4/24/18: FY 2018-19 BUDGET SESSION: Preliminary Figures Show Expansion of Capital Projects, Staff; Major Investment in SSVFD, Employee Compensation

budget

Monies for the SSVFD’s current operation and planning for a new fire station, construction of the East Dogwood Trail walkway, and expanded staff positions and salary increases topped the fiscal year 2018-19 budgeted expenses reviewed by Town Manager and Budget Officer Peter Rascoe at the Town Council’s special budget work session April 17.

The meeting, attended by Mayor Tom Bennett, all four Council members, Finance Officer Bonnie Swain, and Mr. Rascoe, lasted only two hours—far shorter than working budget sessions of recent years, which have consumed the better part of a day.

Before the session, preliminary projected FY 2018-19 expenses totaled $6,388,835, an amount that was $296,261 more than the preliminary projected income of $6,072,574– $5,143,088 of which is projected to come from ad valorem, sales, and other taxes.

The Town Council reduced the expenses by $34,000, eliminating some of the costs budgeted for a beach-profile study, bringing the shortfall to $262,261.

Mr. Rascoe will submit his Proposed Annual Operating Budget to the Town Council on May 1, 2018, during that body’s regular monthly meeting. A public hearing on the budget will be set for June 5, 2018, during the Council’s regular June meeting.

The Beacon does not recall a preliminary town budget ever showing a gap between income and expenses. It is clear from the data submitted by Mr. Rascoe that the town’s projects and staff are expanding rapidly.

For details, see https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/minutes-agendas-newsletters/Meeting-Packet_2018-04-17.pdf

In a blog posted April 12, 2018, The Beacon highlighted some of the larger expenses budgeted for FY 2018-19. They include $267,700 for “architectural services” in support of a new Southern Shores fire station, an estimated $5 million-plus project that has yet to be approved, and an increase of $138,870 in the annual capital-street appropriation, bringing the total for infrastructure projects, exclusive of East Dogwood Trail, to $654,870.

The preliminary budget further calls for an across-the-board 2.5 percent cost-of-living increase for all full-time town employees—except the Town Planner and Permit Officer, who are receiving raises—and increases in costs for health insurance and retirement benefits. The Town contributes to Medicare, health, life, and dental insurance, state retirement, and a 401k plan for each full-time employee.

STAFF EXPENSES

If the budget is approved as is, Planner/Code Enforcement Officer Wes Haskett will receive a $13,477 raise to compensate him for the newly created position of Deputy Town Manager. Mr. Haskett is already performing duties for both jobs, for which he will earn a total of $84,200. Permit Officer Dabni Shelton is slated to receive a $7,000 raise, bringing her salary to $64,738.

Although the Public Works Dept. has been operating with only a Public Works Supervisor since Public Works Director Rachel Patrick left in 2017, the FY 2018-19 budget calls for both managerial positions to be funded. Besides the director (total salary of $73,135) and supervisor ($56,552), the Public Works Dept., which maintains the town’s roads, buildings, parking lots, and other town-owned properties, has three full-time maintenance technicians and one part-time technician.

There has been no public discussion about why the Town Manager needs a deputy to help him do his job and what duties the deputy has.

Pursuant to sec. 2-21 of the Southern Shores Code, the town manager is appointed by, and serves at the pleasure of, the Town Council, which meets in closed session to discuss all personnel matters.

According to Beacon correspondent Susan Dineen, who attended the budget session, Mr. Rascoe is said to be “mentoring” Mr. Haskett.

Absent an employment contract, however, no future Town Council would be obligated to hire Mr. Haskett as Town Manager.

Town Councilmen Fred Newberry and Gary McDonald have raised concerns in the past two years about employee compensation. Southern Shores has among the highest salaried employees on the Outer Banks.

Town expenses for employees, including salaries and all benefits, constitute about 40 percent of the total projected expenses budgeted in FY 2018-19.

All employee compensation is a matter of public record.

Town Manager Rascoe is slated to earn nearly $159,656 in salary in FY 2018-19. In FY 2011-12, Mr. Rascoe earned a salary of $112,238. His salary, therefore, has increased 42 percent in seven years.

When town expenses for Medicare, health, life, and dental insurance, state retirement, and his 401k plan are added to Mr. Rascoe’s salary, the total cost to Southern Shores for his position in FY 2018-19 is nearly $207,000.

The preliminary total budget for the town’s administration department is $1 million, an amount that includes salaries and benefits for four employees, including the Town Manager, legal services ($61,500), operating expenses, and supplies; and the police department’s total preliminary FY 2018-19 budget is $1.69 million, $1.25 million of which is in salary and benefits.

FIRE DEPT./NEW STATION

The town’s projected FY 2018-19 appropriation for SSVFD services is $545,914, up from $481,925 in FY 2017-18, the $64,000 difference representing the base salary, before benefits, for a new deputy fire chief.

