- Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 March 2009 19:32
- Published on Wednesday, 04 March 2009 19:32
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For some time now there have been rumors circulating about the possible departure of the Colonial Beach Building and Zoning Administrator Chuck Bird. It was common knowledge that Bird had put his Monroe Bay Avenue home on the market and that it had sold. It was also well-known that his wife had recently gotten a new job in Norfolk. But what wasn't known was what Bird himself was going to do.
As of Monday at 4:00 pm., the Colonial Beach Town Manager Val Foulds had not received anything official from Bird, so she herself said she was still treating word of Bird's possible resignation as a rumor.
Foulds said she knew, “Mr. Bird has sold his home”. When asked when she had first heard the rumors of Bird's leaving, she answered, “about 6 months ago”. Foulds said she had been hearing the rumors for such a long time that the “town asked Mr. Bird for a plan of what he was going to do”. The request to Bird was sent in a letter. Foulds explained that Bird had not really made up his mind at the time and so declined to answer. “He really wasn't comfortable putting it in writing,” she explained. “He didn't know his own plans”.
But apparently as Bird went to closing on his home yesterday afternoon, things became crystal clear and this morning the Town of Colonial Beach was presented with an official resignation letter. Bird's final date of employment has been established as April 3, 2009. In a telephone interview just prior to press time, Bird said that he was “undecided" about what he was doing to do. "I've talked with the City of Norfolk and the City of Chesapeake,” he said. “I've also interviewed with the Corps of Engineers.” Bird says he is genuinely saddened to be leaving his position with the Town.
So what does this mean to the Town of Colonial Beach?
Is this even a big deal and does it matter?
For a great many people there will probably be the questions of, “What does a Building and Zoning Director do anyway” and “Do we need one”? But as always the final question will be, “What does this mean to the Town of Colonial Beach”?
Chuck Bird was the Director of Building and Zoning in the Town of Colonial Beach for 6 and ½ years. At the time he was hired he was the fourth Director in 5 years. By virtue of being Director, the Town Council charged him with the responsibility of interpreting the Town's building and zoning codes as opposed to those of the County's. Council also charged him with the responsibility of enforcement of the state building code.
During his tenure Bird has served 28 Town Council members, 2 Mayors, 6 or 7 Town Managers and 3 Public Works Directors. So one could say that he established a period of continuity with regard to zoning in Colonial Beach.
His office is tasked with many functions, all of them facets of building and zoning, and in that respect Bird interacted with multiple agencies on a daily basis such as the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the state Fire Marshals, Chesapeake Bay officials, Virginia Marine Resource Commission, Army Corps of Engineers, Colonial Beach Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals just to name a few.
In addition to holding the title of Director of Building and Zoning, Bird also wore a couple of other hats in the zoning office. He is the Certified Flood Plain Manager and the Erosion and Sediment Control Plan Inspector and Reviewer. Bird says the state mandates that the Town have such an E&I person and that we are now “in compliance with all E&I laws, including having someone certified”. Bird elaborated that if he weren't filling that role “the Town would have to hire the local soil and conservation board and pay them to administer the plan.”
The zoning office and its administrator are also responsible for compliance with the Chesapeake Bay Act and Bird gave his assurance that the Town of Colonial Beach is now “completely in compliance” in that category, as well. “We want to maintain that standing,” he said.
Bird also acts in the capacity of subdivision agent for the Town of Colonial Beach and is currently in the process of reviewing the latest submission from Potomac Crossing. There is a window of 60 days in which to take action on these plans which are also currently being reviewed by VDOT.
A great many of the things that the Zoning Director and his staff attend to have a timeliness with which they must act. For example, go back to that bit about Bird being a Certified Flood Plain Manager – is that important? Some might say yes, because the Town is under a deadline to re-write its flood plain ordinances and have them done and submitted by August of this year; along with their maps. If this is not done, the Town gets dropped from the National Flood Plain Insurance Program and nobody living in a flood plain area is covered until the Town is once again in compliance. In conjunction with the more regular duties of his job such as reviews of Conditional Use Permits, re-zoning applications, applications for variance and work with subdivision plats, there are also prescribed time lines.
This is also a particularly lean time for staffing within the zoning office for there is the noticeable absence of R. J. Foster who formerly held the position of Certified Building Official. A recruitment ad for his position has been run in some local newspapers, and the Town Manager confirms that Foster is no longer employed by the Town, but explains that Bird held the lead position and that Foster worked under his supervision.
