County Should Stop Yanking Town’s Chain

Cape Charles Wave Columnist

March 16, 2015

On January 27, the Town of Cape Charles sent correspondence to County Administrator Katie Nunez voicing displeasure with the Board of Supervisors’ reluctance to bow to the Town’s whims — that is, drop everything it was doing and pick up work on the Cape Charles request to have the County include a Town Entrance Overlay District in proposed zoning changes.

The written response from the County was a bit like a horse swatting away an annoying fly with its tail — a nice way of telling Cape Charles to go pack sand.

While it is true that few citizens of Cape Charles actually take the Mayor, Town Council, or Planning Commission seriously, it is worrisome that this same sentiment has also seeped out into the county.

This sentiment may be marginally understandable, given the petulant and peevish tone of the town; however, the county still has some explaining to do, mainly as to why they have been reluctant to take up the matter in the first place. In the correspondence to Nunez, the town noted that in a previous letter, the Board of Supervisors was unable to deal with the town’s request: “Your letter of June 11, 2014 indicated that the Board of Supervisors was unable to consider our request for the inclusion of the Historic Town Overlay Corridor in the proposed zoning amendments due to current workload . . . .”

Workload? What workload? The county makes it sound like they toil away in a Kentucky coal mine. It seems the county is always able to make time for so many inane and inconsequential endeavors; their response to the town on this very important matter appears to be nothing short of a blow-off.

Mayor George Proto’s statement is a legitimate response. Rather than being treated like a creepy, stalker boyfriend who refuses to take no for an answer, the town at least deserves a straight answer. Proto wrote, “I am aware that the BoS has been diligently working through potential revisions [to the proposed zoning] . . . we would like the BoS to consider our request . . . before completing this review [of proposed zoning changes].” Even as diplomatically as they tried to wordsmith it, the town’s frustration is becoming more apparent.


The bottom line is that the historic overlay district has been part of the Cape Charles master plan since the 1990s, was part of the initial annexation agreement, and was formally part of the 2009 version of the Comp Plan. Not to mention that Councilwoman Joan Natali and the Cape Charles Planning Commission have been revising and working on this proposal for well over a year now. For the county to attempt to treat this as a brand new request, a bit of new business, is disingenuous at best. If the county is not going to do it, then make the motion and shoot it down — stop yanking the town’s chain.

To complete the threat, Proto added, “Additionally, the Town Council and some of our citizens have concerns about certain other aspects of the proposed zoning amendments.” He concludes, “Please Contact Bob Panek” to arrange times to “meet.”

Fresh from spending half a million to give away an historic old school for $10, the town officials seems to have had enough of this run around, and brimming with bravado, like toothless beggars drunk on a bottle of cheap wine, they finally seem ready to put on the gloves. In general, that’s a good thing, but if it’s a fight they want, they may just get it. Those two miles out on the highway may be important to the town, but that stretch is just as important to the county (given the direction they currently appear to be heading).

As Supervisor Larry Lemond noted a few weeks ago (relative to the overlay district), “Very ambitious. And that’s all I’m going to say about that at this time.”

Cape Charles can huff and puff all it wants, but the county still gets to pick the music for the dance. For serial control freaks like Cape Charles, this is a worst case scenario — one that may be pushing them to the very limits of decorum and sanity.

All this turmoil does make citizens curious. In the Comp Plan, the desire to create the overlay district is tied to the part that states, “New land development along Route 13 and particularly along Routes 184 and 642 is of great concern to the town. The rural character of these roadways should be preserved and protected.”

That is what the document says, but activity on the ground, especially the giant push by the town to create the PSA “pipeline to nowhere” seems to paint a different picture. Seeing the commercial path Cape Charles has been on for the last several years, the idea of protecting rural character and view sheds seems quaint and patently false.

This would seem to account for Cape Charles’ growing impatience with this situation — since there may be many possible options for that stretch of farmland (once the new zoning passes, a new universe of ill device may appear before them), they worry that the county has the same idea, holds all the cards, and has already beat them to it.

However, all this existential hand wringing may be premature. The town and county have too much in common — are so much alike they should be able to work together on this, just as they have so far with the PSA pipeline. I have confidence it will all work out in the end — however, probably not in the best interests of the Eastern Shore or its people. The developer and merchant classes will probably come out smelling fine.

For the ordinary citizens of the town and county, as much as we’d love to execute a late inning suicide squeeze play at home plate to block the dubious (unsustainable) path it appears we are on, the retching reality is that we’re more or less like Voltaire’s Candide, who is given a choice between execution and running the gauntlet (being made to run between two lines of men who will strike him with weapons) 36 times. Like Candide, we so wish, being creatures of free will, that we could just choose “neither.” Of course, his argument was unsuccessful, and like him, we’re left attempting to run the gauntlet just as fast as we can.



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