Mr. Rascoe announced at the meeting that the town’s 10-year contract with the fire department will expire in 2019 and, therefore, need to be negotiated anew.

According to Dineen, town officials discussed future budgeted monies for the SSVFD after the new fire station project is approved and construction begins. The SSVFD has reported that it can secure a 15-year loan, at 2.88 percent—terms that would obligate the town to pay $442,000 annually, in two $221,000 semiannual installments. It is possible that a first payment could be due in fall 2018, but no money has been allocated in the FY 2018-19 budget for it.

When the architectural services are added to the amount the town pays for contract fire protection services, Southern Shores’s total budget for the SSVFD in the next year is projected to be $813,614.

EAST DOGWOOD TRAIL

 The 2018-19 budget reserves a $250,000 allocation for the East Dogwood Trail walkway, although the Town Council has yet to decide upon a design—or, at least, it has yet to inform the public of the design it has chosen.

Three options for walkway design materials have been floated by the engineering team of Deel/Anlauf, the cheapest of which calls for the 5-foot-wide walkway to be made of concrete.

The meandering walkway would start at the intersection of East Dogwood Trail with South and North Dogwood Trails and extend to N.C. Hwy. 12. It is expected to be built in the public right-of-way on the south side of East Dogwood Trail.

The most expensive, and most environmentally friendly, design option would use KBI (K.B. Industries) Flexi®-pave, which is a heavy-duty porous material made from recycled tires and stone. The third option is an asphalt walkway, which, like the concrete path, would be impervious.

If the town were to choose the Flexi®-pave option, it would have to clean and maintain the walkway surface, an added expense not necessary with concrete and asphalt.

According to an April 10, 2018 memo to Mr. Rascoe from engineer Joseph Anlauf, a concrete walkway can be constructed on East Dogwood Trail for $250,000, provided other elements that were previously a part of the original design plan are eliminated. These elements include all asphalt demolition (thus keeping the road, in its divided section, at its current width); all new asphalt and associated curbing; all shade trellises, park benches, bike racks, and municipal garbage and recycling cans that were to be placed en route; and all crosswalks to perpendicular streets.

BEACH NOURISHMENT

Although no appropriation was included in the town budget for beach nourishment, Mayor Bennett observed at the meeting that any such projects would cost $10 million per mile, an increase from an earlier estimate of $5 million.

Councilman McDonald asked about installing sand fencing on the oceanfront, indicating an interest in being “proactive” about shoreline management. McDonald suggested putting money aside each year for future shoreline management.

The beach nourishment project done at Pelican Watch last summer cost the town $500,000, $150,000 of which is expected to be reimbursed through taxes paid by Pelican Watch homeowners over the next five years. Dare County contributed $500,000, as well.

UPCOMING

The Town Council has until June 30, 2018, to adopt a budget. In each year of his first term, Mayor Tom Bennett moved forward with budget approval immediately after the public hearing, allowing for only limited consideration of any objections and concerns that citizens may raise.

Bearing that in mind, The Beacon encourages you to email your comments, concerns, and questions to the mayor and Town Council members before the June 5 meeting at council@southernshores-nc.gov.

We will publish a website link to the May 1 proposed budget as soon as one is available. Between now and June 5, we also will do research on salaries in other Outer Banks towns, to see how Southern Shores’s salaries compare.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, Editor-in-Chief

April 24, 2018

 

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PLANNING BOARD: CHAIRMAN DRAFTS PROPOSED NEW LAW, CREATING ZONING PLAN TO ACCOMMODATE DRIVE-THROUGH ICE CREAM SHOP ON HWY. 158; Hearing Before Town Council on May 1

icecream

In other Planning Board action April 16, Chairman Sam Williams wrote (proposed) new zoning law on commercial drive-through facilities in Southern Shores, in order to accommodate an applicant who would like to open a drive-through ice cream shop on a lot on U.S. Hwy. 158 that is less than 25 percent of the size envisioned by the town for drive-throughs.

The Southern Shores Town Code currently requires a “drive-through facility or establishment” to be located on a lot that is equal to or greater than 2.5 acres. Applicant Spiros Giannakopoulos’s commercial lot at 5415 N. Croatan Hwy. is only 18,260 square feet, or 0.42 acres. To get around this obstacle, Mr. Williams devised, without suggestion by the applicant, a zoning plan that differentiates between small and large drive-through facilities.

Under Mr. Williams’s plan, a “small” drive-through customer-service facility may be located on a lot less than 20,000 square feet provided it has frontage along Hwy. 158 and meets other building requirements, all tailormade for Mr. Giannakopoulos’s proposed ice cream shop. A large drive-through facility would conform to the requirement of a location size that is equal to or greater than 2.5 acres.

