(EDITOR’S NOTE: Below is a message from Mayor Sullivan reprinted from the November 20 Town Gazette. It is followed by a message to the mayor from Old School Cape Charles.)
November 21, 2013
MESSAGE FROM THE MAYOR
I am pleased to report that the Supreme Court of Virginia has rejected both petitions for appeal of the decisions rendered by the Northampton Circuit Court filed by Old School Cape Charles, et al. We are looking forward to the developer now moving ahead with the historic rehabilitation of the former school property into an asset that contributes to our economy.
I am hopeful that we can continue to move forward in improving our Town.
MESSAGE TO THE MAYOR FROM OLD SCHOOL CAPE CHARLES
The wheels of justice grind slowly, and Old School Cape Charles LLC has not given up the fight to save Central Park property from the hands of a developer who would turn the largest public building in town into an apartment house.
Old School Cape Charles still has the option of requesting the Supreme Court to review the decision of the Writ Panel that rejected our appeals. The question of “standing” looms large in the rejection. Circuit Court Judge Revell Lewis ruled that a community group formed for the sole purpose of saving a public asset does not have standing to question the decision of Town Council. Judge Lewis also decided that he did not have jurisdiction over the case involving the sale. So Old School Cape Charles plans to ask the Supreme Court to review the decision of the panel.
Then there is the question of the Town staff’s ignoring Historic District Guidelines which state that a parking lot should not be allowed in front of the building. Madame Mayor, you have refused to identify the front of the building, but we believe that the Virginia Department of Historic Resources will be able to locate the front even without your assistance. [Read more...]
By GEORGE SOUTHERN
Cape Charles Wave
November 14, 2013
Before I started causing trouble in Cape Charles, I was causing trouble in Northern Virginia (see Larry Veber for copies of a newspaper column I wrote there). Over the years we lived in the City of Alexandria, the County of Arlington, the County of Fairfax, and the City of Falls Church. Each of those municipalities offers many attractions, but there is one thing none of them has that Cape Charles does have: double taxation.
That’s right. In Virginia, if you live in a city you pay city taxes; if you live in a county you pay county taxes. Only in towns is there an opportunity to pay double taxes.
There is a little town in Fairfax County with the prestigious name of Vienna. One day I called the Town of Vienna’s information officer to ask: Why does it cost the taxpayer 22 percent more to live in Vienna than just outside the town line in Fairfax County? She immediately answered: “Access — you can call the Mayor on a Sunday afternoon.”
Vienna’s real estate tax rate is 22.88 cents per hundred dollars. Cape Charles, at 27.74 cents, is 17 percent higher. So – if you see where I’m going with this – shouldn’t my mayoral access be mighty good here in Cape Charles?
I had a question for Mayor Sullivan last July. The Town Gazette had just published a “Message from the Mayor” (click here to read) stating that “the Water and Sewer Fund broke even over the last three fiscal years.” I asked the Mayor how that could be, when the 2013 budget showed that the Water and Sewer Fund required a transfer of $172,500 from the General Fund. The Mayor deigned not to answer my question. (Perhaps I should have called her on a Sunday afternoon.)
So I asked our Town Manager, Heather Arcos. To her credit, she said she would check and get back to me. The next day – well, let the emails tell the story: [Read more...]
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Cape Charles resident Joe Vaccaro submitted this commentary with the request that it be published on Veterans Day. It is his latest article in observance of American Legion Post 56′s “Year of the Veteran.”)
By JOE VACCARO
American Legion Post 56
November 11, 2013
There are over 830,000 veterans residing in Virginia, and that number includes some 700,000 men and 130,000 women. Within those numbers are over 669,000 wartime veterans who have served their country in time of need. The Eastern Shore of Virginia lays claim to over 5,000 of those men and women living among us; also living among them is the dark potential of suicide.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 22 veterans take their own lives every day. That data is from 1999 through 2011 and only contains information from 21 states, with large states such as California, Texas, and Illinois not reporting any information. Throughout the years combat veterans have been returning home seemingly unscathed by the battles they have fought, yet the suicide rate for our recently returning veterans continues to climb. The troops, especially the career minded, view any cry for help as a career blemish that could tarnish a record of valor and hard work, and halt an upward climb through the ranks. The attempt to gather facts to combat this national tragedy is too skewed to be of any solid value.
