Supervisors Hear Continuing Opposition on Rezoning

This flier being circulated by Northampton County rezoning opponents stresses that anyone who does not register his or her opposition to county rezoning plans will be judged to be in favor of the rezoning.

This flier being circulated by Northampton County rezoning opponents stresses that anyone who does not register his or her opposition to county rezoning plans will be judged to be in favor of the rezoning.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that County Supervisors have postponed any action on rezoning until January 2016. But as pointed out in a comment by Ken Dufty (see below), the Supervisors merely extended the window by six months because it otherwise would have expired.)

Cape Charles Wave

June 15, 2015

Despite continuing outspoken opposition to rezoning proposals, the Northampton County Board of Supervisors appears set to enact the sweeping measure in advance of November elections — perhaps as early as June 29.

Elections this November will ensure at least one new Supervisor on the Board, because Larry Trala is not running for re-election. And if Spencer Murray succeeds in unseating Board Chairman Rick Hubbard there will be two new Supervisors. Murray is strongly opposed to the rezoning proposals as presently constituted.

Two candidates have filed for Trala’s seat: Robert Grayson Duer and Gwen Cummings-Thompson, both of Exmore. The latter’s position on rezoning has not been revealed, but Duer is known to be opposed.

The only sitting Supervisor opposed to the rezoning is Granville Hogg, but if two like-minded candidates join him on the Board in January, they will have a majority, and the Board could be expected to march in a new direction.

The possibility of a dramatically different Board come January might well have influenced the decision by Economic Development Director Charles McSwain, who is believed to be resigning next month. McSwain has taken the most heat from rezoning opponents, followed by County Administrator Katie Nunez.

The flier above is representative of the efforts by rezoning opponents, led by Ken Dufty and supported by a host of well-known residents including Citizens for a Better Eastern Shore (CBES), Virginia Eastern Shorekeeper, a prominent Realtor, a marine biologist, and a former Planning Commissioner, all of whom spoke at the June 9 Board meeting.

At that meeting, Supervisors once again encountered the full force of opposition to the proposed zoning changes that many feel could destroy the rural nature of the county. The core issues remain protection of the environment, as well as the overall rural character of Northampton — that is, just what will happen if setback changes, PUD (Planned Unit Development) and altered rules for impervious surfaces are put in place. What will happen if large-scale CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) and waste incinerators, mainly poultry operations, set up shop on the lower end of the shore?


Eileen Kirkwood, who has worked and developed shopping centers and housing developments, wrote, “It used to be to build property for the highest and best use. Previous BoS and Planning Commissions worked hard to protect the county from over-development, to encourage everyone, land farmers to co-exist with developers and aquaculture farmers . . . to keep the county pristine. Now the county will allow CAFOs, where in the past our pristine lands were protected. Northampton, after years of protecting the bay and the Bay Coastal Reserve through environmentally friendly zoning, now turns to the new zoning which will undo all this and cause unbelievable harm.”

Price Clark of Eastville wrote, “This has been a flawed process with minimal citizen input. Every citizen, rich or poor, appreciates the clean air, clean water, the open expanses of farmland, and the vistas they provide, the unparalleled open access to clean bay and ocean water. I request that you withdraw this proposal or your name will forever be remembered for the undoing of Northampton County. Is that really the legacy you want?”

Ken Dufty of Wardtown wrote, “I have never seen such a blatant attempt by leaders to unilaterally undermine the protection of natural assets. The changes will encourage the construction of hazardous waste incinerators, Planned Unit Developments where anything goes, and with no criteria and no restrictions.”

Martina Coker both chastised and reminded the Board of its responsibilities: “This un-thought-out zoning document has been pushed out with utter disregard for the citizens of the county. We have over 580 written comments opposed to the zoning; the vast majority wants you to withdraw the document. Whole towns and organizations are against it: Eastville, Cape Charles, Exmore, Willis Wharf, Shorekeepers, Nature Conservancy, Cape Charles Business Association, Shellfish Growers of America. We are all against it. No group should be ignored. The new zoning, if you can call it that, actually removes any zoning by allowing waste incinerators and poultry houses — you are pushing through an ordinance that allows these uses. The citizens deserve to be appalled by this.”

Dave Kabler said, “The more I study the proposal, the more horrified I get. It opens up our community to abuse and harm, and is against our visions and goals. A case in point is PUD use. PUDs can be placed anywhere, letting the foxes in the henhouse. Rather than working to preserve our rural scenic environment, PUDs are a tool to maximize land use and deal with high density populations — to promote commercial and industrial development, the types of development our residents want to avoid.”