The Chairman found a majority on the Board to agree with his proposed plan—the vote was 4-1, with Board Member Elizabeth Morey voting against, but not offering comment—and the Board thereby replaced the ZTA submitted by applicant Giannakopoulos with its own language.

No one on the Planning Board supported Mr. Giannakopoulos’s original ZTA, which was prepared by his representative, Quible & Associates of Kitty Hawk, and proposed to give a special zoning exemption to drive-through ice cream shops, and no other businesses. New Planning Board Member Glenn Wyder immediately took issue with the applicant’s carved-out exception, opposing its specificity. At that point in the hearing, Mr. Williams stepped in to say that he had already worked out a solution.

The Town Council will hold a public hearing on ZTA-18-05, as rewritten by the Planning Board, at its next regular meeting, May 1st. Mr. Giannakopoulos, who is doing business as 5415 OBX-LLC, is seeking to operate Nu-Quality Ice Cream on the lot between Wells Fargo and First National banks, in front of the Marketplace. For details, see:

https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/ZTA-18-05-Nu-Quality-Ice-Cream-Shop.pdf

Frankly, the Beacon was surprised by this turn of events. When Town Planning Director Wes Haskett reminded Chairman Williams that he needed to entertain public comment before taking a vote on his ZTA, the Beacon’s reporter thought to ask: “Before you vote, may I see what you’ve written?” How does one comment without notice and an opportunity to read what one is being asked to comment upon?

The powers and duties of the Planning Board (see sec. 24-27 of the Town Code) are broad, but Mr. Williams went far beyond the application before the Board, substituting his own judgment for the applicant’s. Is this the authority contemplated by the legislators who enacted the law governing the Planning Board? Is this a good way of conducting business? Of planning?

Mr. Giannakopoulos proposes to build a 910-square-foot ice cream shop with a parking lot at 5415 N. Croatan Hwy. According to the Planning Board’s Martin’s Point representative, John Finelli, who voted in favor on the Chairman’s new plan, the 2.5-acre restriction on drive-through businesses was enacted because the Town didn’t believe a drive-through business “was appropriate for every location.”

“We were trying to keep congestion off of Juniper Trail,” he further explained.

Ironically, the Planning Board gave no consideration to the traffic congestion that Mr. Giannakopoulos’s business might generate on Hwy. 158, in both directions, as customers vie for entry, and on Juniper Trail, if the drive-through vehicular line backs up onto it.

Besides considering the impact on traffic in this highly congested area, The Beacon would have liked the Planning Board to have given more thought to the history and intent behind the 2.5-acre restriction, before compromising it.

The Beacon Editorial Board, April 21, 2018

 

 

4/20/18: PLANNING BOARD ACTION: Members Split on Lot Coverage Change, 2nd Time Around; Expect Another Town Council Hearing Soon

beachhouse

In its second consideration of an amendment to the town’s zoning ordinance that would redefine how residential lot coverage is calculated and effectively allow larger homes to be built, the Southern Shores Planning Board split last Monday on provisions that it had previously recommended to the Town Council.

The result: The Board approved the proposed zoning text amendment, known as ZTA-18-04, as amended, but it did not decide the most controversial aspect of the zoning change, which would have exempted from the permissible 30-percent lot coverage up to 500 square feet of a swimming pool. The four voting Board members in attendance split 2-2 on the swimming pool exception.

In their comments, three Board members left little doubt that they recognized that the proposed changes in lot-coverage calculation would lead to larger homes being built. Member Elizabeth Morey stated: “They [the Town Council] want bigger houses.” Board Member David Neal said he wished he could “visualize the potential,” voicing concern that this amendment “is not going in the direction that we want to go in.”

Ms. Morey later cast a dissenting vote, indicating that she did not believe the lot-coverage change was consistent with the town’s land-use plan.

The Beacon will try to explain what happened at the Board’s hearing, as well as action preceding it. We are playing catchup, so please bear with us. It appears to us that politics is playing a bigger role than the town should permit. You decide.

***

On Sept. 5, 2017, the Southern Shores Town Council rejected, by a 3-2 vote, a zoning text amendment, known as ZTA 17-03, that would have changed the town law on lot coverage in substantially the same way that ZTA 18-04 proposes to change it now. Most of the language in the two amendments—and certainly the most significant language—is identical. Councilmen Gary McDonald, Fred Newberry, and Leo Holland voted against ZTA 17-03, expressing a desire to leave the Town Code as is on lot coverage. Mayor Tom Bennett and Councilman Chris Nason voted in favor of the change.

Fast-forward two months . . . Mr. Holland does not run for reelection to Council, and Jim Conners is elected to his seat. At the Town Council’s February 2018 meeting—five months after the defeat of the lot-coverage law change—Councilman Chris Nason, an architect who is now mayor pro tem, moves to send ZTA-17-03 back to the Planning Board for reconsideration with two new sub-sections. Councilman Conners seconds this motion, and it passes, 3-2, with Newberry and McDonald casting nay votes.

