5/29/18: PROPOSED FY 2018-19 BUDGET: SHORTFALL ERASED BY TRANSFER OF CAPITAL PROJECT SAVINGS; BIG-TICKET ITEMS INCLUDE INFRASTRUCTURE, FIRE STATION, EMPLOYEE COSTS: Public Hearing To Be Held June 5

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The revenues-expenses shortfall seen in preliminary figures for the Town of Southern Shores’ fiscal year 2018-19 budget has been eliminated with a transfer of nearly $300,000 from the Town’s capital projects savings account. The proposed budget, which Town Manager Peter Rascoe submitted on May 1 and which will be subject to public hearing on June 5, is now balanced at $6,355,402. You may access the budget at:

https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/town-government/administration/public-documents/final-fy2018-2019-proposed-operating-budget/

The public hearing will be held during the Town Council’s regular monthly meeting, which starts at 5:30 p.m. in the Pitts Center behind Town Hall. (See The Beacon, May 24, 2018, for other public hearings scheduled next Tuesday.)

The Council has until June 30 to adopt the recommended budget, with any changes it wishes to make, but it has been customary during Mayor Tom Bennett’s time in office for the Council to approve the budget, as submitted, immediately upon conclusion of the mandatory public hearing.

Transfer of Funds

The preliminary budget that Mr. Rascoe and Town Finance and Personnel Officer Bonnie M. Swain presented to the Town Council at an April 17 work session showed expenses exceeding income by $296,261.

Obligated by law to submit a balanced budget, Mr. Rascoe dealt with the shortfall chiefly through the transfer of $282,828 from the Capital Reserve Fund (CRF) to the General [Operating] Fund. According to Ms. Swain, with whom I met at Town Hall, the Capital Reserve Fund is a “savings account for capital projects.” The shortfall, she said, “was because of capital projects.”

As Ms. Swain explained, the $282,828 transferred from the CRF is made up of $20,000 “reserved for canal and channel maintenance” and $262,828 in “unassigned funds that can be spent at the Council’s discretion.”

At least $195,000 of the CRF’s unassigned funds came from monies allocated in FY 2017-18 for the Yaupon Trail capital project, which had to be postponed, and another $60,000 was money set aside for an update of the Town’s land-use plan, which did not occur, she said.

According to Ms. Swain, the Town has three different funds: The General Fund (GF), which covers nearly all of the budget expenses, including monies budgeted for capital improvements; the Capital Reserve Fund; and the Cemetery Fund. Both the GF and the CRF have unassigned fund balances, she said.

Although the exact amount in the GF unassigned fund will not be determined until FY 2017-18 ends, Ms. Swain estimated that its balance is about $3.4 million, just as it was a year ago. By Town resolution, a minimum of $1.75 million must be maintained in the GF unassigned fund balance, for emergencies related to natural disasters. In FY 2016-17, the GF unassigned fund had a balance of $5.5 million, said Ms. Swain, who expressed an interest in not disturbing this balance.

No Funds for Traffic Reduction

During his presentation of the proposed budget to the Town Council at its May 1 meeting, Mr. Rascoe made a point of saying that it “does not include any costs for traffic reduction.”

Later in the same meeting, Mr. Rascoe described a no-left-turn trial at the intersection of U.S. Hwy. 158 and South Dogwood Trail over the June 23-24 weekend, which the Town Council voted to reaffirm. Police Chief David Kole characterized this trial as a “one-shot deal.”  (See The Beacon, May 3, 2018.)

But is a budgetary inclusion of expenses for traffic reduction really necessary? Can’t unassigned fund monies be transferred to the General Fund to cover such costs as they were used to cover the expenses-revenues gap for the upcoming fiscal year?

According to an email from Ms. Swain, “Once the $282,828 is transferred from the CRF to the GF, the balance in the CRF will be $137,794 plus any interest it makes between now and June 30. Of that amount, $79,794 is unassigned.”

OPINION: That $79,794 would go a long way toward supporting a restriction of cut-through traffic in Southern Shores’ residential districts and enforcing that restriction for 10 weekends this summer. If more money were needed, the GF’s unassigned fund balance would be healthy enough to bear a tap. An added bonus: Less traffic on town roads means less wear-and-tear which, over time, means fewer repairs and improvements to be made.

Big-Ticket Items

The Beacon does not recall a preliminary Town budget ever showing a gap between revenues and expenses. It was clear from the data submitted by Mr. Rascoe in April that the Town’s projects and staff costs are expanding rapidly.

OPINION: The way the Town is spending money, it is easy to envision a property tax-rate increase in the near future. Property taxes account for $2,903,049 in FY 2018-19 revenues. The remaining revenue comes primarily from Southern Shores’ share of county occupancy, sales, and land-transfer taxes.

OPINION: The Beacon would like to see the Mayor and Town Council actually deliberate over how the Town can economize and cut expenses or direct the Town Manager to cut 5 to 10 percent of expenses. I have never seen the Town Council try to tighten the municipal belt. Even Ms. Swain spoke about the Town Council taking a “long, hard look” at the budget.