“Mr. Bird took all the appropriate exams,” Foulds explained. Both Foulds and Bird confirm that the Town has received a “stack of resumes” with Bird adding that he has had some “phone calls from friends around the area” as well. Foulds says the former Town Manager had a background in Planning, “but that's not really me”. Foulds explains, “I need Mr. Bird to look at the technical aspects and I will look at people skills”.
So again, will the Town need to fill one or both of these positions? Some individuals have hypothesized that not filling the positions would be a cost saving strategy for the Town. There is the postulation that it is not necessary for the Town to fill these roles and that the County will pick up the slack. Bird explains that this might be true up to a point, but in this instance size does matter. “As long as the Town of Colonial Beach has a population that is less than 3,500 it can elect whether or not it will enforce the state building code”, he explains. “Once the population passes that mark it is no longer a choice.”
However, in either 1993 or 1994 the town made a decision by resolution to enforce the state building codes. So, if the Town does not have its own enforcement person, if in fact it contracts that work out, any fees associated with building applications won't go to the Town. They will go to that enforcement entity with whom the Town has a contract; whether it be Westmoreland County, King George or Fredericksburg.
Bird says that when they adjusted the building permit fees about three years ago they did so with the thought in mind that they would make the building and zoning office at least 75% to 80% self-supporting. A plan which he says worked until this year when everything slowed down. Bird says the Zoning Office will never be a money-making entity because it isn't allowed to be. “We can charge fees to offset the cost of the administration of ordinances”, he explains.
And if that doesn't seem like enough of a workload, there is also the whole Monroe Point court case still pending while under review with the Circuit Court, the re-write of the Comprehensive Plan and the Land Use Maps, the potential re-zoning along Monroe Bay Avenue, the annexation of the piece of land adjacent to High Tides Restaurant and a host of other items as well.
Now Bird says that the Town does not have to have its own Director of Building and Zoning it can literally empower anyone with the ability to interpret the Town's zoning ordinances like the Town Manager or a Town Council Member. Some might remember that Karen Payne, who currently holds a Council position, once upon a time was the individual responsible for such interpretation and enforcement, but for a council member to be appointed to hold such a position could set the stage for a potential conflict of interest. It is noteworthy to mention that the interpretations of a zoning administrator cannot be challenged or overturned by a successor.
Council Member David Coombes, who also sits as Chair of the Planning Commission, said, “I wish Mr. Bird well in whatever he decides to do.” Coombes admits that he does not know why Bird is resigning his position. “I hear rumors,” he added, “but you can't hang your hat on rumors."
Coombes says he hasn't had a single concrete conversation with anyone about this but can see the town maybe having to hire a contract temp; someone from the outside. “But of course,” he says, “that raises a host of other concerns”. Coombes says he just can't see the Town not having its own person in this role. “The absence of Mr. Bird will leave us with a gap for a while”.
The Planning Commission will hold its regular meeting this month on Thursday, March 5 at the Town Center.
- Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 January 2009 18:20
- Published on Wednesday, 21 January 2009 18:20
- Hits: 698
Frustrated Developers, Stephen V. Cirbee, of Trinity Building Company, refuses to shake hands with Mayor Fred Rummage, (Center) while Developer Michael Dzaman, of Monroe Point Housing project, speaks with Councilman Kennedy, (left) after Council meeting to raise water and sewer connection fees.
For almost a year since its introduction the proposed water and sewer fee increase has been opposed, revamped, and opposed again. Each time the fee increase got smaller as did its public oppostion.
At the January 8 public hearing only a handful of citizens spoke out against the 20% increase in water and sewer fees. No doubt the frigid weather and the feeling of public defeat had something to do with the low turnout of citizens.
Three representatives of the Monroe Point project spoke out against the proposal at the January 8th hearing, however their interest was sided towards the rate hike on connection fees which will see an increase of 100% by July 1st of this year. Currently water and sewer connection fees run $6000.00 collectively and will shoot up to $12000.00 by the middle of this year.
The consensus of the council during Jan. 8th was the need to look at the matter more carefully and pursue budget cuts as well. “Raising taxes and budget cuts go hand in hand,” said Councilman David Coombes who suggested the Council recess for one week and take a long look at both when they return on Jan. 15th.
At the Jan 15th meeting no comments where heard from the audience since the public hearing portion of the meeting was closed last week, but that didn’t stop Michael Dzaman, one of the developers from Monroe Point and Stephen V. Cirbee of Trinity Building Company, Inc. from speaking their mind after the meeting.