Part of the problem is that there’s no uniform reporting system regarding these deaths. So it’s up to a coroner or funeral director to enter a veteran status or note a suicide on a death certificate. This makes it extremely difficult to determine a veteran’s status unless the person is known to them, which begs the next question of how do they collect that data on homeless veterans? [Read more...]
A CAPE CHARLES WAVE EDITORIAL
November 4, 2013
Tuesday’s election is the most important in modern times for Northampton County. For the first time, voters have a chance to elect their School Board, which until now has been appointed.
Two of the Board’s seven seats are at-large, voted on throughout the County. For the four-year-term seat, Randall Parks is running against Delores Lindsay. Both candidates have decades of experience teaching in Northampton schools. Mr. Parks has the distinction of being the driving force behind the petition and referendum that resulted in an elected Board. His opponent, Ms. Lindsay, is currently an appointed School Board member. Voters happy with the current Board will want to retain Lindsay, while the rest have an opportunity to cast their ballots for Parks.
The other at-large seat is between Jo Ann Molera, who with her husband ran a Montesorri school in Nassawadox for many years, and Nykia Robinson, who graduated from Northampton High six years ago. We commend Ms. Robinson for her civic spirit, and also appreciate that a Board member not long removed from the student side of the classroom could contribute a unique perspective. That said, the current perilous state of County public schools cannot afford the luxury of on-the-job training, and thus we support Ms. Molera.
District 1, where Cape Charles residents vote, is contested by Shannon Dunham, an Eastville attorney and graduate of Northampton High, and Tamsey Ellis, a retired teacher with decades of local experience. The two candidates’ personal styles differ dramatically – the former feisty, the latter folksy – but we believe that either choice would make a good Board member.
The other District 1 race is for Board of Supervisors, where Granville Hogg is challenging incumbent chairman Willie Randall. We appreciate both candidates’ willingness to serve – especially since the incumbents in District 2 and District 3 are running unopposed.
In District 1, Mr. Randall is running on his record, while Mr. Hogg has raised serious issues with County policies. We note that Mr. Hogg served on the Public Service Authority until this year, but when he opposed the PSA proposal to nearly double property taxes for selected commercial properties to fund a sewer pipe, the Board of Supervisors replaced him.
District 1 voters (and only District 1 voters) have the opportunity tomorrow to send a message to the Board of Supervisors. If they agree with the direction the Board has taken over the past four years, they can vote for Mr. Randall. If they disagree, they can vote for Mr. Hogg.
By DEBORAH BENDER
October 14, 2013
Tomorrow the Old School Cape Charles civic group will get a second chance at justice. On Tuesday, October 15, the Virginia Supreme Court will hear an appeal of a lower court decision allowing the historic school in Central Park to be given to a developer.
Those who have been reading the Wave know the sad story of the Town’s secret negotiations and purported “sale” of the school for $10. One can barely buy lunch for $10, but our Town Council sold valuable town property –including the Town’s only two basketball courts — for that “price.”
But it gets worse: Not only did they sell the school for $10, they then gave the developer $41,000 in insurance money for earthquake damage not noticed until three months after the fact.
The Town bumbled about for several months trying to issue a legally acceptable rezoning and conditional use permit, which they were never quite able to do.
The Town signed a contract and enacted an ordinance to sell the school to Echelon Resources. But when Mayor Sullivan signed over the deed, it was to Charon Ventures — an entity that was never mentioned in the contract or the Town ordinance.
Town residents who value public property and care about the local children thought better of the school than to give it away. They formed a group and named it Old School Cape Charles. Old School set to work alerting townspeople through signs, leaflets, and petitions. In reaction, Town Planning Commissioners have spent months working on the Town’s sign ordinance to ban protest signs. [Read more...]
By WAYNE CREED
September 21, 2013
Assistant Town Manager Bob Panek received a universally chilly reception September 16 at the Cheriton Fire Hall when he explained plans to use the Town’s wastewater plant as the southern node of a semi-regional wastewater system. But when so many people around here agree with each other, it should raise a giant red flag that something is wrong.
