The September 18, 2008 Town Council meeting addressed these matters: Council civic citation(s) and presentations; public comments ("Open Forum"); public hearing for Zoning and Subdivision ordinances; Harbor Committee report; Cemetary Committee report; Ordinance Committee report; Assateague lighthouse; Mayor and Council members comments.
The agenda, backup materials and an audio recording of this meeting are available on the Town website. Click here.
Present: Mayor Jack Tarr and Council members: Nancy Conlin, Jim Frese, John Howard, Terry Howard, John Nelson Jester.
Absent: Ellen Richardson
Staff present: Jared Anderson, Town Planner; Edward Lewis, Chief of Police; Robert Ritter, Town Manager; Jon Poulson, Town Attorney.
Mayor Tarr convened the meeting at 7:30 p.m.
(1) Council recognized Zach Jester, Troy Libertino and Josh Williams for actions which saved the life of Steve Merritt, in a September 8 surfing accident. Mentioned during this citation: there were "over 116 rescues by lifeguards" at the beach this season.
(2) Council presented the North Accomack Little League (NALL) with a check for $5,000.00 in support of the new ball fields planned behind the Community Center.
(1) Jim White implored Council to establish and enforce ordinance to require young children to wear helmets while operating motorized scooters. Mr. White cited a Massachusetts law requiring children under age 17 to wear helmets while operating motor scooters.
(2) Bill Larsen said the current parking ordinance reduces available parking for Town residents. He said there is "no room for more parking spaces."
(3) Dean Ursino said that a noise ordinance should be incorporated within a scooter policy, when and if that is developed by the Town.
Public Hearing for Changes to the Zoning and Subdivision Ordinance
Jane Wolffe said provision should be made in the new ordinance that buildings on deep lots should be not more than 100 ft. distant from the street, since fire hoses are 100 ft. in length. The Planning Commission recommended this to Council but the language was dropped. Also "reasonable access" has been added; Ms. Wolffe said this is too vague for building administrators to interpret. There is a need for more specificity in language, to avoid confusion.
Gladys Baczek said all housing, including house rentals, should be covered under the new ordinanace, which will reduce required parking spaces from 1.2 spaces per bedroom to 1 space per bedroom. Mr. Anderson said the ordinance will affect all housing.
Council passed the new Parking ordinance as is, without making the language change described by Ms. Wolffe. Councilman Frese said the specific wording could restrict developers' property rights. Councilman Terry Howard cited safety concerns and the intent of the Planning Commission; he was the single Council member opposed at the vote.
Harbor Committee Report
There is a rise in fee for sub-leasing to recreational boaters; sub-leasing is down. Council requested a list of lessors who do not pay or use their slips, thereby preventing new lessors from gaining access. The sea wall project proposal will be to Council in November. Councilman John Howard said there is a need to raise the slip rates; Mayor Tarr said to put it on October agenda (and possible reorganization of harbor ordinances). Councilman Terry Howard said when the harbor opened, people complained about costs to rent the slips; now, lessors do not want to give up slips they do not use.
Cemetary Committee Report
Chamber of Commerce cleans up major cemeteries twice a year, the Cemetary Committee does it once a year. Fish & Wildlife have provided a new mower for work on the Assateague Cemetary. Greenwood, Mechanic and Daisey Cemetaries in Chincoteague need much maintenance. Holly Ridge (N. Main) and the Reed Family Cemetary are future sites needing attention. Funds are down to $300 and one more clean-up to do. Councilman John Jester asked the Committee to investigate whether the Chamber could donate funds directly to the Town, instead of contracting separately.
Ordinance Committee Report
Trailer parking on public right of way--trailers must be licensed. Since 2005 small utility vehicles, boat trailers and motorcycles have a 24 hr. window. Chief Lewis has no problem. Councilman Terry Howard said a wider survey (than 6 streets) is needed to assess whether a problem exists.
Animal control--local police will pick up a trapped animal until County arrives. Chincoteague police have traps.
Background checks--Committee recommends new ordinance on these.
Assistant Manager of Wildlife Refuge Halpern reports that $1.5 million is needed for lighthouse restoration work. A Letter is requested from the Town to support grant applications. Mr. Ritter will do this.
Mayor & Council Comments
Councilman John Jester said John Amrhein, author of a 2007 publication entitled "The Hidden Galleon," is requesting (via letter) a permit to explore the location of a ship on Assateague.
The Council made a resolution to support lifeguards on the beach, and the National Park Service, stating these groups are critical to the economy of the Town.
Notes prepared by Victoria Weiskopf and Barbara Thackray
N.B. These notes do not constitute the public record of this meeting. The information contained herein is offered in good faith, is presented as accurately as possible, is thought to be a complete account of the proceedings. These notes are intended to be a public service devoid of political commentary for those who are interested in following the civic affairs of Chincoteague Island. Notes of the meeting are recorded, transcribed and distributed by volunteers who receive no financial compensation for their efforts.
Present: Mr. Tarr, Mrs. Conklin, Mrs. Speidel, Mrs. Richardson, Mr. Howard, Dr. Wolff, Mr. Ross, Mr. Ritter (Town Manager), Chief of Police Lewis, head of Public Works Mike Cosby, and town attorney Jon Poulson.
There were approximately 30 members of the public in attendance for the 7:30 regular session.
