- Published on Wednesday, 17 October 2012 15:53
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After hearing a wide variety of ideas, concerns and requests not to sell Eleanor Trailer Park the Colonial Beach Town Council moved to refer the matter to the Planning Commission for study, review and direction on what to do with the property.
The Colonial Beach Town Council had asked for open public comment concerning what to do with Eleanor Trailer Park located near the end of the point in Colonial Beach Virginia at the October Town Council meeting. During the meeting there were mixed comments from speakers but most seemed to have misunderstood the purpose of the meeting and assumed the council would vote directly after public comment on whether or not to sell the park even though a vote was not listed on the agenda.
The following statements may have led the public to believe a vote would follow the public comments. At the onset of the public comments Councilman Gary Seeber said, “Following the public comment on Eleanor Trailer park we should give the Town manager direction on making an appraisal.” Town Attorney Andrea Erard read previous court documents outlining decisions made by the courts regarding the town’s legal ability to sell the property.
Although not too many speakers came forward, a wide variety of ideas were represented in comments from the ten people who did speak on the matter.
Former Vice Mayor Trish King cleared up some misconceptions surrounding Council’s actions, particularly the feeling that the current council is moving quickly to sell off the property before their terms come up for re-election, or that the current council has had no action on the matter in the last four years.
King told the group that council decided to begin closing the trailer park due to a failing water and sewer infrastructure which would cost in excess of $100,000 dollars to repair. Without repairs it would eventually pose a health risk to residents.
Town Manager Val Foulds has previously stated that repairs to the infrastructure could not be completed while trailers were on the property. King said that the members on council at the time of this decision felt that it could be sold for a profit to help pay off some high interest loans the town was holding and possibly help with other projects She said the decision was made before the current recession began. “As we all know things changed and we all moved on.”
Comments ranged from keeping the original residential zoning and splitting the property into roughly 17 parcels to sell for single family homes, to making it a dog park.
Diane Pearson asked the council not to sell Eleanor Trailer Park. Pearson said she felt that the current council was the first to listen to the people, in the 55 years she has been coming to the meetings. But she said, “Most of the time you don’t do what the town’s people get up here and ask you to do. We need your support in saving and building this town into something great,” Pearson said, “But to do that we must work together.”
Allen Jay Jarvis said, “I’ve got no major objections to the sale of that park, if you divide it up properly into sizable little lots that people can build on.” However Jarvis feels this is not the right time to sell. He feels the sale should wait till at least until after the elections.
Candidate for Town Council Wanda Goforth thinks the property should not be sold for private use or in a low market and envisions a facility that would benefit residents 55 and older. Goforth said she did not feel two weeks’ advertising was enough to get the attention of a majority of the town for comments. She claimed to have spoken to many citizens, whom she considers well informed, who were unaware of the meeting taking place and that no one she talked to was in favor of selling the park.
“But because of the negligence of some of the people not reading the paper and not being informed all of us are going to bear the brunt of that negligence,”
Goforth said “and then there are other people, such as the elderly that have other matters that are more important or primary in their life and they’re also just too shy to stand up here and speak. “I don’t think there should ever be haste in deciding to sell off a town’s assets. That is a forever decision and cannot be reversed.”
King said, “It is not zoned for multi-family homes, condos or town houses or anything like that. It was zoned particularly for single family homes, because that’s what’s there.” King feels it should be subdivided into lots for single family homes, keeping with the zoning that is originally there.
Former Planning Commissioner Margaret McMullin said, “When I think of that part of town I think it could be a park and it could be beautiful.” McMullin also suggested a very upscale boutique/motel which could blend in with a lot of shrubbery, thereby allowing the town to collect property tax, real estate tax, lodging tax and personal tax. “If the town is going to sell, it to get tax income, I suggest we sell it for something other than residential.”
Glenda Chiarello said, “It’s such a controversial subject.” She suggested putting it off and placing it on the ballot in Nov. 2014. “This would give the town two years to get it cleaned up, time for the economy to recover and see if we get slots.”
Douglas Gaastorland, who owns a home adjacent to the park, appealed to the council by quoting the town’s zoning ordinance, which the council had voted to amend earlier that evening. He felt the park should remain zoned for Residential use.
Gaastorland said, “The intent of R-2, defined in the document, is to promote single family dwelling units and open areas. It goes on to say, new developments within this district will have a harmonious and compatible relationship with the surrounding neighborhood.”
He concluded, “I have a concern that deviation from this would diminish our property values, our quality of life, our enjoyment and our safety. There is a potential to adversely affect the general welfare of all town citizens if it is not done right!”
Wayne Rose said, “I urge the council not to sell, I would like it to stay recreational.” He suggests making it a dog park. Rose considers the parks and recreational opportunities here in Colonial Beach as substandard.
Steve Cirbee said, “I urge the council and staff to come up with some options.” Cirbee feels this would enable the town citizens to comment more effectively on the matter.
Walter Kern said that the park is the largest piece of property in town besides the waste-water treatment plant. Kern feels the sale of the park should be on a referendum and voted on.
Planning Commissioner David Coombes spoke as a citizen and not for the commission. He said, “All of you know we spent a lot of money and a lot of time developing the comprehensive plan for 20 years from 2009 to 2020. Chapter 4 covers the future use of land in Colonial Beach.” Coombes recommended that the council re-read that chapter.
Coombes then proposed that the council consider charging the Planning Commission prospectively to come up with a recommendation on what should go on the property. Coombes clarified, “Not whether it is sold or not, that is your purview,. since all of us spent a year and a half on this comprehensive plan.”
Seeber motioned to comply with Coombes request and the council voted unanimously to refer the matter to the planning commission.