- Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 August 2013 09:49
- Published on Wednesday, 14 August 2013 09:49
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Clayton L. Shepherd found himself before the Colonial Beach Town Council for the third time, fighting for the right to purchase an 827-sq.-ft. piece of land adjoining his property.
The parcel in dispute is a right-of-way, located at the end of Hamilton St., in the southern part of town. The council had vacated the parcel, and during its June meeting, decided to split it into two sections. One parcel measured 5,198 sq. ft., was appraised at $41,600, and was to be offered to adjoining property owner Cameron Craig Berry. The other parcel measured 827 sq. ft., was appraised at $6,600, and was to be offered to adjoining property owner Clayton L. Shepherd.
During the same June 13 council meeting, two of the council members, Linda Brubaker and Wanda Goforth, disputed the value of the Shepherd parcel, which is waterfront property. Both councilwomen felt that it had been appraised too low and stated they would not vote to sell it.
The town had combined the sale of the two individual properties into one ordinance to save advertising costs. But when members of the council questioned the sale price of, and then refused to vote on the smaller property, the council was forced to amend the sale by removing the smaller parcel from the ordinance.
The sale of town-owned waterfront property requires a majority vote of five members. Other members were willing to vote for the sale of both properties, but Councilman Tim Curtin was out of town, unable to attend the meeting.
By removing the smaller property from the ordinance, the council was able to continue with the sale of the larger parcel to Berry.
After just two weeks, at the June 27 work session, Councilwoman Brubaker, who had originally opposed the sale price of the smaller parcel, motioned to move forward with the advertisement of the sale of the 827-sq.-ft. property for its previously-appraised price of $6,600. Brubaker said that she had reached the decision to support the sale (at that amount) after visiting the property. Brubaker said, “Mr. and Mrs. Shepherd, just for a matter of record, I want to let you know that you kind of got caught in the crosshairs of something that happened here at the last meeting. I personally want to apologize to both of you and hope that you’ll be satisfied with the sale price and move forward as quick as the town can move.”
Councilwoman Goforth also stated, “After walking the property, I think this is many years of problems and he [indicating Mr. Sheppard] has actually expended a lot of funds to build a bulkhead on his property. I’m glad that I went and walked the property, and he explained everything to me.”
The sale of the parcel was re-advertised and came before the council again at the meeting on August 8. Both Councilwomen Brubaker and Goforth tried to delay the sale of the property again.
At the August 8 meeting, Mayor Mike Ham opened the public hearing with the mention of Ordinance 640, which outlined the sale of the property to Shepherd. With no comments from the public during the hearing, what should have been an easy vote on the sale of town-owned property, turned into a long, sometimes heated, debate.
It began with a simple question from the mayor, “Is there any discussion on this ordinance?”
“Yes, there is,” replied both Councilman Gary Seeber and Councilwoman Wanda Goforth.
Seeber said, “It is my understanding that Mr. Berry is right now delaying any action on his part.” Seeber was referring to the larger parcel of land, having been voted to be sold to Berry during the previous month’s meeting.
The fact that one section of the property would remain if Mr. Berry did not buy the portion that he had requested, raised the possibility of the council being in violation of Resolution 19-11. Adopted on April 14, 2011, and re-adopted on May 10, 2012, Resolution 19-11 states that a right-of-way that has been abandoned/vacated, and then proposed to be sold, must be sold in its entirety without any residual of the parcel being left to the town.
Goforth argued that according to the resolution, the property could not be sold to Mr. Shepherd if Mr. Berry did not go through with the purchase of his portion.
Seeber advised that the resolution had been drafted to ensure that no town-owned property would be landlocked.
Goforth pointed out that the resolution did not say anything about a parcel being landlocked and maintained her interpretation of the resolution.
Discussion between Goforth and Seeber became heated and loud.
Councilman Tommy Edwards asked Town Attorney Andrea Erard to interpret the resolution. Erard explained that since a resolution is simply town council policy and not an ordinance or state code, it was up to the council to interpret it.
Other members weighed in on the subject for over twenty minutes, but in the end, the council secured a six-to-one vote to sell the property to Shepherd, with Goforth voting against.