When the Northampton Board of Supervisors met last Tuesday, the possibility that the District 4 polling place may be moved from the Machipongo Middle School to the A.M.E. Church in Eastville, a 9 mile round trip from the current polling location, set off a flurry of angst and speculation. Ken Dufty of Exmore contacted Virginia Department of Elections Commissioner Cortes with this letter:
[Excerpt] Re: Arbitrary Attempt by Electoral Board of the County of Northampton to Switch District 4 Polling Place for November 2015 Election when no “rare and unforeseen combination of Circumstances” exist pursuant to Code 242.2-310.
Dear Commissioner Cortes,I am writing as a resident of District 4 in Northampton County, … we are asking you to investigate and hopefully intervene in an attempt by the County of Northampton, Virginia Electoral Board to interfere with the normal and predictable conduct of the upcoming November, 2015 general election.
Spencer Murray also voiced concerns, “There are no reasons for this. November 3rd is only 115 days away (after the move). No reasons were given—I insist you conduct an investigation into why this happened. No emergency reasons were given. I do not want to accuse any group of voter suppression, but I do question the last minute change. Is this how we want our beloved county to be governed? Is this the best we can do?”
Although the angst was real, the situation turned out to be a failure to communicate.
Terry Flynn, registrar for the County, provided a through and professional background, timeline and reasoning on the proposed move to A.M.E. church. “This is not an emergency move, or a last minute gesture,” Flynn said. According to Flynn, on December 14th, 2014, the Electoral Board met with County Administrator Nunez, and when asked about the status of the middle school, Nunez advised the board to look for another polling place. The board also began budgeting mailing expense so as to be ready to alert the public once the move was ready to take place.
“But what is wrong with the Gym now?” asked Supervisor Lemond.
“Due to the uncertainty surrounding the building,” replied Flynn. “We felt like it was a proactive move—a way to take uncertainty and create a more certain event.”
“I get where you’re coming from,” said Lemond. “But why all the expense if the gym is suitable now. It’s not going anywhere.”
“The information we had at the time, even from department heads, said that if you did not have to be in the middle school, don’t be in the middle school,” Flynn said.
Katie Nunez addressed the board, “Let me explain some of the operating issues we have with that building, things I communicated and led to their (Electoral Board) request to you. They were never meant to be in the gym, but in the former Home Economics room, which was more suitably sized, was right off the front door, with handicapped parking, bathrooms close by and a kitchen facility for pollsters who are there all day (up to 14 hours or more).” Nunez went on to say that there was a mold issue with building at that time, and the gym had the least amount of mold, which led to the decision to move the polls there. Also, phone service, which can be critical for poll runners, was unreliable. The kitchen conditions were also limited.
“We told Mr. Flynn that there was no commitment from the Board to renovate. If there is any blame to be had it is with me for communicating wrongly,” Nunez said.
Consensus was reached to leave the polling place at the Machipongo School.
CITIZEN COMMENT PERIOD
Roberta Kellam read portions of Mike Chandler’s letter to the BOS which addressed the illegalities and insufficiency of the Planned Unit Development proposal in the new zoning ordinance which is under consideration. Chandler is the Director of Education, LUEP, Virginia Tech, an expert on Planning issues in the Commonwealth and is inarguably the premier expert on planning and zoning matters
“I have raised the issue of the insufficiency of the PUD with Bruce Jones, and have submitted many comments. Mike Chandler says ‘it fails to meet the substantive due process articulated in the commonwealth’. When somebody is trying to help you, you just shut me down. But now you have it writing from a respected expert. Do with it what you want.”
Janet Sturgis addressed the issue of the ships that could be possibly anchoring off the shores of Cape Charles, “The citizens of Northampton Co. may not be aware, that the freighters at the anchorage off Cape Charles, may legally discharge sewage that has been “treated” by on-board sewage remediation systems. This may be, nothing more than removing some solids and chlorinating effluent before discharge overboard. There are parameters for fecal coliform, used as an indicator, but nutrient content is not addressed.There are no regulations covering the discharge of grey water from these vessels. Federal law covering these practices:
40 cfr part140. The Coast Guard is responsible for enforcement.
