LETTER: Northampton County Is Not Virginia Beach!

December 22, 2014


First of all, thanks to the Cape Charles Wave and reporter Dorie Southern for the expert coverage of the”Occupy the Old Courthouse” rally in Eastville on Tuesday evening, December 9. As Ms. Southern reported [CLICK], the Northampton County Board of Supervisors’ meeting that followed the rousing but cordial rally on the Courthouse green drew a packed house with standing room only. Out of the 18 speakers, many of whom were former county officials and current heads of civic and environmental organizations, only one speaker spoke in favor of the Board’s unilateral attempt to completely rewrite Northampton County’s zoning ordinance with virtually and literally no public involvement (except for our obligatory three-minute comment period at the BOS meetings). This same lone speaker also submitted a lengthy letter to a local newspaper which was printed on the same day as the lead story about the rally, and I greatly appreciate this opportunity to respond to several of her comments.

The writer insinuates that those of us who merely want to be more involved in the decision-making process that will dictate the future economic and environmental future of this great county are misinformed and using scare tactics to prevent Northampton County from growing and prospering in this otherwise difficult fiscal climate. She cites many examples of our alleged “fear mongering” and refutes many of the claims made by those opposing the unilateral changes proposed by the Board.

Upon information and belief, the writer is a real estate professional with roots in Virginia Beach. And while we all love to visit Virginia Beach and its many offerings, we do not choose to live there. Frankly, it is just too crowded for the likes of many of us, and most do not want to pay the high taxes of living in such a congested area. Note VB’s taxes are about 50% higher than Northampton County’s. That said, the writer’s theory that we need to develop Northampton County in a more intensive and commercial manner to bring more revenue into the county is belied by the tax profile in Virginia Beach, as well as Ocean City, Maryland.

As for the misinformation that has been put out by the major organizations which have been intricately involved in this proposed zoning revision, there is not one clear example of what has been presented that has been wrong. Indeed, much of the information distributed in newsletters, flyers, and letters has been based on in-depth analysis and careful consideration by former Planning Commissioners and other county officials who were intensely involved in writing the current zoning ordinance, and also in reviewing the proposed zoning revisions while they still served in an official capacity on the Planning Commission.


Here is a recap of the facts, and they cannot be disputed: The BOS has proposed dozens of uses on land zoned as agriculture which are much more suited for industrial and commercial zones. They include waste incinerators, biofuel refineries, prisons, racetracks, shooting ranges, wastewater treatment plants, large scale chicken houses, manure storage, and many other invasive uses. That is in the proposed zoning document. They propose to eliminate Mobile Home Parks as a district, disallowing any expansion of these existing affordable housing options. The proposed zoning calls for reducing the lot widths along the waterfronts from 250 feet to 60 feet, allowing a Virginia Beach look-alike scenario that greets us as we near the western side of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. They propose to add a number of residential new zones, allowing many more houses per acre than the current ordinance. The proposed plan disregards any consideration for the recharge of our sole-source aquifer, as it calls for reduced limits on how much land along our recharge spine can be paved over. Contrary to what the writer claims, the proposed revisions DO rezone nearly 3,000 acres of farmland into residential and commercial use, and this cannot be disputed. Finally, the Board of Supervisors HAS proposed eliminating the protections of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act on the Seaside, and there has been no official vote to date to take that off the table. These are just a few of the many changes the writer would have us believe will solve our economic woes — making this the first county in history whose taxes have gone down once we pave over our farmland and grow houses and hotels where our crops once grew.

Finally, as for the fear factor, the writer is right. Most of us are incredibly fearful that the BOS will get away with their singular plan to reshape Northampton County into something it was never meant to be. But most of all we are afraid that this trampling of our constitutional right to have our voices heard and factored into the decisions that will affect our future, on every level, will continue on the path that is far too worn.




7 Responses to “LETTER: Northampton County Is Not Virginia Beach!”

  1. J T Elliott on December 22nd, 2014 3:24 pm

    While we were sleeping—did somebody take over Northampton County? The Board appointed an “advisory” group to tell them how to rewrite the Comprehensive Plan — the chairman was a real estate broker. The Board hired a development director, from the corporate real estate world, who said no more single-wides or trailer parks — the end of low-income housing choice for a lot of people. A pair of real estate developers decide they want to build a hotel in the middle of the Kiptopeke residential village. A county Planning Commissioner who’s married to yet another real estate broker, says he himself will start to rewrite the county’s Plan. And now a Virginia Beach real estate broker shows up everywhere, cheering on a new zoning code that would fill the county with high priced condos. Wake up, Northampton! Take back your county — before it’s too late.

  2. Tony Sacco on December 23rd, 2014 1:34 am

    First, Northampton is not Virginia Beach. It’s not New York City, or San Francisco, it’s the poorest county in Virginia and probobly in the entire United States. Second, there were two people for the change, including that young girl Hannah DeMarino, 17 years old, who wants growth. She said “all here, their future has come and gone . . . today I’m a child, tomorrow I’m an adult . . . after college I want to return but there are no jobs, no housing, no entertainment . . . so i have to go somewhere else.”

    The person that wrote that article was right 100%, it’s fear that you are all being expected to swallow. For the first time we have Supervisiors that have more guts than the previous ones that served on the Board.

