there was a complaint filed with the Sheriff’s office by a woman who was disturbed by the cats in her yard. Consequently, the Sheriff’s office and Animal Control are actively hunting cats in the Cape Charles Central Park area. No animal is safe — it is open season on Cape Charles cats. If you are missing an animal you need to call Animal Control in Onley at 757-787-7385 to identify the animal and produce evidence of rabies vaccinations to reclaim the animal. [Read more…]
October 31, 2014
Where is our County Treasurer, Cynthia Bradford, these days — is she in the State of Maryland or in Eastville, Virginia?
We are instructed to send our real estate taxes to Baltimore, Maryland. That’s approximately $50 million total. Why should those funds be deposited in Maryland instead of a bank in Virginia that is under the jurisdiction and scrutiny of our state?
As a taxpayer, I care where my money is being held. [Read more…]