This week, the Mirror sat down on warm summer evening to chat with Mayor Proto about things Cape Charles. Most of the questions we posed to the Mayor came about from conversations we have had with concerned citizens; some we posed ourselves.
Mirror: The Bay Creek Sale of $31k of land– who sold it? What is going on with that? Has the town received taxes on that?
Proto: Right now, we have received your questions, and Deborah is working on it.
Mirror: Well somebody made $31k on it, and according to state code that is taxable….transferring it to a non-taxpaying entity such as the Bay Creek HOA to avoid paying taxes is not going to cut it, so I hope we find out.
Mirror: Have you read the Annexation Agreement? This question relates to the previous question.
Proto: I don’t understand the question…
Mirror: The Annexation Agreement, Law 27 handed down by the Annexation Court, a three judge panel, clearly states that the developer is responsible for all improvements to the roadway.
Proto: Which road are we talking about, just to be clear?
Mirror: Route 642.
Proto: Oh. But that road is for improved access to the Harbor.
Mirror: Yes, but does that matter? The “improvements (emphasis implied)”, include widening the road…the project is even named 642 Improvement Project.
Proto: Yes. But I still don’t understand. Now, if I were a Bay Creek resident, I wouldn’t want to have to pay, or the Homeowners to pay for this…and if I lived there, I think I might rather have an older, more rural road rather than a shiny new roadway…
Mirror: The developer, not the homeowner…this is about Annexations, and in Virginia they are taken seriously. This was an odd one, where a town is asking to annex land solely so that a developer can build on it. The state is always worried about who is going to bear the cost, and they were clear that the town(taxpayers), since at the time it was smaller and poorer, should not pay for the wastewater plant, or improvements to Route 642….
Proto: The Town is not paying for it…VDOT is…
Mirror: The taxpayers, somebody in the town like me, who still pays state, federal and local taxes, is paying for it. Also, with all this transferring of assets going on, like a bad episode of Lets Make a Deal, whether someone like the HOA or Kevcor, through the transfer of assets and sale has now assumed responsibility for the Annexation agreement…well, that could be funny. The State Police or the Attorney General really needs to pull back the curtain and take a look.
Proto: This is the first I’ve heard of this.
Mirror: We published several, lengthy articles on just this last fall and winter. Why hasn’t Council gotten an opinion from the Attorney General on this?..
Proto: I don’t quite understand why that would be necessary? I have to…
Mirror: An opinion would probably clear this up; if the agreement is no longer binding, or they’re not going to enforce it, just get rid of it.
Mirror: What’s going on at the harbor? Do you have numbers? At the last Council meeting, there was no report, and it appeared as if no one has any idea about the financial status of it? Obviously, it’s still bleeding money.
Proto: Deborah (Pocock, Treasurer) is looking into it…there was a lightning strike or something, and they apparently lost some of the data…
Mirror: Lost the data? They are saying that the harbor numbers are up from last year, but how would you know? I can tell you, aside from a few weekends with regatta’s (CC Cup) or events, it seems like a ghost town. What is going on down there?
Proto: We should be getting that report soon. Believe me, Council has asked for it, we all want to see it.
Mirror: Fines for tree violations? What’s going on with that? We’ve confirmed that two trees have been cut down without notifying the Town or VDOT. Have there been any fines issued?
Proto: No. Only VDOT can issue fines.
Mirror: But, doesn’t the town have a tree ordinance?
Proto: I’m not 100% sure about that…
Mirror: Yes, we have a Master Plan for dealing with trees and streetscapes, and a tree ordinance which I believe can be used to levy fines up to $2500. Larry (Planner) put something in the Gazzette about tree cutting…
Mirror: This needs to stop, I mean, what if I went down to Mason Ave, and there’s a tree down there with branches that hit me in the face when I ride my bike past it, so one day I just chop it down…
Proto: No, you can’t do that.
Mirror: I’m not suppose to but who says I can’t? How can you fine me when you let these other guys slide on?
Mirror: Why do we have so many police? Are they profiling town residents?
Proto: No, I mean, not that I’m aware of.
Mirror: I have heard from sources that that the state and county has asked them to ‘keep an eye on folks’. For a town this size, why do we have so many, how many is it now, six?
Proto: It will be six, five policeman and the chief, once we fully hire the new person. But as to the question of why we have the size force we do…have I told you what I did for a living?
Mirror: Every time I interview you, you tell me. IBM, right?