  3. Sue Telfer on December 23rd, 2014 10:09 am

    Let’s all take a road trip and look at the low income housing here in Northampton. REALLY? You want more? I for one say — and yes, I am only one — NO MORE SINGLEWIDES and TRAILER PARKS! We as a county must start taking care of what we have! Not by bring more junk in that just seems to deteriorate when not in use. Where has the pride gone? Let’s get that road trip together!

  4. Bobby Roberts on December 23rd, 2014 8:21 pm

    This whole mess is starting to smell exactly like what it is–GENTRIFICATION. Everything would be great if we could just get rid of the poor people.

  5. Ken Dufty on December 27th, 2014 7:29 am

    Hats off to Mr. Toner for exposing the naked truth about the apparent motives of those digging their spurs into the bellies of the all-too-willing Board of Supervisors (save for Granville Hogg). While marching to the cadence of the “business friendly” chant, the majority of the members of the Board have turned their backs on the citizenry of this great county, targeting especially the middle class and those struggling to stay above the bottom rungs of the economic ladder.

    As to Bobby Robert’s theory that the “whole mess is starting to smell” like GENTRIFICATION, that has been my partial take on the situation since I sat down to read the entire draft zoning ordinance just hours before the March 11, 2014, Public Hearing at Northampton High School (shame on me for not being more involved in county issues before that 12th hour!). The elitists apparently working the strings of the Supervisors (‘cept’n Hogg, who refuses to have those knots tied) seem obsessed with transforming this county into a bustling upscale retirement destination, abandoning the assets which set us far above the cookie-cutter likeness of Virginia Beach and Ocean City.

    As the recently-commissioned Competitive Assessment Study recommended, in order to REALLY become more business friendly, the Board should be encouraging and marketing our core industries, the engines driving our local economy. These include agriculture, aquaculture, forestry, small business, and tourism, many of which lead the state and nation in their ranking and growth. The report also directed the Board to cure the real ills stopping growth in the county, such as lack of high-speed Internet, reliable cell phone service, better quality schools, accessible and affordable health care, and the development of a trained and ready workforce.

    Instead, the Board has set a course which can only be described as a campaign to gentrify the county, driving taxes higher and ensuring that those on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder will have even a more difficult time remaining on the lower Shore. A few of the examples that support Mr. Robert’s gentrification theory are:

    1) Proposed elimination of the Agricultural and Forestal Districts, a program which encourages landowners to keep their land in active farming by matching real estate assessments with the actual use of the land. The elimination of these districts will undoubtedly force those who rely on this state-sponsored program to consider selling their land, which will probably be snatched up by the real estate professionals riding high on the backs of the Board for pennies on the dollar.

    2) Scheming to run unnecessary sewer lines from areas like Cheriton, while forcing mandatory hook-ups and billing to unwilling homeowners, many who could be on limited fixed-incomes (let’s drive out those poor people so the developers can accomplish their Ocean City dream!).

    3) Pursuing developer-driven schemes that will only raise taxes for all of us in Northampton County, such as the pie-in-the-sky and simply ridiculous proposal to run that sewer line from the Food Lion Plaza area to Cape Charles, with plans to pass the cost of that project onto all of the taxpayers of Northampton County. Note that every time taxes are raised in this county, although perhaps causing our County Administrator to salivate, it makes it harder for those hanging on to the lower Shore with their economic fingernails to stay afloat. Accidental gentrification? I don’t think so.

    4) Eliminating mobile home parks as a legal zoning district. This nearly insane and clearly transparent attempt to gentrify this county is not only a complete example of immorality and social irresponsibility (where is Mr. Bennett on this one?), it violates federal programs that are in place to ensure that such elitist attempts are thwarted, even at a judicial level.

    The Board continues to cry poverty, and claims that we need more revenue in our coffers to keep this county solvent. But at the same time our County Administrator encourages this Board to spend money like crazed drunken sailors, and it is acting on this advice which drives us closer the edge of an economic crisis. But that is another letter to be written and considered by the Cape Charles Wave and others. Not enough room or energy for that now — but stay tuned. It is absolutely mind-boggling. In the meantime, thanks again to this publication and also to Mr. Toner who not only hit the nail squarely on the head with his “Virginia Beach” letter, but drove it firmly home. Happy Holidays to all — see you on the front lines — which will be VERY interesting in 2015!

  6. Sue Telfer on December 29th, 2014 6:51 am

    Let’s take that road trip! With our cameras. Then we could go to the county courthouse to see who’s paying the taxes. The word “Gentrification” has pros and cons. The word that I’d like to see used a little more and on a more positive note would be BALANCE. Can we all stop leaning to the port side then the starboard side?! How about midpoint? I for one am getting quite seasick!

  7. Hampton Miller on January 2nd, 2015 4:11 pm

    Tony Sacco is correct. A town that doesn’t grow is dying. The youth has been lost. How many 25-40 year olds live in Cape Charles and have a great local job? Wouldn’t it be nice to be a place where young college graduates come to live? Hannah DeMarino is correct, after college where is she to go, there are no jobs, no housing or entertainment etc. My own sons 15, 20 & 21 only want to come here for a day because there is nothing to do. This is a great vacation destination for a few days. There needs to be a reason people want to live here other than peace and quiet. Everyone that wants to keep the status quo should look around — where are all the young people that are going to keep Cape Charles alive after you and I are long gone?