Councilman McDonald objects that this reconsideration is impermissible under the Council’s rules of procedure, but he is rebuffed by Town Attorney Ben Gallop, who says that Mr. Nason’s motion is valid. The slightly restyled ZTA-17-03 becomes ZTA-18-04.

OK, now rewind back to August 2017, before the Town Council defeats ZTA 17-03, to a memorandum from Planning Board Chairman Sam Williams to the mayor. In his 8/11/17 memo, Mr. Williams informs the mayor that the Planning Board, which has been painstakingly reviewing the proposed Town Code rewrite submitted by paid consultant, Codewright, will be making recommendations to the Council for possible Code changes on a piecemeal basis, before its full review is finished. Williams zeroes in on two zoning changes that the Board has decided to take up now: 1) the way building height is calculated; and 2) the way lot coverage is calculated.

The Beacon would like to know: Were you aware that the Planning Board had decided to do this, or did you think that the Town Council would only be considering proposed Code changes after the Planning Board completed its review?

The Beacon learned about this memo only by perusing Town Council meeting packets prepared by staff last summer. To the Beacon’s knowledge, the content of this memo was not made public in any other manner.

In his memo, Mr. Williams includes a table reflecting the Planning Board’s recommendations on lot coverage. These recommendations, which were unanimously approved, form the basis for the first zoning text amendment, which the Town Council defeated, 3-2, in September, and for the second ZTA, which the Town Council sent back to the Planning Board in February for reconsideration.

[Late-breaking news: The Beacon learned after this blog was posted that these recommendations, which became ZTA-17-03, were approved by Chairman Williams, former Planning Board Member Gray Berryman, Mr. Neal, and ETJ Representative John Finelli (who votes only on items that affect Martin’s Point) in a special meeting called by Mr. Williams on Aug. 7, 2018. Ms. Morey did not attend. The four representatives expressly noted in their recommendations: “We recognize that [they] will encourage larger homes.” This information is based on Planning Board meeting minutes obtained from town staff. Minutes of the Planning Board’s meetings are not available online, nor are the meetings routinely videotaped.]

***

Section 36-202(d)(6) of the Southern Shores Town Code defines “maximum allowable lot coverage” in the low-density single-family residential district as 30 percent, except for town-owned facilities and fire stations. (See The Beacon’s April 12, 2018 blog for more detail.)

Lot coverage is the ratio of the total “footprint” area of all structures on a lot to the net lot area. The footprint typically includes principal (your house) and accessory structures, such as garages, carports, covered patios and roofed porches, decks, swimming pools, driveways, and parking pads.

The chief objectives of lot-coverage laws are 1) to ensure stormwater retention, so that runoff into streets and adjacent lots doesn’t occur; and 2) to protect open space. The Planning Board largely focused on the stormwater issue in its discussion about ZTA-18-04.

Proposed ZTA-18-04 would eliminate from the footprint, and, therefore, from the lot-coverage calculation the following:

*Gravel walkways

*Gravel or grass driveways with a pervious base

*The outermost 4 feet of [roof] eaves

*Up to 500 square feet of the water area of a swimming pool

*Open-slatted decks constructed over pervious material (not to exceed a total of 25 percent of the total footprint)

ZTA-18-04 also would exempt from calculation 50 percent of the area consumed by pervious materials and turfstone/pavers for driveways and parking areas.

https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/ZTA-18-05-Nu-Quality-Ice-Cream-Shop.pdf

The current law has all pervious materials, all gravel or grass driveways, and all swimming pools contributing 100 percent to lot coverage; and eaves and gravel walkways not contributing at all.

ZTA-18-04 differs from ZTA-17-03, which was defeated in September, in two respects: It adds the provision about open-slatted decks and a provision stating that only those building/zoning permit applicants (for a single-family home or adjacent swimming pool) who present “a survey with all applicable requirements, including plan certification, for a Lot Disturbance and Stormwater Management Permit” may avail themselves of the swimming-pool and open-slatted deck exemptions to lot coverage.

***

So, what did the Planning Board do? And what does this all mean?

First, the Board approved, by a 3-1 vote, the deletion of the driveway exemption—an exemption that it had unanimously recommended in August 2017—and it voted, 2-2, on eliminating the swimming-pool exemption. Chairman Williams and Ms. Morey favored exempting up to 500 square feet of the water area of swimming pools from lot coverage; Mr. Neal and new Planning Board Member Glenn Wyder did not.

“A pool should not be used as a catch-basin,” Mr. Wyder said. He also noted how his swimming pool overflows after a heavy rain.

