Historic District Board Resigns After Being Overruled

Proposed harbor access road linking Stone Road with Old Cape Charles Road. Click on map to view larger image.

Cape Charles Wave

February 26, 2013

Cape Charles Town Council voted 4-0 February 21 to overrule the Town’s Historic District Review Board and approve the balcony design of Hotel Cape Charles.

In so doing, the Town gained a hotel but lost a Review Board. As of yesterday, four of the five persons on the Review Board had either resigned or intended to do so.

The Review Board twice refused to issue a Certificate of Appropriateness for the hotel, which was needed in order to obtain a permanent Certificate of Occupancy.

With Town Council’s override, Hotel Cape Charles now will be allowed to reopen March 1.


Review Board chairman Russ Dunton said “no comment” when asked his thoughts following the Town Council meeting. He subsequently tendered his resignation.

Review Board members Dianne Davis and vice chairman Bob Sellers also resigned, and Jan Neville told the Wave yesterday that he was writing his resignation letter.

That leaves only Terry Strub, the newest member of the Review Board, appointed last August.

Another decision by the Historic District Review Board — to approve a bathroom in Central Park designed to resemble an adjoining sewage pump station — is being appealed in Northampton Circuit Court.

At the Town Council meeting, Hotel Cape Charles owner David Gammino apologized for his “missteps” in changing the design of the hotel balconies without permission.

Gammino said that of all his projects, Hotel Cape Charles is the one he was most proud of and the one in which  he had invested the most effort.

Mayor Dora Sullivan told  Gammino, “You put us in a terrible position” [by overruling the Review Board].

Some other members of Town Council said although initially they were concerned over the hotel’s appearance, they had decided to move on and let the hotel open as is.

Council voted to find the work compatible with the Historic District Guidelines, but not in accordance with correct process. They charged Gammino $1,500 for the cost of advertising his appeal and for staff time required to deal with it.

Gammino left the meeting relieved that he will be able to open the hotel in March with a permanent occupancy permit.

During public comment time, hotel manager Ned Brinkley urged Council to move forward, recognizing that the hotel is an asset to the Town.


Connector Road: Town Council voted to urge the Virginia Department of Transportation to construct an access road connecting Route 184 (Stone Road) with the Cape Charles Harbor.

The Virginia Port Authority, South Port Investors, Bayshore Concrete, Bay Creek, Northampton County Supervisors, and the Town Council have agreed that the new road would provide a more “business ready” access to the harbor.

Town Council’s action came without any public consultation. No public hearings were held and no information has been provided to the public.

Persons attending the Town Council meeting were allowed to see a proposed map of the connector road. The Wave obtained a copy, reproduced above. This is the first and only drawing of the map on the Internet.

To view a larger image of the left portion of the map, click here.

To view a larger image of the right portion of the map, click here.

The road would be built in lieu of straightening and expanding Old Cape Charles Road, for which VDOT has allocated $1.4 million.

Low-income Housing for Old School: Town Manager Heather Arcos reported that she had amended the Old School sales contract with Echelon Resources to remove language stipulating that the property not be used for low-income housing. The action was taken without a vote by Town Council.

No copy of the amended contract was provided in the Town information packet posted on the Internet. The Wave is requesting a copy.

Emergency Medical Center: Mayor Sullivan said that she continues her effort to make emergency medical treatment available for residents of the lower Eastern Shore after Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital relocates from Nassawadox to Only.

Council voted to send a letter urging Northampton County Supervisors to request proposals for a freestanding Emergency Department.

Similar letters will be sent by the mayors of Cheriton, Eastville, Nassawadox, and  Exmore, Sullivan said.

Expanded Sewerage Proposal: Public Service Authority chairman Bob Panek (who is also assistant town manager) updated Council on his proposal to provide water and sewage treatment to the “Southern Node”– initially the commercial corridor on Highway 13 south of Cherrystone Road.

In public comment Deborah Bender expressed concern that the project would encourage commercial strip development on Highway 13 competing against Town businesses.

Harbor District Density: Town Planner Tom Bonadeo requested authorization for the Town Planning Commission to continue to develop a floor area ration scheme for housing density in the Harbor District-Mason Avenue corridor. Councilman Mike Sullivan responded that first there should be a workshop to enable Council to better understand the density proposals.

The Wave earlier noted that no public hearing on harbor density has been scheduled as required by law. Bonadeo defended the request, noting that the public would be allowed to provide input before the plan is brought to a final vote.

Council voted to authorize the Planning Commission to continue work on the density scheme, but also to hold a work session on the topic.

