Civic Leaders Allege Housing Discrimination by Town

LENORA MITCHELL Concerned Citizens of Cape Charles

Concerned Citizens of Cape Charles


Northampton NAACP

ALICE COLESBayview Citizens for Social Justice

Bayview Citizens for Social Justice


Cape Charles Wave

January 24, 2013

Three prominent  civic leaders have expressed concern to elected state officials over alleged discriminatory housing practices by the Town of Cape Charles.

The civic leaders are Lenora Mitchell, president of Concerned Citizens of Cape Charles; Alice Coles, president of Bayview Citizens for Social Justice; and Jane Cabarrus, president of Northampton County NAACP.

The three leaders want elected officials to know that the sales contract for the Town’s old school stipulates that apartments to be built in the school may not be rented to persons receiving government subsidies.

The apartment developer, Echelon Resources, has applied for  federal and state tax credits totaling 45 percent of construction costs.

The Town of Cape Charles awarded Echelon a no-bid contract for the school for the price of $10. The property is assessed at $921,000.

The Town also agreed to transfer $41,000 insurance proceeds to Echelon, and to reduce utility hookup fees by 75 percent.

“We question why, and how, a developer could receive government assistance to build apartments while explicitly excluding people relying on government assistance from living in those apartments,” the civic leaders wrote in a letter.

One letter went to State Senator Ralph Northam, and another to Virginia Delegate Lynwood Lewis, with copies to Senator Tim Kaine and Northampton Supervisor Willie Randall.


The civic leaders are asking Northam and Lewis to urge the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to deny tax credits for the apartment project because of its discriminatory intent.

“The sales contract states on page 8: To the extent permitted by law, Purchaser shall not operate the Project as a low-income housing facility under any state or federal program. This language is offensive to all of us who have fought for ‘fair housing’ in Virginia and in Northampton County,” the civic leaders wrote.

They further claimed that the Town of Cape Charles’ discriminatory practices “disproportionately affect African-Americans.”

The Town sold its only basketball courts, indoor and outdoor, to Echelon. The indoor court will become a luxury apartment, and the outdoor court will be a private parking lot.

“The town’s basketball court [was] the prime recreational outlet for African-American youth in the town,” the letter states.

The letter notes that Cape Charles’ only African-American official, Councilman Tom Godwin, expressed surprise over the contract. “I am very concerned about the exclusion of Section 8 housing vouchers. I want to make sure that we are not discriminating against anyone,” the letter quotes Godwin as telling Town Council.

Mayor Dora Sullivan signed the contract with Echelon three days before Godwin assumed office.

“We are supplying emails obtained through the Freedom of Information Act that show that the town council wanted to bar low-income individuals from being allowed to utilize the school after it is ‘rehabilitated’ into an apartment house,” the letter continues.

The letter includes a copy of an email exchange between Assistant Town Manager Bob Panek and Echelon developer Edwin Gaskin. On February 27, 2012, Panek wrote: [Town Manager] Heather [Arcos] indicated that Council does want a few refinements to the purchase contract language, [including] prohibition for using the building for Section 8 housing.”

On March 1, 2012, Panek wrote again to Gaskin with “language prohibiting HUD low income housing as previously discussed.”

Gaskin wrote back to Panek the same day: “Bob — . . . Good work on the HUD language, all OK there.” The email concluded with the wish “. . . that we might always be friends! Thanks!”

The civic leaders’ letter also quotes language from the Advisory Council for Historic Preservation policy statement which recommends that “Federal and State agencies, local governments, [and] housing providers . . . seek ways to reconcile national historic preservation goals with the special economic and social needs associated with affordable housing, given that this is one of the nation’s most pressing challenges.”

Attached to the letter is a certificate of recognition of Fair Housing Month signed by Virginia Governor McDonnell: “Equal housing opportunities are essential for supporting vibrant communities and economic viability  . . . illegal barriers to equal opportunity in housing, no matter how subtle, diminish the rights of all,” it states.

The letter to State Senator Northam may be read by clicking here.




12 Responses to “Civic Leaders Allege Housing Discrimination by Town”

  1. Mary Finney on January 25th, 2013 7:50 am

    Is it bad that I laughed when I read this?

  2. David Boyd on January 25th, 2013 11:39 am

    I’ve been wondering when this provision was going to be examined.

  3. Dan Breeze on January 25th, 2013 3:20 pm

    I don’t understand: If someone buys a building and decides to make apartments, then that person HAS to allow government-subsidised renters? Obviously, you can get grants/loans from the government and not allow government subsidised renters, or else they would not have gotten the loans/grants. I would think that when these apartments are built, whoever built them will be able to rent them to whomever they choose. If rent is $1500 per month then I guess you can live there provided you pay the required $1500 per month. If not I guess you will have to live somewhere else. If this was known for some time, why wasn’t the alarm raised then? Why wait until now to call foul?