As for what it means, The Beacon believes it means that the public is being, effectively, excluded from important decision-making about building practices and restrictions in town. The Planning Board’s decision to send proposed Code changes to the Town Council for consideration on a piecemeal basis thwarts expectations that the public had and has about being able to weigh in on the consultant’s work at the end of the Board’s review.

At the Sept. 5, 2017 hearing on the proposed lot-coverage change, resident property owner Geri Sullivan noted in her public comments that 62 percent of the people who completed the survey conducted by Codewright said they did not want to change lot coverage. Changing the manner in which lot coverage is calculated effectively changes lot coverage.

The Beacon also believes that the Town Council is playing politics to the detriment of the public’s trust. ZTA-17-03 and ZTA-18-04 are substantially similar. This Town Council should honor the Sept. 5, 2017 vote of the previous Town Council.

The next Town Council meeting is May 1st. ZTA-18-04 cannot become law without a public hearing before the Council first.

The Beacon will return soon with more news about Planning Board action and the town’s FY 2018-19 budget.

We welcome your comments and questions.

April 20, 2018

THE BEACON: Who Are We?

Hatteraslight

Hello, Beacon readers!

Welcome, Beacon followers!

Some of you have sent us messages through this website or through the Beacon Facebook page, inquiring about who is on our editorial board. We just posted a response to the Who Are We? (or Who Are You?, if you prefer) inquiry on our Facebook page. The bottom line is that we would like to earn your trust and respect through our reporting, not through our identities. Our reporting will establish our credibility and reliability.

We can tell you, however, that we are a group of 10 people who represent a cross-section of the Southern Shores community. We live in Chicahauk and in the woods and dunes of Southern Shores, as well as on the beach.

Some of us own seasonal rental property. Some of us own small businesses.

Some of us have small children. Others have small grandchildren.

We come from many walks of life and are in different stages of life.

We are Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.

We are transplanted Northerners and homegrown Southerners.

The defining characteristics of our diversity could go on . . .

What unites us is that we have chosen to live in Southern Shores because we love it, and we would like to preserve its character, charm, and beauty for today and for tomorrow. We believe that in order to do that, property owners need to be informed about what’s happening in Southern Shores–from shore to shore and from north to south.

Please give us time to get established and to grow.

And, please, stay in touch.

Thank you so much.

Beacon Editorial Board, April 19, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

BUDGET WORK SESSION APRIL 17: NEWS ON EAST DOGWOOD TRAIL WALKWAY DESIGN OPTIONS (concrete or more eco-friendly surface?); Income-Expense Shortfall Currently Projected

 

dogwoods

The Town Council budget work session scheduled at 9 a.m. tomorrow at the Pitts Center is noteworthy for its emphasis on a review of the proposed East Dogwood Trail “walking path,” whose construction startup is tentatively budgeted in FY 2018-19 for a scaled-back $250,000.

Deel Engineering will present design plan options for the 5-foot-wide walkway, which will start at the N-S-E Dogwood trails intersection in the woods and run about 4,325 feet to NC 12 (Duck Road), BEFORE Town Manager and Budget Officer Peter Rascoe and Town Finance Officer Bonnie Swain go over projected expenses and revenues with Mayor Tom Bennett and the four Town Council members.

Deel Engineering, PLLC, which is associated with Anlauf Engineering, PLLC, both of Kitty Hawk, has a multi-year contract with the Town to provide engineering, architectural, and other construction-related services on infrastructure projects.

The Beacon urges anyone interested in the future of East Dogwood Trail and South Dogwood Trail, and the impact walkway construction will have on homeowners, to attend at least the first hour of the budget session—or send a friend.

Besides the low-ball cost figure proffered by Deel/Anlauf for the East Dogwood Trail walkway, other noteworthy numbers in the draft budget submitted by Mr. Rascoe are a request of $267,700 for “architectural services” in support of the new Southern Shores fire station, a project expected to cost, in total, well in excess of $6 million; an increase in annual capital street appropriation of $138,870; and an update of the beach vulnerability survey, which was previously done, for $94,000.

(Southern Shores’ financial obligation for last summer’s beach nourishment project in front  of Pelican Watch, at the southern end of town, was $500,000, $150,000 of which is expected to be paid by Pelican Watch homeowners through a tax assessment. According to a video on the town website, the project added 180 feet to the beach width, but earlier this month, a representative of the Pelican Watch homeowners assn. appealed to the Town Council at its regular meeting for help with restoring the dune, which he claimed had been damaged in a March 2018 storm.)

Currently projected FY 2018-19 expenses total $6,388,835, an amount that is $296,261 more than projected income. The Beacon does not recall a projected Town budget ever showing a shortfall between income and expenses.

