- Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 March 2009 18:16
- Published on Wednesday, 25 March 2009 18:16
- Hits: 867
Can you say STATE CHAMPIONS? Hold on now, I’m getting ahead of myself. As a keen observer of Colonial Beach High School basketball for 43 years, I’d like to share some of my thoughts with you over this time frame.
The 1967-68 school year was my first peek at CBHS Athletics. Charles “Brick” Thomas led the Drifter girls basketball team (featuring Linda Steffey and a strong supporting cast) to the District F (now the Northern Neck District) Championship. The boys team was very competitive, but couldn’t match the Lady Drifters success. During this time, fifth grader Steve Swope and friends could be found standing in the windows behind the Drifter team in the “Cracker Box” for home games and crammed in Frank Copin’s Chrysler for away games.
In fact, regardless of ability or record, I was impressed right away by not only strong fan support for home games, but a Drifter “convoy” reminiscent of “Hoosiers” for away contests. By searching old newspapers and yearbooks, I discovered this Drifter “fanaticism” had been stoked by Coaches A. C. “Breezy” Holloman and Kenneth Daly in the early 1960’s. They had both the boys and girls teams near the top of District F nearly every year. Coach Holloman advanced the boys to the Region A Tournament at William and Mary in 1961, where they defeated Cape Charles, before coming up just short against West Point. Unfortunately, during this era, tournament play was unavailable for girls basketball beyond the district level.
Following the departure of Holloman and Daly ,”Brick” Thomas directed the Lady Drifters to back to back championships, but the boys went in the other direction for a couple of years. Kentucky native Don Wilson restored order and pride to the boys program during the 1966-67 season before moving on to Group AA basketball.
His move enabled Charlotte and I to utilize the “3R’s” (Readin’, Ritin’ and the Road to Richmond) in moving from High Point, North Carolina to Colonial Beach. We received strong support from the entire community from the first day and utilized full court pressure and fast break basketball to create excitement, to compensate for lack of size, and to involve more players.
The Drifters were competitive from day one with occasional upsets of arch rivals Washington & Lee and King George, and even a 13 game winning streak in 1969-70. Despite a lineup that featured Vincent DiRosario, Joe Frye, future All State selection Selven “Duck” Watts, Mike Powell and Raymond Morris, there were no championships on the Beach resume. Lack of depth was always a problem for the smallest school in the area, and it was exacerbated when every school except CBHS consolidated and doubled the size of their school population.
During this time, Steve Swope had worked his way up the ladder from the junior high team to j.v. and to varsity as a sophomore. Though not physically imposing, nor fleet of foot and with limited “ups”, he was one of the best pure shooters to lace up sneakers for the Black and Gold. In fact, Steve and undersized post player Wayne “Moser” Beverly provided the bulk of the scoring during the 1970-71 season.
Former James Monroe High School All State player Teed Walfe took over the reins of Drifter b-ball for 2 seasons (1971-73) When Charlotte and I moved back to North Carolina. Coach Walfe and the Drifters experienced early success, but fell victim to the old bugaboo (lack of depth).
Much to our delight, Charlotte and I were invited back to CB for the 1973-74 school year. Meanwhile Steve Swope had enrolled at Rappahannock Community College to further his education.
Following an enjoyable first season back in “River City,” Colonial Beach decided to join the Tri State Conference in order to compete with schools of similar enrollments. In the ensuing years, our j.v. girls (coached by Pat FitzGerald),
Our j.v. boys (coached by Ken Chatham and later Eric D’Antonio and Roger Mowery), our varsity girls (coached by Ken Chatham) and our varsity boys won various regular season and/or tournament basketball championships. All of these were very exciting and celebrated as only true Drifters can celebrate.
Fast forward to 1977 and you can find Joseph Stephen Swope amongst the graduates of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg (“Gawd’s Country”). August of that year saw Superintendent Homer Kline hire Steve as an elementary physical education teacher, varsity baseball coach, j.v. football coach and j.v. basketball coach. Much success followed this well organized, committed and loyal young man in all areas almost immediately. Though soft spoken and a keen observer and patient listener, time would confirm that Steve Swope was an intense and successful competitor.
Coach Swope exchanged ideas with high school and college coaches’ alike, read books, and attended many, many coaches ‘clinics and seminars to improve himself as a teacher and coach. As a result, he claimed many basketball season and/or tournament championships (with Lamon White, “Juice” Gray, etc.) and Coach of the Year honors as selected by his peers. Once again, Coach Swope and the Drifter faithful celebrated each success with great Black and Gold pride.
