Planning Commissioners Want Hotels on the Highway

Entrance to Rittenhouse Motor Inn -- the closest highway motel to Cape Charles. Planning commissioners agreed that a chain motel would attract more customers.

Entrance to Rittenhouse Motor Inn, the closest highway motel to Cape Charles. Planning commissioners believe that a chain motel would attract more customers.

Cape Charles Wave

October 4, 2013

Cape Charles Planning Commissioners cast their eyes outside Town limits at their October 1 meeting, as Town Planner Robert Testerman asked for ideas about kinds of highway businesses that could benefit the Town, as well as those that could hurt it.

“Good” businesses suggested by the planning commissioners for Route 13 included chain motels, an antique center, outlet stores, fast food restaurants, adult daycare, a tutoring center, family practice, an emergency care facility, retail seafood, a veterinarian, dog grooming, and eco-tour businesses.

Businesses judged as hurting the Town included a chain drugstore and chain restaurants.

Commissioner Andy Buchholz noted, “In town there are taxes and licenses. Out of town there aren’t.”

Development outside of town was on the agenda as the result of a recent joint work session by the Town and County planning commissions. Routes into Cape Charles make up the Historic Town Entrance Corridor Overlay District, as designated in the 1991 Annexation Agreements.

Town planning commissioners agreed that Route 13 needs more motels. The existing ones (Rittenhouse Motor Inn, Peacock Inn, Shore Stay Suites, Sunset Beach Inn) are not chains, which they saw as a negative. Speaking about the nearest motel, the Rittenhouse, for example, Buchholz said, “People won’t stop there. They’ll stay at a Red Roof Inn. They will not stop unless it is a known chain.”


Commissioner Joan Natali agreed: “When I travel, I stop at a known hotel right on the highway. Then I go into the town. What seems to be a negative, we might be able to turn into a positive.

“I’d love to see two or three hotels out on Route 13. The occupancy of our hotels has been consistently full. The reason is we have become a wedding destination,” Natali said.

Commissioner Dan Burke said, “We have a problem with no hotels. Hotels are the first thing people look for if they are going to put a business in town.”

The commissioners agreed that Bed & Breakfasts would not suffer if more motels were built on the highway, because people who stay at B&Bs have to plan ahead and are a different clientele from persons staying at motels.

Two Annexation Agreements were signed in 1991, one between the Town and developer Brown & Root, and one between the Town and Northampton County. Both agreements address concerns about potential development on the access routes into town.

The agreement between Northampton County and Cape Charles states: “The County acknowledges that the Town and the Commission [on Local Government] have concerns about the potential impact to the existing business districts within the towns of Cape Charles and Cheriton caused by commercial development along the Virginia State Route 184 corridor and at the traffic light on U.S. Route 13.”

That agreement gave Cape Charles 12 months to make a proposal for amendment of the County’s land use section of the County Comprehensive Plan. There is no record of that ever being done.



19 Responses to “Planning Commissioners Want Hotels on the Highway”

  1. Antonio Sacco on October 4th, 2013 3:48 am

    That plan will shut down the Coffee Shop, Rayfields Pharmacy, Watson’s Hardware, Rittenhouse Motor Inn, Peacock Motel, and others. The chains with their big money will just about make Cape Charles business district into a Ghost Town. You don’t need people to come here, you need people to live here. People have money to move the economy around all year long, not just the summer.

  2. Deborah Bender on October 4th, 2013 6:55 am

    If and when strip malls come here there will be no control over what goes into them. That is my concern. Who can say what the businesses will be? Perhaps a little ladies clothing store (look out Bad Girlz), perhaps a bait and tackle shop (look out Bailey’s), maybe an Ace Hardware (look out Watson’s). Do you see where I am going with this? Strip malls are tacky at best and we do not need them on the highway coming into town. More businesses in town are needed. Problem is that the owners of vacant buildings want Virginia Beach prices for renting space.

