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Council undecided on alleged violations

by Tom Chillemi

The Urbanna Town Council has not come to a consensus on how to deal with alleged zoning violations.

Town resident Bob Calves delivered a letter to council in July 2008 pointing out what he considered violations of the town code that had not been addressed by town administrator Lewis Filling.

In the letter, Calves contended a Virginia Street business had several signs on the sidewalk, and a vacant business was unsightly.

“One of the things that worries me is the fact that we are not consistent in enforcing our codes,” Calves told council in August. “I believe we have to enforce the codes or repeal them as of yesterday.”

In August, council was split on how to enforce the zoning code. It was noted that just about any property can be in violation if the code is strictly enforced.

A committee of three council members was formed to survey possible violations, but apparently took no action.

Janet Smith said at the August council meeting that the town “needs to be accountable to what is in writing” in the town code. At the Dec. 15 council meeting, Smith echoed her earlier comment by saying, “Our town code isn’t discretionary.”

Smith said that it is the job of Urbanna’s Historic and Architectural Review Board (HARB) to report zoning violations to the town council. However, at last week’s meeting, she could not find the section of the code to back this up.

Filling said HARB chairman John Vaughan did not want to hold a meeting regarding code violations.

Mayor Beatrice Taylor said she would talk to Vaughan and try to have an answer for council at its work session on Friday, Jan. 16, at 4 p.m.

Proposed updates to the town zoning ordinance would eliminate HARB and place those responsibilities with the town planning commission.

Street improvements

In another matter, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources has approved most of the proposed improvements slated for Virginia Street from Cross Street to the Urbanna Town Marina at Upton’s Point.

Phase II of the street scape beautification calls for 1,448 feet of paving and curbing, and installation of infrastructure under the street.

Also on the plans are light poles, sidewalks and crosswalks that are similar to the improvements made on Virginia Street in the business district. However, the State Historic Department balked at replacing the wall in front of the Old Tobacco Warehouse. “They consider it an historic wall,” Filling told council. Filling added that he has asked the state to reconsider the wall.

The estimated cost of Phase II is $1 million, of which the town would pay $200,000.

There are five phases to the street beautification. Phase III would spruce up Cross Street.

In another matter, council member Lee Chewning reported that the sailing schooner “Serenity” has committed to spend 2009 at Cape Charles. Chewning was appointed to talk to the boat owners about having the boat dock in Urbanna. Chewning reported that “Serenity” would consider docking in Urbanna for special events, and the town should develop events to utilize the Urbanna Town Marina at Upton’s Point.

Council member Smith said marketing assistance is available for marina events through the Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission business development program. She said she will be working on events that are related to Urbanna’s history.

In an unrelated matter, council received a letter from the Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources certifying the town marina for participating in the Virginia Clean Marina Program. 

posted 12.24.2008

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