By JAY FORD
Virginia Eastern Shorekeeper
March 3, 2014
The Virginia Eastern Shorekeeper organization has expressed its concern to Northampton County officials over plans to overhaul the County zoning code. The County recently issued a statement by Economic Director Charles McSwain stating that “The proposed zoning code is consistent with the County’s adopted Comprehensive Plan.”
In fact, there are numerous conflicts with the Comprehensive Plan that would make this statement untrue. Furthermore, the County’s Planning Commission has not yet completed the five-year review of the Comprehensive Plan — nor have they held any hearings to present to the public any proposed changes to the existing Comprehensive Plan.
Virginia Eastern Shorekeeper is deeply concerned that measures put in place to ensure good governance and adequate opportunities for public participation are being clearly sidestepped to the detriment of Northampton citizens. The provision calling for the development of a comprehensive plan before adopting new zoning ordinances is just plain common sense. Before you take an axe to the zoning code, the County has a responsibility to lay out a road map for the future to justify those changes. Our concern is that officials are putting the cart before the horse, and in doing so they are putting the long term economic and environmental future of the county in danger.
The inversion of this process would set a dangerous precedent for a crucial duty of county governance and rob citizens of the invaluable input of their planning commissioners. After initial review with legal counsel, it is our opinion that the methodology being followed by Northampton County is clearly at odds with the intent of the law. The process has been far from transparent, having been conducted behind closed doors with special interests providing the sole input. Additionally, given that the Planning Commission is currently revising the Comprehensive Plan, Mr. McSwain’s written statement is not correct. [Read more...]
By WAYNE CREED
February 17, 2014
As Olympians from around the world are meeting in Sochi to compete for gold, two members of Congress, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) have also forayed into sport by sending a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, appealing to him to support the effort to change the name of the Washington Redskins. “The National Football League can no longer ignore this and perpetuate the use of this name as anything but what it is: a racial slur,” they write.
Meanwhile, the team and several players have released statements claiming they have received “more than 7,000 letters and emails” in favor of keeping the name, with “almost 200 from people who identified themselves as Native Americans or as family members of Native Americans.” Whether or not the Redskins and the NFL are on the “wrong side of history,” as the senator and representative state, is something to consider. Given that I am married to a Redskins fan, and the Eastern Shore is historically Redskin territory, it might be helpful to review the actual history we may or may not be on the right side of.
The original team dates back to 1932, in Boston, owned by George Preston
Marshall, Vincent Bendix, Jay O’Brien, and Dorland Doyle. The team played their games at Braves Field, and as a matter of expedience adopted the same name, Boston Braves.
In the first year the team lost $46,000, and Bendix, O’Brien, and Doyle dropped out of the investment, leaving Marshall the sole owner. Marshall, who was having a dispute with his current landlord for the Boston Braves, immediately moved to Fenway Park and changed the name to the “Redskins.” Marshall claimed he did so to honor the team’s coach, Lone Star Dietz, who claimed to be of Native American descent (part Sioux). There is also an account that Marshall chose the
name as an allusion to the Boston Tea Party Patriots that dressed as Native Americans, as a way to send a not so subtle message to his former landlord.
Several years of mediocrity followed until 1936, when the Redskins won their first Eastern Division Title. However, even after winning the title, only 4,000 fans showed up for the final regular season game, at which point a thoroughly disgusted Marshall refused to play the championship game in Boston and instead moved it to the Polo grounds in New York, giving up home field advantage. They lost. [Read more...]
By TED WARNER
February 3, 2014
On Wednesday, January 15, I drove back to Northampton County, across the increasingly overpriced Bay Bridge-Tunnel. I drove around Cape Charles, taking in the familiar streets, and eventually made my way to the Northampton County Public Schools Central Office in order to witness the swearing in ceremony of the county’s first elected school board.
For many of us, the ceremony marked the end of a long process which began several years ago.
Several hundred of us sat in the Old Middle School auditorium to express our outrage over the unceremonious dismissal of a popular high school principal. But there were only eight of us a few weeks later, facing that great, inevitable question: “What’s next?”
Over the next few months, we collaborated closely and struggled to develop a message that was respectful of a long litany of complaints about the state of our public schools, but was also forward-thinking, positive, and would ultimately lead to a positive change in the county. We recognized that the county’s public school administrators and School Board were not responding to needs of teachers, parents, and the community at large. For example, the county’s strategic plan addressed the topic of “community outreach” with only the ominously apathetic words “on going.” That, we felt, was not enough. So we began circulating a petition to create an elected (and not appointed) school board. The petition led to a referendum, which was overwhelming approved by the voting public in November 2012. Then we turned our attention to recruiting candidates for the School Board.
