LETTER
Cherrystone Camper Lauds Emergency Response

July 29, 2014

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following letter was sent by the Riale family of Port Penn, Delaware, in appreciation for the service provided by local law enforcement, fire, and other first responders to the tornado at Cherrystone Campground.)

I am writing this letter in regard to the responses that were made in regard to the EF 1 tornado that struck Cherrystone Campground on the morning of July 24, 2014. My parents and my kids and I were camping there that morning when the tragic storm struck the grounds.

Just a little background on my family: my father has been in the fire service since 1964 and is a Past Fire Chief, and I have been in the service since 1994 and currently serve as my department’s Assistant Chief, and I am a Delaware State Police Dispatcher.

Once the storm started to lift that morning we made sure that my mother and kids were okay, and then my father, my son, and I started checking campsite to campsite for injured people. Within minutes we could hear the sirens of the responding units coming. We first were contacted by a Cape Charles police officer to join in the site checks. He informed us that the next streets over they were getting reports of worse things, so we ran over to that area.

While on the way a mother stated that her 11 year old was missing. Just a couple minutes later we found that girl walking down the street and the officer took her back to her parents. We continued onto the street worse hit and noticed campers removing a young boy from a tent site with a tree over it. We met up with a couple firemen from Cape Charles Fire Company that were assessing two more young girls who were lying next to their deceased parents.

The firemen acted quickly in making backboards out of the tops of picnic tables. My father and I assisted in loading and transporting the one young girl out to a waiting ambulance from the Exmore Fire Company. By the time we did that there were so many police units, ambulances, and fire units on the scene that me and my father’s attention went back to our own family.

In all of our experiences in the fire service I have never seen such organization of a disaster and the willingness to work together for the common good. The Cape Charles Officer, Cape Charles Fire, Virginia State Police, or the Northampton Sheriff’s Officers, never once said get away, we got this, etc. They all asked what we had, what we needed, and asked how they could help. We watched the command structure that was there that day organize site by site searches with no problems. For such a rural area compared to where I work and am from, the responses from these agencies were very fast, efficient, and bar none the very best I have ever seen in such a disaster. [Read more...]

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COMMENTARY
Northampton Zoning’s ‘Man Behind the Curtain’

By KEN DUFTY

July 28, 2014

Thank you to the Cape Charles Wave for keeping us all ahead ot the curve regarding the zoning dispute in Northampton County. The complete rezoning of the county into a what several developers hope to be a Disney-like resort retirement destination deserves to be scrutinized, and readers are well-served by the Wave’s reporting.

The million dollar question of who is the “man behind the curtain” orchestrating the plan to completely rezone Northampton County into an industrial, commercial, and resort-style mecca looms ominously heavy on the horizon. And the Board of Supervisors’ “we need to be business friendly” mantra makes us wonder what businesses our protective Comprehensive Plan drove out of the county, and prompts us to wonder what it would be like if the curtain of resource and environmental protection was drawn fully open.

In our quest to answer these questions, we had to do a little digging. And we unearthed a plan in 1992 by PEMSCO to bring 60,000 tons/month of contaminated soil to a 65 acre tract in Cheriton, formerly home of the KMC Food Processing Plant. There the petroleum-soaked soil would be “cleansed” by incineration and “biological processes” so that it could be spread throughout Northampton County and beyond, used in landscaping and road building. But because it required a Special Use Permit, county residents had the chance to learn about it, research it, and oppose it en masse for obvious reasons. It was defeated.

But under the new “business friendly” zoning crafted by Economic Development Director Charles McSwain, this type of use will be allowed “by right” in any agricultural zone. The public will not be notified and no public hearings will be necessary.

In the same year, it was discovered that a local industrial contractor was importing and remediating “contaminated soil” and adding it to his asphalt product, using it in repaving and road projects. Again, once the act was discovered, it was deemed a violation of the county zoning ordinance, and the zoning department issued a “cease and desist” order, giving the owner 90 days to meet “binding contracts” already in place.

Again, under the proposed “business friendly” zoning ordinance, this process would be allowed “by right,” and residents would not know what was happening until they smelled the stinking fumes from the incinerators. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY
Why the Lower Shore Needs a Community VA Clinic

By JOE VACCARO
American Legion Post 56 Commander

July 28, 2014

On March 4, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln gave his second inaugural address to a war-torn nation that was filled with anger, angst, and uncertainty. Lincoln understood it was the people fighting the Civil War who shouldered the burden for the nation. So he elegantly spoke about the need “to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.” However, those immortal words that were spoken 149 years ago seem to have fallen on deaf ears in America.

We live in a time where the unemployment rate of our veterans still outpaces their civilian counterparts by three to five points and it’s about to get worse with significant military drawdowns. Another startling fact is that one-third of the adult homeless populations are veterans, and over 70 percent of them have some type of substance abuse issues.

The early recruiting promises and contracts regarding medical, dental, and retirement pensions have also fallen into the abyss. The majority of the broken expectations are due to politically oriented budget-cutting on both sides and elected officials who have little understanding of veterans’ issues since the majority of them never served in the military.

