SHORE THING: A$K the Mayor

Cape Charles Wave

November 14, 2013

Before I started causing trouble in Cape Charles, I was causing trouble in Northern Virginia. 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…]


SHORE THING: You Tell ‘Em, Ted

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…]


SHORE THING: April Fools on July 4th

Cape Charles Wave

July 4, 2013

A little background music, please: Click here to enjoy the Tams while you read this (You can then select the SHORE THING window while the music plays.)

In case you’re sitting in the library, or your computer won’t play music, the song is “What Kind of Fool (Do You Think I Am).”

You will want to play it while reading the Town’s July 4th edition of the official Cape Charles Gazette (click to read).

The three-page special edition of the Gazette is all about “allegations” related to water and wastewater and “preferential treatment of Bayshore Concrete Products and Bay Creek Resort & Club.”

After giving it a careful read, my conclusion is that April Fools Day came late this year.

My test for any claim is, if I find part of it that is patently false and ridiculous, then the rest is also suspect.

The Gazette, obviously written by Assistant Town Manager and wastewater consultant Bob Panek, is three pages of “facts and figures” attempting to justify the Town’s water and sewer policies which are resulting in minimum monthly utility bills of $108.

The Wave had pointed out that the Town’s biggest water user, Bayshore Concrete Products, isn’t hooked up to Town utilities.

Mr. Panek writes at length about why hooking up Bayshore Concrete would be a very bad idea, but he trips up when he claims “it would take almost 58 years” for the Town to recoup its cost to run a sewer line to Bayshore.

Is the music over? Play it again, Sam! [Read more…]


SHORE THING: One Lucky Dog

"Lucky" -- also affectionately known as "Mayor of Cape Charles."

“Lucky” — also affectionately known as “Mayor of Cape Charles.”

Cape Charles Wave

March 25, 2013

My wife and I are walkers (and joggers of a sort), and a big attraction of the Historic District is its walkability. So, most mornings for the past couple of years we have been “making our rounds.”

First we head to the beach, then out to the end of the pier, thence up Front Street (Mason Avenue, but I’m trying to sound like a local), left on Peach, then through Central Park, continuing on Monroe past Fig, all the way to Bahama Road (reachable from Monroe by foot but not by car).

From there we cross Lake Foster, approaching the gated community of Jellybean Village. And since what happens from that point possibly involves illegal activity, I’ll just conclude by saying that eventually we wind up back in the Historic District.

That’s a generic description of our “rounds,” which might run in the opposite direction the next day, and which also might entail detours, side paths, and shortcuts.

It’s a good way to meet people – and dogs (and cats).

In the people category, we’ve made a good friend who makes his rounds much more faithfully than we. But unlike us, he never varies his route. Visit the Natural Area Preserve behind the WACO building any morning (and I do mean any morning, rain or shine) and you’ll likely see him coming or going.

In the dog category, we’ve met any number. I consider myself very much a “dog person,” so I feel some jealousy that, invariably, any dog we encounter ignores me in favor of getting attention from my wife. She greets them, compliments them, and rubs them. Of course they like her! [Read more…]


SHORE THING: The Troll Under the Bridge

Cape Charles Wave

February 18, 2013

The Bridge-Tunnel Commission’s surprising decision to lower tolls for some commuters just might be like the first bricks chipped away from the Berlin Wall.

By itself it may not be that meaningful, but if it starts a trend, who knows where it might end?

Could the action escalate to the point that we no longer fear the “Toll Troll” under the bridge, lurking to gobble up travelers’ wallets?

I wonder why, after all these years, the Bridge-Tunnel Commission made a concession to Eastern Shore residents?

Is there finally a recognition that the crushing toll is the major reason that Northampton is the poorest county in the state of Virginia?

The $12 Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel (CBBT) toll is the highest in the United States by far.

The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge toll into New York City is $13, but the other direction is free, so the average toll is $6.50. Motorcyclists pay $5.50, or an average of $2.75 both ways.

(And why does our Bridge-Tunnel charge the same rate for a motorcycle as for a 2-axle truck?)

The Overseas Highway to Key West spans 127 miles, with the longest bridge in the chain stretching seven miles. The last toll was collected in 1954. Now it’s free.


The CBBT carries like a badge of honor the distinction of being built and maintained totally by tolls.

As if that’s something to be proud of. [Read more…]


SHORE THING: Gossip Gets a Bad Rap

Ewell's is no more -- long live Vance's!

Ewell’s is no more — long live Vance’s! (Wave photo)

Cape Charles Wave

January 28, 2013

It could be argued that Cape Charles doesn’t need a newspaper, because one stroll through town is usually enough to learn about everything that’s going on.

Maybe so, but if you drive instead of walk, or live out of town, you’re going to miss out on some of the news.

And with the weather as it’s been for the last two weeks — first rain, then snow, and for the moment still freezing cold — you don’t see many walkers, and you don’t hear as much news.