Town expenses for salaried employees constitute roughly 35-40 percent of the total projected expenses. Southern Shores has among the highest salaried employees on the Outer Banks. The town manager’s position costs the Town more than $200,000 annually.

In FY 2018-19, Mr. Rascoe will have help with administering his job. Town Planning Director Wes Haskett will be salaried as a part-time deputy town manager, a job he has already assumed, in addition to his planning department duties and responsibilities.

The Beacon is curious to know why the Town thought this reallocation/expansion of duties was necessary. We do not recall being informed in the newsletter about this change, the reasoning behind it, and the anticipated consequences it will have.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

DOGWOOD TRAIL WALKWAY OPTIONS: Concrete, Asphalt, or Flexi®-Pave? Lowest-Impact, Eco-Friendly Surface Proposed Also Most Costly; Public Forum Urged

Deel/Anlauf have submitted preliminary engineering cost estimates for three design options for the proposed East Dogwood Trail “path,” each of which is constructed of a different material. The cheapest option calls for a concrete walkway. The most expensive, and most environmentally friendly, calls for KBI (K.B. Industries) Flexi®-pave, which, The Beacon has learned from an online search, is a heavy-duty porous material made from recycled tires and stone. The third option is an asphalt walkway, which, like the concrete path, would be impervious.

According to some online engineering claims, Flexi-pave actually cleans rainwater as it passes through.

According to an April 10, 2018 memorandum from engineer Joseph Anlauf to Mr. Rascoe, the $250,000 expense included in the draft FY 2018-19 budget for the East Dogwood Trail walkway covers only construction of a concrete “main path” along East Dogwood Trail from the Dogwoods intersection to NC 12. The estimated expense does not include:

*asphalt demolition, previously proposed in order to narrow East Dogwood Trail in the divided-roadway section in the dunes;

*any new asphalt and associated curbing that would be required;

*shade trellises, park benches, bike racks, municipal garbage cans/recycling cans and other niceties proposed to be built or positioned along the walkway; and

*any crosswalks to perpendicular streets

Since the South and East Dogwoods Task Force filed its final report in January 2017, the South and East Dogwood Trails walkway project has become a neglected and/or protracted and certainly confusing project.

The task force, chaired by Michael Fletcher, recommended a 5-foot-wide path that would meander around trees and would have “elements of a greenway.”

https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/170117-FINAL-REPORT-DWTF.pdf

Before a decision is made on the surface material to use and other design details and on the money to expend on this massive, community-altering construction project—some property owners will lose much of their front yards—The Beacon urges the Town to hold a public forum to explain what is contemplated and how it will benefit and infringe upon property owners. This is follow-up that hasn’t occurred and should.

Anecdotally speaking, The Beacon finds that many homeowners on the affected streets are unaware of the walkways being contemplated.

Public officials should do more to inform property owners than just refer them to online material that is difficult to access and assess.

The Beacon is also concerned about the lack of long-range planning being discussed by the Town Manager, Finance Officer, and the Town Council, despite several requests by Town Council members at their regular meetings for such planning. The Beacon especially would like to know how much the Town will be paying annually, and in total, for the new fire station, while it’s also paying for other big-ticket items, such as the Dogwoods walkways and, potentially, another beach-nourishment project.

Beacon Editorial Board, April 16, 2017

 

ALERT: 2018-19 BUDGET-PLANNING MATERIALS NOW ON TOWN WEBSITE; also Design Plans for “Conceptual” Walkway Along South Dogwood Trail

TOSSlogo

The Southern Shores Town Hall newsletter published today (April 13) contains links to budget materials that will be discussed at the budget-planning work session April 17 and to plans described as “preliminary design” work for “a conceptual walkway along South Dogwood Trail.”

Construction of the Dogwood trails walkway system is one of the big-ticket items expected to command the attention of the mayor and Town Council when Town Manager Peter Rascoe presents the anticipated income and expenses for FY 2018-19.

The Beacon doesn’t really understand what a conceptual walkway is and will endeavor to sort through the fragmented content on the website about the proposed South and East Dogwood Trail walkways and report back to you soon. We believe the walkway system is beyond mere concept.

You will find the agenda for the April 17 budget-planning session, which will be held at 9 a.m.—and last until such time as our public officials decide to adjourn—in the Pitts Center here:

https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/minutes-agendas-newsletters/Agendas_2018-04-17.pdf

A meeting packet for the budget-planning session, which details facts and figures that will be under discussion, is available on the town website here:

https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/minutes-agendas-newsletters/Meeting-Packet_2018-04-17.pdf

The Beacon will highlight some of the proposed budget items in a report before the April 17 planning session.

An April 13 “Draft of preliminary design plans for a conceptual walkway along South Dogwood Trail” may be accessed here:

https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/4-13-18-south-east-dogwood-trail-walkway-paths/

According to information under this link, the South and East Dogwood Trails “paths” have been broken into three segments, described as follows:

Segment 1: “runs along South Dogwood Trail from the SS Cemetery to Fairway Drive.”