Robert's Rules of Order The regular town council meeting was preceded by a special session on Robert's Rules of Order, which ran from 6:45 until approximately 7:25. The purpose of the session, given by town manager Robert Ritter, was to further brief Council members on correct formal procedure for official meetings. The town manager gave a Powerpoint presentation highlighting such issues as the purpose of rules, the decision-making process, the handling of motions and debate, the offering of amendments, the postponing and/or referring of motions offered, and the establishment of formal agendas for meetings. Mr. Ritter had a handout titled "Why Have Rules?" (Mr. Ritter noted that Virginia State law and the town's Charter supercede Robert's Rules where there is any conflict.) Several council members expressed particular concern about amending motions and setting agendas for meetings; it was determined that important items could be added to the agenda at the last minute if there were unanimous consent amongst all council members to do so. Mr. Ritter said that the agenda for town meetings must be posted at least three days before meetings and hopefully six days. Several members thanked Mr. Ritter for his efforts to bring a more uniform process to town government. Mayor Tarr asked Mr. Ritter to share this presentation with the chairmen of all town committees. "We are going through some changes," he said.
Live Audio of Town Council Meetings Mr. Ritter announced at the beginning of the regular council meeting that beginning with this meeting live audio of council meetings would be available on the town Internet site and that the audio would also be archived for future use by citizens. (Audio, minutes, and agenda packets for council meetings can be found at: Audio Archive, Minutes, Agenda Packets
Captain's Cove Presentation The main item of business in the regular meeting was a presentation on water treatment issues. Presentations were given by both John Salm, an engineer with 18 year's experience who was hired by Captain's Cove to do a feasibility study of its proposed facility, and by two engineers from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Although the Captain's Cove situation was the starting point, both presentations focused largely on possible future water treatment solutions for Chincoteague.
Mr. Salm gave a lengthy explanation of the water treatment process, explaining that its purpose is to harness natural processes and accelerate them, with a focus on the difficult process of removing harmful nitrogen. He stated that nitrogen leaches from septic systems into the ground and, eventually, into the water table, and that septic systems are therefore problematic. He noted that Chincoteague does not have enough land area to properly dilute its septic systems and nitrogen loads, and that as much as 50% of nitrogen here reaches the water table. Future water treatment for the island would probably involve surface water discharge, he said. In the course of discussion Mayor Tarr said in summertime there are about 14,000 people in Chincoteague.
With regard to Captain's Cove Mr. Salm said as much as 1200 acres would be needed for surface dispersal of discharge for 4800 homes. On the low end of estimates perhaps 600 acres within two miles would be needed. So far no land appears to be available.
Waste Water Treatment and Chincoteague Mr. James McConathy email@example.com (water permit manager) and Mr. Robert Smithson of the Virginia DEQ spoke on issues that may affect Chincoteague water treatment in the future, observing that this information is "both complex and sometimes conjectural." Currently there are nutrient standards for the Chesapeake bay side of the eastern shore but not for the Atlantic side. They hope to have those soon. They stated that the Division of Shellfish Sanitation of the Virginia Department of Health and the Marine Resources Commission advise DEQ now on wastewater discharge, with a mandate that no new discharge permits shall result in shellfish condemnation. They noted the terms "condemned" and "prohibited" as applying to shellfish areas, and said that the law is unclear as to whether an area already "condemned" (such as Swan's Gut and the Chincoteague Channel) can or cannot legally be allowed to move to the lower category of "prohibited." In noting that there are currently two applications pending in Chincoteague for wastewater discharge permits, (both would create "prohibited" areas in the Chincoteague Bay), DEQ staff said they have advised these applicants to wait to see what the ruling will be on Captain's Cove. They explained that decisions on shellfish have to do not only with present populations but also with what may be potential for future shellfish harvesting in a given location. In wrapping up their comments, DEQ staff stated that wastewater discharge into the open ocean (as is currently done via a 700-foot pipe in Ocean City) would be much preferred to other options for Chincoteague in the future. Dilution of nitrogen and phosphorous into the ocean are not a concern, although biological contaminants and floatables do have to be treated.
It should be noted that the DEQ speakers stated that there was still some uncertainty whether there is a significant shellfish resource near Captain's Cove. At one point Mr. McConathy said there did not appear to be a commercial viable resource.Mr. Salm concurred in the DEQ recommendation for future Chincoteague wastewater discharge in the Atlantic Ocean. "That would be the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choice."
Appointment of the Vice Mayor There was a brief discussion on the appropriateness of having the top vote-getter in Council elections become the vice mayor, when this person (in this case, Mrs. Speidel) is without experience in elected office. Mr. Tarr said he had discussed this with Mrs. Speidel who wished to be vice mayor. After the Council voted unanimously to make the appointment, Mr. Howard echoed Mr. Ross's concern that this precedent of automatic appointment of the top vote-getter be revisited for possible revision in future.
FY 06 budget An amended fiscal year 2006 budget was approved.
Committee Appointments and Scheduling Finally, new committee appointments and chairmanships were presented and approved. It was suggested and agreed to by council members that insofar as possible all committee meetings be held after normal working hours to facilitate public attendance. Several meetings that had been scheduled for 4:30 were rescheduled for 5:30.
Public Commentary During the public session, one speaker, Mr. Richard Conklin, expressed concern that private septic/water treatment systems were held to a higher standard than those of commercial enterprises. He also praised the placement of the Misty sculpture and the downtown revitalization project. Mayor Tarr mentioned that thirteen years ago four Chincoteague businessmen, including Mr. Conklin, had bought for the town the land where the downtown park is.
Notes Prepared by Lisa Cannon and David Johnson
N.B. These notes do not constitute the public record of this meeting. The information contained herein is offered in good faith, is presented as accurately as possible, is thought to be a complete account of the proceedings. These notes are intended to be a public service devoid of political commentary for those who are interested in following the activities of Chincoteague Government. Notes of the meeting are recorded, transcribed and distributed by volunteers who receive no financial compensation for their efforts.