A few days before Christmas in 1987, I convinced Steve Swope he was the only logical choice to become the varsity boys basketball coach beginning with the 1988-89 season. boys basketball coach beginning with the 1988-89 season. I’m the first person to admit I have not always made good decisions, but I am convinced this one was a bull’s eye!
Following 20 years of Tri State competition, the decision was made to join the Delaney Athletic Conference beginning with the 1995-96 school year. Championships were earned by junior high boys (coached by Paul Miles and Keith Dickerson), j.v. boys (Randy Jones and Joe Jones) and varsity boys. Behind strong play by Neal Coleman, Tim Ford, Joey Swope, Dylan Farinet, Tyler Swope, T.T. Carey and strong supporting casts, Coach Swope’s varsity Drifters clipped the nets more than once at Highland School in Warrenton.
Beginning with the 2007-08 school year, Colonial Beach decided to rejoin the Virginia High School League and compete in the Tidewater District in order to give our student/athletes the opportunity for Region and State Championships. Right out of the gate, the Drifter boys lost only one district game, won the Regular Season title and finished second to King William in the tournament on their court. CBHS disposed of Appomattox Regional in Region A playoffs and even though seeded second had to travel to 3rd seeded Surry County next. Surry defeated CB and sent us packing. Nathan Galloway, Tim Wilson, Terry Bushrod, Dylan Farinet and T.T. Carey and our entire team had provided many fond memories and stoked Coach Swope’s fires to claim a bigger prize in the future.
How had the Drifters gotten to this point? Coach Swope ‘s work ethic, his passion for success and community involvement and support were a large part of the success. The Drifter Skipper had also assembled a great staff (Jonathan Parker, Randy Jones, Earl Payton and Casey Johnson) and organized and directed open gyms, summer league play, high school and college basketball camps and Saturday morning leagues. In addition, he and his staff had provided counseling, direction, discipline, academic support, transportation, etc. to current and future Drifters. Coach Swope had developed the ability to deal with bad calls and no calls, outside distractions, players failing off and various situations he had no control over. He also worked very hard at developing team play, team chemistry, even “team love” through team outings, cookouts, overnight trips, etc. In addition, he was the beneficiary of players who have come through the various Drifter programs from kindergarten through today. Finally, Drifter parental, staff and community support can never be underestimated.
The 2008-2009 season started inauspiciously with a first game one point loss at Lancaster and a lack luster home loss to Chancellor, as well as a one point loss at the buzzer at King George. In between and thereafter, CB improved enough to handily avenge all 3 losses, sweep Northern Neck District Champion Essex and soundly defeat Washington & Lee and Northumberland to claim the Indians Christmas Tournament.
The fact is, the Beach went on a winning streak that included the aforementioned games as well as a perfect 12-0 record against Tidewater foes enroute to regular season and tourney championships. This earned the Drifters a #1 seed in the Region. They easily disposed of Charles City before gaining sweet revenge against Surry 100-76 in the Drifter Dome behind Dylan Farinet (34 points) and T. T. Carey ‘s (46 points) combined 80 points. This was definitely CB’s best offensive game of the year.
Strangely enough, the Beach still had to travel to Surry the next night where they claimed the Region A Championship against Franklin. Wow! Three games in 4 nights=3 victories and no sleep for Coach Swope.
Could it be that Colonial Beach would do the unthinkable? Next up, the Riverheads Gladiators. The Beach overcame their patient offensive strategy with relative ease at the Siegel Center. Although Altavista provided a similar, but tougher test, the Drifters again prevailed on Virginia Commonwealth University’s court.
For Coach Swope, the last four weeks had been exciting, but exhausting. Celebrating, sure, but not getting too high, because focus was paramount if the Beach was going to achieve their next objective. Finally, the big day was right around the corner. Now it seemed the late night return bus trips, the early Saturday morning wakeups, worrying over player illnesses, wondering about competency and fairness by officials, the loss of hair and the change in hair color, and all game preparations were really worth it.
The Drifter convoy to Richmond had been exemplary for their first two games, and the school board and administration would make certain it was unparalled for the State Title Game! They closed school at noon and provided pep buses and, in the process, helped fill the Siegel Center with a sea of Black and Gold.
The last hour or so before tipoff for “big” games are gut wrenching for coaches, and Steve Swope was no exception. After some final words for the team and coaches, he moved quietly away from everyone, pulled Grandma Kinney’s lucky rabbit’s foot out, rubbed it, gave it a big kiss and stuck it back into his pocket.
To say that the Drifter fan base was loud before the game, was an under statement. Coach Swope was grateful for that and also for the opportunity ahead. With his and every Beach supporter’s heart racing, the game was now at hand!
