Cape Charles votes to allow rentals, hotels, bed-and-breakfast inns to open

May 14, 2020
The Cape Charles love sign at the beach

By Ted Shockley


A divided Cape Charles Town Council decided on Thursday night to reopen short-term rentals, hotels and bed-and-breakfast inns after shuttering them for a month because of coronavirus concerns.

The town council voted 3-2 to allow lodging again in the popular bayfront beach town.

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The vote came after hearing concerns from the owners of short-term rental properties who want to reopen, and from residents wary that visitors to town could imperil the health of everyone else.

An additional cause for concern was the depleted inventory at the Cape Charles Food Lion store, which at least one member of council felt couldn’t accommodate locals, much less visitors.

“They haven’t had toilet paper for two months,” said Councilman Steve Bennett.

But others said visitors already were coming, walking the streets and enjoying the town. And Cape Charles Town Manager John Hozey admitted it is “very difficult for us to enforce” rules pertaining to rental homes.

The town and Northampton County have exploded with options for internet-based vacation home rentals, with hundreds available. Town Council members Paul Grossman and Andy Buchholz said the rentals should be treated like any other business, and allowed to open.

Bennett and Councilman Chris Bannon, however, mentioned during the Internet meeting that their ages put them in coronavirus at-risk demographics. Bennett also said Cape Charles’ housing density was higher than anywhere in the county.

“In my conscience, I want to say, ‘Keep the town open,’” said Bannon. “But I would vote to keep the town closed.”

Councilwoman Tammy Holloway said businesses have been taking precautions to ensure the health of everyone, including visitors, saying, “They’re coming and they’re already here.”

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Of those concerned about their businesses and concerned about their health, she said, “We need to set a tone that’s acceptable on both ends.”

“They very much care about the community that they’re in, and their employees,” Holloway said of business owners.

Grossman, Buchholz and Holloway voted to rescind the ordinance closing vacation housing rentals, hotels and bed-and-breakfast inns. Bannon and Bennett voted against the move.

Outside of the council’s authority is the popular Cape Charles beach, which is closed to everything by the governor except exercising and fishing.

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Mayor Smitty Dize wondered aloud how visitors to town might entertain themselves.

“There’s not going to be a whole lot for them to do,” he said.




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