In Northampton, the intersection of agriculture and residential is one of the unique and interesting aspects of our home. However, what happens when that relationship goes awry, and the partnership becomes adversarial?
This is apparently the case with the property of Chris Monroe. Mr. Monroe owns property that used to be the old Busy B store and is adjacent to Tankard Nursery. The issue is complicated and deals with the commercial right-of-way, incorrect deeds, and easements. On another level, it is about intimidation and the appearance of corruption at the County level. Basically, Northampton’s going to be and do Northampton.
In a nutshell, there is a roadway that runs in front of Monroe’s property that Tankard Nursery uses as a right of way for moving equipment back and forth. While this should be somewhat innocuous, Monroe claims that the road is way overused, with large trucks, tractors, and other equipment speeding past and rattling his home over sixty times per day.
The image to the left shows the easement purchased for the nursery. Monroe’s contention is why the nursery is using his property’s old driveway and not their deeded purchased 20ft easement.
Below is David Tankard’s comments on the history of the property and how the nursery views the right of way:
Despite efforts to resolve the conflict, the situation began to deteriorate. More vehicles used the road in front of Monroe’s home, to the point that he eventually confronted one of the drivers. A criminal complaint was brought against Mr. Monoe, claiming that he had threatened to use force to abate the situation (the complaint noted that Monroe threatened to shoot someone):
The charges were dismissed, however, Monroe spent a considerable sum to defend himself. Off the record, Monroe was told this was an attempt to have him jailed as a way to quiet and discredit him. Video evidence from his property seemed to invalidate the criminal complaint.
While this may have seemed like a good time to re-evaluate and de-escalate, the opposite seems to have happened.
According to Monroe, the use of the road has increased and gotten much noisier. Dump trucks with little to no exhaust release the air brakes loudly and seem to enjoy using lower gears to make things just that more uncomfortable.
Monroe captured these images in less than a day:
This video was on a Saturday morning around 7 am. It appears they honked the horn to be sure Monroe got the message:
As was mentioned, the intersection of Ag and Residential is one of the beautiful aspects of living on the Shore. It is important that both see and treat each other as neighbors. This case appears to have a long-standing, wealthy Shore family pitted against a single landowner that is asking for regress from the noise and traffic of farm equipment that is rattling his peace. It would be nice to see this situation worked out so that work can be done, and a homeowner can enjoy his home and property.
Zoning is zoning, and Special Use Permits generally do not favor the small homeowner. You can’t fight City Hall. But, is the homeowner at least expected to have a right to relative peace and quiet, or as the County states, it’s just too bad, so sad?
This may be a classic case of nobody’s right and everybody’s wrong, but it should be a wake-up call for Northampton County. At what point does the life and well-being of the citizen become an issue? Commerce, business, and Ag are incredibly important, however, there needs to be a balance so that all can thrive.
In Cape Charles, there has been an effort to try and balance the benefits of the Coastal Concrete plant with the needs of town residents. Not perfect by any stretch, but the town has at least engaged and promoted a dialog, a dialog that we hope will be ongoing. The Monroe case, and others like it, may need the County as an intermediary when conflict is the potential to escalate.