Segment 2: “runs along South Dogwood Trail from the Dogwood Intersection down to Fairway Drive.”

Segment 3: “runs from the Dogwood Intersection to NC 12.”

It would appear from these descriptions that when construction on South Dogwood Trail occurs, it will be done first from south to north and then second, from north to south, with a convergence at Fairway Drive. The Beacon has not studied the 33 links under the listed segments, which are described in terms of six “paths,” to ascertain if this is what is “conceptualized.”

While The Beacon appreciates notice about the design plans for this massive construction project on South and East Dogwood Trails, it would much rather have them synthesized and summarized in a written report, rather than presented in multiple links as drawings and figures. Certainly someone familiar with this project can explain the options and costs being contemplated in a few easy-to-read paragraphs. Most of us are not engineers and those who are undoubtedly have plenty of other work to do.

The Beacon will report again after the April 17 budget-planning session, too.

(To read yesterday’s blog post about the Town Council’s effort to change the law on calculating 30% lot coverage, so as to enable construction of larger houses, click on the link in the right-hand column of this page.)

Beacon Editorial Board, April 13, 2018

 

 

APRIL 16 PLANNING BOARD BUSINESS: Town Council Seeks Change to 30% Lot Coverage Limit That Would Enable Larger Homes

Also: Elizabeth City businessman applies for zoning-law exemption so he can open drive-through ice cream shop on small lot between banks on Hwy. 158; and SSVFD prepares for new fire station

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The Southern Shores Planning Board will consider an amendment to the town’s zoning ordinance that would redefine how residential lot coverage is calculated and effectively allow larger homes to be built and undeveloped lot area to be decreased. The Board will hold a hearing on the proposed change to the law during its regular meeting Monday, April 16, at 5:30 p.m., in the Pitts Center.

The Planning Board also will consider zoning amendments proposed by the Southern Shores Volunteer Fire Dept., related to construction of its new state-of-the-art fire station; and by a business applicant seeking an exception to the town code so it can open a drive-through ice-cream shop on Hwy. 158 in front of the Marketplace. (See below.)

It should be an entertaining night.

Section 36-202(d)(6) of the Southern Shores Town Code (which is the town’s law book) defines “maximum allowable lot coverage” in the low-density single-family residential district as 30 percent, except for town-owned facilities and fire stations.

The zoning amendment, prepared by town staff upon motion by the Town Council, permits specific exemptions to the 30-percent limitation. Councilman and architect Christopher Nason proposed the change, and Mayor Tom Bennett and Councilman Jim Conners voted in favor; Councilmen Gary McDonald and Fred Newberry voted against it.

Lot coverage is the ratio of the total “footprint” area of all structures on a lot to the net lot area. The footprint typically includes principal (your house) and accessory structures, such as garages, carports, covered patios and roofed porches, decks, swimming pools, driveways, and parking pads.

You may think of lot coverage as the percentage of the lot (your land) that is covered by building area. The building area consists of the total horizontal area that you see in a building plan. Some of the area may actually touch the ground, as your house does; other parts may hang over the ground, as eaves on a roof do. The idea is that land is covered, thus affecting the flow of water.

The proposed zoning text amendment, known as ZTA-18-04, would eliminate from the footprint, and, therefore, from the lot-coverage calculation the following construction, previously taken into account:

*Gravel walkways

*Gravel or grass driveways with a pervious base

*The outermost 4 feet of [roof] eaves

*Up to 500 square feet of the water area of a swimming pool

*Open-slatted decks constructed over pervious material (not to exceed a total of 25 percent of the total footprint)

ZTA-18-04 also would exempt from calculation 50 percent of the area consumed by pervious materials and turfstone/pavers for driveways and parking areas.

Stormwater management is a major factor to consider whenever buildings are erected and lot disturbance occurs. Too much lot coverage can lead to excessive stormwater runoff and flooding. Surfaces that are “pervious” allow water to percolate into the ground. Impervious surfaces, such as concrete and asphalt, prevent water from percolating into the ground.

Would the proposed change in the law result in more puddling during and after storms than we currently experience?

You may read the proposed amendment in full at https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/ZTA-18-04-Lot-Coverage.pdf. Scroll down to page 3 for the new legal language.

The Beacon can easily see how, if ZTA-18-04 becomes law, a property owner could build a larger new home than his neighbor did just last year by including a gravel or grass driveway with a pervious base and open-slatted decks over pervious materials. He also might be able to have that swimming pool that an earlier homeowner could not build because its construction would have put his lot coverage over the 30 percent limit.

Would enactment of ZTA-18-04 lead to an explosion in swimming pools throughout Southern Shores?

