The following responses were submitted by Ken Butta.
1. DO YOU THINK OUR MAIN STREET/DOWNTOWN IS HEALTHY AND SUCCESSFUL? IF NOT, WHAT WOULD YOU DO TO CHANGE THAT?
The Cape Charles commercial district is a healthy one. New businesses have been opening, existing businesses are expanding their hours, and customer traffic is growing. The shoulder seasons have seen an increase in both day trippers and weekend visitors. By analyzing data from merchant point-of-sale systems and from the Chamber of Commerce, we can better target markets for potential visitors during this time.
As the long-term rental market improves due to growth over the next few years, there will be an increased demand for more of the basic necessities needed by full-time residents. Town government must work with Cape Charles Main Street and county government to recruit merchants to fill these needs.
2. WHAT’S MORE IMPORTANT FOR OUR TOWN (AND COUNTY) RIGHT NOW: BUILDING NEW HOMES AND COMMERCIAL SPACE OR REHABBING/EXPANDING/BETTER UTILIZING OUR EXISTING HOMES AND STOREFRONTS?
I don’t think this is an either/or situation, we must do both. With rapid development within Bay Creek and continued infill in the Historic District, we have enough homes to meet the demand. A developer has been working with the Town to create rental units that will be priced for workforce housing. While it will take time for those units to become available, we are moving in the right direction.
There is a need for additional commercial space. As the forty-acre railroad property in the Harbor area becomes available, the Town should purchase it and hire a consulting engineering and landscape architecture firm to create several options for how this area could be developed into a mixed-use, walkable extension of our current retail core. In the meantime, we should look at rezoning the first block of Peach and Plum into Commercial/Residential parcels. This would give us sufficient space in the near term to develop more commercial property.
3. SOME PEOPLE CONTINUE TO SAY THAT WE HAVE TRAFFIC PROBLEMS DURING THE TOURIST SEASON. THIS OF COURSE INCLUDES PARKING, AS WELL AS REVERSE-ANGLE PARKING. WHAT DO YOU THINK? HOW WOULD YOU MITIGATE THOSE CONCERNS OR CHANGE THE SITUATION?
I do believe there is a parking problem in town. There are things we can do right now that would help:
- Remove abandoned vehicles from streets and alleys. As the Zoning Compliance Officer for the town, I’ve begun this process and over the last two months have worked with our police to have 5 abandoned vehicles removed. We are in the process of having another 4 removed.
- End storage of boats, trailers, and campers on streets. There are currently 28 out there now. We have a town ordinance prohibiting the storage of boats and campers on the street for more than 48 hours. This will provide a great opportunity for some entrepreneurs to create secure boat storage.
- Improve the lot on the south side of Mason Ave through annual grading, improved signage, and lighting to encourage greater use.
- Work with the Vacation Homeowners group to encourage our visitors to bring as few cars as possible, park only in front of the vacation rental or in off-street parking, and park excess cars in the town lot.
The following options would require more time and effort:
- As we approve increases in density within the Historic District, we need to ensure that parking is considered.
- Accessory Dwelling Units are now a by-right use. We should consider a requirement for at least one off-street parking space dedicated to that structure and it should be shown on the application for zoning approval.
- In the Commercial district, when residential units are approved above commercial space or there are new or expanded hotels, we should enforce the provision of our Ordinance that only 25% of the required number of parking spaces can be through a shared use agreement. This will require businesses to provide more on-site parking.
- Explore ways to increase parking options. The town had looked into developing the parcel behind the library into a parking lot adding 30-35 spaces. This won’t entirely solve the issue but it could be a piece of the puzzle. The improvements that VDOT will be making to Peach St. will also add about 10 spaces.
4. IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING IN OUR ZONING CODE, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
We will see a large number of changes to our zoning code proposed shortly. As the Historic District Overlay Design Guidelines and the Comprehensive Plan are updated, the zoning code will need to be amended to implement those changes. The Future Land Use Map we are working on shows where we want different types of development to occur over the long term. Our Zoning Map must be aligned with this to ensure the decisions we make now are enforced into the future. Currently, the land to the east of the hump and south of Rayfield’s is zoned for Industrial development. If we should decide that isn’t the use we want for it, our zoning map must be changed to prevent those uses.
