By WAYNE CREED
Cape Charles Wave
March 23, 2015
Cape Charles Town Council met March 19 at the Civic Center, and Mayor George Proto began by announcing that the Town has appointed Brent T. Manuel of Woodstock, Virginia, as the new Town Manager. The appointment is effective April 6.
Hardly a newcomer to local government, Manuel has over 16 years of experience, having served the towns of Purcellville, Strasburg, and Woodstock and the county of Frederick. For the past 13 years Manuel was Woodstock’s Assistant Town Manager of Operations and Director of the Department of Planning and Community Development.
“While I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in the Northern Shenandoah Valley, I am very enthusiastic about the opportunity that awaits in the beautiful town of Cape Charles,” Manuel says.
Mayor Proto stated, “The Town Council and I look forward to his beginning, his tenure, and the contributions I believe he will make to the town.”
Councilman Frank Wendell added, “We are very excited to have him here, and the fact that he chose to live in town is a very good sign.”
Although the decision to hire Manuel was made a few weeks ago, the process had been stalled due to his difficulty finding rental housing within the town limits. But with that problem resolved, Manuel begins work in two weeks.
Mayor Proto issued Commendations to Officer Tom Potts, Sergeant Jay Bell, and Keith Lewis for a dramatic rescue at the Town Harbor on the night of March 5. About 7:45 p.m., Lewis saw a man fall off the icy dock into the frigid water. He immediately dialed 911, alerted authorities, and attempted to assist the victim. Officer Tom Potts soon arrived, and he and Lewis crawled out on the ice, where Potts worked to keep the man above water. A few moments later, Sergeant Jay Bell arrived and joined the effort. The team pulled the victim out of the water and dragged him across the ice and up to the dock where an ambulance was waiting to transport him to the hospital. The victim has made a full recovery. [Read more…]
By WAYNE CREED
Cape Charles Wave
March 23, 2015
After several delays, the winter weather finally relented and allowed Northampton County to conduct two Public Information Sessions for the county’s proposed zoning ordinance. Although the event was sparsely populated, those in attendance were eager to hear or see just what was in store, and if it differed in any way from what had already been gleaned from Economic Developer Charles McSwain’s Information Paper.
The first session, at Kiptopeke Elementary, kicked off with an overview of what the county considered the most significant and impactful changes, such as shore widths, allowable uses, the continued incorporation of the Bay Act throughout the county, and the inclusion of mobile homes in the plan. County Long Range Planner Peter Stith emphasized that this effort was meant to be a way to streamline the process, make definitions more clear, and simplify the overall zoning, such as by reducing the number of districts from 21 to 15.
The room had stations set up on the perimeters, with county staff available to answer questions. Mr. Stith and the Geographic Information System Department also provided several large wall maps showing just what the physical changes are going to look like in a very holistic manner. Each station was loaded with a fairly robust level of information, and county staff was pleasant and eager to answer questions. Among those attending were Cape Charles Town Council members Chris Bannon and Joan Natali.
While the mood of the general public was initially buoyant, news that public comments would be limited to “written only” comments sucked a good bit of the air out of the event. As the public milled about, and somewhat hushed conversations echoed off the cinder block walls of the auditorium, the room began to take on the sad feel of a job fair intended for recently released inmates from the county jail rather than an exciting question and answer session.
Night two at Occohonock Elementary, however, had an entirely different feel. The format was the same, but after Planner Stith finished his introduction and was on his way to one of the tables, he was bushwhacked by Dr. Art Schwarzschild of Willis Wharf. “Peter, I have a question. There is such a big difference between the first proposal and the current one, and the difference is not well highlighted. We at Willis Wharf and Oyster, we spent a lot of time, two years, picking all the things we wanted in our villages — why did we change this for something new that was developed behind closed doors?” he asked. [Read more…]
CAPE CHARLES WAVE
March 16, 2015
Threatened by a palace revolt, Bay Creek South owner Keyser/Sinclair has removed founder Richard “Dickie” Foster as president of the Bay Creek Community Association. Cape Charles Town Council member Joan Natali is also being removed from her position as a voting board member of the Association.
The action was announced March 11 by Bay Creek South LLC President Gary Dorsch at a property owners meeting. Dorsch appointed longtime Foster associate Oral Lambert to replace Foster as president.
Bay Creek neighbors Dr. Paul Strong and Steve and Susan Husak led a threatened legal challenge to Dorsch for his company’s failure to charge monthly dues to Foster for the 75 lots he still owns through his two companies, Bay Creek LLC and Baymark Construction. Operating under the name “Bay Creek Citizen Group,” Strong and the Husaks alerted fellow residents to the fact that while they were being charged $155 a month for each lot they owned, Foster had not been charged anything for the past seven years following his sale of most of Bay Creek to Keyser/Sinclair. More than 200 Bay Creek owners signed on to the Citizen Group’s complaint.
