GOODBYE WAVE, WAVE GOODBYE

CAPE CHARLES WAVE

June 29, 2015

In last Monday’s edition (which broke all readership records – over 7,000 page views in one day) the Wave had the sad task of leading the page with news of another drowning off Cape Charles Beach – a tragic death that competent town leadership could have avoided.

Anyone could have seen that drowning coming, and of course many did. The former “safe” beach has become a death trap now that newly pumped spoil has brought the beach close to the once-distant Cherrystone channel and its sudden drop-off and swift tidal currents.

Three months ago the Wave drew attention to the town’s failure to acknowledge the dangerous beach when we wrote: “A ‘special edition’ of the Cape Charles Gazette purports to tell everything you ever wanted to know about the harbor dredging/beach improvement. We learn what color the sand will turn, and whether it’s safe to walk on the beach. What isn’t mentioned is whether it’s safe to go in the water — specifically, are there dangerous drop-offs now that the beach extends so close to the channel? The town isn’t telling. (April 1, 2015)”

That same Gazette mentions that the town annually budgets $20,000 for beach sand replacement, but with the free spoil, that cost will now be saved. Yet last Saturday’s Eastern Shore News quotes town officials as saying that hiring lifeguards would be too expensive and too complicated.

That same news story quotes officials as saying that a safety line and rope floats have been ordered and should arrive “any day.” But the float line will not be installed until approval comes from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

That sounds very much like the recreation director’s report submitted to Cape Charles Town Council back in May, which stated: “The paperwork is almost complete to submit to DGIF. Once they review and approve, we can start on placing the swim area.”

Mr. Mayor, take a lesson from Rudy Giuliani following 9/11: be a leader. Order that float line to be installed immediately and get the DGIF approval retroactively. If you can’t provide a safe swimming area before July 4, then resign. The buck stops with you.

And speaking of resigning, we now announce that our three-year effort to produce a real newspaper for the Town of Cape Charles is ending. As the saying goes, the great thing about banging your head against the wall is that it feels so good when you stop. [Read more…]

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Bay Coast Railroad Must Move Hazardous Railroad Ties

Pile of railroad ties in foreground were amassed by the Army Corps of Engineers while preparing the spoil containment area in the background. The photo was taken from the Hump. (Wave photo)

Pile of railroad ties in foreground were amassed by the Army Corps of Engineers while preparing the spoil containment area in the background. The photo was taken from the Hump. (Wave photo)

By DORIE SOUTHERN
Cape Charles Wave

June 29, 2015

Bay Coast Railroad has been given five days to come up with a plan to properly dispose of creosote-treated railroad ties currently being buried behind the Cape Charles Museum. After the Wave alerted the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, DEQ sent a letter to Bay Coast Railroad, owners and operators of the Cape Charles rail yard, requesting a response within five days detailing what will be done to remove or recycle the material. That response is due today (June 29).

Creosote-treated products such as railroad ties must be disposed of in an approved landfill or be recycled appropriately. According to DEQ, the railroad ties must be treated as hazardous waste.

DEQ had not been aware of the large number of railroad ties amassed at the western end of the area being prepared to contain dredged spoil from the town harbor and channel. The mound of ties can easily be seen when driving over the Hump.

The regional DEQ representative, who asked not to be quoted by name, said the railroad was not allowed to use its property as an unpermitted dump site.

DEQ spokesman Bill Hayden told the Wave that he did not know whether the railroad ties could contaminate the water table. [Read more…]

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$78,000 Later, Route 13 Sewer Project Put on Hold

By DORIE SOUTHERN
Cape Charles Wave

June 29, 2015

In a stunning defeat to proponents of a sewer pipe from Route 13 to the Cape Charles treatment plant, the Northampton County Board of Supervisors voted June 22 to put Public Service Authority plans on hold. Citing higher priorities, including emergency medical services and the public schools, Supervisor Granville Hogg made the motion, which carried in a 3-1 vote. Supervisor Larry Trala was opposed, noting that the PSA had been working on the project for quite a while.