    A hotel would be nice I suppose. I agree that the people that stay at the B&B’s are a different type of person than the people that stay at hotels. All I want is for the town businesses to flourish and grow and for everyone to KNOW that it will be impossible to control what goes onto the highway. That would be discrimination.

  3. Mike Kuzma, Jr. on October 4th, 2013 11:18 am

    “More businesses in town are needed. Problem is that the owners of vacant buildings want Virginia Beach prices for renting space.”

    Or could it be that many many people saw how the Town planners treated Hotel Cape Charles regarding the balconies? When Governments are business-friendly, businesses come. When Governments are hostile to businesses, they stay away.

  4. RH Meyers on October 4th, 2013 12:54 pm

    Several years ago a group doing business as Harmony Investments presented a very attractive plan for a Hampton Inn at the corner of Parsons Cir N and US13. Their website currently shows 12 hotels including the Sunset Beach Inn here and 3 area Hampton Inn facilities.

    The County gave all approvals to begin construction and yet nothing ever happened. I was told by one of their representatives about a year after the approvals were granted they did not have financing yet they proceeded to buy the Sunset Beach Inn.

    Harmony Investments at 1300 Diamond Springs Rd, Suite 204 still owns the 19.5 acres and the approvals are still valid. Whoy dosen’t Mr Buchholz galvanize the local CC real estate community and jointly convince Harmony to build instead of just obtaining approvals and then marketing them?

    Shore Bank has, for years, an approved 8.5 acre unified site plan for development across from Food Lion and yet they have not chosen to invest in the features that the CCPC wants. And now those site approvals are for sale.

    For almost a decade, Royal Farms has held an approved site plan for 3 acres at Bayview Circle and US 13 and has chosen not to develop.

    Maybe there is something else at play here that no one in the town or county government yet understands. Wouldn’t it be wiser to build slowly by active government support for those businesses that have demonstrated investment in the community and are functioning?

  5. Robert Rittenhouse on October 4th, 2013 1:46 pm

    Dear Mr. Buchholz,
    For the past 61 YEARS the Rittenhouse lodge rents more rooms every night than any of the B & Bs. This fact might not fit in with your concept of the way things should be, but it is a fact. Bob Rittenhouse

  6. Geneva Smith on October 4th, 2013 2:10 pm

    Why doesn’t the town promote the hotels already in business on Rt. 13?

  7. Laurie Klingel on October 4th, 2013 3:57 pm

    Chain motels do not impart character, foster a unique identity, or strengthen ones sense of place. If you’ve done much traveling, the places that end up being memorable are the ones that are just that- memorable. Can’t really remember much about the last Red Roof Inn I stayed in. The Peacock, The Rittenhouse- now we’re talking character! Surely developing chain motels is not an integral part of a healthy economy… it?

  8. Hazel Vargas on October 4th, 2013 6:02 pm

    Am I the only one who thinks this way? That is, competition is either good or bad for your business –- bad if you have nothing better to offer, as for value, quality, ambiance, customer service, etc. The future of your business is in your hands, the business owner, not the customer. I patronize restaurants in town because I truly like what I’m getting for my money, not because of altruism. The same logic that is attributed to people who patronize B&Bs rather than chain hotels applies to any other kind of business. Why should town business owners fear competition if they have something different or better to offer? I say town businesses should not be too complacent about their existence and be more proactive in improving whatever needs improvement or maintaining what is working for them. Watson’s Hardware has survived (centuries?) because it does provide a variety of merchandise that I never imagined I could find there (even if the prices are higher than the big chain stores), it’s funky, and I always feel like I need to examine what’s in every counter or aisle (and floor) because it’s like a treasure hunt. I get excited when I find something I didn’t expect to find. I did get intimidated at first by the old guards sitting in front of the store, which I later learned is a daily ritual and part of the atmosphere. Now, that’s ambiance I can’t find at Home Depot or Ace!

