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

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