Promises of care for veterans have been around for centuries: in 1776 the Continental Congress encouraged enlistments by providing pensions to disabled soldiers, and some states and communities actually made individual pacts to care for their returning veterans. In 1812 the federal government authorized its first medical facility for veterans that eventually evolved into the establishment of the Veterans Administration in 1930 when Congress authorized President Herbert Hoover to “consolidate and coordinate government activities affecting war veterans.”

The VA has been effective in dealing with some veterans’ needs and extremely deficient in other cases as the media bears witness in Arizona. However, the Eastern Shore has a ray of hope that comes in the form of two very hard-working ladies named Wendy Ainsworth and Jamie LeCates-Brown. Ainsworth is the Veterans Service Representative and Manager for the Accomack Field Office, and Lecates-Brown is her administrator. [Read more...]

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EDITORIAL: Drop the Speed Limit to 45

A CAPE CHARLES WAVE EDITORIAL

July 21, 2014

How many more people have to die, how many more vehicles must be destroyed, how many more close calls must there be before VDOT awakes to the deadly danger of Route 13 north and south of the Cape Charles traffic light? If Route 13 is Virginia’s most dangerous highway, we will nominate the Cape Charles/Cheriton area as the most dangerous patch of it.

The traffic light itself is not the problem so much as the multiple turnoffs mostly south of the light. Two of our neighbors had their cars totaled in the past few years — one trying to cross the highway to get to the Corner Mart, the other a victim of someone pulling out from McDonald’s directly in front of her.

Last week we saw something new and scary: a full-size charter bus leaving McDonald’s was trying to turn left onto Route 13. Judging by the line of cars behind the bus, the driver had to wait a long time for a break in the traffic.

Why does the speed limit drop to 45 mph on the bypass around Exmore but not in the Cape Charles/Cheriton area? The danger here is arguably worse than in Exmore (which funds their entire Police budget from speeding tickets).

Our most recent heart-stopper (and the inspiration for this editorial) came from waiting in the left-hand lane on 13 to turn onto Stone Road. An 18-wheeler roared past at full speed only a few feet away, violently shaking our stopped van in the jet stream. We were literally “sitting ducks.” And as everyone knows, a 55 mph limit means it is your God-given right (and duty) to drive 60 — and this trucker was doing his duty.

At least we were encased in a two-ton van; pity the pedestrian who tries to navigate that death-trap. Earl Wayne Spady was hit by a truck last month while trying to cross Route 13 on foot at night. May he rest in peace. [Read more...]

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WAYNE CREED
Wake Up to Danger of Saltwater Intrusion

By WAYNE CREED

July 21, 2014

A few nights ago, plagued by a fit of insomnia, I downloaded a copy of the Cape Charles Planning Commission’s June 30 meeting agenda. Hoping the content would induce a much needed sleep, I quietly perused the document. As usual, it was filled with the same vapid and gooey pap that has come to define the Natali-McCoy Planning Commission. There was some talk of promoting a museum for the Chesapeake Bay Impact Crater, but then, buried deep down in the weeds, a discussion of saltwater intrusion, and how it will affect the Town. In a cavalier, dim, nonchalant tone, it states:

The Town has limited groundwater resources. In the future, saltwater intrusion may necessitate the Town update water treatment technologies or possibly obtain water from a different location. 

So, what are they talking about? In a nutshell, saltwater intrusion (high concentrations of total dissolved solids making it unfit for human consumption) is the movement of saline water into freshwater aquifers. Aquifers are saturated geologic materials that yield usable quantities of drinking water to wells. In our case, we rely on the Columbia and Yorktown-Eastover aquifers and there are no other viable economical alternative drinking water sources. The Columbia and Yorktown-Eastover aquifer is considered highly vulnerable to salt water contamination due to the high levels of ground-water pumping from coastal wells (like our Keck wells). As towns like Cape Charles continue to over-develop (large developments such as Bay Creek ), ground-water use increases to the point that these areas become vulnerable to contamination and brings into question the viability of ground-water sustainability.

Well drillers around here can attest to the abundance of bad-tasting ground water in parts of southeastern Virginia– a large body of salt water, known as a salt water wedge has been blamed for undrinkable ground water that extends from the mouth of Chesapeake Bay into the Columbia and Yorktown-Eastover aquifers. For many years, scientists thought the wedge was caused by the incomplete flushing of ancient seawater that had invaded the aquifers during high stands of the sea. Understanding of Virginia’s inland saltwater wedge changed in 1993 when David Powars of the U.S. Geological Survey and geologist C. Wylie Poag, while studying the Atlantic Coastal Plain made an important discovery. Deep sedimentary cores identified a large impact crater formed by a meteorite near what is now the mouth of Chesapeake Bay ( three times larger than any other U.S. crater and the sixth largest crater known on Earth). [Read more...]

