#16 Story
TOWN COUNCIL: ‘Don’t Answer That Question’

Penny postcard of historic old school -- where is the front of the building?

Penny postcard of historic old school — where is the front of the building?

Cape Charles Wave

October 21, 2013

Cape Charles Town Planner Rob Testerman found himself in a difficult position at last Thursday’s Town Council meeting. Councilman Frank Wendell asked him if he could identify the front of the school in Central Park and if parking is allowed in the front of residential properties in the Historic District.

The issue was an appeal by the Old School Cape Charles civic group of a Certificate of Appropriateness granted to a developer by the Town Planner.  Testerman and Town Manager Heather Arcos had decided to reject the appeal without a hearing by Town Council.

WENDELL: Doesn’t our historic ordinance say you can’t put a parking lot in front of an historic building?

TESTERMAN: I don’t believe there’s anything about that.

WENDELL: Do you agree that they can put a parking lot in the front of the building? Does anybody dispute that the front of the building faces south? Let’s start with Rob: Does the front of the building face south?

MAYOR DORA SULLIVAN: Overruled. There is no discussion . . . it’s not an action item.


Wendell then made a motion to override the staff decision and allow Old School Cape Charles to carry forward its appeal to Town Council. No one immediately seconded the motion, so the mayor asked Councilman Tom Godwin if he would second it. Godwin refused, followed by Council members Mike Sullivan and Joan Natali. Councilmen Chris Bannon and Steve Bennett did not attend the meeting. Because the motion was not seconded, Council did not vote on it.

Wendell then asked Mayor Sullivan if she could identify the front of the building. Councilwoman Natali told her, “Don’t answer that.”

Wendell wanted to know if the developer had to come back for further Certificates of Appropriateness as work progressed. “For example, would they have to request a Certificate of Appropriateness for the parking lot?” he asked.

Arcos said that those matters would be taken up as permit requests. When Wendell asked Testerman about parking, he replied that the parking lot was a landscaping issue and not the purview of the Historic District Review Board.

The Town’s Historic District Guidelines state (p. 25) “Place residential parking areas such as driveways at the side and rear. Do not provide parking in front of the house.”

The historic address and front of the school is 23 Park Row, which is where the front door is located, but according to former Town Planner Tom Bonadeo, the building’s address is now 423 Plum Street. The Wave asked Northampton County staff when the address change occurred, but they could find no records. According to County staff, any address change in the Town should be documented by the Town. But according to Bonadeo and Testerman there are no such records.

Old School Cape Charles president Wayne Creed told the Wave that the group plans to raise the issue of the appeal and the front of the school building with both the Department of Historic Resources and the Virginia Municipal League.

Click here to read Creed’s statement to Council.

Click here to read Deborah Bender’s statement.

Click here to read Veann Duvall’s statement.



33 Responses to “#16 Story
TOWN COUNCIL: ‘Don’t Answer That Question’”

  1. Charlene Brady on October 21st, 2013 8:34 am

    We should be proud of having such a beautiful school within our town. What a wonderful place to have gone to school and lots of memories there too. This is a wonderful picture depicting how our school once looked.

    Cape Charles High School Indian and proud of it always!

  2. Karen Gay on October 21st, 2013 9:26 am

    I just don’t understand why the Mayor and Town Council don’t have a Council meeting to discuss the Old School issue. Sure, they might take a bunch of heat, but they might also clear the air. Why shouldn’t the mayor answer a simple question about where the front of the school is? The Mayor and Town Council act as if they have something to hide.

  3. Antonio Sacco on October 21st, 2013 10:28 am

    If the Coliseum in Rome can stand over 2,000 years as a beautiful building, so can the school in Cape Charles remain as a beautiful building for the future.

  4. Deborah Bender on October 21st, 2013 4:44 pm

    I thought the mayor, town planner, and town manager were going to faint when Councilman Wendell asked the big question — WHERE IS THE FRONT OF THE SCHOOL? The Town’s attorney jumped up and whispered in Mayor Sullivan’s ear; Joan Natali yelled “don’t answer that”; and the rest of the Town Council looked like a big bear had walked into the room. Not one person would answer the question. My question is, why no answer? I think I know the answer, but let’s have a little poll: Where oh where is the front of the school? Come on folks, type in your answers. This should be fun :-)

  5. Dana Lascu on October 21st, 2013 4:53 pm

    What an elegant, imposing building! I agree with Ms. Brady.