  9. Dana Lascu on October 4th, 2013 11:24 pm

    We don’t need chain hotels on Route 13. We have Central Park, we have horse-drawn carriages, all we need now is the Plaza Hotel.

  10. Deborah Bender on October 5th, 2013 10:23 am

    Yes, Yes — The Plaza! Perfect, Dana! LOL!

  11. Nancy Dalinsky on October 5th, 2013 11:00 pm

    Location, location, location — visitors will pay a little bit more to stay inside historic Cape Charles for the ambience and the amenities. A moderate- to budget-priced chain hotel built along Route 13 close to Cape Charles will attract clients who are more concerned for the value of their money rather than amenities and the hotel will therefore not be in direct competition to the lodging business in town.

  12. Antonio Sacco on October 6th, 2013 12:55 am

    “Virginia Beach is for Lovers”
    “Cape Charles is to Unwind”
    A catchy phrase is needed — let’s all come up with one; it should be fun.

  13. Stefanie Hadden on October 6th, 2013 8:52 am

    As the parent of three young boys, when we travel, believe me, we have to look for affordable accommodations, not bed and breakfasts. Not do-able for our family. Neither can we afford expensive resort hotels, preferring instead to spend our limited money on experiences, not where we sleep for the night. We generally look for a reasonably priced chain motel, and if we can’t find one, we have to keep going. Conversely, when my family comes to town, they prefer either a rental house or a B and B. So there is room for everyone in this discussion. We certainly don’t want families to “keep going.”

  14. Bobby Roberts on October 6th, 2013 11:32 am

    Wake up Cape Charles. You aren’t going to have a choice on what goes on Route 13. Call your Supervisor Randall and tell him you want to see the new commercial map for the highway and Stone Road.

  15. Dick Valack on October 6th, 2013 3:54 pm

    The Rittenhouse Lodge — Great place, beautiful grounds, “Far From the Madding Road.” A good night’s rest in a comfortable room. If you want some good reading go to the website and read travelers’ comments — All A+, including the local historian, Mr. Rittenhouse.

  16. Robert Rittenhouse on October 6th, 2013 11:34 pm

    Thank you Dick — I told you to stay in the truck. Ha.

  17. Larry Darby on October 10th, 2013 2:06 pm

    I stayed in the Peacock Motel in the 1970s as a young man with my fishing buddies many times. I have been coming to the Shore for recreation ever since. Now it’s mostly birding, kayaking, biking, history, and enjoying your seafood and wine/drinks in your restaurants. If I wanted Myrtle Beach I’d go there. I don’t.

    If these Planning Commissioners manage to convert Rittenhouse Lodge into a Red Roof Inn, I’ll probably take my money elsewhere. I believe chain anything degrades the attractiveness and visitor experience on the Shore. I just returned from ten days in Mount Desert Island/Acadia, Maine. The first thing I noticed upon arriving was the lack of billboards — none. The only chain businesses I saw were gas stations, and tourism is the foundation of the local economy. Maybe your Commissioners need to take a few educational field trips.

    The citizens and local government on the Shore need to look around and see the natural environmental attractions and history you have and focus on marketing those and locally owned business if you want more tourism, and tourism you might be able to live with.

    I retired in 2013 and I travel for pleasure every month. I have been surprised (and a little disappointed) at how many others just like me I am seeing and meeting along the way. Don’t turn the Shore into the same repetitive, tawdry scene we leave home to escape.

  18. David Boyd on October 11th, 2013 8:11 pm

    Well said, Larry.

  19. Matt Musto on July 24th, 2014 7:39 am

    If it were not for the Rittenhouse Motor Lodge, I would be driving right through Cape Charles and Staying in VA Beach for my stop over on our way to OBX. Although I have not stayed here in the past, I was hooked reading all of the great reviews of Mr. Rittenhouse’s accommodations. Reviews for the “chain” hotels that are in the area were below average at best.