Would people convert concrete driveways to gravel and alter their decks in order to build the additions that they didn’t think would meet code?

What do you think? Is ZTA-18-04 change for the better or for the worse?

The five-member Planning Board will hear public comments on the proposed amendment Monday and then vote, as is typically the case, to recommend its adoption or not. Planning Board Chairman Sam Williams will report the Board’s action to the Town Council at its next regular meeting, which is May 1st. The council likely will hear further public comments on ZTA-18-04 then, before it votes on final action.

Is ZTA-18-04 good law? Is it fair? Who benefits? Who doesn’t? You decide.

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DRIVE-THROUGH ICE-CREAM SHOP BETWEEN THE BANKS?

Doing business as 5415 OBX-LLC—one of numerous “OBX-LLCs” (limited liability companies) that have sprung up in Southern Shores recently— Spiros Giannakopoulos, 45, of Elizabeth City has applied to the Planning Board to obtain necessary town code changes and a conditional use permit to allow him to open a drive-through ice cream shop at 5415 N. Croatan Hwy. Mr. Giannakopoulos’s Nu-Quality Ice Cream would be located between Wells Fargo and First National banks, in front of the Marketplace.

If your first thought is that there’s not enough land at 5415 N. Croatan Hwy. to open a drive-through shop, you’re right.

The Southern Shores Town Code currently requires a “drive-through facility or establishment” to be located on a lot that is equal to or greater than 2.5 acres.

According to 5415 OBX-LLC’s application, the lot at 5415 N. Croatan Hwy. is 18,260 square feet, or 0.42 acres. Mr. Giannakopoulos, aka 5415 OBX-LLC, proposes to build a 910-square-foot shop with a parking lot there.

5415 OBX-LLC, which is being represented by Quible & Associates of Kitty Hawk, proposes to eliminate this major obstacle to its commercial plan by amending the zoning ordinance to allow drive-through ice cream shops—and only ice cream shops—to operate in Southern Shores on less than 2.5 acres.

The Beacon can’t help but wonder why the Planning Board or the Town Council would favor ice cream shops over all other drive-through establishments and how these public officials will respond when/if Nu-Quality Ice Cream goes belly-up as so many new businesses do. Will they then go back to the code and amend it for the next OBX-LLC with a drive-through business that comes calling?

The Beacon is also very concerned about the traffic flow into the drive-through shop and its impact on a very congested thoroughfare. The 2.5-acre restriction established by a previous Town Council did not come out of thin air.

What do you think?

You may read the nitty-gritty about Mr. Giannakopoulos’s proposed business and what he and his LLC would require from the Town of Southern Shores in order to operate at https://www.dropbox.com/s/drjff5ey9hcsdq1/P15167.1-CombinedSitePkg.reduced.pdf?dl=0.

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And finally, in other Planning Board business . . . the SSVFD is seeking zoning changes that would establish different parking, signage, and setback requirements than are currently imposed by ordinance in preparation for its anticipated new fire station. SSVFD is looking to amend town code sections 36-163, 36-165, and 36-205.

You will find the Planning Board’s full agenda here: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/southern-shores-planning-board-meet-april-16-2018/.

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UPCOMING PLANNING BOARD APPOINTMENTS

The three-year terms of Chairman Williams and Planning Board member David Neal expire June 30, 2018, as do the terms of the two non-voting alternate members of the Board. If you are interested in applying for one of these important volunteer positions, you will find info and an application at https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/10-14-16-Board-Volunteer-Application.pdf.

At its April 3rd regular meeting, the Town Council filled a vacancy on the Planning Board, created by the departure of member Jim Morrison, by elevating Board alternate Glenn Wyder. Councilman Conners nominated Mr. Wyder to the Board, after Councilman McDonald nominated Carlos Gomez, the other Planning Board alternate, to the seat.

Mr. Wyder earned the nomination by a 3-2 vote, with Mayor Bennett and Councilman Nason joining Mr. Conners in supporting him, while Mr. Gomez received the votes of Councilmen McDonald and Newberry.

Such a 3-2 division is a common one on this Council.

The Beacon found it very disappointing that the Town Council did not engage in any discussion about the merits, relative and otherwise, of either applicant.

Mr. Newberry pointed out that Mr. Gomez had served longer in an alternate capacity than Mr. Wyder had and that Mr. Gomez is a longtime civil engineer. No one supporting Mr. Wyder, however, said anything about his qualifications—his background, education, skills, employment, etc.— and why he deserved the appointment over Mr. Gomez. Mr. Conners said simply that he was better qualified, but offered no detail.

The Beacon expects better from its elected officials than an apparent “I have my guy, you have yours” difference of opinion, without explanation. Too much important business comes before the Planning Board for appointments to be made on the basis of undisclosed favoritism and bias.

The Beacon, April 12, 2018