The BEST (and WORST) of 2014

Cape Charles Yacht Center920

The WAVE nominates the May opening of Cape Charles Yacht Center as the best thing that happened to the town in 2014.


January 1, 2015

Every year has its ups and downs, but for Cape Charles, the year 2014 probably saw higher highs and lower lows than most years. Here are the Wave’s nominations for the BEST, the WORST, and the REST.


1) Cape Charles Yacht Center opened in May, proving once again that if you build it, they will come. Even in winter, dozens of boats of various sizes are in dry dock, lending a more authentic harbor feel to the town. Mega-yachts have called as well.

2) Rennovation: 2014 may go down as the year the Historic District finally lost that derelict feeling. So many houses and buildings have been restored such that a drive down Randolph Avenue no longer evokes images of an abandoned mining town. Perhaps the most heartening example is the once-charming Victorian next to the Post Office currently being rescued from decades of neglect. And the abandoned 1950s flat-roofed doctors’ office on Tazewell and Fulcher met the wrecking ball the last week of 2014 — good riddance!

3) Festivals: Kudos to all the hard-working denizens who leant a festive spirit to the town in 2014. There were so many occasions that we can’t mention them all, but everything certainly came together for the August Harbor for the Arts Festival. Did that really happen in little ol’ Cape Charles? Honorable mentions: Tall Ships, Smitty’s Clam Slam, the Christian School’s Crabby Blues, the Progressive Dinner Tour, and of course July 4th.

4) Bayshore Concrete: The town’s only industry got a much-needed shot in the arm in 2014, winning contracts for structural concrete for New York City’s Tappan Zee Bridge and others. For some, that’s a good thing, while for others the renewed activity at the once nearly-shut-down cement plant means more noise, dust, and visual impact.

5) Fun Pier: With funding from FEMA, the town really got it right when it rebuilt the town pier after Sandy wreaked havoc on the portion that had never been constructed properly in the first place. First-class job!


1) The worst was, sadly, really, really bad — the first drowning off Cape Charles Beach in many years. The freak August 10 accident that took the life of 8-year-old “Ace” Horton remains inexplicable, because no investigation was ever conducted, either by the town or the county. How could a child, said to know how to swim, suddenly fall from an adult’s shoulders in wading-depth water near the Fun Pier and not be found for three days? No one will ever know. Is that area unsafe? No warning sign has been posted.


2) Cherrystone Tornado: While this tragedy struck outside town limits, it cannot escape mention. Both parents and their son died when a tree fell on their tent July 24 after a tornado struck Cherrystone Campground and surrounding areas, leaving the couple’s two daughters orphaned. At least 36 others were injured, and tornado damage surpassed any recent hurricane. Cherrystone Campground had to shut down at the height of its season. The only good news was that the whole county rallied to support the victims.

THE REST (in Chronological Order)

JANUARY — Jim Pruitt becomes the new police chief after a two-week standoff with the town over salary. As chief, Pruitt no longer earns the overtime he received previously on the police force. Bay Creek opens a “Beach Club” from which most guests drive to actually get to the beach. Northampton County Supervisors effectively “fire” Bob Panek as chairman of the Public Service Authority by halting PSA funding so long as Panek is chairman. Four months earlier a Wave editorial had charged that Panek’s appointment to the PSA “violates the principle of separation between a paid public employee and an elected or appointed official.” Cape Charles gets a really big snow day (CLICK for video).

FEBRUARY — Town Council members spend $10,000 on a town employee wage study. The sole chickens in town, owned by the Hadden family, leave for Eastville while Cape Charles debates whether hens should be allowed within town limits. The Historic District Review Board rescinds its order that the new owners of a Jefferson Avenue house install a fake chimney. Business Association President George Proto sends a letter to Mayor Sullivan about the PSA, which begins by pointing out that the mayor never answered his letter of the previous August on the same subject.

MARCH — Over 200 people turn out for a county public hearing on rezoning. Most are opposed, and the meeting lasts four hours — the largest public opposition since the county endorsed building a maximum security prison in 1994. Eight candidates file for town elections in May. Town Council supports a 23 percent increase in the hotel/lodging tax, following a 50 percent increase four years earlier. Hotelier Ned Brinkley vigorously opposes the tax hike. Town Council decides to pay Bay Creek developer Dickie Foster $100,000 for seven lots on Randolph Avenue. There are no plans for the property other than to continue to display a “Welcome to Historic Cape Charles” sign. It develops that Foster has not paid tax on the lots in years.