I agree that at the current time, Cape Charles should not engage with the Public Service Authority to run pipe out to the newly created Economic Tax Zone along Route 13 — but for different reasons than have been voiced by others.
A major red herring is that supplying wastewater treatment to Route 13 and Cheriton would somehow cause economic stress to Cape Charles businesses. There is a notion that a Rite-Aid or CVS may open to compete with Rayfield’s, yet in this economic climate, chain stores tend to stick to locations that minimize risk. Even with peak summer traffic, there doesn’t appear that there are the demographics to support a chain like that, and companies like CVS only survive if they can subsume and assimilate. That is, it would only be viable if they could assume Rayfield’s base — a difficult task that may seem too risky after a thorough cost-benefit analysis. [Read more...]
A CAPE CHARLES WAVE EDITORIAL
September 19, 2013
Two weeks ago today, Cape Charles Town Council was supposed to discuss a proposed rate structure for commercial sewer customers on Route 13 and around Cheriton. Assistant Town Manager Bob Panek earlier said that determining a sewer rate would be “about a day’s work.” But no rate has yet been proposed, and Council’s work session was cancelled. It’s now clear that the sewer charge won’t be based on engineering calculations — it will be a political decision.
Cape Charles residents and businesses pay a minimum monthly sewer charge of $61. But County Administrator Katie Nunez doesn’t want commercial customers outside the Town to pay any more than an “affordable” rate of $45. Town officials bought into Mr. Panek’s reasoning that any additional sewer income would be “gravy,” since most of the costs of running the treatment plant are fixed, and not dependent on how much sewage is treated. So they initially were amenable to the $45 charge.
But try telling anyone who sells hamburgers in Cape Charles that they have to pay full rate to support the fixed costs of the sewer plant, while McDonald’s and Hardee’s will get a lower rate. It’s a politically indefensible argument, so it’s not surprising that Town officials now are scared to propose any rate. As a result, the public hearing set for Monday, September 23, at the County board room in Eastville will be almost farcical, since nobody knows what the rate will be.
It doesn’t take a month or even a day to calculate a rate structure for County sewer customers, because the calculation has already been done. If Town customers pay $61 a month, then County customers should pay $61 a month. Any less, and the Town is rewarding and encouraging businesses outside Town limits. Any more – well, forget that argument, because no County customer would tolerate a rate above $61 – even though Town Council member Joan Natali has publicly suggested that the Town could “make a profit” on providing sewer service to the County. [Read more...]
By GEORGE SOUTHERN
Cape Charles Wave
September 9, 2013
A recurring theme of critics of the Wave runs like this: “We’re tired of all the negativity. Don’t tear down; build up. If you think you can do better, then run for office. Get involved. But don’t spend your time criticizing what others are doing.”
Our critics don’t seem to have much appreciation for what’s known as the “Fourth Estate.” According to Wikipedia, the “networked Fourth Estate” can be defined as “technologies that are associated with the free press and provide a public check on the branches of government.”
Providing a public check on government is the main purpose of the Wave. In a tiny town like Cape Charles, how are you going to know what’s happening at Town Council, the Planning Commission, the Historic District Review Board, or the Wetlands and Coastal Dunes Board? Attend all the meetings as a spectator? For most people that’s just not practical. But to be an informed citizen you need to know what’s going on, and that’s where the Wave comes in. We actually report those meetings. We’re not running for office, but we are involved.
The two “real” newspapers, Eastern Shore News and Eastern Shore Post, from time to time file stories about Cape Charles, including Town Council, but those papers cover the entire Eastern Shore and don’t focus on Cape Charles. Hence the Wave.
The aforementioned papers sometimes are criticized as too “wishy-washy,” afraid to call a spade a spade. So it did our hearts good when we read the fiery opinion column by Eastern Shore News editor Ted Shockley the other week. His rebuke is directed at Accomack County supervisors after they refused to fund a new library. Shockley pointed out that the supervisors waste plenty of money through poor management. Here’s a condensation of what he wrote: [Read more...]