Cape Charles Honors Former Councilman for 25 Years of Service

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By Stefanie Jackson – The Cape Charles Town Council honored former Councilman Chris Bannon’s 25 years of service in a proclamation read by Mayor Smitty Dize during the March 18 Town Council meeting.

According to the proclamation, Bannon and his partner Jim Wells moved to Cape Charles in 1988 and purchased a house that they transformed into the town’s first bed-and-breakfast, the Sea Gate.

The business attracted visitors and future Cape Charles residents and prompted the opening of additional bed-and-breakfast businesses in town.

Bannon began his public service career four years later, July 1, 1992, as a member of the Cape Charles Town Council.

He served 25 years with only one break, from July 2002 to June 2006, and was vice mayor for 12 years, from 2006 to 2018.

Bannon was a member of the Cape Charles Memorial Library board, the Friends of the Cape Charles Memorial Library, and Citizens for Central Park.

He also volunteered for the Eastern Shore of Virginia Tourism Commission at the Eastern Shore of Virginia Welcome Center at the northern end of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.

In his volunteer role at the welcome center, Bannon was one of the “best cheerleaders” for Cape Charles, and as a town councilman he strove “to make Cape Charles a better place to live and dedicated his efforts for the best interest of the community,” Dize read.

Bannon resigned from the town council March 4. The town planned to petition the Northampton County Circuit Court to hold a special election coinciding with the next general election, Nov. 2, to fill the vacancy.

Bannon’s term was set to expire June 30, 2022.

In another matter, the Town Council will hold a public hearing April 15 regarding a zoning application submitted by Suzanne Baker, owner of a new business coming to Jefferson Avenue, Suzy’s Old Fashioned Frozen Custard.

Baker is seeking the rezoning of two parcels, 303 and 309 Jefferson Avenue, from Residential-1 to Commercial-1, allowing her to further develop the business.

She would like to add a drive-thru service window for golf carts and provide additional outdoor seating.

The property previously was home to a similar business, Kool Eatz Ice Cream and Sandwich Shop, from 2015 to 2020.

For about 50 years before that, the property was a barbershop, which set the precedent for

Kool Eatz to be granted a zoning variance in September 2015 to operate in the residential area.

Kool Eatz had about 10 indoor seats and some outdoor seating; Baker proposes eliminating the indoor seating, expanding the outdoor seating, and adding the drive-thru.

Interim Planning and Zoning Administrator Katie Nunez recommended denial of the application on the basis that rezoning the two parcels in a residential neighborhood “opens up the property and the neighborhood to all of the uses allowed by-right in the Commercial-1 district,” her report stated.

The zoning application also has received open criticism ahead of the public hearing scheduled for April 15.

Two public comments referencing the application were read into the record during the March 18 town council meeting.

Jim Granger said a residential neighborhood is not compatible with commercial zoning, which the Cape Charles zoning ordinance states is characterized by “heavy traffic, noise, and congestion of people and passenger vehicles and by large retail establishments.”

Ellen O’Brien noted that additional outdoor seating and a golf cart drive-thru are not necessary to the operation of the business.

She also asserted that the golf cart drive-thru could pose a hazard to pedestrians and bicyclists walking and riding along the two-way street and crossing at the corner.

The Cape Charles Town Council will not make a decision regarding the zoning application until both the Town Council and the Cape Charles Planning Commission hold public hearings on the matter.