FROZEN FOAM: A Walk on Cape Charles Beach

A wave is a fleeting thing — rushing onto the sandy beach only to disappear, sometimes leaving behind a foam mustache which also quickly vanishes. But not always! Sub-freezing temperatures this past week preserved the foam in place, and Kathleen Sabo captured it with her cell phone camera during her regular beach patrol to pick up trash. (Published February 9, 2015)


Fiery Retort to Official’s ‘Information Paper’ on Rezoning


February 9, 2015

An “Information Paper” by Northampton County Economic Development Director Charles McSwain is being fiercely challenged by the anti-rezoning group “Citizens for Open Government,” led by Exmore businessman Ken Dufty.

McSwain challenges “statements made in flyers over the past year” with a “point-by-point” response. Dufty, rising to the challenge, is refuting McSwain’s claims. The Wave reports the battle below, but readers looking for something shorter should CLICK for Wayne Creed’s report. A Letter to the Editor from Ken Dufty was received after both these reports were compiled. CLICK to read the letter.

McSWAIN CHARGES: Flyer says “Rezoning of nearly 3,000 acres of agricultural lands to residential and commercial use.” In fact, 3960 currently agriculturally zoned acres were redistricted to other uses more consistent with their actual current use or in the case of commercial property, their highest and best use consistent with adjacent existing uses and planned infrastructure. In addition, 4845 acres were rezoned from other uses to Agriculture. The net change in the proposed draft is an increase in agricultural district zoning by 885 acres of land. The flier statement is misleading. The County will have more agriculture district land.

DUFTY RESPONDS: While attempting to persuade that this statement is false or misleading, McSwain admits that the flyer underestimated the rezoning of agricultural lands that were redistricted to other uses. The McSwain paper states that in fact, 3960 currently agriculturally zoned acres were redistricted to other uses.However, the paper also states that other lands were rezoned to agricultural lands, making the net change 885 acres more agricultural land than previously districted. This criticism of the flyer is misplaced at best, and in reality misses our entire point regarding this rezoning. First, the majority of landowners who own ag land under the current zoning ordinance and who are proposed to be rezoned into residential or other uses, never petitioned the county for that rezoning classification. The redistricting of ag lands to a higher or best use without the request of the individual landowners is impermissible, and is akin to a taking, and the redistricting will potentially result in tax increases on the property owners who have had their lands reclassified without their consent. Also, our point in the flyer was that redistricting ag lands into other uses will allow residential density increases that were not envisioned or wanted by the landowners when they invested in their property. [Read more…]

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Short Rundown on County Re-Zoning Proposals

Cape Charles Wave

February 9, 2015

During the summer of 2012, the Northampton Board of Supervisors set forth an objective of “Review and revise the zoning ordinance to promote business development by June 30, 2013.” The release of the initial draft set off a firestorm that is still reverberating across the county.

Beginning last summer, the BOS began a review of the public hearing draft, and began making modifications. The latest draft (133 pages), labeled “2/15 Draft,” as well as a “Citizen Information Paper,” which highlights changes to the March 11, 2014, Public Hearing Draft of the Zoning Code, is available on the county website

For many, the first draft was an affront to the rural character of Northampton County, and what many perceived as an attack on the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act itself. At stake was the removal of the Chesapeake/Atlantic Preservation overlay from the seaside. In the latest version, the Board of Supervisors determined that the CAP should remain on the seaside, and has directed the Planning Commission to study the effectiveness and impact of implementation of the Bay Act on the seaside with whatever scientific or quantitative support that may be available. However, the inclusion of the CBPA on the Seaside is already part of the current Northampton Comprehensive Plan. Whether the quantitative data mentioned will be derived from scientific data, local community organizations, aquaculture representatives, watermen, and how that will affect the eventually zoning was not mentioned.

According to the latest draft, Seaside zoning will remain at a 250’; however, 60’ shoreline width is allowed for Working Waterfront and Village Waterfront Business (still, there is some waterfront land zoned Hamlet and Village, and this is proposed to be 205’). Seaside continues to have a conservation district which includes a 100’ shoreline building setback (again, the CBPA overlay was reinstated on the Atlantic side). [Read more…]

LETTER: County Re-Zoning Paper Full of Misinformation

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following letter from Ken Dufty was received just before press time and after two other stories had been scheduled for publication on the county re-zoning issue. Letters from readers with differing views are welcome.

January 9, 2015


It is apparent that the Northampton County Board of Supervisors, as directed and orchestrated by Parliamentarian and Administrator Katie Nunez, has the administrative pedal pressed firmly to the floor and is speeding towards a checkered flag in a race to completely rezone our county into something it was never meant to be.   They claim that in order to keep on schedule, the Board will have to vote on the 200-page zoning revision by March 4, 2015.   And on February 18 and 25, at the Kiptopeke Elementary School and Occohannock Elementary School respectively, “public information sessions” will be held to “inform” the public on the consensus of the Board on these major changes.

Claiming that the citizens are misinformed, and are indeed misinforming others, regarding the hundreds of changes to the current zoning that are being proposed, the county website directs the citizenry to access the “Citizen Information Paper” recently penned by economic development director Charles McSwain, which was widely distributed to town, village, and other officials throughout the county. This paper is available on the website, and indeed Mr. McSwain spends many pages refuting claims made by interested parties engaged in this debate.