Supervisor Larry LeMond expressed impatience with the Town of Cape Charles for its failure to reach an agreement with the PSA about the cost of services. He reported that the town wants to condition a sewer deal on whether the county gives the town a say on what kinds of commercial activity would be allowed just outside town limits.

PSA Chairman John Reiter told the Supervisors that engineering studies for the project were 40 percent complete. The PSA has paid almost $78,000 to date, including $8,000 for a study of possible use of the Bayview facility which had been requested by the Supervisors.

Reiter reported that negotiations with the Town of Cape Charles were still in progress, citing differences over how much should be charged per gallon of wastewater and whether there should be a connection fee. Reiter said that an agreement was close on the per-gallon cost. But he complained that the connection fee could cost $750,000, adding considerably to upfront costs. [Read more…]

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July 4 Parade Begins at 10 AM; Fireworks After Dark

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Body of Teen Swimmer Found Near Town Fishing Pier

CAPE CHARLES WAVE

June 22, 2015

Persons gathered on the Cape Charles boardwalk Sunday night during search and rescue operations for a missing swimmer heard a weeping, distraught man call out “mi hijo” — my son. At that time his son had been missing in the water for some two hours. Police contacted the Coast Guard at about 6:30 p.m. to report the missing boy.

Although search teams continued through the night, the body of 15-year old Alvaro Lopez-Castaneda was not found until Monday afternoon, when it was recovered near the town fishing pier. He had recently finished the ninth grade at Nandua High School in Accomack County.

The tragedy was sadly reminiscent of another Sunday afternoon last August when an 8-year-old drowned off the beach. His body was not recovered until the following Tuesday — also close to the fishing pier.

Following the drowning last August, outspoken residents urged town officials to erect warning signs to swimmers and establish a roped-off area. Some called for town life guards as well. In response, the town announced plans for a designated swimming area, but as of yesterday — the first official day of summer — nothing had been done.

Rescue efforts included use of a Coast Guard 25-foot response boat crew from Station Cape Charles and a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Elizabeth City. Virginia Marine Resources Commission personnel and members of the Cape Charles Fire Department also took part in the search.

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Town Hits Mason Avenue Parkers with $$ Fines; Shoppers, Merchants Outraged

By WAYNE CREED
Cape Charles Wave

June 22, 2015

Up until Thursday, June 18, motorists parking front-ways in the new reverse angle parking on Mason Avenue were not breaking the law, because there was no law. Cape Charles Town Council fixed that at their Thursday meeting, voting 4-1 to enact a new ordinance entitled “Parking on Town Streets.” Only Councilman Frank Wendell opposed it. The only question before the vote also came from Wendell, who asked Town Manager Brent Manuel about VDOT’s approval of reverse angle parking, which was done by telephone. Wendell asked for the name of the VDOT official, but Manuel said he did not recall.

Following the meeting, Cape Charles Police immediately began ticketing wrong-way parkers, to the anguish of Mason Avenue merchants and, eventually, Mayor George Proto, who a month earlier sounded concerned when Police Chief Jim Pruitt reported to Town Council that nine parking tickets were written the first week after the new lines were painted on the street. “The town did not do this to make money,” Proto said at the time. This makes the second time Proto is asking the Police Force to stand down on ticketing and to void the tickets they have written.

But some damage has already been done. One story circulating on Mason Avenue is that a man parked front-ways to run into Gull Hummock to buy a case of wine. When he came back to his car he found a ticket, which made him so mad that he carried the wine back into the store, asked for his money back, and promised never to shop again in Cape Charles.

One merchant observed a police car parked in front of the medical center for over an hour with the engine running. Whenever the policeman saw a “wrong-way” parker he would immediately walk over and write a ticket.

Town Manager Manuel also announced that backwards parking would be implemented on Bay Avenue as well beginning this fall.

