Supervisors Nix Kiptopeke Villas Restaurant Permit

Cape Charles Wave

March 16, 2015

On a very warm evening with a hint of spring showers in the air, the Northampton County Board of Supervisors met for the March 10 regular meeting. The Kiptopeke Villas project once again made an appearance, this time seeking a second Special Use Permit to construct and operate a 12 table takeout restaurant on county parcel 69. The 2,500 square-foot “greasy spoon”-style eatery would consist of 12 tables and an outside porch area. There would be no drive-thru capability.

During public comments, Charles Bruckner questioned whether the developer had done due diligence in regard to groundwater and aquifer protections, in light of the fact that the site once housed a gas station, and the tanks are presumably still underground. “Do you have any engineering data you can point to? Have you even done a phase one or two environmental impact assessment? My worry is that there was a gas station there. The DEQ may have looked at it, but they are not an investigative agency. They come in after something has happened to help remediate,” Bruckner said.

Terry Ramsey followed with comments about the parking, especially by larger vehicles such as RVs and truck or boat trailers. “This should be safety first. This will change the fundamental character of our neighborhood. It is not an appropriate use” for this area,” he said. Ramsey also urged Supervisors to limit or even ban music played outside and consumption of alcohol on the porch.

Supervisor Granville Hogg voiced concerns about the project to County Planner Peter Stith: “I have concerns with page 3 where it says it will not adversely affect the health of the area. This is zoned Hamlet, I understand that, but do you feel this is an appropriate use?” Hogg asked.

“Are you suggesting it should be zoned residential?” responded Stith. “I don’t know what development [for this area] holds for the future.”

Hogg continued: “Is this mass drain field really appropriate for this area? When we first started this, we were told it was going to be low impact; now it seems to be fairly substantial.”


When County Economic Director Charles McSwain came to the podium, Hogg again raised concerns about underground fuel tanks. “Should those tanks be removed?”

McSwain answered, “The DEQ did inspect, and they found no presence of any odors.”

“Is there a tank there?” asked Hogg. “Is the DEQ the one that overseas it? Did his office have any records of [the tanks]? I don’t have a lot of confidence in the DEQ. There was the time when they said there were just three tanks up the road there; it turned out to be six.”

“I believe the DEQ is the correct agency to deal with this,” answered McSwain.

Bill Parr, agent for the project, addressed the Board noting that the application for the eatery is in a hamlet, which is mixed use, not residential, and “is completely in line with the Comprehensive Plan, which provides excellent guidance here,” and “is completely in line with commerce already taking place at the [Kiptopeke] park.” Relative to the underground tanks, he maintained that “there are no tanks; this is much ado, and only serves to harass the applicant,” and that fundamentally, the presence of a tank does not matter if there is no indication of contamination.

“Is there some way to alleviate some of this controversy,” asked Hogg, by allowing “someone with a magnetometer” to try and detect if a tank is down there. “I want to move past all this. I’m interested in tax revenues.”

The VDOT report on the project also stated that the developer should provide parking off of the right of way, and if parking did anything to impede it, tickets would be issued. Parr went on to say that, relative to parking, Butlers Bluff Drive could handle any overflow.

Hogg made a motion to table the process in order to give the applicants time to review public comments. Supervisor Rick Hubbard agreed, but suggested the issues around ABC licenses and operating hours should also be examined. The Board voted unanimously to table the Kiptopeke restaurant application.

Also during public comments, Mary Miller and Martina Coker chastised the Board over a lack of transparency within the Planning Commission process and the Supervisors, as well as what appears to be a blatant disregard for community input. “Commissioners are just not aware of all the data,” claimed Miller. “I sent 49 files. . . . Community interests are ignored and decisions are made in an arbitrary and capricious manner.”

Coker added that decisions are made on opinion, not data, and that “citizens gave input on what they desired . . . such as clean water, water access . . . and protecting our rural character. Citizens deserve better than they are receiving.”

Donna Boza of CBES (Citizens for a Better Eastern Shore) pleaded with the Supervisors to be more thoughtful and creative when developing the budget. “Revenue, more efficient spending will improve efficiency across all levels of government,” she said.

Ken Dufty of Exmore once again took the Board to task for what he claimed was a proposed County budget completely out of touch with citizens of Northampton — cutting vital services such as EMS while raising vehicle and landfill taxes, as well as taxes on businesses. Dufty said the County should take a closer look at how it spends money on salaries, paying particular attention to CountyAdministrator Katie Nunez and Economic Development Director McSwain. “In Virginia, the average salary for a County Administrator is $57,000, yet we pay Nunez $120,000. The average for an economic developer is $71,000, and we pay McSwain $107,000. This waste is sucking all the air out of Northampton County,” Dufty charged. Instead, he said, the county could use the savings to hire a marketing director to promote the economic interests of the County.