For my part, I was adamant that the candidates be subjected to public scrutiny and that they be asked to articulate an unwavering commitment to involving the expertise of teachers in their deliberations. I firmly believe that almost any problem in our schools can be better solved by a group of teachers, working in the classroom day in and day out, than by Central Office personnel or state-level officials in the Department of Education. Although I was there for every step of this story, I hope that this last point — that the teachers should be more respected — was my contribution.
After a series of public forums, of which the most productive was sponsored by the Northampton County Education Association, a professional association of Northampton’s teachers and support professionals, a group of candidates was selected. In November, the people elected their first school board.
When they raised their hands a week ago and took their oath of office, I hope they realized that although a long story had come to a triumphant conclusion, a new story was beginning. And that story begins with that same great, inevitable question: “What’s next?”
It saddens me that I will not be a part of answering that question. Shortly after the election in November, I accepted a position that required me to move out of the school system. My colleagues congratulated me warmly, and I was grateful for their support. As we all must, my decision to move on was responsible to my family obligations and respectful to the resignation process as defined by School Board policy. I certainly wish that Northampton County could have created the circumstances for me to remain. [Read more...]
By WAYNE CREED
February 3, 2014
The review of the new Beach Club at Bay Creek in the Wave, which at first appeared to be a rather innocuous report about the general status of the facility, instead seemed to unleash a firestorm of commentary. As usual, the comments section veered off into the weeds, degenerating into a Wrucke vs. Bender UFC cage match, arguments of gated vs. non-gated communities, Bay Creek’s inability to clear snow off the roads, the Wave’s journalistic style, and even intellectually flaccid attacks against members of Old School Cape Charles.
While all this was going on, my wife was reading the article with excitement — years of working in social work, she is the original inspiration for a silver linings playbook. While I’m complaining, “Where’s the bar? How am I going to get my martinis? Do they expect me to survive on just food and water? Never!,” she’s reviewing the amenities, and quite to my surprise offers, “You know, this place is great. And it’s a great deal. Cheaper than the Y.” Stopping me in my tracks, I asked her, “What you talkin’ bout Willis?”
And then she explained. When she was a kid, she belonged to a pool and racquet club in Northern Virginia. In the summers she would spend her days playing tennis, walking over to Roy Roger’s for fried chicken, and generally just lounging by the pool. She would also spend one or two weeks visiting cousins in California, who belonged to a magnificent beach club overlooking the Pacific, just north of San Diego. At that moment, I realized that she wasn’t just trying to be Pollyanna — her memories of those times really did make her happy.
Then I thought of my own youth. We also belonged to a club. Looking back, it probably wasn’t much to look at, and compared to what we see at Bay Creek, probably a bit shabby. But it had a big, clean pool, a couple of tennis courts, game room with pool, ping-pong, a few pinball machines, and an excellent snack bar. When Little League baseball ended in mid-June, we were finally cut loose, free to indulge in the lazy days of summer. Me and my friends would sleep late, and then hop on our bikes and ride over to the pool. Pockets stuffed with lawn mowing money, we would swim, play ping-pong, and eat hot dogs and coke all day, until exhausted, we trekked back home to Mom’s dinner table.
Sometimes during the week, when the pool was marginally empty, me and my friend Ronnie would take his dad’s scuba equipment, and the life guard would let us scuba dive in the pool (as long as they could see us). I’m not sure how many hours you need to be certified to dive, but I’m months past that. Ronnie and I would stay under until we completely drained the tanks. Later we would carefully return them to the racks, and Saturday morning, when Ronnie’s dad was checking them before he went on a dive, after discovering they were empty, we could hear his yell, echoing throughout the neighborhood, “RONNIE!” [Read more...]
By GEORGE SOUTHERN
Cape Charles Wave
January 27, 2014
When I moved to the Town of Cape Charles four years ago, I didn’t realize that the majority of the Town would be off-limits to me. Sure, I knew that Bay Creek was a gated community, but I didn’t think I would be banned from riding my bicycle over there.
That’s because, as a college student in the 1970s, I worked construction one summer on Hilton Head Island, where Sea Pines Plantation looks like it must have been the prototype for Bay Creek. Cars entering Sea Pines had to have a pass, but bikers and pedestrians could waltz right through. That was before 9/11, of course – maybe things have changed now.
Nevertheless I was shocked to learn of the “unneighborliness” of Bay Creek. German guests at our vacation rental rode bikes over to the gate and naively said they just wanted to “look around.” They were turned away, of course, not knowing the magic words “Coach House Restaurant.” Even my new weekender neighbors, a doctor and his professional wife, also on bikes, were turned away.
By no means do I intend this as criticism of the friendly guards at the Bay Creek gate, one of whom I know personally. I have friends who live in Bay Creek, and the mention of a friend’s name has always granted me access. But sometimes I cheated, mentioning a friend’s name when I really just wanted to “look around.” And Bobby Thomas finally caught me, embarrassingly enough when my wife and I were giving relatives a tour of Bay Creek, and we got the bums’ rush.
