Chief aims to halt illicit activities at tribal land entrance

Published 10:46 am Thursday, June 10, 2021

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Chief Walt “Red Hawk” Brown, of the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe, has raised concerns at multiple Southampton County Board of Supervisors meetings this year about illicit activities taking place in the unlit cul-de-sac that exists where Cattashowrock Drive and Cattashowrock Trail set.

“That cul-de-sac has become, for lack of a better term, ‘lovers lane,’” Brown said to supervisors April 27. “I normally go out to the tribal land five or six days out of a seven-day week, most of the time in the afternoons, and I have caught two cars of teenagers out there already.

“Even worse, people are dumping trash in that cul-de-sac,” he continued. “I was out there Sunday afternoon and the grossest thing I’ve ever seen — somebody came there and crapped in the middle of the cul-de-sac, toilet paper everywhere, OK? I mean, human feces. It doesn’t make any sense why people would do things like that.”

County Administrator Michael Johnson noted in the April 27 board meeting packet that this short section of undeveloped, dead-end roadway was created by the closure and removal of the at-grade intersection of Old Bridge Road and Southampton Parkway when the new overpass was constructed in 2018.

Brown said there is definitely a need for a streetlight in that area.

“We need a light so we can put a security camera up, OK, so we can catch those yahoos and turn it over to the sheriff’s department,” he said. “It’s what we need.”

Johnson stated in the board meeting packet that Brown was asking for the board’s consideration in installing a streetlight in the location.

“I contacted Dominion Energy and asked them to provide me with a cost estimate to

install the light on an existing pole near the entrance to the Cheroenhaka tribal property

(Cattashowrock Trail),” Johnson stated in the packet. 

He explained that because the installation of a light will also require installation of a new 25 kVA

transformer, Dominion will require the county to pay $3,579.95 up front to install the

light. Thereafter, the operational cost is estimated at slightly more than $14 per month.

During the April 27 board meeting, Capron District Supervisor and Vice Chair William Hart Gillette suggested Brown instead put up a gate.

Brown said there is already a locked gate at the entrance of Cattashowrock Trail.

The conversation shifted to putting up a gate at the intersection of Cattashowrock Drive and Cattashowrock Trail, as supervisors referred to a Google Earth aerial photo in the board meeting packet.

“We can’t put a gate there,” Brown said. “It’s a (Virginia Department of Transportation) right of way.”

In a May 25 email interview, Johnson expressed agreement with Brown’s position.

“Since this is a public right of way, I do not believe that VDOT would allow him to install a gate there,” Johnson said.

Gillette continued to advocate for a gate instead of a light during the April 27 meeting. 

Brown recommended Gillette take a look at the cul-de-sac in person before making a decision, and Gillette said he would be glad to take a look at it but that he has seen hundreds of places like it that have a gate.

“They have gates up at state parks all over this state,” Gillette said. “I’ve been on every one of them, and where there are problems like this, they put a gate up. It’s open when tourists are there. Otherwise, I’m not in favor of this $3,579.95, but I am in favor of putting a gate up to solve your problem.”

Brown said he would take the matter to the board of directors with the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribal Heritage Foundation and also to the tribe if the Board of Supervisors voted not to install a light. 

“I’m going to take it to my council, OK, and see if we can pay for the light,” he said.

But he strongly recommended supervisors come out and take a look at the site in question.

“That light is needed,” he said. “Before you know it, you may have a serious incident that happens down there. Someone may get killed or something, OK? It’s a lot of inappropriate activity that’s going on down there. Who knows, there’s probably interchange of drugs and everything else. (A) gate is not going to stop people from going.”

He also noted there are actually two ways of reaching the cul-de-sac.

“When you come off the ramp on 58 going east, there’s also another entrance where that grassy area is that comes into the land,” he said. “How are you going to stop that? Are you going to get VDOT to put a gate up there too?”

Boykins District Supervisor Carl J. Faison said Brown’s request made sense to him.

“Especially the idea of having a light up there and a security camera, because that can pick up activity that won’t be picked up unless we have a light there, so it makes sense to me,” he said.

Gillette ultimately made a motion that if the property owner needs the county’s approval to put up a light, he can put it up.

The motion passed by a 6-0 vote in the virtual meeting, with no vote from Drewryville District Supervisor Dallas O. Jones being audible when called for, though he had made clear he was present earlier in the night.

There was some confusion on what position the vote put Brown in as far as his ability to get a light installed.

In a May 14 interview, Johnson referred to the existing pole near the entrance to the Cheroenhaka tribal property when he said, “The way the board really left that was that the property owner was certainly welcome to install a light on that pole, which is not an issue.”

He said the question would be what the cost would be to the private property owner, because the $3,579.95 installation fee and $14 per month operational cost were negotiated between the Virginia Energy Purchasing Governmental Association and Dominion Energy.

“The rate may be a little bit different for the property owner,” he said. 

When asked if the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe needed the board vote that took place April 27, Johnson said no.

“It would have only needed a vote if the county was going to bear the expense,” he said.

In a May 25 email interview, Johnson said that for cul-de-sacs, the right of way usually has a radius of 50 feet, extending from the center of the circle. Power poles are property of the utility and generally located within the road right of way or otherwise within an easement obtained by the power company.

“Power companies do not permit placement of cameras on their poles,” he stated. “Any camera would have to be installed on Chief Brown’s property. Security lighting, installed by the power company and paid for by the Cheroenhaka Foundation, could go on the existing pole. 

“Chief Brown wouldn’t need permission from VDOT to have the power company install a light on its pole or to install a camera on his organization’s property,” he added.

In a June 6 email interview, Brown said the tribal council is not willing to pay money to have a security light put up on a state-maintained road. 

“A letter was sent to the county administrator to that effect,” Brown said. “In our opinion, the county should pay for the installation and maintenance of the security light, as they have paid for over the past 15-20 years.”

In a June 7 phone interview, Brown, who previously served eight years on the Board of Supervisors, explained what he meant by the comment “as they have paid for over the past 15-20 years.”

“All these security lights you see in neighborhoods, before you get to neighborhoods and stuff, the county put those up and paid for them, even though they’re on state-maintained roads,” he said. “When I was on the board, I got one in the vicinity of Diamond Grove (Baptist) Church, and people are not out there all the time, and there were all kinds of security lights that got put up that the county paid for.”

Having mentioned those instances, he indicated that the county not paying for a security light at the cul-de-sac in front of the tribal property entrance does not make any sense. 

“From my perspective, it’s biased,” he said.

He emphasized June 7 that the problems at the unlit cul-de-sac are continuing.

“It has not stopped, to include the feces,” he said, offering supporting details for his description of the site as a developing messy, trash dump area where he said he has seen drug paraphernalia and condoms.

The Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe will be hosting its Green Corn Indian Powwow on July 3.

Brown noted the tribe brings tourism dollars into the county, with people staying in hotels for tribe-hosted events.

“We have a lot of tourists, in state and out of state, to include those from outside the U.S. that will be attending the powwow,” he said, highlighting the need to clean up the cul-de-sac. “It would be detrimental to attracting new industry, especially high tech, should Southampton County get the name as being an unclean, trash-everywhere county.”