Bob Meyers admonished the Supervisors for not speaking into their microphones at meetings, thus holding private conversations to which the public is not privy. “I sat here last week and watched Ms. Nunez hold a private conversation with Supervisor [Larry] Trala, and you did it again tonight. I insist that you use your mics so we can hear what you are saying. Stop the side discussions! Nunez must stop her interruptions — we insist you conduct these meetings in a proper manner,” he demanded.

Developer Parr then again addressed the Supervisors, urging them to continue to support Agricultural and Forestal Districts. Parr said that farmers need their support and are paying too much in taxes on equipment, mainly because the county is so desperate for revenue. Parr also parlayed his support of AFDs as a way to promote more development in the county. “We need more commercial development; more commercial growth will build the tax base, to give farmers a break.”

The Supervisors reviewed 6 AFD renewals for the next year. The Code of Virginia authorizes Northampton County to “adopt districts designed to protect working farm and forest land.” AFDs provide benefits to landowners, as long as property owners agree not to “convert their farm, forestland and other open space lands to more intense commercial, industrial or residential uses for a term of 4 to 10 years.” In return, the AFD is eligible for use-value, or land use taxation, protection from eminent domain, and acquisition of land or easements for powerlines, roadways, and other infrastructure.

Importantly, an Agricultural and Forestal District provides much stronger protection from development pressures than basic agricultural zoning. In Northampton, agricultural zoning can actually promote low-density residential sprawl; however, AFDs offer assurance that they will be taken into account in local planning decisions, such as rezoning.

Supervisor Trala questioned whether there was some way to be sure the AFDs are “actually using best management practices as they are supposed to.” His concern stemmed from some reports that, while AFDs have been able to leverage the benefits of the designation, they may not be meeting all the requirements. Supervisor Larry LeMond agreed, and noted that the AFD process should be reviewed and updated as needed. Supervisor Oliver Bennett spoke to the real financial costs, and why the Supervisors should tread lightly in regard to granting AFDs and conservation easements, which cost the county $1.39 million in tax discounts, and “account for seven cents of the taxes provided by the taxpayers,” he said. The Board agreed to institute a point system to use as a metric to determine which properties qualify for AFD designations.



6 Responses to “Supervisors Nix Kiptopeke Villas Restaurant Permit”

  1. Joe Vaccaro on March 16th, 2015 12:17 pm

    Excellent reporting and writing. The key to a successful government is transparency.

  2. David Gay on March 16th, 2015 6:03 pm

    In the words of one of our greatest presidents,”Trust but verify.” Keep up the good investigative reporting.

  3. Dana Lascu on March 16th, 2015 8:32 pm

    David, puhlease, the phrase “Trust, but verify” long predates the person whom you consider a great president. This was Vladimir Lenin’s favorite Russian proverb, “doveryai, no proveryai” and one of the overused slogans of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and beyond; it was used in reference to religion.

  4. David Gay on March 17th, 2015 8:22 am

    Thank you comrade for enlightening me.

  5. RH Meyers on March 20th, 2015 10:14 pm

    This is a great article but it missed a very important point that is clearly on the voice recording of the meeting after the following question by Mr. Hogg about 33 minutes into the meeting: “Is there some way to alleviate some of this controversy,” asked Hogg, by allowing “someone with a magnetometer” to try and detect if a tank is down there.
    That simple question to resolve whether there were still buried & abandoned fuel tanks on the property Parr is representing was met with firm elaborate equivocation with Mr. Parr saying, “If there is a tank there it is a moot point.” Mr. Parr, by not answering a simple question, in effect denied anyone permission to provide an easy method to put this controversy of potentially leaking underground fuel tanks to rest.

    I wonder why that non intrusive inexpensive testing permission was denied. In its denial, I can only conclude that Mr. Parr either knows there are buried and abandoned tanks on his property or that he suspects there are.
    In either case a permit to do anything on that property should contain the requirement to first determine if there are tanks there, determine the condition they are in, and then take action according to EPA environmental requirements.

  6. Wayne Creed on March 21st, 2015 2:41 pm

    Mr. Meyers,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to review the recorded record of the meeting. Sometimes, that review, such as in this case can be invaluable. Due to publishing and copy deadlines, the recorded record is usually not available to us until much after the story has gone to print. As a general policy, the Wave does not record the events, but uses a pen and notepad.

    We try to write as fast and as accurate as we can, and work very hard to capture and relate the full contextual narrative to the best of our abilities. Sometimes we don’t always get there, as is the case with Mr. Parr’s dialogue, where we may have captured the intent, but, as you accurately point out, missed an important nuance.

    One thing to keep in mind, is that the Wave is a community, collaborative effort that relies heavily on input from citizens like you. That is why we welcome comments such as yours; we would rather get the story right in the end.

    Thank you again for all your hard work, and for helping to make the Wave better.