Would Route 13 Strip Development ‘Kill the Town’?

Cape Charles Wave

July 25, 2013

Vocal members of the Cape Charles Business Association expressed concern to Town officials July 23 over their plan to promote development on Route 13.

Cape Charles Town Council has endorsed plans to extend a sewer pipe from the Town treatment plant out to commercial properties on Route 13 near Cheriton.

But local businessmen such as Andy Buchholz (Eastern Shore Signs) said it was clear all around the country that strip development kills a town.

Providing sewerage to the highway “totally promotes growth on [Route] 13,” Buchholz said. “The County should be helping drive business into town.”

The sewer expansion would be done by Northampton County’s Public Service Authority, chaired by Bob Panek, who also is assistant town manager for Cape Charles.

Panek told the Business Association that the County Board of Supervisors has already funded 25 percent of the sewer pipe expense in the latest budget. The remaining 75 percent would be paid through higher taxes on the commercial properties affected.

The current County property tax is 67 cents per hundred dollars’ value. Panek said the special tax would be an additional 52 cents, for a total of $1.19. All property owners within the special tax district would be required to pay the tax.


The proposed special tax district would extend from Hardee’s on Route 13 south to Margaret’s fireworks stand. It would also extend from the Cape Charles traffic light northward on Route 13 Business, stopping at the southern limit of the Town of Cheriton.

Former Public Service Authority member Granville Hogg, who attended the meeting, expressed concern that small firms such as the tire company outside Cheriton could be put out of business if their tax doubled and they had to pay a monthly sewer bill.

Panek said that connecting the commercial properties would lower sewer costs for Cape Charles residents. He could not say by how much, or suggest what the sewer charge might be for the new customers.

Panek did say that new customers outside the Town would not have to pay a connection charge. The sewer connection charge for Town residents is $7,475.

Cape Charles water would not be offered outside Town — only sewerage.

Town Manager Heather Arcos said that Northampton County is aware of Town concerns over commercial development on Route 13, and that the Town Planning Commission could discuss concerns with the County Planning Commission. But Buchholz, who also is a Town Planning Commissioner, noted that the Planning Commission had been told that development on the highway was not in their purview.

Former Northampton Director of Tourism Donna Bozza said that although she does not live in Cape Charles, she came to the meeting because she wanted to urge caution. She said that as she remembered the Town’s comprehensive plan, the Town wanted growth inside the Town.

“If you facilitate more development on the highway you will not make more jobs. You will just shift them from town. You’re replacing what you have,” Bozza said. She noted that when Onley built the Four Corners Shopping Center, “it took Onancock 20 years to recover.”

Mayor Dora Sullivan suggested that the Town should request a boundary adjustment to encompass Route 13 properties. That would be the only way to exercise control over Route 13 development, she said.

Town Council member Frank Wendell said that providing sewer service to the highway was “a terrible gamble with the viability of our historic commercial district.”



12 Responses to “Would Route 13 Strip Development ‘Kill the Town’?”

  1. Bruce Lindeman on July 25th, 2013 7:39 am

    I don’t have a horse in this race, but if the town boundaries include properties along a section of Route 13, and the town taxes those properties, doesn’t the town have the responsibility to offer those properties the same services as those in the historic district? I’m trying to take the objective argument out of this for a moment and think of the legal obligation that the town has to all of its tax-paying base. Or, can the town selectively offer services to its tax payers as it warrants/sees fit legally?

    I, by no means am an expert on any of this. I’m just asking the question in an attempt to understand.

    If, for example, a Red Lobster [or any other chain restaurant] opened up at Stone Rd. and Route 13, I would not be a customer. I would still frequent the Pub for my beer and crab cakes regularly. But, I could easily see a family of 4 driving from NJ to the Outer Banks for vacation doing so. That family is not likely to turn off Route 13 and drive a couple miles in to Cape Charles to grab dinner. Yes, some do. But, most, I believe, don’t. And, although that family won’t support the historic district economy, they will add revenue to the town through meals and other taxes as a result of that restaurant doing business within the town boundaries. Rather than that restaurant drawing revenue from the historic district, I see that restaurant as adding revenue to the town.

    If a CVS opened up on Route 13, that might be a different scenario. That, I woudn’t like to see. So, perhaps the answer lies in careful and thoughtful zoning to allow tourist-friendly businesses along Route 13 — that don’t draw important dollars away from historic district businesses, such as Rayfields, but that add important additional revenue to a town that could use the economic lift.

  2. Kearn Schemm on July 25th, 2013 9:05 am

    I do not know of one single case in the U.S. where this type of highway development helped the core of the town. Former Northampton Director of Tourism Donna Bozza noted correctly that, “when Onley built the Four Corners Shopping Center, it took Onancock 20 years to recover.” Does the center of Cape Charles, which has still to recover from the neglect of decades, got “20 years to recover?” Do tourists rent properties in Cape Charles to experience a wonderful small town on the Bay, or to shop at a mall on Route 13? Cape Charles is improving and we must concentrate on making the center of town vibrant and attractive to our residents and guests, not developing an ugly mall on 13.

  3. Antonio Sacco on July 25th, 2013 10:19 am

    The counties have four assets: a deep water port in Cape Charles, a railroad, a major highway, and a airport that can easily become a major one. My suggestion: use them all for growth.

