EXTRA! Hundreds Turn Out Against County Zoning Plan

Portion of March 11 crowd at Northampton High auditorium (Wave photo)

Portion of March 11 crowd at Northampton High auditorium (Wave photo)

Cape Charles Wave

March 13, 2014

Over 200 persons turned out Tuesday night (March 11) at Northampton High auditorium for a combined Board of Supervisors/Planning Commission public hearing on a proposed new zoning code for Northampton County. Some 50 members of the audience rose to speak – mostly in opposition – and the meeting, which began at 7, carried on until 11 p.m.

One old-timer said the meeting reminded him of 1994, when in the same auditorium hundreds of locals gathered to protest a county-endorsed plan to build a maximum security federal prison off Bayview Road. Wednesday night’s gathering may have been the most outspoken opposition to county plans in 20 years, he said.

The heat began to rise well before public comment time began. County Economic Development Director Charles McSwain and his staff led off with an overview of the proposed zoning code, which he noted had been in the works for a very long time — three years. That led Planning Commission member Roberta Kellam to bristle, “If there is a problem with timing, perhaps you should look in the mirror.”

There was more than a hint of bad blood between the appointed Planning Commission, chaired by Martina Coker, and County staff – specifically McSwain, who only arrived a year ago but has since been the focal point for change in the county. Verbal exchanges included the following:

COKER — Why is the zoning ordinance not in accord with the Comprehensive Plan? Why has a revised Comp Plan not been released? Why has there been no public input to the Comp Plan before tonight?

McSWAIN — This was all done at the request of the Board of Supervisors.

COKER — Aquaculture could be greatly affected by the proposed changes. Have there been any studies done on what the effect might be?

McSWAIN — No specific studies have been done about that. [Read more…]