Art Schwarzschild of Willis Wharf followed: “I don’t understand where it is coming from, and don’t know the justification for it. Either you don’t know what you’re doing or someone has sold you a bill of goods, and now you have people telling you something different and you’re not listening to them, or you do know, and you’re just doing it on purpose. Tell us why you are doing this. Why are you making changes that will allow chicken houses to come into the county, to make it possible for this to happen? These are the changes that Tyson and Perdue need. They want to put their chicken waste here. It is going to happen if you make it possible — do you really want to bring poop in from across state lines? If you think that is a good idea let’s have a discussion about it. But don’t do it behind closed doors and tell me that it’s raining roses on me.”

Jay Ford, Virginia Eastern Shorekeeper, also spoke about the dangers of CAFOs: “I want to address the notion that you are going to be bringing chicken houses here. If you make these changes you won’t have any say in the matter. These are by-right uses. To say CAFOs won’t come here is absurd. Your changes would make it more lucrative to do so and easier to locate these facilities in the county. We have studied this. I was part of the group the worked on the Maryland study — I don’t know of any one single CAFO that is out of compliance; they have to be [in compliance with DEQ regulations]. The problem is, if you have many, and even if they are all in compliance, you will still have contaminated water. Parker’s Creek is an example, the CAFO is in DEQ compliance but that creek will never be used or approved for aquaculture. Look at the shape and size of Northampton. Maryland is much bigger and they have run out of space to put chicken litter. How are we going to be able to absorb all this litter? From an economic standpoint, we are talking about only a handful of jobs, all below the poverty line. We can do better than that as a job solution for Northampton County.”

Mary Miller of Eastville added her concerns about bringing waste into the county: “Is this the dawn of a new waste importing era for Northampton County? Is this the best you can come up with, to bring in dripping truckloads of chicken manure?”

CBES president Donna Boza followed: “What data studies do you have to back up these changes? How will this improve the economic picture of the county? Do you really want to have intensive chicken and animal production here? Do you really want waste incinerators?”



8 Responses to “Supervisors Hear Continuing Opposition on Rezoning”

  1. Ken and Mary Dufty on June 15th, 2015 9:23 am

    First let us say that we are among the most ardent supporters of the Cape Charles Wave. Your reporting on the major issues of the day is unequaled on the Shore, and we are daily readers and admirers of this online publication. We respectfully would like to correct the record, however, on the recent “victory” that opponents to the proposed rezoning apparently scored Tuesday night. While Chairman Hubbard seemed to present the six month extension for this process as a win for opponents, it was nothing of the sort. Indeed, the Board HAD to extend the deadline for a final decision another six months, or otherwise they would have had to scrap the entire effort. The previous six-month reprieve of a final decision on this disastrous charade expires in weeks, and had the Board not banged the gavel on this extension, the smoke and mirrors magic show would have seen the curtain close.

    The reality is that the Board has not changed its schedule to ram their unilateral and apparently personal agenda down the taxpayers’ throat (and into our wallets). They are still planning on sending the absurd rezoning document out to public hearing (at a taxpayer cost of $12,000) on June 29, 2015, and have announced they will vote to commercialize and industrialize the lower Shore on or before October. They have not changed that schedule, and many of us who have lived, eaten, and slept on this issue feel the plan will be passed in August or September, allowing the poultry and incineration companies waiting in the wings to submit project plans to the Board before new Supervisors take office in January. Note that once these applications for permits have been submitted, they cannot be undone even by changing the zoning back to a reasonable reflection of our current Comprehensive Plan envisions.

    This Houdini-like move is a classic textbook example a campaign aimed at pulling the pins out from under citizen opposition to a proposed assault. Chairman Hubbard and his band of merry men seemed to tell us all we could take the rest of the summer off. Yes, the pressure is off — go fishing, boating, or whatever — the Board is bending to the pressure.

    As stated, that is not what is happening here, and we trust the Wave will correct this impression and keep us all firmly on the front lines. Thanks again to your superb, biting, and comprehensive reporting. This one was easy to get wrong — as that was seemingly the goal of the Board’s actions.

  2. R Meyers on June 15th, 2015 10:54 am

    THANK YOU for the correction. As written above, the extension simply keeps the horrible zoning proposal alive for another 6 months giving the Supervisors the capability to vote on it at their whim regardless of the huge number of knowledgeable citizens you have documented, that have spoken publicly against it.

    There is no doubt the Board will enable this abominable legislation, disregarding the citizen input and lacking any documentation or studies to support it. The Board, with he exception of Granville Hogg, is even ignoring the Economic Study they authorized at considerable expense, that does NOT SUPPORT what they are doing.