Proto: Yes, I was an engineer. Now Wayne, do you know the best way to get notoriety within a big company? Fix a big problem, or clean up a big mess. You don’t get any press if things are going well, it’s only when they go wrong that people notice. We have so many more people coming here, and we sometimes have to respond to events…
Mirror: You mean like fights?
Proto: Yes, like fights…and there are gangs in the County, and there was a few weeks back supposed to be a gang fight in the park. It didn’t happen, and I think a big reason is because of the police force we have. We don’t have the force right now to provide 24/7 coverage, to provide the town…with so much more going on in Cape Charles…
Mirror: To keep it safe…
Mirror: Influence of the business community? How often do you to take calls from them? Sources tell us they fully have the ear of the Town.
Proto: Almost never. And they have only as much influence as anyone else in town, as anybody does. If anyone has a concern, we look at it. Only once recently,the business community had, and it was concern about Air BnB, which we have concerns about also, and we have made our views known, to Lynwood Lewis, and Ralph Northam. Air BnB, it creates….what we want is a level playing field.
Mirror: Why did you turn down all the sand on the beach?
Proto: We are getting 30,000 yards.
Mirror: Yes, but we could be getting 100,000 cubic yards. At the north end of the beach, this tends to take the brunt of the abuse. The water already bangs up against the boardwalk.
Proto: Yes, it does. But look, when we put sand at the south end, that was about….
Mirror: Close to 100,000….
Proto: And it covered a larger portion of the beach. The north end is smaller, so imagine how big it would be with the full 100,000.
Mirror: I think it would look great. Again, the beach is to the wall; that part of the beach always gets hit hardest.
Proto: The thing is, all the sand we dredge is ours…the sand there now should last two or so more years…
Mirror: Unless a nor’easter takes it out…
Proto: Yes. But it’s our sand…of course we’ll have to pay to move it….
Mirror: And I will be here to remind you of that.
Mirror: We’re still in the first fiscal quarter, looking ahead, what are your goals for the coming year.
Proto: There are two things I would like to see. First, I’d like to see more economic growth in the areas we have now, mainly growth around our tourism industry. The problem there is that this is seasonal, so I would like to see us grow more year round jobs.
Mirror: We are seasonal, but it has been busy downtown.
Proto: Yes, the business owners have been incredibly busy…their heads are spinning just trying to keep up, they probably need a break. But back to the year round business, one thing I think that this town could really do is have more telecommuters. The last few years when I worked, I could have done most of it from here. We have an airport right across, where if needed, I could go…
Mirror: Sure, you can really go anywhere. But, the fly in the ointment is the infrastructure, mainly broadband. We’re close, it’s right there, but they just can’t seem to make the last mile.
Proto: The last mile is the hardest. It’s going to be hard to convince the private sector to invest; there’s just not a big enough population. But it’s a big problem, not just here but everywhere.
Mirror: Yes. But I read this thing the other day, and …you know how Hillary Clinton is trying win over folks in Appalachia? You know, the coal communities that are being crushed as the coal industry winds down…her camp has put together a sort of roadmap to revitalize those areas, and at the core of it is bringing broadband to those rural areas. I was thinking, yes it is going to take some government intervention to make this happen…even Trump has lumped broadband into his plan to revamp the US infrastructure, but I was thinking, why not here? Who needs it more than us?
Mirror: So, what was your favorite thing you did this summer?
Proto: Do you mean here, as mayor?
Mirror: Whatever, mayor or anything.
Proto: I think the best part was being able to spend time with the grand kids. They were just here for a couple of weeks, and it was great. What about you, what is your impression of the town?
Mirror: I’m probably the wrong person to ask, my wife would probably give a better answer…I love this town, just about everything about it. But I worry that we are spending too much, government is bloated, we have a debt problem that we just periodically rearrange like deck chairs on the Titanic, that could hurt us in the future…in the summer, the downtown is overly crowded and I feel it’s dangerous for bikers like me. There are many things I do love, the Palace and my theater kids, coaching soccer, but the town, in this attempt to reinvent itself, has left a lot of people out, has even forced them out….but, I know you, you’re bullish on Cape Charles.
Proto: Yes I am.
Mirror: Mayor, thanks for taking the time to do this, it means a lot to the citizens of Cape Charles. I need to do this more often. I just want to say that you are doing a great job so far, and I think you run the Town Council meetings really well.
Proto: Thanks, I appreciate you saying that.
Mirror: Have a great rest of the summer!
Proto: You too Wayne.