The Citizen Group also charged that Bay Creek South (Keyser/Sinclair) had been unable to substantiate its claimed costs for various improvements used to justify its own exemption from paying property dues. “When residents attempted to exercise their right under both the Declarations and Virginia law to examine the records substantiating these costs, they were told they had been ‘lost,'” the Citizen Group said.
The issue is complicated by the fact that Bay Creek property owners do not have control over their own Community Association. Instead, owner Keyser/Sinclair, known as the “declarant,” controls the Association. The by-laws call for control to pass to the actual property owners not later than 2021. In the meantime Dorsch controls the Community Association in the name of the declarant.
Another wrinkle is that the majority of dues go to pay for grounds maintenance — and the company performing the maintenance is owned by Foster. There is no bidding — the Association simply pays whatever Foster charges.
By WAYNE CREED
Cape Charles Wave
March 16, 2015
On a very warm evening with a hint of spring showers in the air, the Northampton County Board of Supervisors met for the March 10 regular meeting. The Kiptopeke Villas project once again made an appearance, this time seeking a second Special Use Permit to construct and operate a 12 table takeout restaurant on county parcel 69. The 2,500 square-foot “greasy spoon”-style eatery would consist of 12 tables and an outside porch area. There would be no drive-thru capability.
During public comments, Charles Bruckner questioned whether the developer had done due diligence in regard to groundwater and aquifer protections, in light of the fact that the site once housed a gas station, and the tanks are presumably still underground. “Do you have any engineering data you can point to? Have you even done a phase one or two environmental impact assessment? My worry is that there was a gas station there. The DEQ may have looked at it, but they are not an investigative agency. They come in after something has happened to help remediate,” Bruckner said.
Terry Ramsey followed with comments about the parking, especially by larger vehicles such as RVs and truck or boat trailers. “This should be safety first. This will change the fundamental character of our neighborhood. It is not an appropriate use” for this area,” he said. Ramsey also urged Supervisors to limit or even ban music played outside and consumption of alcohol on the porch.
Supervisor Granville Hogg voiced concerns about the project to County Planner Peter Stith: “I have concerns with page 3 where it says it will not adversely affect the health of the area. This is zoned Hamlet, I understand that, but do you feel this is an appropriate use?” Hogg asked.
“Are you suggesting it should be zoned residential?” responded Stith. “I don’t know what development [for this area] holds for the future.”
Hogg continued: “Is this mass drain field really appropriate for this area? When we first started this, we were told it was going to be low impact; now it seems to be fairly substantial.” [Read more…]
March 9, 2015
EDITOR’S NOTE: Exmore community activist Ken Dufty continues to hold Northampton County officials’ feet to the fire, as evidenced in his latest letter to the Planning Commission. Of particular and novel interest is the issue of whether an owner of a commercial “barn,” apparently built to hold events, fundraisers, and other public gatherings, could do so “by right” if the owner offered hay rides to party and wedding guests. Dufty does not mention any owner by name, leaving the Wave to speculate that developer Bill Parr’s barn is the object of attention.
CHAIRMAN DIXON LEATHERBURY AND NORTHAMPTON COUNTY PLANNING COMMISSIONERS:
It is becoming crystal clear that both the ongoing revisions to the current Northampton County Zoning Ordinance and the 2009 Comprehensive Plan are being conducted in an arbitrary and capricious manner and are devoid of the required studies and other empirical data that must be relied upon to make the decisions that are now being proposed.
Last week at a meeting of the Board of Supervisors, [County Planner] Peter Stith was asked by Supervisor [Granville] Hogg why the revisions to the Comprehensive Plan did not involve the citizenry at the beginning of the process, rather than the current plan to present a final product to residents and business owners once the Plan had been revised.
Mr. Stith answered that they did involve the citizenry in surveys and workshops about three years ago. I have attached a copy of the responses to those surveys which 188 people filled out. Overwhelmingly, the respondants to those surveys conducted by the county said that it was “very important” that the Comprehensive Plan protect groundwater recharge areas and concerns; protect floodplains; preserve Priority Conservation Areas; protect Historic Sites, ensure Septic Suitability; and also directed the drafters of the Comprehensive Plan update to factor in rate of growth (majority wanted 1-2% rate of growth), and said that it was very important to create a balance between jobs and housing.
We are curious if the Planning Commission ever received the reponses to the surveys and the notes from the community meetings. If you did not, it is incumbent upon you to access that information, factor it into your deliberations, and then offer credible and defendable evidentiary basis to support your version of the plan, which turns its back on the will of the people as captured in the survey responses. As many of you know, in order for any decision of a county government to withstand a judicial challenge, it has to rise to a level to be fairly debatable. Simply ignoring and not responding to a key piece of evidence, such as a community survey and input from public workshops, tips the scales of this review firmly into the arena of arbitrary and capricious behavior, recommendation, and final decision. [Read more…]
By WAYNE CREED
Cape Charles Wave
March 9, 2015
The Cape Charles Planning Commission met March 3 at the Civic Center, and on the agenda was a review of the changes to the Comprehensive Plan, as well as discussion of a new Tourist Zone.