APRIL — In the scoop of the year, the Wave reports April 1 that the town is selling the inner harbor to a developer for $10 (CLICK). The harbor will become a water theme park and the Shanty will be converted into a floating restaurant. Perhaps because previously the town did sell park property valued at almost $1 million to a developer for $10, many, many readers fall for the April Fools spoof. In an emotional statement to Town Council April 24, Mayor Sullivan refutes claims that three Council members had known for more than six months that developer Patrick Hand intended to buy property on Mason Avenue resulting in the loss of 160 public parking spaces. The mayor publicly humiliates a Wave staffer for reporting the story. In response the Wave publishes an audio link (CLICK) of Hand’s statement delivered at a Board of Zoning Appeals meeting which the mayor had not attended. (Following her retirement the former mayor would send an email to friends and copy it to the Wave, stating that Wave staffers “are evil.”) Town Council renames the old library the Cape Charles Civic Center. The Cape Charles Police Department confiscates numerous campaign signs because they are not allowed in the right-of-way — even in front of private homes. The official Town Gazette reports that “five candidates are running for Council” and proceeds to list the names. Lynn Mitchell-Fields, the sixth candidate and the only African-American running, is omitted.

MAY — Chris Bannon and Joan Natali are returned to Town Council and Sambo Brown is elected following his retirement as police chief. Newcomer George Proto becomes mayor. All candidates endorsed by the Wave are defeated.

JUNE — A total of 22 lots in Bay Creek Marina Village East sell at auction for prices as low as under $3,000 for a total of about $200,000 for all 22 lots (CLICK). At the height of the market eight years ago a single lot sold for more than that. The iconic Bay Creek lighthouse also sells for $137,500, but the sale later falls through when Bay Creek demands a sizable fee to gain access to the lighthouse. The town sends a letter to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission claiming that placement of a pound net near the Fun Pier would “eliminate the supply of fish” at the pier (CLICK). The VMRC approves the application for a pound net.

JULY — Town Manager Heather Arcos announces her resignation effective in September.

AUGUST — County Planning Commissioner Martina Coker resigns over her “dismay at the manner in which the Zoning Ordinance was developed and proposed without any public input or analysis of data,” adding that there could be “significant detrimental effect on residential property values” as a result. Cape Charles gets a new chiropractor.

SEPTEMBER — Bay Creek property owners withdraw their request to federal authorities for permission to rake the Bay Creek beaches (CLICK). The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service had long warned that raking and maintaining the beaches further threatened the endangered Northeastern beach tiger beetle, but had agreed to allow raking if in turn Bay Creek would build breakwaters costing $1-2 million. The homeowners decide instead to forego raking.

OCTOBER — Cape Charles gets a veterinarian, although not within town limits as originally planned. The vet instead chooses a portion of the old video rental store in the Food Lion shopping center, avoiding both town taxes and town water and sewer charges. The town decides to ban chickens. The county says it won’t drop environmental protections for the seaside after all. Town Planner Rob Testerman resigns.

NOVEMBER — St. Stephen’s church celebrates 125 years and Cape Charles Christian School dedicates its multi-use Heyward Hall in the former Presbyterian church. “Open season” declared by county authorities on Central Park cats.

DECEMBER — Largest anti-rezoning rally yet at County Hall, including support from Exmore Mayor Greer and Cape Charles Mayor Proto (who spoke for himself). Supervisors appear unmoved. Wave reports that town is illegally providing free water to the developer of the old Cape Charles school, who is converting it to an apartment building. No one cares. Wave editors prepare to depart for an extended winter break.






3 Responses to “The BEST (and WORST) of 2014”

  1. Jim Welch on January 1st, 2015 5:00 pm

    The Yacht Center is a well thought out, well-constructed and very appropriate new business for Cape Charles. The management and support team is top of the line on all levels. The pricing is fair, service excellent. It serves as a convenient haul-out location for monohull and multihull boats in an under-served location prior to its opening. They’ve provided for my needs in short order.

  2. David Gay on January 2nd, 2015 2:44 pm

    I agree with Jim Welch. The Cape Charles Yacht Center Is a great addition to the town. The management and yard workers are competent and easy to work with for all your sail or power boat needs. Looking forward to further development of the harbor this spring.

  3. Melvin W. Williams, Jr. CWO, USCG (Ret) on January 9th, 2015 12:35 am

    Why wasn’t an investigation of the drowning done? It’s against the law to have not been carried out. Where are the legal beagles? Get involved; investigate this accident and the site. There’s something wrong with this picture — incumbents, fear, or no deep pockets. The tragedy of it all is it could happen again. Shame.