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Hershfield loses house in Col. Beach

   For many years there has been a quiet on-going battle on Horton Street.  The prime objective?  To rid the Town of Colonial Beach of the eyesore belonging to Mr. Charles Hershfield; the owner of a property who allowed it to atrophy past the point of reclamation.  Hershfield has had similar issues with property he owns in King George across from Potomac Elementary School.
   Chuck Bird, the Zoning Administrator for the Town, says the battle with the Horton Street property was already underway prior to his arrival and since Bird has been here for 6 and ½ years that’s a pretty long time.  The initial conflict with the property owner began over the tall grass and then as one town employee put it, “then we saw a house there”.  Bird says that when he first arrived, the property was probably still salvageable, but over time and with the help of the elements, the property declined past the point of salvation.  That’s when the Town started proceedings to take down the house and that’s when Hershfield began claiming the property was, in fact, a wildlife sanctuary.
   Bird said the Town Attorney drafted documents against Hershfield outlining the criminal complaint, but the Town had trouble serving the papers.  Bird said they could never find Hershfield at home in Fairview Beach where he resides, nor could they catch him at the Colonial Beach property.  But the Town found a way around the need to serve him personally and went the route of declaring the property a public nuisance.  The Town Attorney drafted a petition to bring to the court which meant that personal service was no longer needed, notification could be sent via First Class Mail.  The Judge agreed with the Town’s petition and found the property to be a public nuisance and ordered an inspection of the interior.  The Town did the inspection and provided both a report and pictures of the inside as well as a 6-7 minute video.  Bird said nothing moved on the video; no birds, no animals, nothing.  “What you can hear on the video”, commented Bird, “are the remarks about the Poison Ivy.  It was everywhere”.
   The judge ordered that the house be removed by the end of the summer of 2008 and if it was not that the Town would be allowed to remove the structure themselves and attach a lien to property to recoup the cost.  Last week, since Hershfield did not comply with the Court’s order, the Town Attorney, Andrea Erard, drafted a 48-hour demolition notice and sent it to Hershfield and his attorney.  This morning, Chuck Bird, accompanied by a law enforcement officer, entered the property to verify there were no inhabitants and then the structure came down.  All that remains is a pile of rubble, a fresh No Trespassing sign and a For Sale by Owner sign.  For those interested, the price has been dropped to $37,000.


   Sometimes a person comes along and makes a special place for themselves in your life.  Sometimes a business comes along and does the same thing for their community.  That was Bud Tressler's philosophy with his restaurant Fat Freda's and although his passing may be mourned by many members of the Colonial Beach community, for some it may be comforting to know that his wife Linda Tressler is stepping in right where her husband left off.
    This Sunday, March 15, from 1:00 to 5:00, WIN (or lose) there will be a party thrown in honor of the Colonial Beach Varsity Boys Basketball Team who seem well on their way to helping keep Colonial Beach on the map by bringing home the State title.  The gift certificates have already been written; one for each player, coach and the team's manager.  Family and friends are donating time and desserts to make the event a special one and a DJ has been hired.  “This is what its all about”, says Fat Freda's employee, Serene Dickerson, “being a part of the community”.
   All the employees of the restaurant enjoy that aspect of working at Fat Freda's “doing the extra things”.  Sharon Soaper, Elsie Balderson, Tim Olson, Karen Phelps and Serene Dickerson all say, “Go Drifters! Take us all the way, but no matter what you guys have done great.  You've done us proud.”  Fat Freda's invites fans, friends and family to join the fun on Sunday.  
   The Varsity Boys will be leaving Colonial Beach High School at 9:15 Thursday, to battle Altavista High School at the Siegel Center at VCU in Richmond.  Before leaving town, the bus will stop at the elementary school where students have made banners and signs to cheer the team on.  Then just before 9:30, the bus will come up the street towards Lenny's and make a left hand turn onto Colonial Avenue to leave town.  Everyone who is a Drifter fan is invited to join in the fun and line Colonial Avenue in the spirit of the day and root on the mighty Black and Gold Drifters.

