Town to Spend $100,000 on Welcome Sign Property

Town currently leases these seven empty lots from Bay Creek developer Richard Foster to display welcome sign at left (Wave photo)

Town currently leases these seven empty lots from Bay Creek developer Richard Foster to display “Welcome to Historic Cape Charles” sign at far left. (Wave photo)

Cape Charles Wave

March 17, 2014

Cape Charles Town Council agreed in a closed-door meeting March 10 to spend $100,000 to buy seven empty lots on the corner of Randolph Avenue and Fig Street owned by developer Richard “Dickie” Foster’s Bay Creek LLC. According to Town Manager Heather Arcos, “the general consensus was for the Town to move forward with the acquisition.”

The town has no immediate plans for the property, which displays a “Welcome to Historic Cape Charles” sign. The town’s Comprehensive Plan and VDOT’s 2020 Transportation Plan call for a traffic circle at the intersection of Randolph and Fig, according to Arcos.

No formal vote is allowed during closed meetings, so Town Council will officially vote to buy the property during its regular meeting Thursday, March 20. Although the decision has already been made, 3-minute public comments may be expressed at the meeting (6 p.m. Thursday at St. Charles Parish Fellowship Hall, 550 Tazewell Avenue). CLICK to read the memo and draft resolution.

The town has leased the seven lots from Foster since 2010 with first right of refusal should the property be offered for sale. A similar number of commercial lots on the other side of Randolph Avenue (not owned by Foster) have been for sale for more than 10 years.

The lots the town plans to buy are valued on County tax rolls at $50,000 each, for a total of $350,000. However, since the real estate bubble burst in 2008, vacant lots in the Town of Cape Charles typically have sold for only a fraction of their assessed value.


Foster’s offer to sell the Randoph Avenue lots follows a pattern of divesting his Cape Charles holdings which began with the sale of his Bay Creek mansion in Heron Pointe. Then in 2008 he sold half of Bay Creek South and another 25 percent the following year. In 2012 he lost Bay Creek Marina, Aqua Restaurant, shops, and various rental properties in Marina Village to foreclosure. A court settlement this year conveyed his ownership of the replica Old Plantation Flats lighthouse to a former partner. There is speculation that Foster is on his way to divesting 100 percent of his Cape Charles and Bay Creek holdings.

When a municipality purchases real estate, that property is removed from the tax rolls. In this case, the town will lose $935 annually in property tax, and Northampton County will lose an additional $2,355 annually.

Arcos proposes that the town pay for the lots with money reserved for the Community Trail Project. The town had budgeted $150,000 for the trail this year, but due to delays it now plans to spend only $50,000. “The remaining $100,000 will not be utilized in this fiscal year,” Arcos said, “and would be transferred . . . for the acquisition of these parcels.”

When construction of the community trail begins next year, the town will be obligated to spend the $100,000 that will have already been used to buy the Randolph Avenue lots. The funds are expected to come from the $1 million the town borrowed last December for capital projects. (CLICK for story)

The action parallels Town Council’s decision in 2012 to spend money allocated for new wells to instead purchase the Bank of America building for use as a library. Then in 2013 Town Council justified borrowing additional money, in part to fund the new wells. The town originally borrowed $2.5 million for the multi-use trail, new wells, and other improvements in 2010, before borrowing the additional $1 million in 2013.

The action also has parallels to Town Council’s decision in 2012 to sell seven lots originally part of Central Park. But whereas in the current land deal the town is buying seven lots for $100,000, in 2012 the town sold seven lots for $10. The 2012 land sale negotiations took place during the run-up to Town Council elections, and the 2014 land purchase is also occurring only weeks before elections for three new members of Council and a new mayor. In 2012, three members of Council were not re-elected. After the election but before leaving office they all voted to sell the lots.

The civic group Old School Cape Charles charged in 2012 that Town Council violated the Virginia Freedom of Information Act by negotiating in secret to sell the lots. The FOIA allows closed-door sessions only in very limited cases, such as personnel deliberations or, when buying or selling property, “where discussion in an open meeting would adversely affect the bargaining position or negotiating strategy of the public body.”

