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:
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