Park Bathroom Appeal Denied by Town Council

Wooden stakes are footprint of proposed Central Park bathroom. The tops of the stakes indicate the floor level required to prevent flooding from the adjoining drainage pond.

Wooden stakes are footprint of proposed Central Park bathroom. The tops of the stakes indicate floor level required to prevent flooding from the adjoining drainage pond. (Wave photo)

Cape Charles Wave

January 14, 2013

After preliminary construction began last month on a bathroom in Central Park designed to resemble a nearby sewer pump station, resident Don Riley appealed to Town Council, which stopped construction pending a hearing.

Riley was appealing the approval of the Historic District Review Board. He noted that new construction in the Historic District is required to “relate to the design character of the historic buildings in the area.”

“There are many examples of nearby historic buildings, but the pumping station is not one of them,” Riley wrote in his appeal. He also circulated a petition among local residents.

Riley addressed Town Council at last Thursday’s meeting. He said that the site is wrong, the building is too large, and flooding will be a problem. No engineering study exists on whether the building would work at that site, he noted.

Only two council members agreed with Riley.

Steve Bennett said,  “I disagree with the Historic District Review Board approving that building in its present form, not in its present location.” He said that he was not happy with the size of the building, and felt that it was “pretty ugly.” Something that looks more like the pergola would be appropriate, he suggested. He further argued that a redesign might not drive up cost if the building were made smaller.

Frank Wendell also voted against the bathroom, based on its proximity to a deep drainage pond.

Joan Natali spoke in favor of the bathroom because it was better than the existing porta-potty. Chris Bannon, Tom Godwin, and Mike Sullivan also voted to deny the appeal.

Riley said his next step will be to appeal to the circuit court.


A day earlier, the town Planning Commission also deliberated the park bathroom issue — specifically, its location near the park pergola.

Town Planner Tom Bonadeo told the Commission that the Plum Street location by the pergola was the only cost-effective place to locate the bathroom, due to the proximity of water, sewer, and electric hookups.

The Planning Commission reviewed an information packet with drawings and plans both from a California firm named Green Cottage and from local architect Leon Parham. The packet may be read here.

Riley told the Wave that he contacted Green Cottage in California and was told that the firm did the drawings for free as a favor to a friend.

According to Town Manager Heather Arcos, the plans by Parham cost $2,000 and were paid for by Citizens for Central Park.

At the Planning Commission meeting, Riley interjected that the Parham specifications were for a two-story frame residence in The Colony at Bay Creek.

Commission Chairman Dennis McCoy told Riley that he was not allowed to speak. Town Planner Bonadeo said there was mistake in the plans.

Neither the Green Cottage nor the Parham drawings show the ramp required under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Because the building is in the flood plain it must be built considerably higher than its sister pump station. A long ramp will be required to reach the elevated floor.

Bonadeo instructed the Planning Commission not to rule on the appropriateness of the structure. That was the job of the Historic District Review Board, he said. He asked the Commission only to approve the site.

It was not clear why the Planning Commission was approving the site after construction had begun.

Bonadeo explained that the location of the bathrooms is not on the Central Park plan because that plan was created under a grant provided by the Virginia Department of Transportation for a community trail. The bathroom could not be funded by that grant.

Riley was given three minutes to voice his objections to the building. “The pump house was a mistake then. Do we need to bookend it?” he asked.

Assistant Town Manager Bob Panek, who is also president of Citizens for Central Park, then spoke for some 15 minutes, explaining the site selection for the bathroom. The south entrance to the park (where the porta-potty is located) is to be reserved for vendor access, and the north entrance has limited access to water and sewer hookups, he said.

Panek said that the east end of the park had water and sewer available and is convenient to the pergola, where community gatherings are held.

According to town code, construction of the bathroom may not continue so long as the issue is under appeal through the courts.



3 Responses to “Park Bathroom Appeal Denied by Town Council”

  1. Linda Burke on January 14th, 2013 7:57 am

    We don’t need bathrooms in Central Park. Porta-potties are fine for the few events held there. Why would the Council vote to start a new project, a wasteful one at that, when it still hasn’t corrected the water problem creating the parasite-infested “ponds”? I don’t think people realize how tall this building is going to be — it isn’t going match the ugly pumping station — it will be a monstrosity. Town Council: This isn’t DC where the thinking is spend, spend, spend. If you have to spend money, why don’t you spend it on Mason Avenue, the Harbor, or the beach. The idea is to make the town more profitable and lower our taxes (or at least not raise them).

  2. Stefanie Hadden on January 14th, 2013 9:10 am

    We do need public bathrooms in the park, if we hope to attract large enough crowds to park events to make an economic impact on Cape Charles. No one wants to use a Porta-potty on a hot July night! Yuck! Can the pump station not be retrofitted with some more historically pleasing features, such as decorative brackets? A roof with wider overhanging eaves? Then the new bathroom building can be made to match. Even the brackets on the gazebo are plain-jane, too small in scale for the structure. Surely an architect can design modifications to make all three structures unified and historically relevant?

  3. Dana Lascu on January 15th, 2013 2:32 am

    Large crowds? Where?! If we invite a decent local rap group to perform, we might get those crowds, but it looks like we don’t want to do that – we already got rid of the basketball courts, So, unless Lady Gaga is planning on stopping by, the crowds will probably just be the same as always. That said, it would still be nice to have toilets for the people visiting from out of town. Maybe Leon Parham can design a miniature four square.