An event as rare as a Sasquatch siting on Cobb Island took place this Tuesday at the Cape Charles Civic Center—the Northampton Board of Supervisors traveled to meet face to face with the Cape Charles Town Council. While Education and Medical care was on the agenda, the protecting the Town’s economic interests dominated the discussion.
The town edge district, especially the intersection of Route 13 and 184 was, and still is a bone of contention. “We want that entrance…to be an inviting entrance to town…to invite people to come in and spend money,” Mayor Proto said. Chris Bannon chastised the Board, warning that he would like to see any new development have the look and feel of the historic district, that the architecture of any new commercial development should be sympathetic to Cape Charles’ architecture.
“We don’t want it to look like Chincoteague,” Andy Buchholz said.
“We’d like 184 to look like our commercial district,” Proto said. “We want to meet the joint needs of the county and the town, but we’re not Exmore.”
“We are sensitive to the entrance at 184, but we can’t control what goes out there(zoning)…if someone wants to build an Olive Garden, that will happen…I want the town and business to prosper, I love the Shanty and Kelly’s and all of Cape Charles…I guess the approach we’d like to have is, in terms of zoning, something more simple, cleaner and with less onerous regulations,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Spencer Murray said.
“That area is one of the County’s premiere commercial locations,” said Supervisor Larry LeMond. “It is county land; I don’t want to put any restrictions on it. I am also sensitive to tourism in Cape Charles and making the entrance attractive…but, Cape Charles has been discovered.”
“I try to promote the town, tourism, to bring direct commerce into town,” said Supervisor Granville Hogg. “I want to find ways to divert traffic off 13 and bring it into town…Cape Charles brings in a significant amount of money into the county.”
Murray read a letter the Town sent in 2014 in regards to its wishes for the town edge district. He recommended that the Cape Charles Planning Commission revisit that request and come up with a more current set of wishes, which could then be presented to the County Planning Commission. Together, the County and Town could possibly come up with a scenario that integrates the needs of both, “None of us can prosper without each other. If we can work together, to strengthen the bond…if we compete, we both lose.”
Councilwoman Joan Natali complained that they were the only town on the Shore that gives money to the Eastern Shore Tourism Commission, yet they don’t appear to be getting much in return. Supervisor LeMond attempted to educate Council, stating that Onancock also gives money, and the Tourism Commission is wholly committed to helping not just Cape Charles, but the entire region. “They are bringing writers from New York and Washington, all over that write articles highlighting Cape Charles and the Eastern Shore…they are promoting heavily the Oyster Trail and the Artisan Trail, both of which will benefit the Town.”
When the discussion turned to medical care, Chris Bannon began by stating that he was old, and that he worried what would happen when the hospital moved. Chairman Murray responded that the medical situation in the county has been his top priority since 2009, “The hospital is moving in February of 2017, not this January, but despite some of the dire things we have been hearing, I am optimistic about what we are seeing…” Murray noted that the county has been in detailed talks with Rural Health and Riverside, and that each is committed to supporting Northampton’s medical needs. He pointed to Rural Health’s integrated and upgraded facility being built in Eastville (which will combine the Franktown and Bayview facilities), as well as Riverside’s commitment to keep and build facilities in Nassawaddox.
He also stated that the county has hired four trained paramedics, and currently budgets $1.6 million for Emergency Medical Services (including the purchase of a new ambulance). The County is also committed to staffing the EMS facility in Nassawaddox during the day (staff currently responds to 80% of all calls placed in the county). “I can tell you,” Murray said. “If you call, an ambulance will be there to get you.”
Supervisor Robert Duer stated concerns that given the choice, folks on the southern end of the county would cross the bridge to Sentara, rather than traveling up the road to Riverside’s Onley facility, “I worry that we won’t be supporting Riverside…that would be a mistake…we need to be sure that, with the new facility, we are supporting their efforts now (which well be beneficial for us in the future).”
Murray told council that he felt telemedicine would play a big part in County’s medical infrastructure. This segued into another big issue facing the County—the ability to access high speed internet (which is a fundamental requirement for both telemedicine and paramedicine).
Mayor Proto complained that the Federal government needed to do more to help rural places like Northampton. Supervisor Duer countered that Washington is actually doing quite a bit, and without Federal subsidies, a good bit of our current medical infrastructure would more than likely collapse.
The Northampton School system was discussed. In the last Town Council Regular meeting, both Buchholz and Proto endorsed the notion that the schools were in dire straits, and that it was somehow the school system’s fault that economic development has been stymied in the county. “The state of the schools is a big concern to us,” Proto said.
While Murray acknowledged that there were challenges (even Fairfax County has issues), he also said that there has been some drama generated around the state of the schools. “The High School building has some issues, but it isn’t going to fall down,” Murray said. A big issue for Murray is how the state’s Local Composite Index determines a school division’s ability to pay education costs fundamental to the commonwealth’s Standards of Quality (SOQ). The Composite Index is calculated using three indicators of a locality’s ability-to-pay: the true value of real property (weighted 50 percent), adjusted gross income (weighted 40 percent), and taxable retail sales (weighted 10 percent). Each locality’s index is adjusted to maintain an overall statewide local share of 45 percent and an overall state share of 55 percent. As Murray noted, in Northampton, our land value tends to skew the number, leaving us with less and less funding from the state.
Supervisor LeMond noted that Buchholz’s and Proto’s handwringing may not be fully justified, and that sometimes the perception does not accurately reflect the reality–the data shows that every school in Northampton is improving, while student population is increasing.
Consensus of the Board was for Town Council to task the Cape Charles Planning Commission with re-working the town’s desires for what it would like to see happen in regards to the town edge, as well as commercial development along Rt. 13. This data would be sent to the County Planning Commission for review, and possible inclusion in the revised zoning ordinance. While both parties agreed that more discussion would be beneficial, no future dates were discussed.