Southern Shores is only about four square miles in area. We are a town of about 2900 residents with a number of very active homeowner associations, next-to-no crime, and a small commercial district. Granted, our population surges during the vacation months, but does that surge justify such a hefty budget?

Here is a list of the major proposed expenses in the FY 2018-19 budget:

$1,007,163 for the Administration Dept., which includes only four full-time employees (Mr. Rascoe, Ms. Swain, the town clerk, and an administrative assistant), whose combined salaries and benefits, including those paid directly to them and paid in their behalf, equal $499,204. That’s nearly a half-million dollars spent on four employees, and it doesn’t include the costs incurred for their additional training, their wellness, and other initiatives.

The last page of the proposed line-item budget contains the Town’s “pay scale” for its employees as of July 1, 2018. Conspicuously missing from the listed positions is that of Town Manager. (See “Salaries” section below.)

The Town contributes to Medicare; health, life, and dental insurance; state retirement, and a 401k plan for each full-time employee in all of its departments. It also gives each $7800 “in lieu of benefits,” which the employee may use to buy health insurance for dependents, which the Town does not routinely provide, Ms. Swain explained, or simply pocket, if he or she chooses. The combined-department total for in-lieu-of benefits in FY 2018-19 is $187,200.

(You may be interested to know that the budget contains allocations of $61,500 for legal services, an amount that represents a $30,000 annual retainer plus $185/hour for the Town Attorney; and compensation for the mayor of $4,200/yr. and $3,600/yr. for the four Town Council members. Many Southern Shores residents still believe that Town officials serve as volunteers, without remuneration. They don’t receive much, but they do receive something.)

$1,692,147 for the Police Dept., which has a payroll of $1,248,019, including all salaries, benefits, employer expenses for employees, and other budgeted compensation. According to Ms. Swain, the Police Department has 12 full-time officers.

$1,123,597 for Streets, Bridges, and Canals, which includes $654,870 for infrastructure projects, whose priority is recommended by the Capital Infrastructure Improvement Plan Committee; and $250,000 to get started on a five-foot-wide multi-use walkway on East Dogwood Trail, extending from its intersection with North-South Dogwood trails to N.C. Hwy. 12.

Although the CIIP Committee made its recommendations at an April 4 meeting, the Town Council is not planning to consider them until its July 10 meeting, after it has approved the FY 2018-19 budget. See the last page of the following report for the CIIP’s priorities:

https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/CIIP-Apr-4-2018-Meeting-Minutes.pdf.

Mayor Bennett and Town Councilman Jim Conners co-chair the CIIP Committee.

$813,614 for Fire Contracted Service, which includes, according to Ms. Swain, $220,000 of an anticipated annual $440,000+ debt for a 15-year loan to pay for construction of a new fire station, which has been estimated will cost up to $6 million and has yet to be approved by the Town; and $545,914 for contracted fire protection, up from $481,925 in FY 2017-18, the difference being the costs for a new deputy fire chief.

Mr. Rascoe announced at the April budget work session that the town’s 10-year contract with the SSVFD will expire in 2019 and, therefore, need to be negotiated anew. You can anticipate the cost for the Fire Department’s services will increase.

$688,465 for Sanitation Services, which includes $176,690 for residential collection; $172,725 for a “landfill tipping fee”; $156,200 for recycling collection; and $130,000 for limb and branch removal.

$546,444 for the Public Works Dept., which includes $379,262 for salaries, benefits, and employer expenses, as described above, for five full-time employees and one part-timer.

Salaries

In an earlier blog about the Town budget, I published some data about employee salaries that I obtained from an informed Town source who did not wish to be identified. My information was accurate. The following is an excerpt of what I wrote:

“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.”

To my knowledge, Mr. Rascoe is the highest paid town manager on the beach. Having a law degree and N.C. law license, as Mr. Rascoe does, is not prerequisite to doing a town manager’s job.

A member of the Town Council thought my reporting of this information, which is a matter of public record and should be readily available to all members of the public, was inappropriate and took me harshly to task—identifying me, without naming me—at the May 1 Council meeting for being “irresponsible.” He further accused me of “doxing” Town employees.

After the meeting, I approached Councilman Jim Conners and asked him what “doxing” means. I’d never heard the term. Mr. Conners refused to define it, telling me “to look it up.” He further declined to discuss what I perceived as his bullying of a journalist in his official capacity during a public meeting.

I looked up doxing. According to Wikipedia.com, doxing or doxxing is “the Internet-based practice of researching and broadcasting private or identifiable information about an individual or organization.”

There is nothing private about a public employee’s salary and benefits and what they cost the municipality and its taxpayers. Inflated salaries—as well as excessive perks, junkets, luxuries, etc.—are an issue for our local, state, and national governments, and taxpayers want and deserve accountability. (The Beacon had hoped to have by now a comparison of Southern Shores’ payroll with other towns on the beach, but this report has been delayed.)

I’ve lost track of the number of Cabinet-level and other senior U.S. officials who have flown pricey private jets, instead of traveling commercial, during President Trump’s and President Obama’s administrations.

