BY JIM RITCH, Eastern Shore Post —
The Cape Charles Wetlands and Coastal Dune Board voted Wednesday, Sept. 20, to support a project that would build a 274-foot private pier, a boat house, and an eight-ton boat lift alongside the northern end of the town’s public beach.
The decision hinged on strictly limited jurisdiction and the board ruled narrowly only on features that would cross a sliver of beach.
Those features would include a riprap retaining wall and short section of walkway on open piers.
The ruling left citizen concerns unaddressed and questions to be answered by state and federal agencies that will review the project next.
The board’s jurisdiction applied to a strip of land possibly as little as 20 feet wide between mean high and mean low water lines, said Katie Nunez, town planner.
That sliver stretches along about 684 feet of waterfront running from the public beach partly around the Seabreeze Apartments near the corner of Bay and Washington avenues.
It carries the scars of erosion and commercial use as the launching point for the first car-carrying ferry on the Eastern Shore.
A jumble of concrete slabs, some from town sidewalk replacements, covers much of the wetlands.
The debris appears only to have slowed the inexorable march of pounding waves, which once flooded the neighboring apartments and forced residents to evacuate, said Nunez.
David and Pamela Hainsworth, who initiated the project and own the waterfront property, hope to insulate the land from sea level rise and storm surge by replacing the concrete with riprap.
The couple also plans to plant wetlands grasses on fill covering the toe of the revetment.
John Schoeneck, board chairman, said the proposal will “stabilize and somewhat beautify” the wetlands.
In the end, the board unanimously endorsed the riprap retaining wall and said the small portion of the open pier would have no impact on dunes.
Largely unanswered were concerns of about a dozen residents who attended the hearing.
Mainly, citizens objected that the pier would:
— Obstruct the view of the roughly 340 pilings left from the 1930s ferry operation
— Require the removal of as many as six pilings
— Disturb osprey nests.
The property “should be added to the historical register and not developed for the benefit of one family,” said Laura Weigand, local business owner and member of the town’s Board of Zoning Appeals.
That board last year approved zoning the property for construction of two houses.
The proposal will now go to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, which will coordinate reviews by a host of other agencies, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.