  6. Lisa Harman on October 21st, 2013 4:58 pm

    I think I can help the staff and Council out with the location of the front door of Cape Charles High School. I attended this school for 12 years, and the front door most definitely faces the south on 23 Park Row. How about the rest of you Cape Charles High School alumni? Can you help this group out?

  7. John Hickman on October 21st, 2013 8:38 pm

    The front of the school is 23 Park Row. The big ole front door faces south! Always has. It’s where I entered during my school years. It’s where my father entered. It’s where everybody entered. Even Heather Arcos, just ask her.

  8. Betty Johnson on October 21st, 2013 10:42 pm

    I also spent 12 school years in this beautiful building and even though I haven’t lived in Cape Charles for the last 55 years, I still see her (CCHS) facing south. How can those who live there not know?

  9. Wayne Creed on October 22nd, 2013 12:36 pm

    This is a very complicated case. You know, a lotta ins, a lotta outs, a lotta what-have-yous.” — The Dude, from “The Big Lebowski”

    In Virginia, the State generally leaves name and address changes up to the County or municipality. In most cases, however, there is a formal process, which is usually instituted by the building owner. A case may be where the 7-11 company may renovate a building on 1st Avenue, and may want to change the name to the 7-11 building, and also change the address to 711 1st Avenue. Here, the 7-11 Corporation would just put in a formal request to the municipality and it would approve or disapprove the request.

    My question is, does the Town have such a process in place, and did it use it to change the address of the old school? A bigger question, I would also like to change my address from 548 Monroe Ave to 10-80.0000001*3 Monroe Ave, and would really like to know how to do it. Any advice from Mr. Testerman would be greatly appreciated. Of course, we understand that “At any street corner the feeling of absurdity can strike any man in the face.” –Albert Camus

    Signed, Waiting with Baited Breath in Cape Charles

  10. John McMillan on October 22nd, 2013 2:06 pm

    Cape Charles High School is a part of the history of the Town. It can be called what you want, but it will be there, for everyone who walked through the front doors. I went to school in a building here in North Carolina that my father went to. Now history takes over: my grandchild went to the same building and walked the same halls, and a great-grandchild is in the same building today.

    May all involved come to a just settlement for all.

  11. Jan Neville on October 22nd, 2013 2:39 pm

    The CCHS front entrance is located on the south side of the building and has been for as long as I can remember. I’m wondering where respect for local history (and groups seeking to preserve such) is located within our Town government.

  12. Ginger Gibson on October 22nd, 2013 3:09 pm

    Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”

    I went to Cape Charles Combined School for all 12 years of my elementary and secondary education, Class of 1972. Just like everyone else who attended the school or visited it, I came in and went out the same front door facing south, which is 23 Park Row. Every member of Cape Charles Town Council, as well as the Town Planner and Town Manager, KNOW that the front door faces south on Park Row — it is a fact. Perhaps that is an inconvenient truth, but a fact nevertheless.

    I am a concerned property owner in the Town of Cape Charles.

  13. Bill Neville on October 22nd, 2013 3:48 pm

    It is obvious to me as it should be to anyone, whether they attended school there (as I did) or not, that the front of the building is on the south side where the door is.

  14. Dana Lascu on October 22nd, 2013 5:19 pm

    When you are only dealing with back doors, correctly identifying the front door may be a challenge.

  15. Jack Willis on October 22nd, 2013 5:43 pm

    When it comes to government I like to paraphrase Henry David Thoreau: “Any fool can make a rule, any fool will mind it.”

    The front door to Cape Charles High School faces south — any fool can find it!

    Jack Willis, Class of 1976

  16. Mary Finney on October 23rd, 2013 8:08 am

    You know something is rotten in Denmark when elected officials can’t or won’t answer a simple question, to which the truthful answer is obvious. I couldn’t help chuckling while reading all 15 comments (a couple of them made me wish there was a “like” option attached!). Fifteen! The sheer number itself speaks to the outrageousness of the behavior of these town officials.