The Drifters were so hyped up, they were their own worst enemy. Turnovers, missed shots, and violations were rampant and Eastern Montgomery was playing much better than they had in the semi finals. It appeared as though CB was trying to win the game in too big of a hurry. Except for strong team rebounding and exceptional play by seniors Thomas (T.P.) Peery and Jeryl Dickerson off the bench, the Drifter deficit at half time would have been much greater than 26-33!
After making halftime adjustments and providing encouragement to his team, Coach Swope slipped in a few more rubs on Grandma Kinney’s rabbit’s foot, (resulting in much lost of fur)and led the Drifter b-ballers back into the bright lights for the last 16 minutes of their quest for a state championship.
Encouraged by the vociferous Drifter fanatics the Beach was a different team, as they blitzed the Mustangs 15-0 to open the second half. The Drifter “D” was swarming and Farinet, Jeryl Dickerson and Carey were rebounding and scoring with consistency. However, Coach Swope knew a team as talented as Eastern Montgomery would make a run and he was on the money!
In the process of breaking the state record for 3 pointers (13), the Mustangs regained the lead before CB tied the score at 67 and 70. Were the Drifters and Coach Swope going to be denied at the last second? Not with Farinet and Carey wearing the Black and Gold and the Drifter faithful roaring loudly! T. T. scored over his defender with 18 seconds remaining and Dylan nailed clutch free throws down the stretch. After one final 3 pointer by the Mustangs missed, CBHS had prevailed 77-75! Coach Swope, sporting a grin reminiscent of a mule eating briars, with his trademark shirt tail completely out and manager Jared Flores on his shoulders and the Drifter players proudly accepted their State Championship trophy, much to the delight of their rabid fans. Amazingly, this was the 16th consecutive victory for the Beach.
When I first started coaching at CB, our principal, Bernard T. Burchell, would drive the bus to some of the games. Before the players left the bus, he would remove his hat and say, “Boys, I’ve got just one thing to say to you. Whup ‘em !” My team and I always tried to honor Mr. B’s requests, but we were never as successful as Coach Swope and the 2008-2009 boys varsity basketball team.
Colonial Beach was incorporated in 1892 and our school was constructed in 1908. Thanks to Joe Slater, Ken Devers, Alex Gorfida, Jeryl Dickerson, Thomas Peery, Paul Roberson, Jamel Dickerson, Kevin Swope, Dylan Farinet, T. T. Carey, Jared Flores (Manage), Kurt Smith, (Statistician), Lauren Wilson, (Scorekeeper), Joyce Robey (Scorekeeper), Bill Sanford (Statistician), Josh Thomas (Manager), Coach Johnson, Coach Parker, Coach Jones, Coach Swope, Drifter cheerleaders and coaches, Jeremy Jack (Director of Athletics), and Beach fans, we have a STATE CHAMPIONSHIP 101 Years later!!!!
It was certainly a team effort, but it sure is refreshing to see native son Steve Swope bring our community together to achieve this lofty accomplishment for not only his team and himself, but also for every past Drifter athlete, coach and fan who gave it their all, but could not be as successful as this years basketball team. Colonial Beach has always been the home of DRIFTER PASSION, but now it is also the home of STATE CHAMPIONS!!!!
I surely hope I am fortunate enough to witness many more state titles for all of our academic and athletic teams.
By Wayne Kennedy
- Last Updated on Sunday, 20 January 2013 15:40
- Published on Wednesday, 18 March 2009 17:20
- Hits: 924
Last Friday, it was a magical time and an historic moment for the Colonial Beach community to witness the Drifter varsity basketball team capture the 2009 Group A, Division 1 State Basketball Championship, at the Stuart C. Siegel Center, in the Alltel Pavilion, on the campus of VCU, in Richmond, Virginia. It was the first time in history that the school has ever won a state championship in any sport.
The venue was ablaze with the electricity associated with Drifter madness. Beach fans, wearing the colors of their alma mater covered three sections of the sports venue. From the moment Dylan Farinet ripped the final rebound from the outstretched hands of East Montgomery players, the gymnasium exploded with cheers and screams that left the referees temporarily deaf in both ears.
Many may disagree, but few can rival, the true devotion of a Colonial Beach fan. Whether you’re a fan of the “Black & Gold” or a basketball enthusiast, you have to appreciate the devotion that the Town of Colonial Beach has given to its athletic programs. From the opening day of the quarterfinals, when the Beach defeated Riverheads, 70-58 to the finals, when Colonial Beach stoop atop the high school single-A basketball world, fans both young and old, male and female have driven to Richmond to support their favorite sons.
