By Carol Vaughn —
Wachapreague’s future as far as municipal sewer service ultimately will be up to the residents to decide, according to the mayor and town council.
Mayor Fred Janci at the council meeting Thursday, Oct. 14, said a decision about whether to bring sewer service to the commercial area of town won’t come until after the currently ongoing process of engineering studies and looking into grant funding is completed.
“When all that happens, then we come back to the residents of Wachapreague; we have our public hearings, we have public meetings — and it’s up to you guys,” he said.
Still, getting to that point “is a lot of work … We have to follow all these steps; we have to go that far. We can’t just abandon it now and walk away from it; there’s too much of a pot of gold sitting out there right now to just walk away from it,” Janci said.
The Hampton Roads Sanitation District is proceeding with building a force main from Nassawadox to Onley along the railroad right-of-way.
The proposed project for Wachapreague would include running a main line from Route 13 to a pump station at the corner of Brooklyn Avenue and Riverview Street, with a collection system extending from the pump station to the waterfront commercial and business district. Individual connections could be made along the collection system, but not along the main line.
Operations and maintenance costs would become the responsibility of Hampton Roads Sanitation District.
The engineering consultant has presented the town with three options to be considered, Janci said in a letter to the editor of the Post.
Janci in the letter said the town is not going to subsidize any business or VIMS and is not looking at annexation of additional areas.
Janci in the meeting said his goal is for the project to be at no cost to residents.
“What we are trying to do, since we have an opportunity for financing … I am still holding out for no cost to the town,” Janci said, noting there is “a lot of money available right now out there,” both from the federal and state governments, designated for sewer infrastructure.
“If we can get $2.7 million in government funds to the town of Wachapreague, and not cost us anything — I know it’s a stretch — I think the town should really look hard at that,” he said.
“It’s an opportunity that, 10 years from now, this might not be the case. These funds might not be here. All this money from COVID has trickled down and we are trying to take advantage of some of that money,” he said.
Councilman Bob Williams cited a 2019 study on the impact of sea level rise on the water table in Accomack County, saying the study predicted that, by 2050, 75 houses in Wachapreague will have septic systems that will not work.
Around a dozen people spoke during a lengthy public comment period at the meeting — most were commenting about the prospect of municipal sewer service, after a meeting Oct. 7 focused on that topic.
Resident Linda Jones asked who has authority to approve what is installed as far as sewer-related items for individual properties, such as grinder pumps.
“The HRSD wants to put the pipe down the street — that’s all they want to do. They will put a little piece that sticks out 10 feet, so to your property line and there will be cap on it, and if you choose to join, if you choose to be part of this, then you will hire your contractor and he will connect from that pipe,” Janci replied, noting, “…Every house is different. Every business is different.”
Councilman Robert Bilicki said, “The initial intent is for the commercial waterfront, which is Atlantic Avenue, and the commercial neighborhood … as it currently exists. That’s the first phase of this. The residents are not involved in this because the force main comes to this location where it’s feasible and high ground to put the force main — and then the loop is the second part of this that just will take care of the neighborhood and the commercial waterfront. There’s no consideration at this point and there’s no commitment that HRSD is looking for the entire town.”
Bilicki said, “We’re only doing it to support the waterfront. If you saw this weekend’s tides and how the fish house basically had to abandon their operation because they were inundated.”
He also said the campground was flooded and its septic field is compromised.
“It’s the town’s decision. It still comes down to what you, the residents, want. … What we need to do is, we need to get you the best package that we can. … We need you behind it. It’s your town. It’s not our town. It’s not the businesses’ town,” Janci said.
“The businesses need it the most right now, because they are the closest to the water. They are the ones with the biggest issues; so that’s why we’re starting with the business district first,” he said.
Man Complains About Noise from Commercial Operation
Resident Gene Gibson in the comment period said noise from ice making machinery at the fish house is “almost unlivable” at his residence, 17 Brooklyn Avenue.
“I just want to know what you’re going to do about it,” he said, adding the situation has been going on several years.
Janci said the area is in the waterfront commercial district. “Is this really a town problem or is this a feud?” he said.
Readings taken at the property line showed 45 decibels, within the level allowed, according to Janci.
Janci said Gibson had agreed to pay for a sound barrier installed at the business but has not done so.
“Apparently, Daryl (Liliston, the owner) put the wall around the wrong unit and now Gibson would like us to put a wall up around another unit,” he said.
In a Sept. 18 email to the council, Gibson called for Janci to resign or “take immediate action to rectify his ongoing mistake” in not applying the noise ordinance in this case.
In the email, Gibson quoted part of the ordinance, which reads: “This ordinance does not have application to noises generated by commercial operations except to the extent that those noises affect persons not working in said commercial operation.”
“I am not working in that operation, the noises very negatively affect me, my guests, and my property and others,” he wrote, adding he has been complaining about it to the business owner for five years and to the town for three years.
Gibson said he has started a petition encouraging the town to enforce the noise ordinance.
Grant Awarded for Survey of Historic Properties
An $8,350 grant was awarded to conduct a survey of around 50 properties in a proposed historic district for Wachapreague.
The Virginia Department of Historic Resources announced the award Oct. 19.
DHR’s State Review Board recommended the district as eligible for listing on the National Register in June 2021. The survey will support preservation planning efforts in the town and record historic resources threatened by disasters and climate change, according to a press release.
The grant for Wachapreague is part of $53,500 awarded to projects in five localities.
The projects include surveying historic buildings, drafting nominations to list districts on the Virginia and National landmarks registers, identifying historic resources associated with African American communities, and documenting a significant Modernist landscape design.
DHR anticipates that the survey projects will result in new or updated information for hundreds of historic properties in the localities.
The grant recipients — local governments and planning district commissions — must complete the projects by the end of June 2022.