    All humor aside, however, I can’t imagine any behavior by (supposed) public representatives more offensive and disrespectful to the citizens than the interchange between the Town attorney, Mayor Sullivan, and Ms. Natali, which resulted in their blatant refusal to answer a legitimate question. Once again, I really hope Cape Charles residents hold these administrators’ feet to the fire and demand open and truthful disclosure of their crony-istic dealings. When is the next election?

  17. Mike Thornes on October 23rd, 2013 8:13 am

    Nice post card but it’s not accurate. There was an oval shaped area in front of the school with concrete posts and chains where the flagpole was located, not on the roof. Yes, the front of the building faces south. If you are going to keep this building then you need to do something to it before it falls down. I worked for the Town of Cape Charles for nine years and it was never a priority. There were several studies done of the building by several engineering companys that made reccomendations but it was always too expensive. Well guess what, it’s going to be more expensive today. So my question is where is the money going to come from? I do have some good memories of the old school but it was for the people in it, not the building. It’s a money pit. Mike Thornes, class of 1968

  18. Charlene Brady on October 23rd, 2013 10:21 am

    Our beautiful school has always been on PARK ROW and faces SOUTH! My sisters and I all graduated from this wonderful school and my oldest niece was in the last class to graduate from there in 1987. Like the bank building that is now our Library, this historic school building needs to remain our building, meaning the citizens of Cape Charles. I wish someone had the means to make this financially possible and put an end to all of the bad feelings. You know every time I pass the old “Meyer” property it just saddens and infuriates me. We already gave up one piece of prime real estate right at the mouth of our Harbor area and look what we could be doing with it now. We, meaning the Town of Cape Charles as a whole, really do need to come together and work this out. I hope I haven’t hurt anyone’s feelings with what I have said. I am a born and bred Cape Charles person with a mother who is still living in our family home. This is dear to all of our hearts.

  19. Wayne Creed on October 23rd, 2013 10:25 am

    Mr. Thomas makes a very good point. The flag pole and circle most certainly were there, yet have since been removed. The question is when, and could this be considered destruction of historic property? (Historic Guidelines seem to indicate this.) Did the Mayor and previous Town Council give the order to remove the circle, or did Town staff just take this upon themselves, and is this a violation of law? As far as being a money pit (actually, what isn’t nowadays?) and it falling down, the engineering studies he references have recently been exposed as fundamentally flawed, uneven, and discredited. Recent inspections by the developer’s engineers found the grand old dame in “fantastic shape,” with little asbestos to be found.

    It should be noted that, even after the old school was retired as a public high school, it was still a productive member of the community. The Police used it as their headquarters, and for several years it served as the home for the Boys and Girls Club. A new roof was also installed during this time. It was much later that the Great Asbestos Lie was fabricated, and used to close its doors.

  20. Frankie Russell on October 23rd, 2013 11:21 am

    My father, my sisters, and I all graduated from Cape Charles High School. My mother was a teacher there. We all knew the front door faced south.

  21. Mike Kuzma, Jr. on October 23rd, 2013 1:34 pm

    Am a “come here” and never attended OSCC. Never lived year round in Cape Charles. But even this Jersey boy can tell ya’ the front door faces south.

    After checking the US Flag Code, while it does not specify that the flag be flown in the front of a building, the use of the phrase throughout of “front of the building” when discussing such matters as half masting, flag precedence etc., leads me to believe that it is now and always has been SOP to place the flag in the front of a building. Seeing as OSCC was erected when loving America was the norm, not the outlier as it is in today’s liberal world, I’d say the front of the building is where Wayne indicated that the flag enclosure was. You know, facing south.

  22. John McMillan on October 23rd, 2013 2:43 pm

    Look at old school annuals and look where the front of the building is in the pictures. Our class of ’62 threw our books up on the front steps.

  23. Aaron Kauffman on October 23rd, 2013 5:01 pm

    As a recent visitor to your wonderful town, I was immediately captivated by the old high school building when I took my kids to play at the playground beside it. I had a feeling there was a story behind it and when I returned home from vacation and did some research I stumbled upon this debate over its future. Keep digging folks, you will eventually get to the truth!

