Two Years After Hospital Relocation, Nassawadox Is Regaining Footing

The Northampton Free Library. File photo.

By Stefanie Jackson – Nassawadox is still adjusting to the loss of Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital two years after the facility moved to its new location, and the town council is working continually to save money wherever possible and create new revenue streams to pay for the services the town provides to its residents.

With the 24-hour medical facility no longer open on Hospital Avenue, council members deem it unnecessary to continue operating many of the street lights on that road and other nearby areas, including a section of Route 13.

Mayor Patsy Stith and the council are in the process of getting street lights turned off in “overlit” areas and saving on the town’s electricity usage.

The council has voted to institute a town property tax to pay for services like trash collection. The tax rate will be 14 cents per $100 of property value as assessed by the Northampton County Commissioner of the Revenue, and “we hope we never have to raise it,” Stith said.

The additional property tax for Nassawadox residents is one-sixth of the real estate tax rate the county charges, which was 83 cents per $100 of assessed value in 2018.

Because the Nassawadox property tax will be based on the county’s property assessments, which will not be completed until August, the new town tax will not likely go into effect until the fall.

No decision has been made about when the additional property taxes will be due, but the mayor and council agreed not to bill residents at the same time that they receive their county tax bills.

Northampton real estate taxes are due by Dec. 5 every year.

Stith reported she attended a meeting concerning Northampton’s pursuit of a Community Development Block Grant for planning, up to $10,000, from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (VDHCD).

Northampton’s biggest issues, according to meeting participants, include affordable housing and wastewater, Stith said.

The mayor and council members are undecided if Nassawadox should have its own sewer system.

“It’s a mixed bag,” Stith said. A sewer system would benefit homeowners whose land does not percolate well enough to sustain properly functioning septic systems. But if Nassawadox installed a sewer system, connection would be mandatory for residents, whether or not they wanted to participate.

Council members also wish to avoid getting Nassawadox into a similar situation as its neighboring town, Exmore, where the sewer system requires continual maintenance.

Other concerns brought up at the VDHCD meeting included Northampton’s high poverty rate, derelict structures, and lack of a community center.

Stith noted Northampton’s Department of Parks and Recreation is interested in converting the former Northampton Middle School, in Machipongo, into a community center. The department currently uses the middle school gym for various sports programs.

Northampton’s comprehensive plan was also mentioned at the VDHCD meeting, Stith said.

Nassawadox council members seemed surprised that Northampton supervisors voted to reject the county planning commission’s revisions to the comprehensive plan, which took about six years to complete. Supervisors cited the plan’s negative tone as one reason for the rejection.

Two council members voiced their approval of the proposed plan. Councilman Drury Stith called the plan “realistic” and Councilwoman Andrea Fox agreed, “Sometimes reality isn’t pretty.”

Mayor Patsy Stith announced the local Montessori school will hold its annual country fair on May 4 at the old Northampton Lumber Company sawmill. The Peninsula Tractor Organization, which plans to convert the sawmill into an agricultural museum, will participate in the fair.

The sawmill belongs to the Northampton Lumber Company Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.

Stith also announced that Cara Burton, director of the Eastern Shore Public Library, confirmed the “art mobile” will make a stop in Nassawadox later this year.

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