When mayor rummage approached Cirbee to shake hands Cirbee stated, “I’m not going to shake your hand!” explaining to Rummage he was mad that his written testimony was not included in last week's meeting or the discussions presented at this meeting.
Cirbee was unable to attend the January 8th hearing due to weather out of state and illness. Cirbee emailed the council on January 8th a copy of the 20th Annual Virginia Water and Wastewater Rate Report of 2008 from Draper Aden Associates. A set of three letters were hand delivered to the Council on January 15. Cirbee’s letters discuss three different scenarios builders are faced with when hooking up water and sewer connections and the different costs incurred by the builder.
The first, building on lots with existing connections, bears the least cost to builders.
The second, newly subdivided lots which involve improvements from the builder that benefits the whole town's system such as creating circulating loops, adding fire hydrants and expansion potential to downstream users. Cirbee contends that “Developers incur considerable upfront costs in installing these extensions and enhancements to the town-owned systems well in advance of creating any revenues from home sales or lot sales."
The third scenario, individually owned existing platted lots, with no available utility services. Cirbee states that installing utilities to these lots can be quite expensive as well as the need to install public road access to some.
Cirbee sums up his letter by suggesting, “The town should structure its utility connection fees and rates so that all undeveloped parcels in the town have equal potential for development and improvement.”
During the meeting both (Councilmen) Coombes and Kennedy suggested that the resolution be split to further examine the cost Connections. That idea was quickly abandoned because this would require a new hearing and meeting, most members of the board felt these issues needed to be pushed through now.
Part of the proposed budget cuts for the general fund included, cutting overtime, cutting transportations costs, and even the idea of furloughs which Council members Ridgley and Payne stated was a last resort and there were none planned at this time.
Karen Payne informed the council and public that although the potential cuts to the general fund amounted to $60.000.00 the Utility fund is a separate entity and the funds could not be combined or moved.
One other item that was introduced into the agenda and passed on January 15th was the approval of Resolution #05-09 Requesting legislative action by the Virginia General Assembly Related to Golf Cart Crossings.
The resolution is the first step in a recommendation from VDOT to provide for golf cart crossing from Second Street to Old Road to avoid crossing at the traffic light which puts golf carts on private property with no legal/approved access to the shopping center. Access to Old Road allows golf cart traffic to enter at the back of the shopping center without crossing the grassy area between McDonalds and the east side of the shopping center parking lot.
- Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 January 2009 19:46
- Published on Wednesday, 07 January 2009 19:46
- Hits: 844
Colonial Beach Art Guild will be celebrating more than its Art Walk on Friday January 9th; they will also pay tribute to one of their members, Ebbie Hynson who turns 89 later this month.
Ebbie will be exhibiting some of her newest artwork at the Jarrett Thor Fine Arts Gallery at 100 Talor St. #101 just under the new condos near the Boardwalk at Colonial Beach. I caught up with this busy woman at the Fisheries Commission where the Art league is featuring paintings from several Artists for the month of January.
Ebbie Hynson had been drawing for as long as she could remember but she knew she wanted to be an artist at the age of 8 when she wrote her desire down on paper. It wasn’t a school project or a journal, she just decided to make it a conviction.
Ebbie recalls when she was 10 or 12 painting cartoons on her leather jacket and in 6th grade she drew a sailboat on the blackboard at her school in D.C. Her teacher was so impressed with the drawing it was left on the blackboard for the rest of the year.
During her years in high school she was one of only 800 students selected in a national art contest to display one of her paintings. Ebbie laughs and says it was not a good painting. “It was a tree with these leaves underneath it,” she says. In an unsure voice she continues, “They tell me now that I have a talent for doing portraits, I have one portrait at home that I did in college. But I don’t have much formal training.”
It may have slipped her mind at the time of our interview but one of her portraits of President Clinton and V.P. Al Gore she painted from a poster during their 1996 campaign. It hangs in the Democratic Party Headquarters in Richmond, according to her resumé.
Like most Artists Ebbie is modest about her abilities because she is self- taught with what she feels is little formal training. She majored in art in high school in D.C. She attended night school at the National School of Art to study fashion illustration. Later at the age of 59 she attended one year of fine art classes at the Northern Virginia Community College taught by John Bannon where she learned the “old masters techniques”.
