By Carol Vaughn —
The Onancock town council at the June 28 meeting authorized transfer of ownership of the town’s wastewater treatment facility to the Hampton Roads Sanitation District.
The HRSD will pay off all remaining debt owed on the facility, according to the agreement.
“You guys have taken the first big step,” said Councilman Bob Bloxom in his report for the HRSD committee. The next step involves the collections system, which Bloxom said could take six or more months because of the number of easements involved.
The council adopted a $3 million town budget for fiscal year 2022.
The council appointed T. Lee Byrd and Carol Tunstall to the planning commission and appointed Sarah Nock to fill a vacant seat on the council, after Catherine Krause resigned.
Nock’s appointment is for the remainder of the current term, which ends December 2022.
‘Road Diet’ Approved for Route 179
Onancock resident Steve Johnsen, a member of the Commonwealth Transportation Board, said during the public comment period that among items the board approved in June is a road diet project on Route 179 (from Hill Street to Route 13).
Safety concerns on the road include increasing numbers of pedestrians and bicyclists using it to access Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital and Four Corner Plaza and the lack of a dedicated center turn lane to allow vehicles to turn off the road without impeding through-traffic, according to a 2018 discussion at an Accomack County Board of Supervisors meeting.
A road diet is a technique where the number of lanes is reduced to increase safety and improve operations. The changes could be accomplished mainly by restriping the road — changing it from four lanes to three, with a center turn lane and dedicated bicycle and pedestrian lanes on both sides.
The $1.7 million project is included in the six-year improvement plan approved by the transportation board.
The six-year plan allocates $24 billion to Virginia highway, rail, and public transportation projects through 2027 and includes $1.38 billion for 167 projects under the fourth round of Smart Scale, a statewide program in which transportation projects are scored based on an objective, outcome-based process.
There were 406 applications submitted under the Smart Scale program this year for projects around the state, including 12 from the Eastern Shore, according to Johnsen.
The road diet project application was submitted by Accomack County.
“It’s a positive situation for Onancock and Onley,” Johnsen said.
Visitors by boat are making use of a courtesy car and rental golf carts made available at the wharf, Bloxom said during a report for the waterfront committee.
The town was awarded a grant through the Virginia Port Authority to make improvements to the front bulkhead at the wharf.
Town Manager Matt Spuck said engineering and design work and permitting will begin for the project, which could begin either later this year, if the work can be completed by March 1, 2022, or be done next year after boating season.
The waterfront committee at its June meeting discussed dust and noise issues at the T&W Block property at the wharf, Bloxom said.
Genevieve Walker of T&W Block and several Onancock residents attended the meeting.
“I thought it was a good give-and-take on a difficult subject and, frankly, one that we do need to help broker a solution to,” Bloxom said.
Walker agreed to install a well on the property to allow for sprinkling water on gravel piles to keep dust down.
Additionally, Walker is working with a local company to develop a plan to install a vegetative buffer and agreed to work towards not having work done there on Sundays.
“This is an issue we are involved in but it’s not our solution. The best thing that we can do is keep moving the process along as quickly as possible because it is of concern to a number of
residents — it should be to all of us,” Bloxom said, adding, “I believe that T&W wants to be a good corporate neighbor. They’ve been there a long time.”
“T&W is willing to make an investment to try to solve the problem. They understand the neighbors’ concerns,” Spuck said.
Onancock Main Street Update
Onancock Main Street in addition to launching a website, experienceonancock.org, is working with the Eastern Shore of Virginia Tourism Commission to enhance use of an events calendar and has distributed 5,000 rack cards promoting Onancock and the new website to welcome centers, the town office, the wharf, and the farmers’ market, according to a report given by Janet Fosque.
OMS also has placed advertisements promoting Onancock on the VA.org website, in the Virginia Tourism Guide and in the ESVA Activities Guide.
The new town brand is complete and the application for use of the branding guideline package is available on the town’s website at https://www.onancock.com/sites/default/files/fileattachments/administration/page/1091/use_of_brand_style_guide.finaldocx.pdf
Signage also is currently in development as part of the brand package.
OMS is working with an architectural firm provided by Virginia Main Street on placemaking projects and building facade renderings for the downtown district.
OMS also is nearing completion of work with architects from Salisbury, Md., on a financial feasibility study of the Lilliston Building, which includes a market study of Onancock that will be available to anyone who has signed up for the OMS newsletter on the experienceonancock.org website.