    I urge everyone to read the flier at the top of this page and let your Supervisor know that their vision for the County is JUST PLAIN WRONG! Supervisor Hubbard is running for reelection. He has supported this potential destruction of Northampton County from the beginning. I hope you answer him at the ballot box in November with a resounding vote for his opponent. He does not deserve the confidence of his constituents!

  3. Rebecca Doughty Geary on June 15th, 2015 10:55 am

    I have to ask the following questions:

    Why, after so many decades of keeping out factory farming of chickens, would a pristine county like Northampton even begin to consider letting this “farming” method in?

    Why when Maryland is doing everything it can to roll back its laws that let commercial chicken farms operate freely, would Northampton County take a step towards allowing this to happen here?

    Why when Accomack County is reconsidering its own setbacks for commercial chicken farms, would we open ours up?

    Why when our motto is “You’ll Love Our Nature” would we allow something as unnatural as factory farming?

    Why, when we have falling property values, would we let in an industry that will cause them to fall further?

    Why would a county that allows the Nature Conservancy to own 29% of its property then open doors to an industry so contrary to the mission to conserve land and water?

    Why would we allow an industry in that exploits farm owners and exploits natural resources, all for their own huge profits?

    Why when we don’t have VDOT resources to care for our roads now, would we allow large numbers of 18 wheelers on our small farm roads to service these factory farms? Who will pay for this maintenance?

    And I could go on and on, but I think this brings up enough issues. It doesn’t make sense. Everyone who lives in Northampton County needs to consider what it will look like to see these chicken houses begin to show up on our horizons. Everyone needs to consider what having one of these farms next to them will mean for their personal future. Everyone needs to ask, why isn’t this going to vote? Why is it being forced through by the BOS?

    The Board has been clear; nothing will stop them from passing the rezoning. It’s happening. I just wish I knew why. It’s like they’ve forgotten the reasons the restrictions were put in place to begin with. Some Board before them saved all of us from having to deal with commercial chicken houses. And I thank those folks for putting in place the current zoning setbacks.

    I’m deeply disturbed by the current Board’s decision to remove the only protection we have.

  4. Mary Miller on June 15th, 2015 2:15 pm

    The Supervisors were running out of time to push through their rezoning. They voted to give themselves more time. They did NOT vote to delay adopting the rezoning. They will schedule a Public Hearing as soon as they can. They will wait for the Planning Commission to make a recommendation. That could happen in 1 hour or 100 days. Then the Board is free to vote on the rezoning. The whole thing could be wrapped up by the end of the summer. The Board meets again on June 29 — rezoning is on the Agenda. There will be no public comment.

  5. Tony Sacco on June 15th, 2015 2:43 pm

    First, the current BOS have no spine. If we don’t take advantage of our railroad, CC deep water port, Highway 13 and our airport we will suffer like most cities that become a ghost town. All real estate agents don’t want change — it hurts their pocketbook with yesterday’s mind-thinking to protect their wealthy holdings. In the recent Northampton County High School Graduation, I took a poll. I asked, “After college graduation will you return to Northampton County?” They answered 100% NO, there’s nothing here to find a job that will pay off my student loan, no housing to raise a family, low calibre of school learning for my children to complete their college of their choice. Our waters have no more fish, uncontrolled pollution. Yes, we will be a ghost town in due time.

  6. David Gay on June 16th, 2015 9:26 am

    Tony your so called poll is a farce! Ask any high school graduating class if they plan to stay home with Mommy and Daddy after graduation and most will say NO. They want to get out and explore the world as they should. I would be more interested in polling the come-heres and ask why they chose the beautiful county for their summer and retirement homes. I bet many will not tell you it is because they want to be close to the chicken slaughter houses, CAFO breeding grounds and waste incinerators that the BOS is planning for us. How many of those high school grads are dreaming about working in the bio-diesel plant that could potentially spill diesel into our only aquifer? This HUBBARD HOAX on the citizens of Northampton county to sneak in a favorable vote for the rezoning is despicable. He, Nunez, and McSwain need to go. Elections can’t come soon enough! Recall may need to be on the table.

  7. Wendy Martin on June 16th, 2015 11:44 am

    On the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta yesterday, it was most inspiring to observe our Northampton citizens continuing to defend the amazing blazing trail of rights protected in that epochal document which has arrived in Canada to visit four cities.

  8. Tony Sacco on June 16th, 2015 6:12 pm

    My answer to David: On graduation day I played in the band and had first-hand access to the students. After that I was invited to a graduation party with a number of Grads there. So Dave, I’d be careful calling [what I wrote] a farce. You have just called those students liars. You sir owe those students an apology.