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Council handed plate full of politics

Posted on Wednesday, August 14, 2013 at 10:40 am

The sale of an 827 square foot piece of land on Hamilton Street passed with a six to one vote recently following several months of discussion on the issue. Council member (CM) Wanda Goforth was the sole holdout on the sale of the property to Clayton Shepherd. Goforth voted “nay” due to her wish to rewrite town ordinances on the vacation and sale of any town property.

The ordinances written by past councils have come into question by this council due to issues on offering land at the appraised cost, as well as the legality of properties being split for sale and only one part of the sale going through. Goforth had asked for this rewrite following the original discussion of the Hamilton Street vacation and sale.

In June of this year Ordinance 639, which allowed for the sale of two adjacent pieces of Hamilton Street, was split to allow forward movement on the sale of what is referred to as “Plat B.” Plat B, which consisted of a piece of land 5,198 square feet in area was appraised at a cost of $41,600. At the time Cameron Berry was interested in purchasing the property.

Earlier this year Cameron Berry approached the town of Colonial Beach on having the plat of land that joins block 49 and 50 for

purchase. Berry’s plat, known as “Plat B” was approved for sale in June. The closing date must be prior to August 31 for the sale to go through.  According to Goforth Berry was no longer sure about purchasing the piece of land due to the cost. Berry had purchased an earlier piece of land for $3 per square foot instead of the now suggested $8 per square foot.

Goforth then referred to a memorandum she had sent to her fellow council members asking to hold off on the sale of Plat A due to resolutions 19-11 and 33-12 passed by earlier councils which states: “10 (b) A right of way has been abandoned/vacated and is then proposed to be sold,must be sold in its entirety without any residual of the parcel left to the town.”

She asked for legal council prior to the sale. Town Attorney Andrea Erard stated that the plot was split into two separate parcels and as such this should not cause an issue. After a length of time in which  council argued back and forth over the sale Mayor Mike Ham stated, “We are starting to look pretty foolish kicking this back and forth.”

Ham then called for the vote which ended in the six to one vote for the sale.

Another ongoing issue was left undecided as Rick Davis, owner of Kelsey’s Kitchen food trailer, asked for a final decision on his appeal of vendor application.

In June Davis’ application was denied due to “a replication of goods or services” according to Town Manager Val Foulds.

Davis appealed the decision and had asked at the last council meeting for a decision. At the time Vice-Mayor Tommy Edwards asked if he would be willing to work at Castle Wood Park. Davis agreed to this, although later found out, through Zoning Administrator Gary Mitchell,that the area was not zoned properly for this.

It was then put forth the idea of placing Davis’ food truck between the town held building, on the boardwalk,  that hosts the public bathrooms and the town parking lot. This area has several picnic tables and is covered in grass.

When asked if they would vote to allow his appeal, CM Linda Brubaker stated that “Foulds has handled this professionally and we shouldn’t go against Town Manager’s ruling.” CM Tim Curtin’s statement was that “Free enterprise is free enterprise” in response to the issue of more than one vendor selling similar products.

Goforth reminded the council that Davis had defaulted on his contract with the town last year. Upon hearing this Davis asked, “Are you protecting the other vendor?” Goforth denied this, but did admit she had abstained on the vote on the other vendor due to a familial relationship with them.

In the end no final decision was made as Town Manager Val Foulds asked to look at the site prior to finalizing the appeal process.

As the floor was opened to unfinished business Brubaker rapidly questioned Foulds with:

“What progress has been made on the BeachGate Inn? Is there movement on the sale of town properties? What is the state of the Paul Stefan Home? And what was the outcome of the title search on who owns the boardwalk?”

Before Foulds could answer she was also asked why the Department Heads were not at the meeting. According to Foulds and council member Gary Seeber, earlier in the year it had been decided that department heads would appear at council work sessions in a rotating manner.

The Beach Gate Inn is the property on Colonial Avenue which was closed by the state fire marshal following a deadly vehicle crash in late 2012. A pickup truck ran into part of the building, killing a visitor to the Inn at the same time.

Town building inspector Dexter Monroe called in the Fire Marshal Timothy Ritchey  due to the state of the building. A multitude of issues from improper outlets, to extension cords strung under rugs,to water leaks led to the Fire Marshal ordering a fire guard on duty 24 hours a day as long as the Inn held any guests.

At the time the majority of the rooms were filled with lower income persons and families. Due to the timing of  the holidays, owner Douglas Sim agreed to  the fire watch. Unfortunately on Dec. 23 he pulled the funding and  the Town Council came together with town citizens to keep a fire watch on guard.

Following the removal of residents Sims had a crew do a small amount of work to the building and had promised to bring it up to code.

According to Foulds, Sims has no longer been responding to calls and Town Attorney Andrea Erard is in contact with Sims’ attorneys.

CM Tim Curtin is the contact on the proposed Paul Stefan Foundation home for unwed mothers. Foundation President Randy James is working on the next steps for the possible home in the former Klotz building, which had also been the Police Department.

Goforth then asked why Foulds was no longer willing to meet with her and council member Jim Chiarello. The three had been meeting on a bi-monthly basis. Foulds stated that she was more than willing to meet with them, but had asked to have another staff member involved in the meetings.

In the end Foulds agreed to meet with council members, on a rotating basis, with another staff member in attendance. She stated that, “This whole idea was to foster open communication. I want what you want, I just want to do it in a professional and respectful way.”

Goforth then questioned Foulds on the handling of a citizen who had made repeated complaints about a business located near his home. The citizen, according to the landowner Diane Pearson, had issues with the vegetable stand located on her property on summer weekends. This citizen had asked to speak with town council, but was not comfortable coming to a meeting or work session.

Edwards answer to this was, “Well, that’s tough!” Goforth had spoken with the citizen on the issue and  again asked Foulds why she had not met with him. Foulds responded that she would not be treated with disrespect or hate.

Curtin agreed that all correspondence with this citizen should be handled through official correspondence and/or with a council member present.

Resolution 45-13, which allowed for an increase in time contracted with police accreditation consultant, Monroe Bryant, was approved  with the addition of a total allowable expenditure of $6,400 for his fees. This amounts to doubling his hours for several months.

The town’s police department accreditation is up for renewal in 2014. The original accreditation was awarded in 2010 and it is required to be renewed every four years.

The next Council meeting is a work session at 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 22.  All council meetings are open to the public.