Showdown Tuesday on County Zoning Ordinance

Cape Charles Wave

May 12, 2014

Opponents of a plan that would drastically reduce Northampton County zoning restrictions are marshaling forces for a showdown with the Board of Supervisors tomorrow (Tuesday). A group called Citizens for Open Government on the Eastern Shore is urging County residents to attend the Supervisors meeting and speak against the proposed changes during public comment time.

The Supervisors meeting is 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 13, in the County Administration Building Board Room (2nd floor) in Eastville.

The Citizens Group is circulating a fact sheet on consequences of the proposed zoning ordinance, which it says would:

— Eliminate protection of the seaside marshes included in the Chesapeake Bay Protection Act;

— Eliminate Special Use Permits for a large number of land uses, bypassing public hearings and public notice to neighbors;

— Allow prisons, disposal of dredge spoils, large biomass refineries, and heavy manufacturing by right in industrial zones, including on land surrounding incorporated towns;

— Remove the Town Edge designation;

— Dramatically increase density in most zoning districts, including along waterways, apparently using the Virginia Beach waterfront condo model as a “vision”;

— Eliminate odor controls on poultry houses and reduce setbacks for manure storage;

— Eliminate affordable housing options such as single-wide mobile homes;

— Increase the number of waterfront homes allowed on the seaside;

— Allow Planned Unit Developments to be built wherever land is available; and

— Reduce setbacks for shorelines and wetlands.


Spearheading the opposition drive is Exmore resident Ken Dufty, who has outlined a three-prong plan: Organize the public; lobby the Supervisors individually; and if necessary, take legal action, including petitioning for removal of Supervisors who do not recognize the vision statement in the County Comprehensive Plan.

Willis Wharf Village Steering Committee chairman Art Swartzchild has already drafted a hard-hitting letter to his County Supervisor, Oliver Bennett: “I am outraged by the fact that you, Mr. Bennett . . . would be a party to the development of these massive zoning changes without ever once meeting with your constituents, the residents and property owners of Willis Wharf, to ask our opinion about the changes the BOS and Planning Staff have proposed,” he wrote. Swartzchild, a marine biologist in charge of the University of Virginia’s Anheuser-Busch Coastal Research Center in Oyster, charged that failure to conduct an environment impact study before proposing the changes is “an act of negligence on the part of the BOS and the Planning staff that puts our water quality . . . at grave risk.”

“Please table these actions until such time as an environmental impact statement has been completed or, at the very least, you seek and obtain input from the scientific community. Should you fail to do so I, along with other residents of Willis Wharf and Northampton County will have no alternative but to seek your removal from the BOS,” Swartzchild wrote.

The only Supervisor not targeted for possible removal is Granville Hogg, who defeated incumbent Willie Randall last November for the District 1 (Cape Charles) seat. At an April 24 Town Hall meeting convened by Hogg in Cape Charles, he was sympathetic to residents’ demands that he try to do something to at least slow down the rezoning plans. At an April 28 Supervisors meeting Hogg moved to discuss temporarily withdrawing the zoning changes, but no other Supervisor would second his motion, so the idea was not discussed.

The County Planning Commission has been allowed only 100 days to review the proposed zoning ordinance. If they do not complete their review in that time, the zoning ordinance will move forward without their input.



4 Responses to “Showdown Tuesday on County Zoning Ordinance”

  1. Roger L. Munz on May 12th, 2014 1:57 am

    After so many years of a strict no-development, no-change attitude, the BOS is now going to the other extreme of throwing out the master plan while allowing development in endangered areas. What can they be thinking of? Some of these revisions make no sense for the local community, and even less for the county. They could be setting bad precedents by rushing to a too-early vote.

  2. Donna Bozza on May 12th, 2014 8:39 am

    Well said Roger! I hope you will come out this Tuesday night and tell them just that.

  3. Kearn Schemm on May 12th, 2014 9:06 am

    A valuable (and irreplaceable) resource like our salt marshes should not be opened to unlimited development. We need strong controls to protect the quality of life we found when we came to the Eastern Shore. Bravo Ken Dufty for this effort!

  4. Donna Bozza on May 12th, 2014 2:52 pm

    Kearn, Rog, & All: We ALL must speak out. Public comment closes THIS WED. May 14 Please take 2 minutes and email the county and request your comments be made part of the record. You can basically write what you wrote here! [email protected]