Funding for Onancock concert pavilion hits sour note with some

Town of Onancock welcome sign. Photo by Carol Vaughn.

By Carol Vaughn

The Onancock Town Council in a special meeting Tuesday discussed a request from Historic Onancock School for $100,000 to help pay for a performance pavilion on the former school property, which is owned by the town and leased to HOS.

The council in March approved the project. Council last month asked Town Manager Matt Spuck to provide information about options for granting the funding.

Spuck on Tuesday said options include funding the request using either cash reserves; money available after the sewer facility transfer to the Hampton Roads Sanitation District; or available operating cash.

Plans for the pavilion were discussed at the Oct. 24 town council meeting and the Eastern Shore of Virginia Chamber of Commerce announced Monday a groundbreaking ceremony for the pavilion, scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 17, at 12:30 p.m.

The pavilion is to include a 2,000-square-foot stage, theatrical lighting and sound systems, and lawn seating to initially accommodate 500 people, according to a presentation by Historic Onancock School Executive Director Joani Donohoe at the October town council meeting.

Work has begun on the foundation for the pavilion, which is being built behind the former school building.

Two couples who live nearby submitted letters to town officials objecting to the pavilion.

Lynne and Caleb Fowler wrote that when they first heard about the pavilion plans, “we thought it was a good thing,” but said they thought it would be a covered structure used for gatherings such as picnics, not “a bandstand with music blasting every weekend.”

Lynne Fowler wrote of music performed in the past outside at the HOS property, “Not only do we hear every note, our home actually vibrates.”

Additionally, the Fowlers in the letter asked, “Does the town really want this type of crowd every weekend?” They also asked if additional police would be hired and when it would be profitable. 

Ames Street residents Greg and Patricia Felthousen in a Nov. 1 letter said the town “owes every taxpayer an open and honest dialogue” about the pavilion project.

“A beautiful, quiet, serene residential neighborhood will be changed forever and no one was asked,” they wrote, saying many of their neighbors on Ames, Liberty, and Sturgis streets share the concerns.

The Felthousens cited concerns about traffic, crowd control, noise, bathroom facilities, alcohol sales, trash removal, and potential vandalism of the venue.

The Felthousens were among speakers during a public comment period at Tuesday’s meeting, reiterating comments in their letter.

Resident Priscilla Hart said she was “surprised” about the funding request, saying it wasn’t mentioned when council approved the project.

Resident Glenn Smith said he “would like to see the town honor the request of $100,000.”

Two speakers noted the property, when it was a school, hosted football games attended by hundreds, as well as concerts and other events.

Rick Turner, an HOS board member, said the pavilion is “something really positive for the town.”

Council member Joy Marino asked HOS representatives to provide the town a written proposal including a budget and business plan.

The council will discuss the pavilion funding again at the regular meeting Monday, Nov. 28.

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