I. Presentation by the Eastern Shore Library Board.
This item was moved to the front of the agenda so the Library Director and Board would not have to sit through the entire night to speak to the Board about the new library. The presentation highlighted the work of the Eastern Shore Library collective, emphasizing its importance to education, coordination of resources in the other libraries, employment, work training, high speed internet service and access, availability of programs and books from other sources and libraries, and other services. Chairman Murray and Board members were very supportive of the Director’s and Library Board work, but indicated that because of budgetary constraints, Northampton County would be unable, at this time, to commit the $400.000 that the Library Board was requesting to help fund the new library in Parksley. Supervisor Hogg indicated that his property tax debt load went up 30% in 2016-2017 because of state funding cuts and other pressures, with Chairman Murray adding that we “have some shocks coming” as far as impacts to county taxpayers.
II. Elderly and Handicapped Tax Exemption.
Currently, those who have a combined annual income of $22 grand or under, and have a net worth of $80,000 or less, can apply for a tax break not to exceed $400. It was decided that these thresholds should be looked at for possible adjustment, and further consideration will be one of the items on the September Agenda. If changes are proposed, a public hearing will be scheduled.
III. Proposed Zoning Amendments
Proposed Zoning Map Amendments were discussed…many of which were hold overs from the 2015-16 zoning deliberation, and a public hearing would be required if it was agreed that these amendments were reasonable and in the public interest.
A. Working Waterfront parcels were discussed, and it was discussed adding many parcels to working waterfront that are currently not so designated…including parcels in Bayford, Webbs Island, Hungars Creek, Morley’s Wharf, Sunset Beach, and many others. Zoning Staff was instructed to bring back more information and recommendations for consideration in later meetings.
B. Kiptopeke Hamlet/Ag issue
Chairman Murray relayed to the Board that Terry Ramsey was very vocal about having the Kiptopeke residential area rezoned back to agriculture from Hamlet. It was mentioned that Jack Bruckner and Mrs. Lewis also mentioned that Hamlet as it is described in the current zoning allows commercial uses that are not consistent with the high-density residential district as it currently exists. It was stressed that changing the designation would have no effect on Angelo Manuel’s plans for his apartments and store, nor would it affect the Royal Farm’s project. The Board’s inclination was to leave it as Hamlet unless they hear from more residents in the Kiptopeke area under debate that they want their lands to be rezoned into a more protective and limiting “agriculture” designation. Nunez interjected that the Kiptopeke area is one where former Board’s have indicated is ripe for future commercial development, and that the Board might want to consider carefully changing the designation from Hamlet to Agriculture, hinting that the change might limit the revenue the county could receive from development in that area.
C. Other Mapping Changes included modifications to lines or designations in areas known as the Bayview PUD, Eastville (due to boundary adjustments), Hare Valley Transfer Station,
IV. TEXT CHANGES TO 2016 ZONING CODE..A DISCUSSION
Judging by the discussion of the Board members, it is realized that the Event Venue designation could easily be abused, and Chairman Murray indicated that the text has to be tightened up and that the Board “needs to get this right”. Supervisor Hogg said that the “unintended consequences” of not tightening up the text on this issue could be disastrous. Indeed, it was suggested that a commercial operation cloaked as an “event venue” could directly compete with well established area businesses, yet would not have to meet strict regulatory mandates that the established facility would to meet. Melissa had some ideas about text changes, limiting the amount of people that could attend, regulating events through a “tier” scheme. Melissa said we need to stress “what an event venue ISN’T, as well as what it is”. Enforcement was discussed, and this discussion lasted a long time, with Chairman Murray and others stressing it is of utmost importance that the text under Event Venue must be more concise and direct. Staff was ordered to come back with draft language to accomplish this stated goal.
B. CHESAPEAKE BAY ACT ON THE SEASIDE
Apparently, the Board has had considerable feedback from watermen and farmers who feel that there needs to be some flexibility in the restrictions of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act on the Seaside. Chairman Murray stated that the goal should be to keep the CBPA on the Seaside, yet come up with different thresholds or standards for 1) Sediment and erosion control restrictions; 2)Performance Standards; 3) modify uses in the Buffer; and 4) naming areas that are not working waterfront areas. Melissa reminded the Board that the law does not require the CBPA on the Seaside. Chairman Murray reminded the public and the Board that when the removal of the Act was proposed in the 2015 zoning ordinance, there was a great deal of pushback…so there is hopefully a way to relieve the burden on the agriculture and aquaculture community while protecting the water quality on the Seaside which is necessary to the aquaculture and recreational interests, as well as the sustainability of the ecosystem. After a long debate, it was decided that staff and the Board should work with DEQ, the Planning Commission, the state..and whoever…to attempt to get more flexibility on the Seaside and enable a balance to ensure sustainability while allowing the aquaculture industry to thrive and grow. NOTE: CHAIRMAN MURRAY AND THE BOARD WAS VERY EMPHATIC THAT THIS FLEXIBILITY WAS NOT AIMED AT ALLOWING CONDOS AND MASSIVE RESIDENTIAL/COMMERCIAL DEVELOPMENT ON THE SEASIDE. Supervisor Hogg added that with rising sea levels and saturated soils, low lying waterfront areas should be preserved for working waterfront uses and not high density development. ChaiCharrman Murray directed staff to come with recommendations on allowing “live/work” facilities on the Seaside where watermen could locate more closely to their work. Supervisor Hogg again raised the issue of effluent, and Melissa indicated that even though a small domicile could be called a “live/work” domicile, it would still have to meet all residential performance and health department standards.
