The Cape Charles Planning Commission continuing the Comprehensive Plan update, has removed environmentally restrictive language, replacing it with verbiage that opens the door to ratcheting up the expansion of water and wastewater development (even as those uses are not adequately defined). The Comp Plan’s attempt to redefine the town’s cultural and environmental foundation takes place in section III.1.3 Environmentally Restricted Layer.
The original text reads as follows:
The Environmentally Restricted layer represents areas that are environmentally sensitive and generally should not be developed.
The section will be changed to read:
The Environmentally Restricted layer represents areas that preserve natural resources, water supply locations, water and wastewater treatment sites, and provide open space for Adopted 6/11/2009, Amended xx/xx/xxxx Page 17 of 65 recreational uses. These areas include woodlands, shorelines, tributary creeks, floodplains, wetlands, critical wildlife habitat, and existing and planned areas designated for water supply and wastewater treatment purposes. Portions of this area are suitable for open space uses and sites for public infrastructure with limited development to support those uses.
Why would the Planning Commission feel that wastewater treatment is an appropriate use for an environmentally restricted area? Though outwardly innocuous, the motivation to modify language that protects the environment appears to derive from the direction of Assistant Town Manager Bob Panek. From the staff report:
“Environmentally Restricted Layer” language is found in Section III.1.3 (pages 15 – 16). Following discussion with the Assistant Town Manager, Section III-E.2 Water and Wastewater Partners (page 56) should read as follows:
Cape Charles is working with other political subdivisions to study the potential for regional water and wastewater projects. The protection of the environment and the natural resources are important and a regional approach may allow more service with less impact. The Town appoints a member to the Eastern Shore of Virginia Public Service Authority and in the past the Authority has examined several projects, one outside the town limits near Route 13.
Note: The paragraph used to read ‘Cape Charles is actively working’, but since Northampton has suspended, for now, any work by the PSA, the word actively is erroneous.
The rest of the paragraph currently reads:
The Town appoints a member to the Northampton County Public Service Authority and in the past the Authority has examined several projects, one outside the town limits near Route 13. As of June 2015, the Authority’s regular monthly meetings have been suspended until it has business to conduct.
After discussion, the Commission somewhat randomly decided to remove the last sentence “As of June 2015, the Authority’s regular monthly meetings have been suspended until it has business to conduct.” By removing this language, it lends support to the previous section, which goes to lengths to imply that not only is the PSA alive and well, but, by being included in the Comp Plan as such, its projects, such as the pipeline to Route 13, are very much still on the table. Whether conversations between the Town, via Panek and County Administrator Nunez, who also serves on the Eastern Shore of Virginia Public Service Authority have actually taken places, sources tell the Mirror that there is some speculation that resurgence in confidence for the PSA agenda is building in Eastville, and on 2 Plum Street.
Mr. Panek’s insertion of text into the Comp Plan, though probably legal, also appears highly irregular, and begs the question as to who else has been attempting to drive this train. Take the following sections of the Comp Plan:
-Designate land for future growth
–Preserve and Enhance Retail Sales Base
-Facilitate Business start-up, expansions and relocations
-Attract tourists, vacation and second homeowners
–Maintain a web portal to attract tourists, vacationers and retirees and to disseminate information
III-B.5.1 Goal: Designate Land for Future
It is important that Cape Charles maintain an atmosphere which fosters a continued growth of the existing business sectors. A business environment which sustains retail businesses should be maintained and fostered.
III-B.5.4 Goal: Attract Tourists, Vacation and Second Homeowners
III-B.5.5 Goal: Attract Retirees
Opinion:We understand that every town in America is anxious to be labeled as being pro American Business, all quirks and mannerisms aside–as always, Cape Charles is quick to follow along this path, although after its own style and with a somewhat rancid, compulsive and joyless sensibility. Whatever or wherever the influence occurred, a dinner party or on the golf course, the above passages reeks of the Cape Charles Business Association’s greasy till. “Maintain a web portal to attract tourists, vacationers and retirees and to disseminate information”? How exactly did Follmer’s pet project make it into the Town of Cape Charles’ Comprehensive Plan?