The only way to save our beaches and shellfish industry, from this looming threat, is to petition the EPA to designate these and the waters adjacent , as an official “no discharge zone”. This will require some effort, as there are only three in the sate of Virginia; Smith Mountain Lake, Middlesex, and Lynnhaven systems. We must prove the need( I suspect VIMS and VDH would provide some necessary expertise, stats and measurements) and show that there are sufficient facilities to handle the waste. The proposed marine pump and haul barge would accommodate that need, one would think.
I therefore call on the Northampton Co. Board of Supervisors to sanction and support a citizens’ petition to the EPA, to designate the new anchorage and surrounding waters, a “no discharge zone”.
I am willing to serve, if a citizens’ committee is formed for this purpose. There have been proposals in the past, to designate the entire Bay a no discharge zone, but due to shipping and other interests, this large a task is not realistic at this time”.
Note: Bill Parr’s Joint Industrial Development Authority (JIDA) and Charles McSwain have sent a letter to Cape Charles Mayor Proto saying that pursuit of the freighter waste is viewed as an “aggressive economic plan”.
|Ken Dufty’s report on Planning Commission MeetingNorthampton County Planning Commission unanimously voted to send the draft NEW Comprehensive Plan to the Northampton Board of Supervisors for review. From here, the Board can either send the draft out to public hearing, or vote to send it back for further revisions. Unlike 2009, this process, which involved the staff of the Northampton County Zoning and Planning Department, occurred with little or no public input. Citizens did offer some assistance, such as Art Schwarzschild of Willis Wharf, which offered to provide data from marine scientists, but his offer was declined.The new Comprehensive Plan as well as the New Zoning Ordinance includes some proposals which will continue to draw some criticism, such as:
1) Import of any type of waste into Northampton County so that it can be stored,
processed, incinerated and spread on our fields
2) Creation of Planned Unit Development Districts, which basically allows a developer
to propose and develop anything within such a district with dramatically reduced
setbacks and protective criteria
3) Elimination of the need to notify neighbors for dozens of land uses that require
a Special Use Permit (with neighbor notification) now
4) A wide variety of uses on agricultural land which are not allowed now, including
airports, chicken litter incinerators, waste processing and storage, car and motorcycle
race tracks, migrant labor camps, heliports, etc.It was also noted that in August the Planning Commission will hear two more proposals by developer and builder Angelo Manuel to increase the Kiptopeke Village footprint. Manuel is looking to add a ‘food truck’, as well as expand the current plans for the approved restaurant to include ‘other retail’.
Special Use Permits
A Special Use Permit was approved for John and Jill Davis to re-open their restaurant/store in Jamesville. The store closed in 2008. Ken Dufty and Robert Myers spoke in favor of the business and recommended issuance of the permit. The Board approved the request unanimously.
USDA Gant Repayment
Katie Nunez read a letter from the USDA which announcing that the County’s plans to repay the debt had been approved. The approval comes with some red tape, especially in regards to the RFP and bid process. This does however allow the county to move forward with list A and B, which includes much needed purchases for EMS as well as the school system. $433,000 will be transferred from the Unreserved Fund Balance to meet this financial obligation, while the remainder has already been committed in the 2016 fiscal budget. All projects must be completed by June 30, 2016.
The Supervisors also voted to take the ordinance to create the PSA Southern Node Waste Water Tax District off the table. Given the PSA has been put on hold, current information will not be accurate. If the PSA is taken up again, this process will have to start over.
“Mr. Chairman, this in no way eliminates the PSA?” asked Lemond.
“No, it does not,” responded Administrator Nunez.
The Board will be in recess until 5pm July 27 for a work session on zoning.