By Carol Vaughn —
Barry Abell commented during the Chincoteague Town Council meeting Monday about personalized benches that were placed at the Waterman’s Memorial.
The memorial, on a hill at the southern end of Chincoteague Island, memorializes people lost at sea, including the crew of the Marine Electric among others.
“For me, the Chincoteague Waterman’s Memorial was the one place where I can go and reflect. … I believe there are many others that do so, too,” he said, noting it took eight years of effort to get it built.
Abell and his son planned and were instrumental in the construction of the memorial.
Abell said the site is used by many to view rocket launches, to take photographs, and for weddings and other occasions.
Most recently, the memorial was where a sunrise prayer service was held to pray for young men lost while duck hunting in Chincoteague Bay.
“The memorial is there for all of us,” he said.
Abell asked the Town Council to reconsider the recent addition of benches, bearing personalized plaques, at the site.
The benches detract from the view and from the design of the memorial, according to Abell.
He noted the memorial includes space for brass name plaques memorializing people lost at sea.
“The Waterman’s Memorial is a gravesite that should be treated and respected as hallowed ground,” he said.
Abell asked the council to designate a committee, which he suggested be composed of watermen and military members or veterans, to develop a charter for the memorial, dedicated to the improvement, maintenance, preservation, and protection of the site.
He also asked the existing benches be moved to another area on the property and that no more personalized benches be allowed there.
“We need to get back to preserving the integrity, mission, and meaning of the site,” he said.
Business’s Pump and Haul Request Denied
The Town Council turned down a request from the owners of Whiteraven’s Nest for a sewage pump and haul agreement.
The agreement, if approved, would have added the business to the town’s general permit from the Virginia Department of Health. That requires council approval. According to town policy, the approval would be for two years.
Kimberly White-Landon and H. Burke Landon Jr., of Whiteraven’s Nest, spoke at the council meeting.
White-Landon said when the Department of Agriculture last inspected the store in November, the owners were told they needed to update the grey water drainage system in order to be in compliance with the Accomack County Health Department.
The Landons do not own the property on Maddox Boulevard but have operated the business there for two years.
Only water from a hand sink and a mop sink, not sewage, would go into the holding tank, they told the council.
Town Manager Mike Tolbert provided council a list of existing pump and haul permits issued by the town, including for Curtis Merritt Harbor, the library, Sanctified Church, Accomack County’s convenience center, the Little League field restrooms, and several boat slips.
Black Narrows Brewery also has a pump and haul permit, but it is with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.
“We were told that, for our hand sink and our mop sink, that the drainage system that was existing there on the property was no longer viable or allowed,” White-Landon said.
“Without being permitted by you all, it will definitely change the dynamics of the store,” she said, adding, “…We want to be here. We want to keep things going.”
The Landons said they also had plans to open a food truck.
Councilman Gene Wayne Taylor spoke in favor of approving the request, saying the town should promote outdoor businesses and he didn’t see any environmental impact.
Taylor’s motion to approve the request failed in a 2-3 vote, with some voting against it expressing concern it could set a precedent.
“This is a terrible situation and I think highlights the need for our septic solutions that we are working on, especially in the commercial corridor,” said Vice Mayor Christopher Bott.
“The state allows us to grant pump and hauls, temporary, based on the fact that a septic system is in the near future. …The permanent pump and haul … is based on the fact that you are unable to put in a septic system on your property,” he said, adding, “…If we grant a pump and haul, we are kind of going against our right to even grant pump and hauls, as bestowed upon us by the state. There’s an equality issue. We’re making some businesses put in full-fledged sewer systems, up in the hundred, $200,000 range and then how do we differentiate on these?” Bott said.
Bowden also said she had a problem with the equality issue.
Chincoteague reported just one COVID-19 case since Jan. 31, but had 149 cases in January, according to Byan Rush, director of emergency services.
Town Manager’s Report
A local contractor has leased the engine bay of the former firehouse, which the town owns, to use for materials storage for six months. That leaves only the ambulance bay available to rent on the first floor, according to Town Manager Mike Tolbert.
Additionally, there has been interest in renting the former dining room space upstairs.
Both meals and transient occupancy tax revenue “have now comfortably exceeded 100% of budgeted revenue,” according to Tolbert’s report.
Transient occupancy tax collections for January exceeded last January’s by nearly 50%, with $47,499 collected this January compared to $32,108 last January.
The building and zoning department issued 40 building permits last month.
Christmas Decoration Winners
Mayor Arthur Leonard announced the winners of the Christmas home decoration contest:
Most Traditional Home – 1st place, Dickie and Carolyn Conklin; 2nd place, Jack and Beverly Bowden.
Most Festive Home – 1st place, Robert and Yvonne Daisey; 2nd place, Bill and Ginger Birch.
Best Overall – 1st place, Sonny Rogers; 2nd place, Logan Holland.