5. HOW DO YOU PLAN TO INVOLVE RESIDENTS IN THE DECISION MAKING PROCESS IN OUR TOWN?
- Quarterly open house meetings where citizens can bring up concerns or ask questions
- Encourage citizen attendance at Council work sessions and listen to comments after the meeting closes.
- Encourage the full participation of Town boards and commissions in the decision-making process rather than selecting one or two representatives to provide input.
- Meet with community organizations such as the Historic District Civic League, Citizens for Central Park, and the Vacation Homeowners of Cape Charles to understand concerns and provide updates.
6. IF SOMEONE CAME TO YOU WITH A PROPOSAL TO BUILD A NEW PIECE OF PUBLIC INFRASTRUCTURE IN OUR TOWN (ROAD, STRUCTURE, OUTDOOR VENUE, ETC.), HOW WOULD YOU EVALUATE WHETHER OR NOT THAT PROJECT WAS WORTH IMPLEMENTING?
My first question would be, is this in accord with our Comprehensive Plan? If it is, the next test would be does this project serve the needs of most residents or does it help address a significant need of populations that may have been underserved in the past.
If the project meets these criteria, the financial impact would be my next concern. How does this get paid for, are there grants available to offset costs, what is the impact on our budget from ongoing maintenance? Will it require additional staffing?
If the answers to these questions show the project still has merit, I would bring it to the citizens to build a consensus on whether or not we should continue to investigate the project’s feasibility. What are the opportunity costs of moving forward? Are we delaying a project that was scheduled for completion in our Strategic Plan or the Capital Asset Management Plan?
If there is sufficient support, we should move forward with further analysis of the project to ensure we understand as much as we can to make a sound decision about implementation.
7. IF ELECTED, WHAT THREE STEPS WOULD YOU TAKE TO PUT OUR TOWN ON A FIRMER FINANCIAL FOOTING?
The Town has implemented processes and procedures to keep us on a firm financial procedure. There are some things we can do to improve this:
- Sell the water & wastewater systems. After paying off debts and the cost of a new municipal building, invest this money into a purchase of the railroad property when it becomes available. This will help ensure it is developed in a manner that benefits all of our citizens. It will also provide a return on the investment when we resell it.
- Lobby the County to receive our fair share of the tax revenue from Coastal Precast
- Work to bring new businesses to town and ensure that those doing business here, especially contractors and short-term rental owners, are obtaining business licenses and paying their taxes.
8. IF THE TOWN RECEIVED A $1 MILLION GRANT TO USE FOR THE TOWN ANY WAY IT WANTED, WHAT WOULD YOU PROPOSE AND WHY?
Our beach is one of the greatest assets we have but it has not received the attention it deserves. I would work with the Wetlands and Dunes Board, the Planning Commission, and concerned citizens to create a master plan for the dunes and beach. I would envision bathhouses at both the north and south ends of the beach with multiple restrooms and a shower or two. The dunes would be lowered and the sand used to replenish the beach. I would also remove a portion of the eastern face of the dune, from just north of the fishing pier to about the gazebo, to create an area that could become a location for food trucks, vendors, a picnic area, and possibly music. The sand removed from this side would also be used to replenish the beach.
9. WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE PLACES TO SPEND TIME IN OUR TOWN?
I really enjoy going to Central Park for concerts during the summer. It’s a great place to have dinner with friends and listen to music. The beach is another favorite place, especially on fall mornings and at sunset.
10. WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT CAPE CHARLES? WHAT DO YOU NOT LIKE ABOUT CAPE CHARLES?
Without a doubt, what I like best is the people. This is a friendly, welcoming place. Newcomers often remark about how easy it was to get involved either as a volunteer with one of our many organizations, a member of a church congregation, or a social group in the community.
An area that could improve is transparency and greater opportunities for the inclusion of citizens in the decision-making process of town government.