“I just love to paint!” says Ebbie; she likes to have fun with her paintings. Someone once told her that a painting should tell a story, so she amuses the guild by making up clever anecdotes about her paintings. Subjects of her artwork become colorful characters in her stories. When we spoke, she was removing a painting with ‘a white vase of hydrangeas with chocolates on the table’. The painting she was replacing it with also was of a white vase but with no chocolates. She told the representative at the Fisheries Commission that if anyone noticed the difference to tell them someone ate the chocolate.
Ebbie first started to sell her artwork in sidewalk shows in the 1960’s but her career really took off when she settled here 25 years ago. She now shows her work in the Colonial Beach area, but has shown in a gallery in Fredericksburg years ago. She has been a member of several guilds in her travels but she is now a charter member in the Colonial Beach Art guild which hosts around 62 artists at present time. The guild meets regularly at the Wide River Art Gallery which is housed in the same building as the Espresso Shop on Washington Avenue.
Ebbie’s new work features a new technique she calls “Rembrandt Lighting”, she describes it as very striking. It really brings out one subject in the painting with the lighting. But you will have to come down Friday evening to see it. The Art Walk begins at 6:00 pm. For more info call 804-224-8411.
- Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 2008 18:14
- Published on Wednesday, 31 December 2008 18:14
- Hits: 693
A single vase of flowers sits among the ruins of the late Robert Dudleys' home after it was destroyed by fire on Christmas Eve. The Arm chair is where Dudley was believed to be sitting when the fire took his life that night.
Shortly after 8:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve when children were being warned to tuck into bed for Santa’s arrival a tragic call came out to Rescue Station 1 and Engine Company 1.
A trailer fire on Old Road behind the Food Lion Shopping Center in Colonial Beach was reported. Witnesses reported hearing one explosion followed by another. The trailer was fully engulfed by the time Rescue and Fire Personal reached the single wide trailer.
The last call came out over the scanner reporting that the occupant was located in the structure, “it’s going to be a DOA,” said the person on the radio.
The residents on Old Road make up a tight nit close community. Family, friends and neighbors are very private and are leery about sharing personal information.
The victim of the fire was Robert Dudley. His neighbors and friends described him as a caring man who would give you the shirt off his back. He was always friendly and jovial. Robert was in his 60’s and had just left his neighbor/cousin's house next door. A relative, Cindy, said Robert and her mother had just been visiting. They had a friendly exchange over who would use her mother’s favorite roasting pan for Christmas dinner. Robert sat talking with the family for a few minutes before leaving to go home around 7:30.
Roughly 20 minutes after Robert's departure, Cindy’s son Jeffrey went outside for something and came back in the house saying he smelled smoke coming from Roberts trailer. When Cindy and the others came out, they could see smoke. Jeffrey attempted to enter the trailer. When he flung open the door a rush of flames shot out preventing Jeffrey from entering the home. Cindy believes the smoke had overtaken Robert before the flames could.
By the time the fire department arrived, the trailer was fully engulfed. Neighbors and relatives were left speechless as they watched firefighters put out the flames.
“It’s one thing when a person is sick but when you lose someone so quick it leaves a mark on you,” said Cindy. The family said it would be easier to cope with if they could clean up the trailer to put the bad memories behind them.
Cindy’s mother, who did not wish to be named, said that the funeral service will be on her birthday this Wednesday.
Outside there is a large copper-colored furry dog named Dino who belongs to Cindy and her family. Cindy said Dino was great friends with Robert. “He walked over there and sniffed the chair he used to sit in and just sat there for a while. He knows he’s gone and he misses him.” said Cindy.
Another friend who had stopped by, Saphonia, recalls first meeting Robert when she was just a young girl. Saphonia and Cindy laughed, while holding back tears as they recalled Roberts's friendship with Ed, another "jolly fella" who died a few years back. “The Ed pool,” as they were referred to, was a group of friends who palled around. “Robert was the last of 'em,” said Cindy. “I remember Ed told Robert one day, ‘if you don’t stop drinking, you're gonna be gone’. Robert said, ‘Ed, you gonna go before I do,’ and Ed left before Robert.”
Cindy laughed at the thought of Ed's response when he saw Robert in heaven, “I bet you Ed said, 'Robert you done came on up here.' ”
One thing is for sure Robert will be missed by everyone but the stories of his life will live on for generations to come in his neighborhood.
- Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 December 2008 17:15
- Published on Wednesday, 10 December 2008 17:15
- Hits: 767
The Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) upheld the findings of the Town's Zoning Administrator at a hearing on October 21, 2008 regarding Monroe Point and Chesapeake Townhome Development (CTD). That decision has now lead to an appeal by the developers which will look at the process by which the decisions of the public officials will be examined. What the BZA upheld was Chuck Bird's, the zoning administrator's, findings that the planting remediation schedule for the development was still not complete more than two years later and that in addition to what was originally specified in the plan, the developers, Mike Dzaman and Jonathon Natelson would have to plant an additional 450 additional canopy and under-story trees.
So why the additional tree requirement? It appears that additional trees are necessary for two specific reasons. One, while the developers were given “some permission to encroach into the buffer” for some utility work to be done, such as by Dominion Virginia Power and Verizon, no permission was given for what amounted to “clear cutting”; the removal of all vegetation.
While it does appear that some of the larger trees were left intact, it is evident that all of the under-story growth was removed. Again, it would have been permissible for some removal for “sight lines and vistas”, but “too much under-story was taken out”, which according to Bird, at a previous date, meant the “plan had a major deviation.”
The second reason for the additional planting requirement is that the plan that was approved was done so based on information provided by the developers. They did an initial tree count and used that number to support the planting remediation. One might say the number was taken at face value by the town in “good faith”. However, “the information given on the plan was not accurate,” said the Town's Zoning Administrator at an earlier date. The inaccurate information that was supplied was that there were 1,700 mature trees of 3” or greater caliper existing. An actual count taken at the property in May of 2007 revealed the inaccuracy.
The summons and attached complaint which have now been served on the town, allege that the actions of the BZA and the Zoning Administrator have been arbitrary and capricious.
Once Monroe Point announced that the planting had been complete, Bird in the course of his due diligence, decided to verify, by actually counting the trees. The counting of the trees at the property took place over a two day period. Bird says that on May 14, he, a DCR representative and the Monroe Point project manager, began counting plants. They counted on the 14th and on the 29th. “There were three of us counting,” explained Bird earlier this year.
Bird said at the time “the buffer area was divided up into 200 foot sections and then we all walked it one way, each one of us counting one of the categories (canopy trees, under-story trees and shrubs). Then we walked it back the other way to count category 2. Then we walked it a third time to count for category 3. Then we all compared our numbers and split the difference.”
For example, if Bird got 66 canopy trees and DCR got 58 canopy trees and the project manager for Monroe Point got 69 canopy trees, the number arrived at by consensus was 64 canopy trees, an average of all three numbers. At the time this count was conducted, the Monroe Point project manager expressed no concerns about the counting methodology. It should also be pointed out that there is a very clear formula in existence and available from DCR for what constitutes a healthy buffer; for every 400 square feet there is to be 1 canopy tree, 2 under-story or sub canopy trees and 3 small shrubs.
Bird is somewhat limited in what he can say about the Monroe Point project now that the matter is facing possible litigation, however, when asked how many hours he has spent on this development, his answer is a very serious “hundreds” and then he begins listing the numerous letters and face to face meetings and phone calls and emails, not just from the developers, but from DCR and the town folk.
There were also plans, altered plans, and site inspections, and at least a half dozen stop work orders and the list goes on. DCR says that in the past three years, this one project has taken up more time than all the others they have worked on put together.
There are fourteen points listed in the complaint that has been filed by Monroe Point and sent to the town. None of the points argue that the violation finding itself is wrong, rather they seem to focus on just overturning this decision to replant the trees, the additional 450 trees. Could it be that the addition of these trees might spoil the view for the residents of the newly erected townhouses? Although this will be the first time in Colonial Beach that developers have filed an appeal with the Circuit Court against the decision of the BZA, it goes on elsewhere in Virginia all the time, so there is case law to study, and a brief review shows that the Circuit Court really does not examine the evidence itself that was presented to the BZA, rather they examine how the BZA reached its decision, the mechanism in place. In fact the decision of the BZA must be “plainly wrong before being disturbed by the court” and it must be found that the “Board applied erroneous principles” and that the decision made by the BZA is “presumed to be correct”.
The ironic thing is, that while the Town gets ready to vote to pay the town attorney an hourly rate to support the BZA and then an answer is crafted to this first legal document and Monroe Point hires their attorneys, that for roughly $20,000 (which includes labor) the 450 additional trees could be planted and that part of the job done. Bird says that had that been the path taken, that he would now be in a “monitoring phase and close to giving the developers back their bond."