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WEEKEND FEATURE
Remembering the Good Ol’ Days

By ANDY ZAHN

July 12, 2014

All fishermen are liars . . . except you and me — and sometimes I have my doubts about you!

There is a small lake at Fort Lewis, Washington, and it is in the artillery impact range where often they fire 105 mm Howitzers, so the area is off limits five days a week. On Saturdays my Captain, my Sergeant, and myself would go there to catch the beautiful Rainbow Trout living there in large numbers. I would dig a worm, put it on my hook, cast, and in short order reel in a nice fish.

The Captain would ask what I was using for bait and he would say worms are no good. “Use some of my salmon eggs.” I would dig another worm and catch a fish. Each time I caught a fish he moved to my spot, but no matter, I continued to catch fish.

The limit was 15 and when I had enough I left to meet my girlfriend who was in the Air Force and then go to where they had fireplaces and tables and enjoy the elegant feast. When I left the lake the Captain was still using salmon eggs and had not caught a fish.

The Captain was also a game warden on the Fort, and I went with him to a club on the base for hunters and fishermen. Above the bar they had the head of a mounted “Jack-A-Lope,” which is a cross between a jack rabbit and an antelope: very rare!

That girlfriend became my wife, and 56 years, four sons, and 12 grandkids later here we are in Melfa. [Read more...]

LETTER
Planning Commission, Not Staff, Should Recommend

July 9, 2014

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following letter from “Citizens for Open Government” was read to the Northampton County Board of Supervisors at their meeting last night. The Supervisors subsequently agreed to hold a joint work session with the County Planning Commission to hear testimony and evidence on whether to retain protections of the Chesapeake Bay Act on the seaside.) 

Dear Chairman LeMond and Members of the Northampton County Board of Supervisors:

After the March 11, 2014, joint meeting of the Northampton County Board of Supervisors and the Northampton County Planning Commission, the BOS imposed a 100-day time limit for the Planning Commission to make recommendations on the 150-page complete revision of the Northampton County Zoning Ordinance. Citing Virginia Code 15.2-2285(b), County Administrator Katie Nunez at that time announced that failure of the Planning Commisision to finish their review of the complete revision of the zoning ordinance within the 100-day time limit would allow the BOS to adopt the proposed zoning ordinance as written, and would also allow the BOS to consider the lack of a recommendation as an endorsement for approval by the Planning Commission.

Unfortunately, but as predicted by many who were observing this process, the Planning Commission was unable to finish its review of the revised zoning ordinance by the May 31, 2014, deadline, and was only able to make recommendations on about one half of the 150-page document. Indeed, some of the most important and profound suggested changes to the current zoning ordinance were not addressed by the Planning Commission, and yet the BOS did not recommend remanding the unfinished portion of the proposed zoning ordinance to the Planning Commission to resume their review. This denial of allowing the Planning Commission to resume their review of these changes poses to profoundly affect the future of Northampton County. This failure by the BOS runs counter to the interest of the public and those hundreds of citizens who have voiced their opposition to the proposed zoning revisions.

At the July meeting to of the Planning Commission, the work on amending the current Comprehensive Plan resumed, as they were not asked to continue their review of the proposed zoning ordinance revisions. During deliberations last week, they addressed the language in the current 2009 Comprehensive Plan which calls for extending the protections of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act to the waters of the seaside. At first, it was recommended that the Planning Commission recommend that this language be retained and brought forward into the draft amended Comprehensive Plan. However, discussion among the members turned to a debate as to whether or not there is enough scientific evidence to support either continuing the Cheasapeake Bay Act protections to the seaside or to let those protections lapse. After lengthy discussion, it was decided that the Planning Commission needed to call in experts in this field, and it was finally agreed that Art Schwarzchild, a well-respected marine scientist from Willis Wharf who has studied this issue in depth, should be invited to present evidence and input from his peers to help the Planning Commission in their deliberations. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY
Do You Know Where Your Tax Dollars Are?

By MARY MILLER
Citizens for a
Better Eastern Shore

July 7, 2014

Counties around the state are finishing up their budgets for the next fiscal year. This is the time of year we can easily see where our county’s tax dollars are going – and take a look at similar expenses for the counties around us.

This year, and not for the first time, Northampton County wins the spendthrift award. Compared to Accomack County, and compared also to several eastern Virginia counties with similar populations, Northampton spends more per person for county administration, public safety and debt service, and provides more education dollars per student than most of the others. Northampton also tops the list in per-person local tax revenue collected.

When comparing expenses of the two Eastern Shore counties with a disparity of population (Accomack’s population is about
 three times Northampton’s), it’s more informative to compare the costs for what are assumed to be similar services on a per-person basis. For instance, Northampton collects almost $1,700 in local tax revenue per person, while Accomack collects about $1,100. Assuming that the actual costs of several locally funded services are similar from one county to the next, it would be logical that the same costs spread over a larger population would make the services less costly per person. All things being equal, one might assume that the total costs for many services in Accomack could be as much as three times as much as in Northampton, which has one-third the number of residents. [Read more...]

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