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).


The problem is, in his list of uses permitted “by right,” McSwain conveniently omits proposed uses on farmland such as “Commercial Hunting” enterprise; government offices; migrant labor camps (only requires one migrant laborer in a complex); Research facilities; Wind turbine farms with towers up to 199′ tall; basic utility; museums, intensive farming and husbandry (chicken houses) and more.  Not too bad, all in all, compared to what uses will be permitted via a Special Use Permit.

In the list of those uses, McSwain on the same page of his Citizen Information Paper seemingly conveniently omits from the allowable uses on agricultural lands the following: Prisons; Dredge Spoil Sites, Heliports; Airfields; Mining and Excavating of Soil or other Natural Resources (like oil or gas); Waste Water Treatment plants, Utility Distribution Yard or Plant, and a dubious new use called “waste related.”   Note the latter, which McSwain drops off his list but which is on the official proposed zoning document (see page 10-11 of the proposed 2/15 Zoning Ordinance, also on the county’s website) can include municipal, medical, and hazardous waste incinerators, as well as storage facilities for any type of waste. Coming soon to a farm near you, if we let it.

McSwain’s “Citizen Information Paper” is replete with similar types of misdirection and “watch the shiny nickel” deflection. I bring up the uses on agricultural land here, as it directly affects every resident of every town in the county. You see, the Board and Nunez are proposing to eliminate Town Edge Districts, which in the current ordinance envisions the town and county working cooperatively to shape and protect the lands around the towns, encouraging developers to offset town services while ensuring compatible growth that is consistent with the individual town’s comprehensive plan. In the Board’s plan to eliminate these important districts, the county is proposing to rezone most of the lands around the towns into agricultural districts. Thus, it is important that any information regarding the uses that will be allowed in these districts be explicitly correct and any attempts to mislead on this issue should be roundly discouraged.

It is ironic that the recurring mantra from the Northampton County Planning and Economic Development department is that the citizens are grossly misinformed and do not understand the intent, import, and spirit of the proposed zoning ordinance that is now on hyper-track.   Judging by the reams of misinformation in McSwain’s Citizen Information Paper, we think that criticism is misplaced, indeed.




3 Responses to “LETTER: County Re-Zoning Paper Full of Misinformation”

  1. Tony Sacco on February 9th, 2015 7:20 am

    I don’t understand this re-zoning letter — a lot of beautiful English words that go nowhere. I may be wrong, but that’s my opinion. In Catholic school a Nun told me, “Write like you’re having a conversation with someone, and don’t mention words you’re not comfortable with.” In our new tech world the computer will give you a list of words of the same meaning, and people make the mistake of choosing a word that is not used in regular conversation. I am not criticizing the writer — that’s his style, like I have mine and William Shakespeare had his.

  2. Jim Welch on February 11th, 2015 7:29 pm

    Well expressed and very real concerns for all to understand and take aggressive action to halt. Thank you once again Mr. Dufty and Cape Charles Wave.
    Jim Welch

  3. Tony Sacco on February 12th, 2015 12:45 pm

    Money goes to money and poverty goes to poverty. To break that cycle, let Ms. Nunez and Mr. McSwain perform their formula to give everyone a chance to live in prosperity and not just the five percent that control the money in this county. Our schools are falling down, and learning in school could be better. When I taught music in our high school 15 years ago there were 40 students in the band; today there are only eight. Businesses are leaving that support our tax base, and high school students cannot find part-time jobs to save money so as to prepare for college. Mr. Dufty is deaf, dumb, and blind to the real tragedy of Northampton County.