Old School Cape Charles Gets First Day in Court

Cape Charles Wave

January 26, 2013

The Town of Cape Charles sold the old school and park property for $10 to a developer last month, but the residents group known as Old School Cape Charles hopes to walk it back.

The group has filed two lawsuits in Northampton Circuit Court — one appealing the sale of the park property, and the other appealing the rezoning.

Judge Revell Lewis heard three hours of arguments yesterday over whether the lawsuits merit a trial.

“I have listened carefully,” Lewis said at the end of the day. “Because of the complexity, I will not render a decision today.”

A written decision will be issued in two or three weeks.

The decision could be to go to trial, to dismiss the cases, or some combination of those.

Top Cape Charles officials spent most of the day at the hearing, which was scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. but did not get underway until 1 p.m.

Cape Charles Mayor Dora Sullivan sat through it all, accompanied by both Town Manager Heather Arcos and Assistant Town Manager Bob Panek.

Also keeping watch was Police Chief Charles “Sambo” Brown.

The only current Town Council member attending was Frank Wendell, a vociferous opponent of divesting the school.

Former Council members Bruce Evans and Larry Veber were there, both of whom voted to sell the school. Former Council member John Burdiss was also present. Burdiss was not a council member at the time of the sale, but Town records show that he attended at least one closed session when Town Council was secretly negotiating to sell the school.

Representing Old School Cape Charles was its president, Wayne Creed, accompanied by a group of about 16 supporters.

The preliminary hearing was a long time coming. Old School Cape Charles filed the first lawsuit last July.


In August, Town Council voted to rezone the property and granted a conditional use permit for Echelon Resources to turn the school into a 17-unit apartment building. Old School appealed that decision in September.

Town attorney Michael Sterling was joined by John Conrad, an attorney supplied by the Virginia Municipal League. The developer, Echelon Resources, was represented by Colin Hite.

Old School Cape Charles was represented by Kevin Martingayle.

Attorneys for the Town argued that Old School lacked jurisdiction and standing and that the Town has sovereign immunity from prosecution. They argued for dismissal of the cases and asked to be allowed to submit documents without going to trial.

Town attorney Sterling argued that Council had voted unanimously to sell the property.

The vote to sell the school was June 14, 2012, after three new members of the six-person council had been elected, but before they took office on July 1.

Old School attorney Martingayle argued that the group had standing due to their interest in the school and the proposals they had made to buy the school. The very name “Old School Cape Charles” shows the focus of the group, he said.

Town attorney Sterling told the judge, “The evidence will show that there were no other bids” for the school. But Martingayle told the judge that Old School had presented written proposals to the Town on at least two occasions.

DISCLOSURE: This reporter is a member of Old School Cape Charles.



Comments are closed.