Comprehensive Plans need to be revised every five years, and going back to 2013, the Planning Commission, under the guidance and tutelage of Elaine Meil, executive director of the Accomack-Northampton Planning District Commission, gamely tackled the revision process. It is important to note that this was not a complete rewrite of the 2009 version; the process involved reviewing the 2009 plan, and then making any changes or updates that are more relevant to where the town is now versus five years ago.
Despite retaining the spirit of the 2009 version, there were still several changes, and citizens may wish to take the time to review them. The Planning Commission unanimously approved the changes and sent on to Town Council for review in April.
The draft Comp Plan is available on the Town’s website (CLICK). Here are some highlights:
An analysis of the Town’s 2010 Census data shows that 41% of Town households are cost burdened. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines cost burdened households as families who pay more than 30% of their income for all of their housing expenses including utilities. The largest cost burdened group are households who own a home with a mortgage (76), renters (56), and households who own a home without a mortgage (38). The Town needs to be concerned.
Mason Avenue and Bay Avenue street improvements should be evaluated and include addition of bicycle lanes, reverse angle parking and aesthetic improvements to promote safety and increase parking spaces. Improvements to the Town’s sidewalks and multi-use paths are also needed to support alternative means of transportation such as walking, biking, and golf cart usage, which are expected to be used more frequently as the population increases. [Read more…]
By WAYNE CREED
Cape Charles Wave
March 2, 2015
With more snow and colder temperatures looming, the Northampton Board of Supervisors met February 23 to conduct a joint meeting with the Northampton County School Board to discuss the FY 2016 Requested Budget. A joint meeting with the Planning Commission, along with the Town of Nassawaddox, was also conducted. At the forefront once again was the need to raise salaries for County teachers and staff. The School Board is looking for a 1.5% increase, on top of the step increase from last year. Superintendent Charlie Lawrence, pointed out that even as there was a 1.5% increase last year, the 1.5 % increase in healthcare completely wiped it out.
In all, of the $19.8 million the school board is requesting, over $8.5 million is to be funded locally. This is a $500,000 increase from last year. Lawrence pointed out that back in 2008-2009 the budget was $8.4 million, which adjusting for inflation would be $9.3 million today. “It just goes to show how far we have fallen behind,” he said.
Lawrence observed that “25 years is considered a generation. Twenty-two years ago, Northampton had high achieving schools. Fast forward and we now have just one school clinging to accreditation. I know it’s a lot of money and it won’t solve all our problems. The citizens of Northampton County deserve better or average schools. The students of Northampton, economically . . . we cannot afford to have average or better schools.
“During your last meeting, I was told that the morale of our teachers was low. That is just not true. Look, the men and woman of our county schools come to work each day and toil before and after school, doing all they can to move this division forward. Are they frustrated and feel that they need better working conditions? Yes. In the end, it is the taxpayers and children that deserve better schools,” he declared.
Even as Lawrence emphasized the need for the budget increase, he also spoke to important parts of the budget that would have to be dropped, like much needed repairs to schools (such as painting the bathrooms at Kiptopeke, which have never been painted), a teacher of alternative education, additional math and science teachers (even as we expect our children to compete globally on a technological scale, due to staffing constraints, we cannot offer a full year of science in 4th and 5th grade, and the math classrooms are still considered overcrowded).
From a Financial and Operations perspective, Director of Finance E. Brook Thomas offered an elegant presentation which provided a granular level insight into the issues and challenges of the operations budget. Of note, 65% of the budget goes to instruction, and breaking it down further, 78% goes toward salaries and benefits. This is critical because, as the Board looks to make cuts, “it is very difficult since you would be cutting people whose lives are dedicated to serving children,” Thomas said. [Read more…]
COMPILED FROM NEWS SOURCES
February 27, 2014
When PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) workers removed a Parksley child’s pet from the porch of her home on October 18, 2014, and euthanized the dog the next day, the news travelled around the world. It was certainly the biggest story of the year coming out of Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
But perhaps the most surprising element of the story was that PETA, a large, international organization, gave no response whatsoever. Even as citizens groups demonstrated in Accomack County against Commonwealth’s Attorney Gary Agar for his refusal to press charges, PETA remained mum. Only now, more than four months later, has PETA broken its silence and offered an explanation for what happened.
Although Parksley falls outside the Wave’s area of news coverage, the story is so remarkable that we are reprinting portions of an interview with a PETA spokesperson appearing in today’s Virginian-Pilot. Tim Eberly reports from Norfolk that just as a state investigation “is about to become public record, [PETA] is breaking its silence on the bizarre ordeal. It’s our fault, the agency acknowledges. We’re very sorry. And we’ll do whatever it takes to keep it from happening again.” [Read more…]