Chincoteague divided over marina purchase

CHINCOTEAGUE, Va. (Delmarva Now) -- The owner of a Chincoteague marina for sale on the southern part of the island hopes the site will remain operating as a marina. The owner is first offering it to the town.

Chincoteague officials at Monday’s Town Council meeting were divided over the benefit of the town purchasing Captain Bob’s Marina, a 5-acre waterfront property on Main Street.

Still, the consensus among Town Council members was that the terms offered in a letter written to the mayor and council by an attorney for owner Donna Rae Roeske are not workable for the town.

The price is $2 million, with a $150,000 non-refundable deposit, and closing must take place before Oct. 31, according to the letter from attorney Henry P. Custis Jr.

Vice Mayor Denise Bowden called the offer “the opportunity of a lifetime for the town,” adding, “I hate to see another hotel take up the waterfront.”

The latter statement was met with applause from residents packing the council chambers.

Bowden said she took an informal poll via Facebook about the idea of the town buying the marina.

Her Facebook post received more than 400 comments, which were “overwhelmingly in support” of the idea, Bowden said.

Among the most popular ideas for using the property were a restaurant and green space, she said.

“It does come down to where are we going to find the money,” she said, urging the town to negotiate with the property owner on the deadline for closing.

Bowden commended Roeske for offering the property first to the town.

Still, Mayor J. Arthur Leonard said the terms set forth in the letter are not acceptable.

“There is no way on God’s green Earth that we can close by Oct. 31,” he said.

“Yes, it would be a great addition, but where do we draw that line?” Leonard said, saying the town buying the waterfront property could set a bad precedent.

“What is the benefit to citizens, to visitors? ... There are a lot of unknowns here,” he said.

Council members Ben Ellis and Ellen Richardson spoke in favor of investigating ways the town could purchase the property.

“I would hate to see us lose this opportunity, but I don’t know where the money’s coming from,” said Richardson.

“We would be losing a wonderful opportunity,” Ellis said.

Council members Eddie Lewis and James T. Frese spoke against the purchase.

Lewis said he is concerned about the town taking on debt and asked, “How much tax increase would there be if we purchase this property?”

Frese said federal grant money was not as plentiful as in the past, and said, “I don’t think it’s fair to put the town in the position of competing with private enterprise. … It’s not our business — our business is to look out for the health, safety and welfare of the citizens.”

Gene Wayne Taylor said the amount of the nonrefundable deposit and the deadline for closing on the property concern him; but he added that with different terms, “I’d love to see our town have a nice waterfront place.”

Roeske spoke during a public comment period at the council meeting.

She said Captain Bob’s has 114 boat slips, some of which need repair.

“There’s one thing about Captain Bob’s — it generates revenue. … Automatically, you’ve got money coming in there with slip rentals,” she said, adding, “I feel that it will be an asset for Chincoteague.”

Another speaker, Barbara Hoffman Walker, said the purchase offer “is something I feel strongly about.”

“South Main Street needs something, too,” she said, noting the parks already under the town’s control “are beautiful.”

“There are so many endless possibilities with this property,” she said of the marina, adding, “God is not creating land anymore.”

Still, Joe Serino spoke against the purchase, saying the marina needs repairs and “very few people go down to the end of Chincoteague … I’m just considering the cost — whether it’s a good deal or not.”

Donna Mason said the offer “is a good opportunity.”

Mason reminded the council of the history of Robert Reed Park in downtown Chincoteague, in which she and other investors purchased the land and held it for a number of years, until the town was in a position to purchase it.

“Can anybody in this town say that was a mistake?” she said.

“You need to turn over every rock” to investigate ways to purchase the marina, Mason said, adding, “It’s a valuable piece of property … it is a money generator.”

“I don’t think anybody would regret doing it. There are ways to do it,” she said.

Leonard said no formal vote was needed at the Monday meeting, but added he “would hope” the town will send a letter to the property owner asking for different terms or to negotiate.

Delmarva Now


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