LETTER
Slow Down, Supervisors — This Is God’s Country

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

SIRS,

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…]

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COMMENTARY
Legal Followup on Selling a Pie to Your Neighbor

By KAREN GAY
Cape Charles Wave

January 26, 2015

Martin Luther King Day was an appropriate day for the many advocacy organizations to come together at the Richmond General Assembly for their Lobby Day. This is a day in which individuals and groups can visit their Senator and Delegate and express their interest in pending legislation. I attended to promote a bill to allow the farmer and individuals the right to create food products in their home for sale to individuals without government intervention. These products would need to be labeled as not government inspected and could not be sold for resale.

House Bill 1290 would allow you or your neighbor to bake a pumpkin pie and sell it to someone who wants to eat home-baked goods but may not be able to make it himself. Older folks who can’t get out of the house to shop could order meals from a neighbor and provide a livelihood for a stay-at-home mom and obtain good nutrition in return. This is the lowest level of commerce, and the ability to fend for oneself in the kitchen should be available to all citizens.

The problem with Virginia regulations is that they are geared to an industrial product in which a farmer has acres of corn, soy, and wheat, or a factory that produces sterile, shrink-wrapped food. There is a whole subculture of individual entrepreneurs for whom these laws do not work. The legal bar to creating a small home-based food business is so high that many people operate small businesses illegally, or look for a low-paid job with a retailer in which they have no personal investment aside from putting in the specified number of hours.

Working for oneself empowers people to think creatively and is the historic foundation of the economy in our country. However, our laws in Virginia stifle the individual in favor of the corporation or corporate farm. I advocate a two-tier system of laws that support both small and large enterprises. This approach would provide maximum choice to individuals who could then decide for themselves what kind of food they prefer to buy. This provides opportunity for everyone.

Let me tell you about two of the people I met who support the Virginia Food Freedom bill: [Read more…]

COMMENTARY: Time to Disband the PSA

By DAVID BOYD

January 19, 2015

It is time to disband the PSA.

Originally the PSA (Public Service Authority) was tasked with developing a plan to construct a sewer which would serve Riverside Hospital in Nassawadox, in hopes of keeping that facility in Northampton County. When it became obvious we were going to lose the hospital, the PSA lost its primary purpose. At that point, Northampton County and four towns — Cape Charles, Cheriton, Nassawadox, and Exmore — revamped the PSA to handle wastewater issues in those towns and the surrounding County. The PSA would build or take over in-place wastewater treatment facilities and manage the operations and maintenance of them.

Of interest in this regard is the fact that Eastville, the County seat of Northampton County, chose not to join the PSA. Then the citizens of Cheriton found out what the monthly fee would be to treat their wastewater and they asked to be removed from the plan. Nassawadox and Exmore are no longer included in the plan in its present format either. So, this appears to have evolved into a plan to construct a pipeline to help bail Cape Charles out from its boondoggle of an overdesigned sewer plant, at the expense of Northampton County taxpayers.

The perpetrators of the PSA plan. however, claim the purpose is to attract business along Route 13, which contradicts the intent of the County Comprehensive Plan.

Since then, the PSA has spent more than $130,000 in grants and tax money with nothing to show for it. On September 16, 2013, the PSA held an informational meeting about a proposed tax district to pay for sewerage for commercial properties. At that meeting, more than 90 percent of the speakers said that they did not want a sewer pipe from Route 13 to the Cape Charles wastewater plant, or the related tax district. Immediately following those comments, the PSA voted to spend $70,000 for engineering plans for a pipe to the Cape Charles plant. Someone was not listening. [Read more…]

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WAYNE CREED Goes to a Town Council Meeting

EDITOR’S NOTE: In the absence of other reporting staff, Cape Charles’ most acerbic social critic, Wave columnist Wayne Creed, has recently donned a reportorial hat and dutifully recorded the actions of Northampton’s Board of Supervisors, which can be read in the news columns here and here. But in the column below, the indomitable Mr. Creed returns to his roots with an opinionated but highly informative commentary on Cape Charles Town Council’s first meeting of the new year.

