With Northampton County putting the PSA’s Panek Pipeline to Nowhere on indefinite hold, the Town used Thursday’s work session to double down on efforts to move Panek’s Trail to Nowhere on down the road. Bids have been received, with the low bid being $1,626,000.00 (yes, over a million and half American tax dollars). As a note, the Town’s match for the ‘grant’ came from what is being termed bond funds, which in reality are funds the Town derived from refinancing bad debt on the harbor breakwaters that were constructed to supposedly protect the floating docks. Also, plans only call for the most minimal amount of lighting along the trail route. Even as Cape Charles enjoys promoting itself as a ‘walkable’ town, safety precautions seem to be falling by the wayside. The recent attack in Central Park, where the assailant used the low visibility design of the park, as well as a structure built by the Town that allows for the victims to be locked in from the inside, shines a light on just where the Town’s priorities really lie. The Trail design will create long stretches of dark, low visibility paths, providing fertile ground for would be assailants to hone their skills. Rather than forcing people onto well lit, more densely populated sidewalks, which have existed for many years, and already make the town ‘very walkable’, it seems the notion is to take people off the beaten path, where they are isolated and more vulnerable to attacks, while wasting $millions to do so. Acceptance of the low bid is expected to be voted on after Council determines how much of the Trail it wants to take on.
Opinion: I’m sorry, but this seems somewhat selfish, like high level Town officials once again working to take care of their own. Looking out into the County, and at this town, it seems we could be using the $1.7 million to perform some social good. The Smart Beginnings program has to fight for every few thousand, and they give these guys millions to build a sidewalk? Besides, who is going to be dumb enough to walk around all day in a circle any way? Oh, the tourists. Okay, after the tourists leave, who is going to be dumb enough to walk around all day in a circle any way?
Town Council and the Planning Commission met for a joint session Thursday, and on the Agenda was the Cape Charles Tourism zone. Touted as an economic stimulus measure, in reality, it is more like the Technology zone, a stealthy platform greased for corporate welfare (remember, the Town cut a check for over $70k of your tax dollars to Skansa (Bayshore Concrete) to cover the multi-national’s multi-billion dollar equipment upgrade costs. Upgrades it was going to make anyway). The Tourism Zone will follow along this path – once a business does what it was going to do anyway, such as fix a roof, you the taxpayer will provide said business with a tax credit for doing so. Andrew Follmer and Cape Charles Business Association has been lobbying the Planning Commission and Council for adoption of this giveaway before the first of the year, so they can get a jump on the upcoming ‘tourist season’.
From the Staff Report:
Sec. XX-5. – Qualifications.
To be eligible for economic stimulus credits a qualified tourism business must:
(i) Create and maintain a minimum of one (1) new full time or two (2) new part time jobs.
(ii) Make a new verified capital investment of no less than $2,000.00 in a building, building improvements, and/or in depreciable assets. A capital investment does not include the cost to purchase real property.
(iii) Hold a current Town business license and be current in all tax and utility bill obligations to the Town, and all tax obligations to Northampton County.
(iv) Be in compliance with all Town ordinances.
Sec. XX-6. – Economic stimulus credits and enforcement.
(a) A qualified tourism business shall be eligible to receive the following economic stimulus credits:
(1) A credit equal to 25 percent of the new or increased capital improvement tax paid to the town with a verified capital investment of not less than $2,000.00 that shall increase proportionately up to 100 percent with a capital investment of $1,000,000.00 or more.
(2) A credit of up to 100 percent of the amount of the net increase in real estate tax paid to the town.
(3) A credit of up to 100 percent of the amount of BPOL tax paid to the town.
(4) For a qualified tourism business that maintains at least eighty-five (85) hours weekly of full time and part time staff employment, a credit of up to 50 percent of the facility and connection fees paid to the town.*
(5) A credit of up to 100 percent of the building permit fees paid to the town.
Mayor Proto announced he was 100% behind the giveaways, as was Councilman Bennett. Both indicated that they felt it would bring more business to town. Councilman Wendell noted that, since money that had been put into the Town’s treasury would have to be taken out (as a form of shortfall), the Town was going to have to find other ways to make up for it. Wendell stated that he would recommend cutting staff or services, but feared that the Town’s momentum toward ‘hiring more staff to do less and less’ would eventually lead to higher taxes for citizens. With a few minor tweaks, the ordinance will be fast tacked for approval, more than likely at the December Regular meeting of Town Council.
During the joint session, the Planning Commission also broached the possibility of allowing accessory dwellings to once again, through a Special User Permit, to be allowed in town. Although the majority of Council seemed generally in favor of the proposal, there were still too many unresolved issues for them to move forward. Councilman Bannon, who remained opposed, noted that the town had not done enough research, and that it may be getting into something it might regret later. The core of the issue has to do with, what appears to many to be a catastrophic lack of affordable housing for teachers in Northampton, and that by building little houses in every Cape Charles backyard, this dilemma will somehow be cured. Parking, infill population, services, all these small but important issues, seemed to have flown over the heads of the Planning Commission, and Council felt that there had to be more thought and research put into these ideas before setting up bourgeois refugee camps. Councilman Wendell added, “Maybe this is place where we need to let the free market take precedence. If there is a market for this, and plenty of undeveloped lots in the county, then maybe let them have at it. If there’s money to be made, a market to fill, someone will do it.”