C. SUP’s. It was agreed that a statement of narrative on a proposed project should be a requirement to meeting SUP approval…so that the intent of a project and its vision would be clearly articulated.
D. Vacation Rental
Apparently, it is felt by the Board and Staff that this designation is not clearly spelled out or regulated. It was agreed by consensus (before sending out to public hearing, as all changes would have to be subjected to) that Vacation Rentals language should specify that in order to get permission from the Board, language should include the requirement that 1) rentals are limited to 29 days/year; 2) homeowners have to get a business license, pay Transient Occupancy Tax, have a tax number, and 3) go through a major SUP permitting process. Chairman LeMond indicated that the word “room” be added to the list of vacation rentals, and it was agreed by consensus that these issues should be brought back to the Board for consideration before a public hearing is scheduled.
E. Historical District
Chairman Murray posited that it is important that the county retain a Historical Overlay District and that staff should come back with that information. Consensus was reached.
F. Mass Drainfield
It was agreed that the mass drainfield designation be removed from the 2016 ordinance(subject to public hearing of course) and that the regulation and approval of such be relegated to the state and Health Department.
G. Other issues discussed and considered for text changes included “feather flags”(currently not allowed); affordable housing text (does the current language conform with state law?); Airport Performance Standards (Chairman Murray tossed this ball to Supervisor Hogg and resident Robert Meyers who he said know more about these issues than any other members of the Board);
As many feared during the drafting of this language for the ill-fated 2015 zoning ordinance, it appears as if this chapter in code is being abused. Chairman Murray said that because this use is so new, there is very little language in other counties that can be relied on for instructive inference. He has drafted language that he is going to submit to staff which is designed to begin the process of making this use more defined and explicit. Further discussion is in order.
I. Landing site for fin and shell fish
Adam Ashby has requested a zoning change in RV R zones to allow for landing areas and harvesting areas for shell and fin fish. While discussing this, the Board indicated that if this does move forward to public hearing, it should require a minor Special Use Permit and language must be inserted that would prohibit the renting out of such an area that received permission to be used in this manner (only for residential use, not commercial).
NOTE HERE: NO DECISIONS WERE MADE ON ANY OF THE ABOVE ITEMS. THIS IS A WORKSESSION, WHERE ONLY CONSENSUS IS REACHED. ALL ITEMS THAT WILL OR MAY MOVE FORWARD WILL HAVE TO RECEIVE PLANNING COMMISSION SCRUTINY AND BE SUBJECTED TO A PUBLIC HEARING BEFORE BEING ADOPTED.
V. GRANT FUNDING FOR A SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICER (SHERIFF’S DEPUTY IN THE SCHOOLS).
With no small display of frustration, Chairman Murray said he thought Northampton County had been “robbed” by the decrease in state funding for raises and a grant for a proposed SRO. A SRO would cost $27,261 annually, and the state had indicated grant funding was available for that position. Sheriff Doughty then addressed the Board with a plan to increase overtime for the Sheriff’s department, which would allow the department to generate more revenue from fines and fees, which should cover the cost of an SRO as well as generate excess revenue. As Supervisor Duer indicated…the approximate cost of a deputy and his or her car and expenses runs about $35/hour. But one speeding ticket generates an average revenue of $100 (and more sometimes), so it is a “no brainer” that adding more presence to law enforcement will not only pay for itself, but generate a profit. Finance Director Andrejewski joined the discussion, and the numbers discussed were adding a budget amendment of revenue/expenses totaling $77,000+…consisting of $50,000 in added overtime costs and $27,000+ in SRO costs, as well as a corresponding raising of revenue projections to cover both those costs (with no impact to taxpayers,,,unless the revenue projections do not materialize, which would be addressed in the 2018 budget cycle. It was decided that accounting procedures should be modified in order to allow staff, county officials and the Board to determine if the fines and fees collected from the overtime allocation are covering the costs of that program as well as the SRO salary and costs.
Chairman Murray said the state is going to “relook” at its budgetary shortfall projections in September, and hopefully more money will be flowing back to the counties to cover the cost of raises for county workers and teachers. He said a 2% raise for the schools would cost $278,314 and the state’s portion of that proposed raise would have been only $62,050. He said the Board should “never ever” depend on state revenue projections in the future.
Again, great frustration was expressed by the Board about the Broad Authority (Nunez serves on the Committee) and their failure to provide service down the necks and elsewhere. Declaration Network recently published a draft residential rate, and that was criticized by the Board, and Nunez later said that “we tabled” the residential rate after reconsideration.
VII. COURTHOUSE GREEN
County Administrator Nunez was directed to draft an RFP for the demolition of the 1914 jail on the Courthouse Green. Chairman Murray said that no one has the million dollars it would take to restore that structure to only minimal use, and he suggested the Northampton County Preservation Society be fully involved in perhaps saving hardware and other historical items from the jail. It was mentioned that this issue has been on the table for at least 6 years, at which time Supervisor Bennett said he would expect that the Board would give the same consideration and deliberation to “other” structures that would perhaps face the same fate.