LETTER: State Bar President-Elect on Old School Battle



January 15, 2014


For well over a year, a group of residents has been battling to save the historic Cape Charles High School from being lost as an historic public asset. I will explain why and suggest a course of action to protect other historic property.

First, the primary excuse for transferring the property to a private developer, for a nominal price, was a supposed need to unload a building that had been allowed to fall into disrepair. Of course, the Town of Cape Charles has ordinances that prohibit allowing property to become dilapidated, so it appears that the local governing body violated its own laws. That type of excuse for disposing of historic property is sad, ironic, and unacceptable.

Second, the deal involving Cape Charles High School converts a public asset into private property, with no public space and no future intended public use. The deal takes a building that was considered to be a part of the public park and allows it to be converted into private residences. The “renovated” building will bear little resemblance to the old high school. This would appear to be contradictory to the Cape Charles Comprehensive Plan, which calls for the preservation of public space.

Third, saving an historic school property like the Cape Charles High School is not complicated to do. The Town of Onancock managed to save the old Onancock High School, and the community is richer for the effort. Many residents urged the Cape Charles Town Council to follow the Onancock example, to no avail. In fact, a competing bid to purchase the school for more money and keep it public was rejected without any Council vote or public discussion. No good reasons were ever offered for the refusal to engage in a serious preservation effort. [Read more…]