By Carol Vaughn — The Accomack County Board of Supervisors Wednesday approved rezoning and a conditional use permit for a proposed mixed-use development with 140 townhouses, planned to be rentals, on property surrounded on three sides by the Captains Cove community.
The two 8-1 votes, with Supervisor Paul Muhly voting no, came after public hearings in which 13 Captains Cove residents spoke against the development, citing concerns about the developer’s plan to use Captains Cove’s private road, Captains Corridor, to access the new development and to use Captains Cove’s water and sewer utilities to serve it, among other concerns.
“Listening to the audience tonight, I haven’t heard any consensus that the legal issues have been settled,” Muhly said.
CCG Note LLC requested the county conditionally rezone 24.41 acres, the former Hastings/Mariner farm on State Line Road, from residential to village development and applied for a conditional use permit to build a 140-townhouse and commercial mixed-use development there.
The board’s May 18 meeting packet included 152 pages of letters submitted by Captains Cove residents opposing the townhouse development.
Among speakers was Linda Reece, who lives on Captains Corridor.
“Captains Cove resources are for the residents and property owners, not the county or any developer to misuse,” she said.
Reece said the developer made a profit when, as president of the Captains Cove property owners’ association board, he sold the water and sewer system “to his own utility company.”
The sales agreement says the system is for the property owners in Captains Cove, according to Reece. “No other use is permitted,” she said.
Reece and other speakers talked about poor water quality in Captains Cove and the danger of saltwater intrusion with additional withdrawals for the new development.
Laurence Berger, another resident, said the developers do not live in Accomack County.
“There is one thing they are not — your constituents,” he told the board.
He directed the board’s attention to the large crowd of Captains Cove residents in the audience, saying, “That is your constituents.”
“Every single one who has spoken either before the planning commission or before the board of supervisors has expressed his or her opposition to this project,” Berger said.
He noted “well over 600” Captains Cove property owners recorded their opposition to the project.
“Such an overwhelming number of taxpayers and citizen voters should not be arbitrarily or summarily dismissed by their representatives,” he said.
Carol Gardner said the plan to use the main road in and out of Captains Cove to access the development is a concern.
“’This is a private, deeded road and it is paid for by the residents of the community. None of the developers own that road,” she said, adding, “… Unfortunately, these same developers are on the board of directors for the Cove, which creates a clear conflict of interest and a dubious representation of the Cove community.”
Gardner said residents have hired an attorney “to intervene just in case this project gets approval. We can’t just stand by and let the developers claim our assets. … Like you, we work very hard for our money, so it’s impossible to watch the potential for our dues to be utilized on a rental housing project that will in essence be funded by our community funds.”
Supervisor Ron Wolff, whose district includes Captains Cove, made both motions for approval.
“The planning commission has vetted this entire project, the process that surrounds it. It has met the approval of our county attorney and of you (speaking to Rich Morrison, deputy county administrator of planning and community development) … that it does meet all of the conditions that are set forth in our ordinances as far as you know,” Wolff said, asking Morrison for confirmation, which Morrison gave.
The Accomack County Planning Commission in two 6-3 votes in March recommended approval of conditional rezoning of the property from residential to village development and of the conditional use permit, including 13 conditions.
The board’s vote to approve the conditional use permit included waivers to required setbacks for each of the 140 townhouse lots; approval of one access to a private street, provided that there is also one direct access to State Line Road; and allowing the development to be served by private roads. The county received letters from NASA and the Navy about the need for housing in the area, according to Morrison.
He said the planning commission listened to residents opposed the development, noting two conditions included in the conditional use permit reflect a response to citizens’ concerns.
One condition is that no building permits are to be issued until the entrances on Captains Corridor are deemed to be lawfully established after review and approval by the county administrator in consultation with the county attorney.
“The developer is going to have to prove to the county that they have the right to use this road,” Morrison said.
Another condition says that, in the event Aqua, the utility that provides water and sewer service to Captains Cove, refuses to provide or is unable or precluded from providing water and sewer service to the townhouse development, the conditional use permit shall be null and void. Mark Baumgartner, the applicant’s attorney, said the development fits the requirements of the village development zoning district. “Putting this project where it is under the village development area makes all the sense in the world,” he said.
“I want to talk first about why this development is good for the Shore,” Baumgartner said, citing the need for multi-family housing in the county.
Baumgartner said most of the comments from speakers at the hearing “concerned private rights. … This board doesn’t grant private rights and it doesn’t take away private rights. …That’s in another forum.”
He said legal documents related to Captains Cove are “complicated” and were misconstrued by commenters.