Onancock Announces Business Grants, New Fees; Supports Market Street Road Diet

North Street in Onancock, Va., on Tuesday, June 2, 2020. Photo by Carol Vaughn

By Carol Vaughn —

The Onancock Town Council after holding a public hearing approved a $25 zoning permit fee starting July 1 to help the town recuperate costs associated with the permits.
The council held a public hearing about a proposal to increase from $125 to $250 the fee applicants pay for special use permit applications. The proposal included that the applicant also must pay for required legal advertisement.
Interim Town Manager Lisa Fiege said Accomack County charges $400 for its special use permit applications and said advertisements cost between $100 and $250, depending on the size.
The council did not vote on the proposal.
The council also did not vote an a proposal to impose a $5 assessment for each criminal or traffic court case to help pay for an electronic summons system for the police department, after a hearing was held.
The system likely will be mandated by the state in the future, Fiege said.
No one from from the public spoke at the hearings.
The council adopted a town budget for fiscal year 2021.
The budget includes no cost-of-living adjustment for staff, and an almost 5% health insurance premium increase, according to Fiege.
Several revenue items in the budget were decreased due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Fiege said.
Those include local sales tax, business license fees, meals tax, traffic fines, transient occupancy tax, and wharf-related fees and sales.
The budget also includes a 5% increase in water and sewer fees. Additionally, the trash collection fee will increase from $4 to $8 a month.
Close to $200,000 had to be cut from the budget due to effects of the pandemic, according to Fiege.
The council also voted to adopt an effective tax rate increase — while the rate remains the same, at 32 cents per $100 of assessed value, the vote was needed because of increased assessed property values in Accomack County’s recent assessment.
The council, at the Accomack-Northampton Planning District Commission’s request, also adopted a resolution of support for the Market Street road diet project, which if funded by the highway department would result in reconfiguring traffic lanes on Market Street coming from Route 13 into town, going from the current four lanes to two travel lanes and a center turn lane, along with bicycles lanes on each side of the street.
“I have been approached by quite a few people in the community that are very much in favor of the road diet,” said Councilwoman Catherine Krause.
Application for VDOT’s Smart Scale program are due in August.
The meeting was held at Onancock Volunteer Fire Department’s fire station to allow for physical distancing.
In an update, OVFD deputy chief Jeremie Buyea said the fire department has made 112 fire engine runs and answered more than 500 ambulance calls so far this year.
“Thankfully, it seems that our COVID cases have been on the decline lately,” he said, but added that due to the pandemic the fire department’s expenses “are quite high.”
Buyea noted the fire department had to cancel fundraising events because of the pandemic.
The department is proposing a block-party-style clam and oyster roast in October to raise funds, with 500 tickets to be sold.
The council approved using $106,333 of CARES act money allocated from Accomack County’s share of the federal funds in the following ways:
Use $40,000 for town expenses related to COVID-19
Use $66,333 to offer two grants.
One would be up to $5,000 each for businesses in town that were closed due to executive orders. The amount would depend on the number of applicants.
A second grant program would give businessess that were deemed essential and not closed but that lost revenue due to the pandemic money to help cover their losses. Businesses have to show at least 20% loss of revenue from April to June 2020 over the same period in 2019. The grant would pay up to 1/3 the amount businesses that had to close get, or up to the amount of revenue lost.
The council approved creating a committee to to review and approve the grants. Chaired by Bob Bloxom, additional members are Richard Freemand and Haydon Rochester.
All businesses in town limits with a 2020 business license are eligible to apply.
The council appointed Shyreka Riley to fill the council seat vacated by Matthew Spuck when he accepted the job of town manager.
Riley will serve the remaining two years of the term.