By WAYNE CREED
Cape Charles Wave

January 19, 2015

With Christmas decorations ripped down, the sidewalks dark and lonely, the night cold and wet, the lights were turned on inside the Town Civic Center January 15 in order to conduct the first Town Council Regular Meeting of the New Year. Aside from two members of news media (Cape Charles Wave and Eastern Shore Post), only two other constituents braved the raw weather to attend. Mayor Proto himself arrived nearly 30 minutes late.

Town Council voted to request the Virginia Port Authority to carry over to the new year several grants previously awarded for harbor improvements. This includes $645,000 for offshore breakwaters and $185,000 for a wave attenuator and dock improvements. The VPA has altered the terms to a 75%-25% match, making the proposal more fiscally attractive. Local matching funds must still be identified for these projects. Councilman Steve Bennett aggressively questioned Harbormaster Smitty Dize in what appeared to be a leading manner, attempting to get Mr. Dize to acknowledge, or at least provide a modicum of actual requirements that might justify the request for funds.

“Are there no plans to spend the money (we have)? No contracts have been awarded?”

Mr. Dize only responded, “I’m with you,” and “the VPA likes Cape Charles. We spend their money.”

The motion to have Mayor Proto write a letter requesting the funds passed unanimously (Councilman Wendell was absent). There was no discussion by Council regarding who would actually write, edit, or approve the letter Mayor Proto is required to sign. [Read more…]

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LETTER: Proposed Rezoning Betrays Property Owners

January 12, 2015

DEAR EDITOR,

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…]

WAYNE CREED: Thoughts on Two Years Without a Net

Town Manager Bob Panek ordered basketball backboards and nets removed December 26, 2012, for “safekeeping.” The Wave has been running this poignant picture ever since.

By WAYNE CREED

January 5, 2015

As the holidays end, the realization that winter is really here finally begins to sink in. The colder air and diminishing light began to incubate my seasonal affective funk. This growing malaise is compounded by the fact that my son’s fall sports — JJV football and Shore Soccer — are also over. Sitting on my front porch steps, I’m watching him, in a cold, light rain, dribble up and down the wet sidewalk. One way to avoid the inevitable winter depression is to stay as busy as possible; self-tasking, I try to help Joey begin the transition to winter sports: basketball. Going over the fundamentals, defense by Kevin Garnet and Gary Payton, workout routines by Steve Nash — this kind of work is good, but not fun; he still really wants to go out and play for real. Being an old Knicks fan, I try and remind him of what Bill Bradley used to say, “When you’re not out practicing, someone else is. And when you meet that person, he’s going to beat you.”

True, yet even Bill would have to admit it’s tough here for ballers, since there isn’t anywhere in Cape Charles to truly practice or play (Cape Charles Baptist Church has one goal in a small area for every player in and around town. The backboard has already been crashed once). The outside courts at the old school, perfect for the urban ¾ game, have been taken down, and the beautiful old court inside is being chopped up and turned into apartments.

A few weeks ago, the Wave published a story about the developer of the old school. As usual, there were several interesting comments, but one really struck me. This person said in his comment that he really didn’t have a dog in the fight, but was against the town keeping the courts public. Yet in the same breath he said he hoped the folks that wanted a “community center” would eventually get one. I had to wonder just what it would have taken for him to have a dog in the fight. From my perspective, it was easy because my dog was mainly sports — indoor and outdoor. Without the gym and outside courts, I just don’t see how you can even pursue the concept of a “community center.” [Read more…]

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COMMENTARY
Time to Deregulate Home-Cooked Meals

By KAREN GAY

January 5, 2015

I have recently been reading articles in various news media about the Virginia Food Freedom Act which will come before the Virginia House of Delegates for the January 15, 2015, session. Many of these articles reference a woman in Arlington who lost her job and could not find work no matter how hard she tried. Rather than lose her home she decided that she would try to raise money by making soup and other food and selling it to her neighbors and friends. She was so successful that when a local radio show asked who made the best soup, she was mentioned again and again. This is a classic American tale of triumph over disaster. In the rags to riches movies we’ve seen, this lady would go on to build her business so that she could continue to churn out home-cooked meals for her town and in time grow to provide employment for others.