From 1962, when the Drifters boys varsity basketball team lost against West Point during a Regional quarterfinal game, at the College of William & Mary gymnasium to their loss against Franklin during the Regional championship, the Drifters have dreamed of one day owning the hardware associated with the big show. Win or lose, the one common denominator that has sustained the Drifters throughout its athletic history are the fans that travel throughout the school year to support their teams.
The age old answer of what separates Drifters fans from other fans may be found in the hallowed walls that sustain one of two independent schools in the state of Virginia.
For 39 years, former Colonial Beach Athletic Director Wayne Kennedy has seen generations of families excel on the courts and fields associated with the Colonial Beach High School. “There is a lot of pride in having an independent school within your town,” said former Drifter athletic director, Wayne Kennedy. “And also, there are a lot of families made up of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins connected with the current student body.”
The bond that connects generations of current and future Drifter varsity stars was seen in nearly every corner of the Siegel Center. Among the notable Drifter fans were the CBHS student body, former Drifters stars and coaches from yesteryear, current Drifter faculty members, Colonial Beach council members, Colonial Beach business owners and a host of adoring basketball fans from Westmoreland County.
While the partisan Drifter crowd drowned out the East Montgomery fans, the Drifters took care of business on the court for an historic win over the Mustangs from Elliston, Virginia.
“Some places don’t have it as good as we do—coach Jeremy Jack [Drifter Athletic Director], coach Swope [varsity boys’ head coach], and all of our assistants deserve a lot of credit in involving the community and making them feel a part of their championship win,” Kennedy said.
- Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 March 2009 16:55
- Published on Wednesday, 18 March 2009 16:55
- Hits: 852
For 54 years there have been fireworks at the Potomac River Festival; a long-standing Colonial Beach tradition and an aspect of community pride for many. But maybe not in year 55.
The Festival is an event which is planned and put on by the Chamber of Commerce and its many volunteers each year. Almost as soon as one ends, the next one is in the works. This year will mark the 55th Anniversary of the Potomac River Festival, and this year, fireworks may become a thing of the past.
Because, although in prior years the Town has helped with the cost of fireworks for this event, this year, they are saying no.
A recent note sent to Chamber members says, “The financial problems of today that are being felt internationally, have affected the Town of Colonial Beach as well. The budget is tight and under these conditions the Town is unable to fund the fireworks this year.
"Therefore, the Potomac River Festival Chairperson Byran Stepp, all of the volunteers and the Chamber are asking for your help.”
An October 21, 2008 letter from then Acting Town Manager Val Foulds may have given the Chamber of Commerce a little heads up as it said, “At this time the town is not prepared to commit any funding toward radio advertisements or the fireworks display for the Potomac River Festival in June 2009.”
Recently the Town reached its decision and made it official. Citing financial reasons, they have said they will not fund fireworks for the Festival, but they will fund for Fourth of July 2009. However, some people are wondering why they said no, because according to the Town’s budget, they had $10,000 in the fireworks account; money left over from last year’s 4th of July. President of the Chamber of Commerce, Carey Geddes says that the Town Manager has the authority to veto line items in the budget and that is what has been done.
The Chamber has now received its contract for Festival Fireworks and the amount on the table is $8,800, with a deposit of $2,200 due by April 30. Geddes says that the Chamber is really going to try and raise the money to save this town tradition.
“We are going to host a big event on Town Hill on the Fourth of July to try and attract the kind of people, the families, that we want visiting our Town. There will be something for everyone to do.”
A member of the community, who wishes to remain anonymous, has made the first donation to the Chamber’s “Save the Festival Fireworks” account in the generous amount of $1,000. But Geddes says the Chamber still needs the help of the community and encourages people to reach out to Jimmy Stanley, a Chamber volunteer, heading up the effort to save the fireworks display. Jimmy Stanley can be reached at the Colonial Beach Chamber at 224-8145. Checks should be made out to the Colonial Beach Chamber of Commerce and may be mailed to P.O. Box 475, Colonial Beach, Virginia 22443.
- Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 March 2009 16:44
- Published on Wednesday, 18 March 2009 16:44
- Hits: 734
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.
- Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 March 2009 05:00
- Published on Wednesday, 11 March 2009 05:00
- Hits: 812
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.
- Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 March 2009 05:00
- Published on Wednesday, 11 March 2009 05:00
- Hits: 823
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.
- Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 March 2009 19:39
- Published on Wednesday, 04 March 2009 19:39
- Hits: 1003
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.
- Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 March 2009 19:32
- Published on Wednesday, 04 March 2009 19:32
- Hits: 704
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.