Once burned, twice cautious. I continue to “look around” the gated portion of the town I now call home, but my most recent visit to Bay Creek was under the protection of a genuine property owner. And that is how an outsider gained access to the inside of the new Bay Creek Beach Club. [Read more...]
By GEORGE SOUTHERN
Cape Charles Wave
December 24, 2013
Did anyone, other than Cape Charles Town Council member and Planning Commissioner Joan Natali, actually read the new 20-page sign ordinance before voting it into law? Town Planner Rob Testerman says the Town’s attorney reviewed it, but a reader has pointed out that the time restriction on political signs violates Virginia state law.
The new sign ordinance is not only extremely proscriptive – it’s also frustratingly vague. For example:
PERMITS REQUIRED: Unless specifically exempted, a permit must be obtained from the zoning administrator for the erection and maintenance of all signs erected or maintained within this jurisdiction and in accordance with other ordinances of this Jurisdiction.
Does that mean that EVERY sign in town will need a permit? Even temporary signs, such as For Sale signs? The ordinance doesn’t say.
But speaking of permits, there are of course:
PERMIT FEES: Permit fees to erect, alter or relocate a sign shall be in accordance with the fee schedule adopted within this jurisdiction.
No fee schedule is shown.
Do we even know what a “sign” is? Yes, thanks to the ordinance:
SIGN: Any device visible from a public place that displays either commercial or noncommercial messages by means of graphic presentation of alphabetic or pictorial symbols or representations.
So a sign doesn’t even have to contain words. It might be pictures of pumpkins such as were displayed in the windows of the vacant Bi-Lo building on Mason Avenue in October. The signs are gone now, and a good thing, because they are illegal.
The most restrictive rule in the new ordinance is this one:
WINDOW SIGNS shall be permitted for any nonresidential use in a residential district, and for all commercial and industrial districts, subject to the following limitations:
– Any signs attached to windows or glass walls advertising weekly specials or special services offered for a limited time by a business establishment.
– The aggregate area of all such signs shall not exceed 25 percent of the window area on which such signs are displayed. Window panels separated by muntins or mullions shall be considered as one continuous window area.
One really needs to read this several times before it sinks in. Essentially, it bans all “permanent” signs in storefront windows. Only “weekly specials,” or “limited-time” offers are allowed to be displayed.
But that’s not all – there’s also the size restriction: no more than 25 percent of the window area. [Read more...]
December 21, 2013
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Cape Charles resident Stefanie Hadden made the following presentation Thursday at the Town Council meeting.)
Hi friends and neighbors! Backyard chicken-keeping is a rewarding and educational activity. It is also harmless. Keeping a small number of hens on one’s private property, properly secured and cared for, is a forward-thinking win-win for the community. It is a perfect example of sustainable living, and an important counterpoint to inhumane industrial- scale poultry production.
Hens are friendly, curious and productive! They‘re quiet, clean, entertaining birds and make wonderful outdoor pets. They produce nutritious hormone and antibiotic-free eggs ($4.29 per doz. at the grocery!), keep yards free of ticks and other insect pests, and provide excellent garden fertilizer in the form of their composted droppings.
Did you know the average dog produces 12 ounces of waste per day, where a hen produces a mere 1.5 ounces? [Read more...]
By WAYNE CREED
December 17, 2013
As was reported in the Wave, the Cape Charles Planning Commission continues to mull ideas around Route 13 development. This is a critical role at a critical time, and could be argued is their most important task. There have been comments that Cape Charles is already “business ready” and that development should somehow only be directed towards the Town. I’m not convinced a waste water plant and six policemen constitute “business ready” — the reality is that the County will eventually develop outside of town; it has to. It is important that Cape Charles stays engaged so that we can have a voice in how this development takes place.
Unfortunately, the folks in Cape Charles running point on this issue have extremely limited and somewhat backwards notions of just what development means. As usual, they defer to antiquated, sprawl-promoting plans that include hotels and strip malls. In the end, these industries provide little economic boost, and destroy rural character in the process.
Sustainable rural development must become the fundamental principle which underpins our development goals — a multifaceted approach to managing our environmental, economic, and social resources for the long term. The hope is to reverse out-migration, combat poverty, stimulate employment and equality of opportunity, and ultimately improve rural well-being in not just Cape Charles but also the County.
The focus and framework should be around agriculture, medium-scale industries, rural services, and tourism. These policies should promote development which sustains the Eastern Shore’s rural landscapes by proactively protecting natural resources, biodiversity, and our cultural identity. In other words, meet the needs of the present without compromising the Shore’s future. [Read more...]