  4. Mary Finney on January 26th, 2013 6:33 am

    In answer to Dan Breeze’s comments, here is a thumbnail definition of “Social Justice”: Forced redistribution of wealth with a hostility toward INDIVIDUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS, under the guise of charity and/or justice.

  5. Veann Duvall on January 26th, 2013 8:20 am

    The last comment talks about individual property rights. The park property that was given away used to be owned by all the citizens of Cape Charles. Six individuals gave it away, and three of them weren’t even re-elected. That property was valued at $921,000, and they gave it away for $10. Now the developer wants to get tax credits on top of getting a free building. But the comment is worried about “individual property rights!” Giving the building away to a developer, and giving the developer tax credits, is not a government subsidy? And allowing individuals who get government housing subsidies to live in apartments built with government subsidies is an infringement on “individual property rights”?

    Why did I laugh when I read that?

  6. John Pritchett on January 26th, 2013 1:19 pm

    It’s strange how a property can be sold at “auction” for $10 and valued at $921,000. This should have been a public auction, where other investors could have had an opportunity to outbid the only bidder. Was this listed with an auction company, and advertised throughout the state, and on the Internet? It seems that it was kept pretty hushed. I would have brought in other investors, and gladly invested more than $10, and not gotten the federal government involved, and HUD, Section 8, and other sanctions. The owner of Echelon, Edwin Gaskin, is the Economic Development Director in Hanover County, Virginia.

    All Board members should have been in place for their term, prior to voting on this issue. If the old board members were still in office, they should have been the ones to vote on this.

  7. Dan Breeze on January 26th, 2013 11:52 pm

    I don’t see anything about forced, I did see this for Social Justice: The fair and proper administration of laws conforming to the natural law that all persons, irrespective of ethnic origin, gender, possessions, race, religion, etc., are to be treated equally and without prejudice.
    Social justice is defined as justice exercised within a society, particularly as it is exercised by and among the various social classes of that society.

  8. Deborah Bender on January 27th, 2013 7:06 am

    You better believe this was hush hush! The town officials met in secret for over 6 months before any of the citizens knew what was going on. There was no auction. They “sold” the building for $10. Old School Cape Charles offered $10,000 and the town council never even voted or discussed that proposal !

    This whole deal was underhanded beyond belief. The town also used spot zoning, which by the way is unlawful, and went against their own comprehensive plan.

    Town officials will say that the building was dilapidated. Yet another law broken because the town never kept the building in good repair which is also breaking their own code!

    This whole deal reeks and everyone knows it.

  9. Mary Finney on January 30th, 2013 5:01 pm

    While I could spend an hour composing a rebuttal to the liberal leaning “social justice” cheerleaders I seemed to have riled up with my earlier comments, it’s easier to direct them to an excellent essay on the topic of wealth redistribution, even though I have my doubts as to whether they will take the time to read it:

    And yes, I realize the above article doesn’t exactly focus on the idea of “social justice.” I could spend another hour explaining exactly why I found it chuckle-worthy, but as they say, “brevity is the soul of wit” and if it has to be explained to you, then you wouldn’t understand the point anyway.

  10. Dana Lascu on January 31st, 2013 2:09 pm

    You are referring us to “American Thinker” drivel? Seriously? This website has been trying since 2004 to prove that its name is an oxymoron. But Rush Limbaugh would approve….

    The “excellent essay on the topic of wealth redistribution” is written by a guy who calls himself The Eloquent Professor. Here is a sample:

    “It then becomes apparent that the state worshiping eye, occupied with the misdirection of trumpeted social justice platitudes and the self-interested anticipatory largesse secured through brigandage of the wealthier nodes of society, does not apprehend the subterranean institutions that a regime must set into motion for the mechanics of redistribution to occur.”

    By the way, the article’s main source and inspiration, Bertrand de Jouvenel, was a fascist.

  11. Mary Finney on January 31st, 2013 7:55 pm

    Why, yes, I WAS referring to the piece on American Thinker, and I’m not sure how Rush Limbaugh feels about it, actually. After having read 2 of de Jouvenel’s books, I did not find him to be a fascist. I found him to be pro-liberty, actually. Perhaps you got the idea that he was a fascist from Wikipedia?

  12. Steve Downs on February 2nd, 2013 12:15 pm

    It’s just this simple: an apartment owner cannot be forced to accept 8A tenants.
    An apartment owner cannot discriminate when selecting renters.
    If you can afford it, you should be welcome.
    If you can’t, don’t waste the apartment owners time and expense doing research on your financial qualifications.