So there is some justification for a newspaper, and even for a “gossip column.”

The word “gossip” gets a bad rap. The archaic meaning of a “gossip” was a friend — somebody who knew you well enough to pass on the good stuff — meaning the REAL news.

So, friends, let me tell you about my walk through town the day before it started raining, which was two Mondays ago. If you live in town maybe you already know this, but half our readers are out-of-towners.

My first stop was at Sullivan’s, which of course is the number-one spot where news not only is heard but also made. I asked Mike if he had a scanner power supply I needed. He didn’t, but that brought me into contact with Jay’s barber shop across the hall.

Jay asked me if I had any good news (he meant JUICY news), and I asked him the same thing. If your barber doesn’t know, nobody knows.

I say barber, because I go to get my hair “cut.” Women go to get their hair “done,” but it’s all the same — whoever works on your hair knows the news.

Vance Lewis popped in, and I took the opportunity to chide him for pulling down the Ewell’s Furniture sign, leaving a blank frame. WRONG, Vance said — he had just put up his own sign, which you’ve already seen unless you don’t live here, in which case just look at the photo above.

As everybody knows, Vance’s father Frank, our former mayor (who just celebrated a birthday), has retired and sold Ewell’s Furniture to his son. Frank used to work six days a week at the store, but now that he’s retired he’s cut back to five.

That’s pretty big news for Cape Charles: Ewell’s Furniture, which had that name even before Frank bought it however many decades ago, is now Vance’s Furniture.

But there’s more, courtesy of Watson’s Hardware, which may not make as much news as Sullivan’s but does an even better job of spreading it. [Read more…]


SHORE THING: Town Tries New Angle in Park Toilet Appeal

Tops of wooden stakes show bathroom floor level required to avoid flooding. (Wave photo)

Tops of wooden stakes indicate bathroom floor level required to avoid flooding. (Wave photo)

Cape Charles Wave

January 10, 2013

Act 3 of the little morality play taking place in the historic district will be performed this evening (Thursday) during the Town Council meeting.

The scene for Act 1 was the Hotel Cape Charles, where the Historic District Review Board correctly noticed that the hotel renovations don’t look like the plans the Board had approved.

Owner David Gammino ‘fessed up that after submitting the original plans he got a new, better idea, which would look so much finer than much of the surrounding architecture on Mason Avenue that he didn’t ever imagine anyone would complain.

But as regular readers of the Wave know, Hotel Cape Charles was denied a permanent occupancy certificate, and remains in limbo.

But wait: didn’t anyone read the fine print? That would be Section 8.31 of the Town’s zoning ordinance:

Inspection by Administrator After Approval: When a Certificate of Appropriateness has been issued, the Administrator or Town Building Official shall from time to time inspect the alteration or construction approved by such certificate and shall give prompt notice to the applicant of any work not in accordance with such certificate or violating any ordinance of the Town. The Administrator or Town Building Official may revoke the certificate or the building permit if violations are not corrected by the applicant in a timely manner.

The “certificate of appropriateness” is what the Historic District Review Board issued based on the original drawings for the hotel.

According to the zoning ordinance, it is the responsibility of the Administrator to inspect construction “from time to time” and to give “prompt notice” of work not in accordance with the certificate of appropriateness.

And so the curtain fell on Act 1.

In Act 2 (a humorous diversion) the scene shifted to Central Park. [Read more…]


SHORE THING: On AQUA, and Business in Cape Charles

Cape Charles Wave

December 19, 2012

According to the Bay Creek website, AQUA Restaurant will close Friday night, December 21, (moved up a day from the original announcement).

According to the Trustees’ Sale notice, the following property will be offered at public auction at 11:30 a.m. Friday, December 28, at the County Courthouse: the restaurant building, the Marina Shops building, the Pierhouse building, the marina boat slips, all Villa condominiums, and various common areas and parking lots. (For the complete list, click here.)

According to the notice, the properties will all be sold together, with the exception of two residential lots. So if you want the restaurant, you have to buy the marina and the shops too.

According to County records, Bay Creek obtained a bank line of credit in July 2004 on the above properties in the amount of $11.5 million.

According to Bay Creek developer Dickie Foster, as quoted in the Eastern Shore News, “There are going to be a lot of bidders.”

Which begs the question: spun-off from their developer, are the restaurant, marina, and shops sustainable? Can they earn enough to cover operating expenses, including mortgage, taxes, and principal payments?

That’s a tough go for most businesses, and it’s especially tricky on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, where the tourism season is short and tourist numbers are relatively small.

As the town’s newest business, the Wave attended last month’s annual meeting of the Cape Charles Business Association. The good news: merchant after merchant reported last summer as the best in memory. Cape Charles is in renaissance, and tourists increasingly are discovering it. [Read more…]


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