Harbor Floating Docks: At the request of Harbor Master Smitty Dize, Town Council voted to request a $75,000  grant from the Virginia Port Authority for additional floating docks in front of the Shanty Restaurant. The grant would be in addition to an existing grant to build either a breakwater or wave attenuators.

South Port Investors and the Town are discussing joint funding for wave attenuators. Other stakeholders, including the Coast Guard and Bayshore Concrete, are being advised of the plans. Discussions have been held with the Virginia Port Authority.

Community Band: Town Council voted to donate $500 to the new Cape Charles Community Band. The Band will receive matching funds from the  Virginia Commission for the Arts.

Band organizer Bill Prickett said he has recruited members and gained support from Arts Enter and Citizens for Central Park.

The first rehearsal for the group is March 3 at Arts Enter.

Our Town Project: Panek also provided an update of the Our Town Project funded by a $50,000 grant to Arts Enter from the National Endowment for the Arts, with matching funds from local businesses and organizations. The project includes a tourism website that is expected to come online soon listing area businesses.

Arts Enter plans to piggyback on the Cape Charles Master Trail Plan to create performance spaces for the arts. Public input is a requirement of the plan.

Library Gala: Plans for the Gala fundraiser for the new Town library (held last Saturday) were discussed. The Wave has asked to publish photos and details of the Gala, which was a sellout. The story will appear as soon as library officials approve it.



6 Responses to “TOWN COUNCIL:
Historic District Board Resigns After Being Overruled”

  1. Greg Lohse on February 26th, 2013 8:56 am

    As a former member of the Historic District Review Board, I would like to voice my support for those members who recently resigned after being overruled by the town council. Mr Gammino received approval for a specific design, and then chose the “it’s better to beg forgiveness than to ask permission” approach to build something else. Where were the building inspectors when this porch was being constructed? This should have been nipped in the bud and sorted out right away.

    I am aware of the hotel’s economic value to the town, and do not personally find its appearance objectionable. I have also stayed there and had a lovely time. However, I object strongly to the manner in which this project ultimately gained approval. I find it an insult to the HDRB and a disgrace to the Town Council. If I were still on the HDRB my resignation would now be on the mayor’s desk.

    Greg Lohse
    Yorktown, VA

  2. Geneva Smith on February 26th, 2013 9:57 am

    I must say, Mr. Lohse is correct. I’d like to add that I’m proud of the people who resigned and sad for the town.

  3. Deborah Bender on February 26th, 2013 4:44 pm

    I was at the first meeting when Mr. Gammino presented his case to the Historic Review board. Mr. Gammino said he felt like the building was beautiful and he didn’t want to change it. The Review Board held their ground that changes had to be made. Tom Bonadeo let Mr. Gammino know that if he couldn’t come to terms with the Review Board he could appeal it to the Town Council. I KNEW then that it was only a matter of time before the Town would overturn the Review Board’s decision.

    I am glad the Review Board held to their position and that they resigned.

    Problem is that the Town Council will hand pick the next people for the Review Board and it WILL be people that will do what the Council wants.

    Out of control Mayor…out of control Council…out of control Managers….where will this all end ?

  4. Ron Wrucke on February 26th, 2013 8:20 pm

    D. Bender said, “Out of control Mayor . . . out of control Council . . . out of control Managers . . . where will this all end?”

    Have you read the comments re: The Wave article about the Council’s approval of the hotel, and the granting of the Certificate of Occupancy? Pretty positive comments. What is the Town supposed to do — cut off its nose to spite its face? Thanks for the fresh air of common sense! If you walk down Mason Avenue, any resident of Cape Charles should say “thanks” for an active storefront, and a special thanks for an active storefront that looks like the subject hotel.

  5. Roger L. Munz on February 27th, 2013 8:10 am

    This is a dificult issue. Right, wrong any way you look at it. The Town Board did what it had to do, and the members of the Historic Review Board did what they had to do. My greatest concern is for the longterm effect this decision will have on the Town. Do we have a historic town or not? If we don’t hold to the historic guidelines, and allow them to be ignored, then perhaps we should give up the historic designation. This action by the Town Council has set a precedent, one that will be in other investors’ minds as they develop their properties in town, and may ultimately have a considerable influence on the Town’s future streetscape. Many of the Town residents moved to Cape Charles because of its historic nature, and we wonder what the future may now hold for our Town.

  6. Bruce Wayne Jones on March 4th, 2013 9:37 am

    You no longer have a historic district, the Town Council has now opened the door for others to do what Mr Gammino did, apologize for his “mistake” but still get away with what he wanted. Shame on him for what he did, but more shame on your Town Council for not backing the board that is supposed to protect your historic designation.