    I found some great pictures of the old high school compliments of Echelon that show the placement of the circle and flag pole mentioned above:


    Check this out too, for everyone that loves the building so much, you can reserve your own spot to live in the school RIGHT NOW: http://capecharleslofts.com/contact.html

    And clearly, the address is 423 Plum Street, because Echelon says so:


  24. Kathy Latimer Cornell on October 23rd, 2013 5:51 pm

    I, too, as well as my brother, WK, and my sister, Nancy, and my Mother, Bootie, all attended Cape Charles High School from grades one through twelve — except my mother, I think she attended thru eleven; at that time you graduated. We all have many years of great memories there. The front door has always been on the south side of the building facing 23 Park Row. I agree with all above. A big shout out to Jack Willis & Charlene Brady too!

  25. Don Bender on October 23rd, 2013 6:17 pm

    I wonder if Mayor Sullivan knows what direction her house faces? Of course the front of the building faces south. What we have on our hands is 2 town managers, 2 clerks, way too many people working in the office, too much equipment, and too many people on the road crew. If the town had used the money they spent on lawyers, the money they used to buy the bank building, the money they are still spending on lawyers, etc., there could have been a lot of work done to the school. The fact is this town is spending money as though they were making the money at the town office. They have money for whatever they WANT, but no money for a community center. Anyone who was at the last meeting should be appalled at the way no one would answer a simple question.

  26. Linda Etz Wheatley on October 23rd, 2013 8:13 pm

    Cape Charles being a small town did without many things, but the one thing we have always been proud of was being a part of that school. It heightens my pride to read the comments for the school — and by the way, Mayor, the door does face south.

  27. Aaron Kauffman on October 24th, 2013 8:49 am

    Here is Echelon’s answer to the question of the day:

    “The building rests at the edge of a large public park; it is atypically-situated with its rear (north) and east side abutting the intersection, leaving its facade (south) and west side facing the park.”

    Dictionary.com defines facade as: the front of a building, especially an imposing or decorative one.

    From: http://echelonresourcesinc.com/capecharleslofts/

  28. Bruce W. Jones on October 24th, 2013 9:07 am

    Something is really wrong in Cape Charles when the people elected won’t answer a simple question, and [their attorney] tells them not to. Perhaps it is time an outside investigation begin, to determine exactly what is going on in your beautiful town. I don’t live there, but it is sad to read the goings on with your council and how terrible they are treating those who do.

  29. Jerry Joyce on October 24th, 2013 10:18 am

    I think, if someone looks at the original town layout it showed Park Row going all the way through to Plum Street. The building is on Park Row.

  30. Wayne Creed on October 24th, 2013 10:59 am

    Thank you Mr. Kaufman for the link to Echelon’s great photographs of the old school. It was very considerate of Echelon to provide additional evidence to support the inappropriate nature of the Conditional Use Permit and Certificate of Appropriateness issued by the [past and present] Town Planners. Thanks to Jersey Mike Kuzma for also reminding us of the United States Flag code — and of course the flagpoles are always in front. (I was one of the geeks in elementary school that had the honor of unfolding and raising the flag in the morning, and lowering and re-folding it in the evening.)

    In their haste to put the deed for the school in a carpet bag and softly hand it over to a bunch of counterfeit circuit riders from Richmond, the Mayor and members of the previous Town Council’s disregard for the wishes, feelings, and well-being of the ordinary people may ultimately be their undoing.

  31. Mary Harlow on October 24th, 2013 8:05 pm

    The front door of CCHS faces south. I can’t imagine anyone believing otherwise. Just because you want it so doesn’t make it so. Of course one could always lift it up and turn it around to front on Madison? Makes as much sense as denying it fronts south.

  32. Don & Deborah Bender on April 11th, 2014 8:37 am

    After reading many articles in the Wave this one stands out the most! Joan Natalie & Chris Bannon are running again for their seats on Town Council. Voters will have the opportunity to make the decision whether to keep these two on Council or send them home.

  33. Deborah Bender on May 2nd, 2014 9:30 am

    Even if I were not running for Town Council, I STILL wouldn’t vote for anyone that is involved in a cover-up. Our current town council, with the exception of Frank Wendell, all need to go.

    One more time for the record: WHAT DIRECTION DO THE FRONT DOORS FACE?