Foulds comments on Bird's departure

   Director of Zoning Chuck Bird, who has held the post in Colonial Beach for the past 61/2 years, will be leaving a little earlier than previously expected.  
According to Town Manager Val Foulds, Bird's last date has been changed to March 17th.  Foulds says, “When Mr. Bird resigned he gave three options.  I picked Option B which gave him a 30-day window.  After I had a chance to think about it from a budget perspective, I thought I could use these funds and put them in a reserve for using him as an on-call person.”  
   Foulds says she doesn't want to be in the position of having to call Bird with questions after he is gone and keeping him on the phone for an hour and not being able to compensate him for his time.  “That's what happened with the former Town Manager,”she added.  Foulds says that Town Attorney Andrea Erard is going to be working on and finishing the Flood Plain Ordinance, a matter of high priority.  But with regard to finalizing the sub-division plat submitted by Potomac Crossing or handling things like Conditional Use Permits, things with attached deadlines, Foulds doesn't yet know how the Town will proceed.  “In a less challenging time it would be so straightforward”, she sighs.  Foulds says the one thing she “doesn't want to do is what's been done in the past, which is put a band-aid on it.”
    The Town has also not yet filled the position of Building Official.  Foulds says she is “weighing the volume to support one here in town at this time.”  However, to help ease the burden on the zoning department, Bill Seay, a member of the Colonial Beach Police Department, has been appointed to act as a “liaison from the zoning office”.
 Foulds says that Seay was appointed based on his “Planning Commission experience, his familiarity with the ladies who work in zoning and his people skills”.  Foulds elaborated saying that Seay knew how to problem solve and was resourceful.  Seay previously served on the Planning Commission.
   Whomever the Town appoints to serve in the capacity of Director of Zoning will be responsible for interpreting the Town's zoning laws.

Anne Congdon

More drugs rounded up in Town's second swat team raid

   On Friday February 27th Colonial Beach Police and a Virginia State Police Swat team recovered drugs during a raid on a house in the 400 block of Bancroft Ave in Colonial Beach. The teams were assisted by the Westmoreland County Sheriff's office. Arrests are pending investigation.
   This raid was the second this month. The previous week on Friday February 20th Colonial Beach Police department participated in a drug raid that netted the recovery of $2800 in Cocaine and between $500 and $600 in Marijuana. Several street weapons were also recovered in the operation as well as over $4000 in cash.
   In his report to the Council at the February 26th regular meeting, Colonial Beach Police Chief Hawkins spoke of the “Drug roundup” saying, “Those 11, we ended up picking up another one a day later,  were the last of big the targets that we wanted to get before the summer.”
   Three of the suspects were residents of Colonial Beach but all of the suspects were linked to drug activity in Colonial Beach. “They were affecting multiple jurisdictions, that’s the beauty of the task force, places where we don’t have jurisdiction we can still reach out and touch them if they’re affecting us here,” Hawkins explained. Hawkins stated that 5 of the suspects are facing federal charges. “So they won’t be around here for a while.” He said.
   The investigation, which started in August of last year with the task force, was mainly targeting cocaine distribution. Chief Hawkins said in a phone interview Monday they are starting court proceeding on asset forfeiture on seized property.
   In other police news the department is pursuing money from the Stimulus plan for a “Cops Program” which is designed to fill vacancies currently held open by the economy. The program will pay three years salary plus benefits.
   The Council approved the idea of applying for the funds to add two additional officers to the force.
   Chief Hawkins has arranged for a mock inspection in preparation for accreditation, which could have an impact on lowering insurance and provide other benefits. One example is a greater chance for applying for grants since most applications ask if a department is accredited on the application. The test grades on 187 standards for police departments and personnel, covering policies, procedures and day to day operations.

Linda Farneth

Chuck Bird, Planning and Zoning Administrator, is calling it quits

   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.

Anne Congdon






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