The town has never demonstrated how public awareness of its plans to buy or sell property would “adversely affect” its bargaining position. In the case of the Randolph Avenue lots, the existing contract grants the town first right of refusal, so even if word got out that the property was for sale, it could not affect the town’s ability to buy. In the case of the Central Park lots, the only party that could have been “adversely affected” was the purchaser, who was only offering $10. And in fact, when word of the land deal did get out, Old School Cape Charles offered $10,000 for the property, but Town Council refused to consider the offer.

Even when closed-door meetings are allowed, the law requires public notice that such a meeting will take place, and what the subject matter will be. The Act states: “A general reference to . . . the subject matter of the closed meeting shall not be sufficient to satisfy the requirements for holding a closed meeting.”

The public notice for the March 10 closed council meeting did not reveal that purchase of the Randolph Avenue lots would be discussed – only that the subject was “Real Property Acquisition Opportunity.” The public notice for the 2012 closed meeting to discuss selling the Central Park property was even more vague, making reference only to an “Unsolicited Confidential Proposal.”



10 Responses to “Town to Spend $100,000 on Welcome Sign Property”

  1. Antonio Sacco on March 18th, 2014 9:24 am

    Looks like Foster is having financial problems, and the town of Cape Charles is going to help him out by giving him hard-earned taxpayers’ dollars to bail him out.
    There are poor folks in Cape Charles that can’t pay their rent or their bills, seniors need a recreation hall, town workers need a raise in pay, and now they want to give Foster $100,000. Bail out instead the folks that really need it. Shame on you Cape Charles Town Council — you should know better. Giving to the Band is good, the theater is good, the Park is good, but Dickie Foster that’s BAD.

  2. Kearn Schemm on March 18th, 2014 10:07 am

    With all the breaks Bay Creek has gotten, you would think that the town would get the lots for free. Even if they were free, what does the town need them for? So we can borrow more money to develop them? May is coming fast, elections will soon be here. Bye-bye incumbents!

  3. Barbara Murray on March 18th, 2014 10:30 am

    Seriously, has the Council lost their minds? $100,000 for 7 lots that are of NO value (I know I have one which I won’t live long enough to pay off). Why are 7 lots required for a bloody sign? Unbelievable!

  4. Antonio Sacco on March 18th, 2014 11:53 am

    I was a comptroller for Citibank and the annual stockholders’ meetings auditor and if that’s not having responsibilities I don’t know what to tell you. Please hire me to audit the town’s finances and contracts and I will give a full report to the people.

  5. Mike Kuzma, Jr. on March 18th, 2014 12:05 pm

    I would strongly urge the Town Council to call VDOT and inquire about using Right-of-Way to place the welcome sign. Not only would it cost less, it would not carry the maintenance/insurance costs that the 7 lots would. Seeing as how it would go at the intersection of 13 & 184 it may go further in drawing people in, as opposed to people who already know they are entering Cape Charles.

  6. Nathan Sparrow on March 18th, 2014 12:10 pm

    “Cape Charles Town Council agreed in a closed-door meeting.” I really hope that these closed-door meetings come to an end after May. The mess is getting way too old. I also want to say that anyone who votes for people that are on Council now are crazy and must not want to see any kind of change in this wonderful town that we live in.

  7. Steve Downs on March 18th, 2014 1:23 pm

    That money would be better spent by purchasing the pathetic-looking old grocery store on Mason Avenue and turning it into a recreation center for the young people of our town. Wasting money to buy 7 useless lots is just plain STUPID! But then, it’s what the citizens of this town have become used to. Come on elections!

  8. Barbara Murray on March 18th, 2014 1:24 pm

    Good point, Mike. A lot of people driving on Route 13 don’t even realize Cape Charles exists. It’s a much better place for the sign!

  9. Roxanne Dziedzic on March 19th, 2014 9:25 am

    It has been my understanding, that when a closed meeting is conducted (and they sometimes are necessary), that voting was NOT allowed during the closed-door portion of the meeting. We were required to return to an open forum and then a vote was taken. Does this not apply here?

    You are correct — formal voting is not allowed behind closed doors. But that’s where the decisions are made. As the story reports, the Town Manager has revealed that “the general consensus [at the closed meeting] was for the Town to move forward with the acquisition.” So the upcoming vote in public will be only a formality. –EDITOR

  10. Geneva Smith on March 24th, 2014 11:30 am

    Who owns the land across the street where the Youth Garden is located?

    The Town of Cape Charles –EDITOR