One of the primary issues discussed by Mr. McSwain in his widely distributed public relations piece is the citizens’ claim that a wide variety of invasive uses would be allowed in agricultural lands that are not allowed in the current ordinance. So on page 16 McSwain presents a list of uses in agricultural lands that will be allowed by-right (no notice to abutting landowners, no public hearing), and those that will require a Special Use Permit. So the average person reading this list would believe that what is listed will be the extent of what we could expect if, and I say a big “if,” the proposed zoning ordinance is adopted and survives challenge (which is highly unlikely, I am happy to say). [Read more…]


Channel Dredging, Beach Replenishment Begin Soon

Cape Charles Wave

February 9, 2015

As the air and water finally begin to warm this spring, boating activity in and around the harbor will again percolate with activity. The beautiful floating docks will fill up, the tall ships will come to anchor, and those massive mega-yachts will once again crawl in from the world for a respite in our safe, quiet harbor.

The channel, harbor and beach, really the well-springs and life blood of our town, will be benefitting from some much-needed work in the very near future. With contracts awarded and in place, Cape Charles is prepared to begin a much-needed dredging project for our channel and harbor in order to maintain the authorized depth of 18 feet.

Funding for the work has come from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. There are three contracts: two dredging and placement contracts and one for the Upland Placement Site.

The muddy material dredged from the harbor will be taken to the Upland Placement Site, just south of the railroad tracks that parallel Stone Road. Construction and rehabilitation of the site will begin within weeks, as the land disturbance permit from DEQ has been received by the town. Dredging and moving material can commence as early as 90 days prior to the site being ready.

The initial dredging project will take some material and move it to the upland site, but a portion of the sand will be used to replenish the beach. This method has been successfully used along the Atlantic beaches, as well as in Lynnhaven Inlet in Virginia Beach.

Residents should begin seeing dredging barges in the harbor, as well as crews at work preparing the Upland Placement Site and building pipelines to the beach. [Read more…]

Animal Abuse, Theft Highlight Longtime Problems

Tethering laws are rarely enforced.

Cape Charles Wave

February 9, 2015

The news of animal abuse and theft that has been documented over the last few months, accompanied by graphic video and photographic evidence, has been an eye-opening experience for some.  But for those that have been working this issue for many years now, it was nothing more than confirmation of the status quo.

On January 23, many of the Shore’s animal rights top guns came together at the Bank Coffee House in Onancock for a meeting of the Accomack Animal Cooperative. President Charles Knitter led the meeting, and the fundamental message was that there are many folks that really care, whether it is the staff at the Accomack-Northampton shelter, County animal control agents, or non-profit groups and private citizens. But the situation on the ground is so overwhelming that, given current funding and available workers, it is almost impossible to influence meaningful change.

From a facilities management standpoint, the regional Accomack-Northampton animal shelter, despite being a first class operation, is still considered undersized and not fully able to meet the demands of the population — not unusual for any county facility. What is lacking is an adequate means of dealing with the overflow. According to Knitter, “we need to bolster our network of fosters, some way to help with overcrowding at the shelter.”

As always, funding is major issue. A problem that Knitter pointed out is that, even as fines are levied for any number of abuse cases, those fines generally go right into the general fund. Knitter recommends instead that such revenue should go back into the animal welfare operations, freeing up resources for expanded capacity and allowing the county to hire additional part-time staff to relieve some of the burden felt by the current staff limitations. [Read more…]


Resounding Defeat for Home-Prepared Food

Virginia Food Freedom lost big in Richmond -- but they'll be back to lobby again next year.

Virginia Food Freedom lost big in Richmond — but they’ll be back to lobby again next year.

Cape Charles Wave

February 9, 2015

If you read my previous two articles about Virginia House Bill 1290 you may be wondering how it all turned out. This bill was designed to exempt food prepared or processed in a private home or farm from government inspection provided that the food is sold directly to the end consumer and is labeled with the producer’s name, address, and product ingredients and the disclosure “NOT FOR RESALE — PROCESSED AND PREPARED WITHOUT STATE INSPECTION.”

The bill came up before the House Agriculture Subcommittee February 2, and the meeting was held in a smallish conference room that had standing room only. About half of the non-delegate attendees represented the Virginia Farm Bureau, the Virginia Agribusiness Council, and their supporters. The other half were mostly small farmers who traveled at their own expense to plead their case.  Delegate Robert Bell from the 58th District (Charlottesville) introduced the bill. Then it was time for supporters to speak to the committee members.

The first speaker was Duane McIntyre who drove six and a half hours from Russell County. He placed cigarettes, honey, alcohol, and meat on the conference room table as examples of commonly sold items that are known to have safety issues. Bernadette Barber spoke about her son’s febrile seizures as a young child and how he recovered by eating raw honey and milk from her own cow.  Store owner and a member of the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors Holder Trumbo said he believes that this bill should be passed so that small farmers can keep their expenses to a minimum and make a living.

It was clear from the opponents that their concern was the sale of raw milk — even though the bill encompasses more than that.  Wearing his white lab coat, Dr. Sam Bartle of the Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics said there were no studies on the health aspects of raw milk (although I found several articles in the PubMed library of medical studies).  Other speakers were Dr. Tom Massey of the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, Lindsay Reams of the Virginia Farm Bureau, Brad Coperhaven of the Virginia Agribusiness Council, and Sam Towell, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, all of whom spoke out against raw milk in particular. [Read more…]