PUBLIC COMMENT

Members of Cape Charles Business Association turned out in force for the June 18 Council meeting, but none of them spoke against the town’s new parking policy. Instead, the focus was on the loss of the contract by one of their own for the tourist website “Cape Charles by the Bay.” Town Manager Manuel awarded the website contract June 2 to Cape Charles Wave LLC, which also publishes the Wave newspaper. The tourism website is currently managed by Donna and Greg Kohler, who were instrumental in its founding two years ago. The website began with grant funding but now operates at town taxpayers’ expense. The Kohlers submitted a bid of $9,790 for another year, while Cape Charles Wave LLC’s bid was $5,300. [Read more…]

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PSA Briefing: Still No Agreement with Cape Charles

By DORIE SOUTHERN
Cape Charles Wave

June 22, 2015

When the county’s Public Service Authority meets in a joint work session with Northampton Board of Supervisors today, the story will be the same as the past two years: still no agreement with the Town of Cape Charles on rates and fees for sewer service in the vicinity of the Cape Charles traffic light.

The joint meeting starts at 5 p.m. (June 22), followed by a regular meeting of the PSA. The public may attend but not speak at the joint work session, but public statements will be allowed at the regular PSA meeting.

The PSA will report to the Board of Supervisors on the status of the engineering tasks and will provide an estimated cost for the project and a construction timeline. The PSA will also provide an overview of the negotiations with Cape Charles about wastewater treatments costs and hookup fees. No agreement has been reached, with a major sticking point being the hookup fee. The PSA doesn’t want to charge county customers a hookup fee, while the town argues that since new town customers have to pay the fee, so should county customers.

Discussion will also include a special tax district and whether service will be mandatory for customers in that district. Back in 2012 the county allocated 25 percent of estimated construction costs from the general budget. But would-be commercial customers balked at having to shoulder 75 percent of constructions costs, and the PSA has been urging the county to assume a larger share of costs. A bond issue would be backed by the county.

One of the drivers of the whole commercial sewer plan is the hope that Harmony Investments will build a hotel on property it owns on Route 13 in front of Kings Creek Landing. According to County Administrator and PSA Executive Director Katie Nunez, Harmony Investments already has a special use permit for a mass drain field there, so the hotel could be built with or without a sewer pipe to Cape Charles. Nunez told the Wave she is not aware of plans to move forward with building a hotel at this time. Harmony Investments also owns the Sunset Beach Inn and Grille near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. [Read more…]

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Historic District Board OKs Elevator, Deliberates Satellite Dishes, Plans Home Tour Featuring Sears Houses

By WAYNE CREED
Cape Charles Wave

June 22, 2015

A request to install a residential elevator at 600 Pine Street came before the town’s Historic District Review Board June 16. The American Disabilities Act states that adding items such as elevators and ramps to historic buildings should be done “in full compliance with the alterations standards for other types of buildings.” But, if following the usual standards would threaten or destroy the historic significance of a feature of the building, alternative standards may be used.

According to Town Planner Larry DiRe, town historic guidelines are “silent” on elevators. If elevators are considered as “modern features,” then locating one at the rear of the building “where they are least likely to detract from the character of the site” is appropriate per the guidelines.

According to the applicant and the contractor (J Street Construction), the elevator would be installed at the rear of the house, with an entrance near the garage. The structure will be completely enclosed. The total footprint is about 40 square feet and will be located “exclusively within the current driveway.”

The contractor’s drawings supplied to the board were not to scale; however, they did include “detailed information about the materials to be used for the project.” The contractor noted that he understood the rigid nature of the Historic District, and that he would “build it to look just like it had always been there.”

The applicant informed the Board that the main reason for the elevator was due to physical issues being experienced by his wife, and it would make it much easier for her to be able move about the home (avoiding having to use stairs to get to the 2nd and 3rd levels, where the main living areas are located).

The elevator will be an electric model, which will not require a ground shaft or hydraulics, thus limiting the amount of fluids that accumulate as part of the elevator operations. Although J Street Construction will build the structure, the elevator will be installed by a certified elevator installation crew.

The board approved the certificate. [Read more…]

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