But how did this story actually turn out? Unfortunately, the health department also heard the news and she was shut down despite the fact that there were no complaints or illnesses. Now, I take no issue with the health department as they are doing what the law requires them to do. But is it really necessary for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to get involved in local neighbor-to-neighbor sales of homemade goods?

House Bill No. 1290 amends five sections of Virginia state law to exempt food prepared or processed in a private home or farm from government inspection provided that the food is sold directly to the end consumer and is labeled with the producer’s name, address, and product ingredients and the disclosure “NOT FOR RESALE — PROCESSED AND PREPARED WITHOUT STATE INSPECTION.” CLICK to read this Bill.

So why am I interested in this Bill? For several years now I have been investigating the impact food has on my health. I had begun to understand that my health was declining, my weight was increasing, I had no energy, and very little motivation in life. I found it hard to believe that this general malaise was a natural part of aging. I began reading books and blogs and signed up for webinars looking for solutions that referenced scientific studies. Then about a year ago, I stumbled upon the Weston A. Price Foundation which is dedicated to restoring nutrient-dense foods to the human diet through education, research, and activism. (CLICK for website.) Their literature resonated with me and slowly I began following their dietary guidelines. Once I retired I was able to incorporate these guidelines into our daily lives. It has been a slow process but my husband and I are starting to feel more optimistic about our health. I’ll discuss these food principles in another article. As a result of this study I began to realize that for me it is really important to prepare most of our meals at home using traditional foods and avoiding those that have been processed. We’ve been trying to follow the 80/20 rule in which we eat at home 80 percent of the time and enjoy our wonderful local restaurants on occasion. [Read more…]

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COMMENTARY: Gentrification Won’t Bring Growth

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following submission was originally published as a comment to a letter by Robert Toner (CLICK to read). We are republishing it as a Commentary for those who might have missed it.) 

By KEN DUFTY

December 29, 2014

Hats off to Mr. Toner for exposing the naked truth about the apparent motives of those digging their spurs into the bellies of the all-too-willing Board of Supervisors (save for Granville Hogg). While marching to the cadence of the “business friendly” chant, the majority of the members of the Board have turned their backs on the citizenry of this great county, targeting especially the middle class and those struggling to stay above the bottom rungs of the economic ladder.

As to Bobby Roberts’ theory that the “whole mess is starting to smell” like GENTRIFICATION, that has been my partial take on the situation since I sat down to read the entire draft zoning ordinance just hours before the March 11, 2014, Public Hearing at Northampton High School (shame on me for not being more involved in county issues before that 12th hour!). The elitists apparently working the strings of the Supervisors (‘cept’n Hogg, who refuses to have those knots tied) seem obsessed with transforming this county into a bustling upscale retirement destination, abandoning the assets which set us far above the cookie-cutter likeness of Virginia Beach and Ocean City.

As the recently-commissioned Competitive Assessment Study recommended, in order to REALLY become more business friendly, the Board should be encouraging and marketing our core industries, the engines driving our local economy. These include agriculture, aquaculture, forestry, small business, and tourism, many of which lead the state and nation in their ranking and growth. The report also directed the Board to cure the real ills stopping growth in the county, such as lack of high-speed Internet, reliable cell phone service, better quality schools, accessible and affordable health care, and the development of a trained and ready workforce.

Instead, the Board has set a course which can only be described as a campaign to gentrify the county, driving taxes higher and ensuring that those on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder will have even a more difficult time remaining on the lower Shore. A few of the examples that support Mr. Roberts’ gentrification theory are: [Read more…]

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