It was a unanimous vote to award a $17,000 contract to WhiteStone Partners (WP) by the Colonial Beach Town Council last week at its regular meeting. Minus council member Gary Seeber being absent, the remaining members approved a contract WP to interview management members, council members, and other town employees, as needed, in order to consult with Town Council on the various questions they have of the current town job and employee structure in accordance with resolution 15-13.
WP Owners Doug and Polly White founded the organization three years ago to work with companies, non-profits, and other organizations to help improve their functioning. At this time, Colonial Beach would be the first municipality that WP has worked with on improving their bottom line.
Doug White holds multiple degrees, including a bachelors degree in Physics from Randolph-Macon College, a bachelor of science in Mechanical Engineering and a masters in Mechanical Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology. He also has a master’s degree in Business Administration from Harvard Business School.
Polly has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Averett University, where she was Valedictorian. She also has a master’s degree in Adult Education and Human Resource Development from George Washington University.
With the work of council member Jim Chiarello, resolution 12-13 was approved which pushed forward the use of Virginia Municipal League’s guidebook, “The Ethical GPS” for all council members and to be used as an official portion of town employee handbook. The Ethical GPS is a guide to ethics compliance and codes for Virginia Public officials.
Other issues discussed included the leasing of what is known as the “Lions Club” and “Town Museum.” Both properties are owned by the town, but leased by the Lions Club and Colonial Beach Historical Society. Resolutions 13-13 and 14-13 allow for a five yearlong lease on each property. The organizations are charged $10 per year and are now responsible for all water and sewer fees for each year.
Lions Club President Paul Brunkow spoke on the club’s behalf asking if there was any way Town Council could lower the water bill. He was informed that all non-profit organizations were being required to do so, now, and that Town Council had no choice due to the outstanding bonds on the Wastewater Treatment Plant. Brunkow let the Town Council know that there are only 17 members of the club and that each member pays a total of $70 a year in dues.
Town Council did approve both resolutions before moving onto other things.
Prior to the discussion of the final resolution of the evening, 16-13, which dealt with the town mayor and town council once again having an office in Town Hall, council member, Tommy Edwards asked if they could go into closed session to discuss it. At that time Town Attorney, Andrea Erard, led a discussion on the ways that council members are able to go into private discussions and the limitations of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA.)
Erard let council know that there are limited reasons for a closed session, amongst them are things such as; discussion of personnel, discussion of hiring and firing personnel, discussing possible lawsuits, and other things of limited nature. She also let the council know that they should always use their town email for discussing any town business, as their emails are open to FOIA regulations as well. Council members were advised to not discuss town business with one another in this manner, as there have been instances of that being considered a non-advertised meeting.
Council member Edwards asked if there was a way to handle discussions more effectively than the current way, and Erard stated, “Efficiency is not the goal of the freedom of information act.”
Mayor Mike Ham abstained from voting on 16-13 stating that he thought there could have been a better way to handle such issues. All other members in attendance voted yes and the resolution was passed.
At this point in the meeting, council went into closed session to discuss, per council member Wanda Goforth, the performance of Town Manager Val Foulds, and the performance of former chief of police, Kenneth Blevins Sr. Upon Erard informing Goforth they could not discuss former employees, Goforth changed her statement to include a “possible lawsuit.”
Town Council was in closed session until after 10 p.m. at which time they returned to the meeting room, along with Foulds, and adjourned the meeting.
The Town Council’s next work session is slated for Feb. 28 at 4:30 p.m. at the Town Center.
Recommendations for ‘Granny flats’ await approval
Discussion into allowing a secondary unit be added onto a main dwelling in within the Town of Colonial Beach continued at a recent planning commission session. This matter has now been forward to Town Council for their approval of proposed amendments recommending that owners report they have an accessory dwelling unit [ADU] and sign a waiver.
According to Planning Director Gary Mitchell, between 20-25 complaints from the public have been made about the issue because the units are not allowed in accordance with the Town ordinance. Last year the planning commission began discussing the allowance of ADUs.
At a public hearing on the issue, Ellen Rowling stated her concerns that existing properties not be grandfathered in, but should have to be inspected. She also stated an issue with these ADUs not adding anything to town coffers. While, initially it seemed that the commissioners agreed, Commissioner Robin Schick reminded them that an ADU does add to the property value of a home, which would raise the real estate taxes of the property, that electric bills go up, and that they also typically pay their own separate cable and internet bills.
Discussion ensued with talks of making all units be inspected, immediately. Kent Rodeheaver stated that all should be inspected in order to be grandfathered in with others agreeing with him. Commissioner Ed Grant asked why there had been complaints received by the Zoning Administration, but “nothing had been done.”
According to Mitchell, he has been directed by town leadership not to do certain things with the ADUs. He further stated that no inspectors were going to sign off on these units as they would not be able to see what was behind the walls. Mitchell suggested that a waiver be drawn up that holds the home owner responsible and excuses the town of any responsibility should a problem happen due to lack of inspection.
A draft to address adding a Wellhead Overlay Protection District (WOPD) was decided upon by the commission. In such a case, a 500 foot radius surrounding each of the town’s wellheads are being requested. This district is used in order to help protect the town’s water supply.
According to the commission discussions with the town’s planning office, there are five wells within town limits with depths between 860 and 1600 feet. This district would restrict the usage of certain chemicals outside of package instructions within these districts.
Mitchell stated that he had been forwarded this information by the Public Works Department and asked to pass it onto the commission. However commissioner Dave Coombes replied that this was not a matter for the members to handle.
Commissioner Robin Schick reminded the other commissioners that this doesn’t just have to do with herbicides, but also with security measures such as lighting and fencing around the wellheads. She further stated that it was something they needed to look into for the future. Chairwoman Holt stated that the only thing humans cannot exist without is fresh water. She also stated that a percent of the water on the earth is potable water and that the town needs to look at protecting their wells.
Vice Chairman Desiree Urquhart stated that the commission needs to look further into this as it is a worry for the future of the town saying, “To have this as a potential overlay is a smart move and I would like to continue this dialog.”
Coombes continued on by saying that this was overreach and that they needed to keep this in perspective, repeating himself by stating that this was overreach. He also said that he doesn’t want it to get to where everything that comes up has to be discussed.
Additional commission members as Maureen Holt and Schick stated discussions of the matter are for the future of the town and their decisions could impact the town’s water supply.
Town councilmember Jim Chiarello, who was appointed to the Potomac Watershed Roundtable spoke as a member of said committee, that over time water quality degrades. He reminded the commission that even with deep wells there are still issues with water and the water still has to be treated. Chiarello also said that if the water is better to start with, it is easier to treat.
The next regular meeting of the Planning Commission is March 7 a 5:30 p.m. at the Town Center. As always it is open to the public.