Keep Density Restrictions

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Dear Editor:

Stefanie Jackson’s important coverage of lower Eastern Shore development issues continued with her March 11 article, “Northampton Board Votes Unanimously to Nix Proposed Tourist Cottages.” The Board of Supervisor’s action was welcomed by those working to protect Northampton County’s economy and rural character from well-connected private interests who wish to commercialize prime farmland in search of imagined profits from short-term rentals.

After the board’s rejection of the proposal to build 12 motel units on agricultural land near Townsend, real estate agent Bill Parr and developer Angelo Manuel are seemingly back with an equally brazen effort to construct high-density housing. Working with a private investment company from Chesapeake called Community Investment Group, Parr and Manuel have proposed a change to zoning requirements to eliminate density requirements on farm and commercial land with existing buildings that can be renovated.

The pitch is affordable housing for the Eastern Shore workforce — a laudable goal on its face. However, the proposed change has no such wording in it, nor does it prohibit the use of such buildings for short-term rentals. More vacation rental homes for wealthy mainlanders is hardly an affordable housing solution.

Density restrictions (a maximum number of houses per acre) are the primary reason that we enjoy low real estate taxes, still have an agricultural economy, and can offer visitors an escape from their daily slog in Hampton Roads or along the Washington, D.C., Beltway.

Parr and Manuel can talk as fast and as smooth as they want. But on the Eastern Shore, we know that when it walks, flies, and quacks like a duck – it’s a duck. If we put enough tourist cottages, vacation rentals, and “adaptive reuse housing” per acre here, our great-grandchildren won’t ever have seen a duck.

Ken Dufty,
Exmore

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