  4. Linda Nicola on July 25th, 2013 10:22 am

    Strip malls and tacky drive-thrus are killing the Eastern Shore. I am very against it. You make the Eastern Shore look like every other town and there will be nothing special left about the Shore. Make people get off 13 and it will support the economy better than all the national corporations sending their money off-shore. Tourism brings $11 per every $1 spent to attract them. Their spending supports all the Shore without damaging everything that’s special about it. I keep hearing from out of state folks about how ugly 13 has become.

  5. Peter Lawrence on July 25th, 2013 11:42 am

    I must have missed something: Who is advocating for “strip malls” on 13? Answer — nobody. A number of people in Northampton County are, however, advocating for a coordinated economic development effort that brings jobs and revenue to a County desperately in need of improving its school system, among other things.

    Can some of that growth take more/better advantage of all the “pass-thru” visitors on 13? Probably. Are there types of industry/businesses that would never locate in our towns but might consider 13 as an option? We already know there have been some businesses interested in 13 but have been waiting for permits for over 2 years. They could never survive in the smaller towns, and the smaller towns wouldn’t want the congestion those businesses would bring if they could locate in the towns.

    Coordinated growth in areas where business is already occurring on 13 can have the effect of making those areas more attractive while preserving the rural nature of the rest of 13. We can expand the job base, increase revenue to the County, give our local businesses more year-round support, and help our school system.

    We now have an economic development director with great experience who can help coordinate this smart-growth economic development effort. A knee-jerk reaction against almost all types of growth over the past 20 years has put us in this position of declining population and revenue. Time to reverse that trend and help everyone out!

  6. Gene Kelly on July 25th, 2013 11:47 am

    We will contribute almost $50,000 in meal tax to Cape Charles this year not to mention an exorbitant business license fee. The focus should be on attracting travelers and County locals into our towns, not processing waste water generated on Rt. 13. We struggle each off-season to maintain. We employ between 20 and 31 people depending on the season — IN TOWN! Think of the effect if those jobs relocate, not to mention another shuttered business in Cape Charles

  7. Deborah Bender on July 25th, 2013 1:11 pm

    I lived in Onancock during the time when 4Corner Plaza expanded. I can tell you from firsthand experience that it nearly killed the town. Many of the businesses that were in town moved to the shopping center and those that didn’t move dried up and died. It has taken many years for Onancock to make the comeback that it has made. The same thing happened in Exmore.

    I have already spoken with several business owners that will be affected by this sewer pipe and they DO NOT WANT IT! Many of these businesses are already struggling, and now Mr. Panek and his PSA want to reach out and grab more money from them.

    As far as the boundary adjustment goes, this town just needs to stop trying to get bigger and work on taking care of what we already have.

    Greed has killed this town before and greed will kill it again.

  8. Roger L. Munz on July 25th, 2013 1:24 pm

    Once again the Town Council acts, instead of thinking. As a past member of the Town Planning Commission, we were very careful to live by the Town master plan. In this instance, the Town went directly against not only the master plan, but also the long-established policy to promote and protect, in town business. Now, because the Town overspent for the sewer plant, we need to promote Route 13 development to help pay for it.

    There seems to be a pattern of mismanagement rife through the Town’s recent business practices. Some examples:
    1) over spent on the sewer plant by $5 million;
    2) the Old School debacle (too long to list here);
    3) Town Council overriding the Historic Review Board on Cape Charles Hotel;
    4) Spending $200,000 of new well hookup money to purchase the library building;
    5) Now, okaying a business concept in direct conflict with the downtown business district.

    With a record like this, one wonders how any of them can run for reelection, and face the voters.

  9. Antonio Sacco on July 25th, 2013 3:09 pm

    Did anyone by chance read the U.S. Government’s water levels that would affect the Delmarva Peninsula in the next 50 years or so? The lower part of that peninsula (meaning us) will rise 20 feet. We are only 5 feet above sea level, which means we will be under water. Slow growth is not the answer.

  10. Bobby Roberts on July 25th, 2013 4:19 pm

    Cape Charles has been asleep at the switch. For years the County has been changing the zoning at the Rt. 13 light to Commercial, while Cape Charles slept. Last week while you were napping the County Board, including your Supervisor, voted to cut the first check for the Rt. 13 sewer lines, and pay for it with your tax dollars. And as you get ready for another siesta, the head of the PSA will be getting ready to sign a contract to dig the first trenches (isn’t that the same guy who’s one of your Town Managers?). Don’t worry, you didn’t sleep through the County public hearings –there weren’t any. And you’d really be dreaming if you think the County is going to let you have any of that valuable commercial land in a boundary adjustment -— or let you have one word to say about what kind of business goes out there. Sleep tight.

  11. Jeff Wallace on July 25th, 2013 4:36 pm

    Developing US 13 would be a good idea as long as the individual businesses do not compete with businesses in Cape Charles. The charm of the Shore is its simplicity; making US 13 look like every other highway throughout the country would take away some of the charm and definitely hurt Cape Charles. The devil is in the details of what kind of businesses would be allowed. I remember when Cheriton was its own self-contained little business center — Paul’s, Francis Rollies feed store, Western Auto, Rogers Bros. grocery, Post Office, Chevy Dealer, Auto Repair garage — most all long gone. This might not be the best example of what can happen as a result of progressive growth, but the example of Onancock probably is. I would advise to be very careful when considering when and where growth happens.

  12. Dona Danziger on July 25th, 2013 6:04 pm

    The shopping center certainly took business away from the town of Exmore. Too many vacancies in town, and most of the newer openings in town are service-related, which does not generate revenue to the town, county or state.