Just last month, Dr. Robert Redfield Jr., the newly appointed chief of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, asked for and received a sizable pay cut after his annual salary, set to be $375,000, became a distraction. He reportedly was going to make $150,000 more per year than his predecessor had and quite a bit more than other high-level U.S. government officials, who work in public health and elsewhere.

On Dictionary,com, I read that “to dox” is to “search for and publish private or identifying information about a particular individual on the Internet, typically with malicious intent.”

Once again, I distinguish private from public information. As for malicious intent, I had none, but I’m left wondering if Mr. Conners did.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, May 29, 2018; updated, June 3, 2018

 

5/24/18: UPDATE: TOWN COUNCIL TO HOLD PUBLIC HEARINGS JUNE 5 ON NONCONFORMING LOTS, SMALL CELLS, AND DRIVE-THROUGH FACILITIES ON HWY. 158; With Budget Hearing, Too, Meeting Agenda Will Be Full

 

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The Town of Southern Shores announced today that the Town Council will hold hearings during its June 5 meeting on the zoning-law changes recommended by the Planning Board this week to restrict the creation and (re)development of nonconforming lots and to regulate the installation of small-cell wireless facilities in residential districts.

The Town also announced that the Town Council will hold a second reading of zoning text amendment (ZTA) 18-05, which would allow a “small” drive-through facility to operate on a lot that is less than 20,000 square feet, provided it fronts on U.S. Hwy. 158.

The Town previously gave notice that a public hearing on the proposed fiscal year 2018-19 budget would be held on June 5, too, making the agenda on the Town Council’s only meeting of the month a very heavy one. The session will be held in the Pitts Center, behind Town Hall, starting at 5:30 p.m.

The Beacon reported May 23 on the action taken by the Planning Board on ZTA 18-07 (nonconforming lots) and ZTA 18-06 (small cells). We also posted blogs on May 11 and 17 that examined concerns over the creation of nonconforming 50-foot-wide lots and the granting of side-yard setback variances on them. On May 14, we looked at the Town’s authority to regulate small cells, which are radio-access nodes installed on existing or new utility or other poles to improve cellular-phone coverage.

The Planning Board has recommended that the Town Code be amended to differentiate between “small” and “large” drive-through facilities, so that 5415 OBX LLC may open a drive-through ice cream shop on the commercial lot at 5415 N. Croatan Hwy., between Wells Fargo and First National banks, which is only 18,260 square feet.

The Town Code currently requires a drive-through facility to be located on a lot that is equal to or greater than 2.5 acres, in order to minimize traffic congestion.

The Beacon reported May 3 on the Town Council’s first reading of ZTA 18-05, which would establish the new two-sized drive-through facility distinction. It failed 3-1.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, May 24, 2018

5/23/18: PLANNING BOARD ACTS DECISIVELY TO TRY TO STOP BUILDING ON NONCONFORMING LOTS, ENSURE AESTHETICS OF SMALL-CELL WIRELESS FACILITIES

 

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Each of these houses at 103 Ocean Blvd. was built on a 50-foot-wide nonconforming lot, after a subdivision occurred.

The Southern Shores Planning Board moved decisively toward halting an unwelcome recent trend in town to subdivide 100-foot-wide lots, when it voted unanimously at its May 21 meeting to recommend to the Town Council, with amendments, ZTA 18-07, a change to the zoning law that would restrict redevelopment of “nonconforming” lots.

Nonconforming lots do not conform to the Town’s legally mandated dimensional requirements, such as the minimum width of 100 feet and the minimum size of 20,000 square feet. (See Town Code sec. 36-202(d)) ZTA 18-07 would “trigger” the “recombination” of adjacent lots—one or more of which is nonconforming—under the same ownership in certain situations, said Town Attorney Ben Gallop at the Planning Board’s hearing.

Mr. Gallop drafted the zoning text amendment with Town Planner and Deputy Town Manager Wes Haskett.

During an unusually lively Monday night session, the five Planning Board members also agreed unanimously to recommend, with amendments, ZTA 18-06, a change in the Town’s wireless telecommunications act that seeks to regulate the erection of new poles in residential districts for the installation of small-cell wireless facilities. “Small cells” are used to improve cellular-phone coverage. These low-powered cellular radio access nodes would be attached to utility or other poles in public rights-of-way.

Led by Board member Glenn Wyder, who, along with Chairman Sam Williams and member Elizabeth Morey, expressed deep concern about the physical appearance of the small cells, the Board added to its recommendation that “language be formulated by staff to deal with the aesthetics of the small-cell wireless facilities, to include the screening of equipment” that would be installed.

Mr. Wyder used the photograph at the top of The Beacon’s May 14 blog to show how bulky and obtrusive small cells can be without proper local regulations in place.

Setback Variance Denied

As The Beacon reported on May 11, and May 17, property owners have not only been able to subdivide 100-foot-wide lots, but also to obtain side-yard setback variances for the resulting nonconforming 50-foot-wide lots, enabling them to build 26-foot-wide houses, such as the two depicted above at 103 Ocean Blvd. A brick duplex previously crossed both lots on this site.

During the past two years, the Planning Board, sitting in its capacity as the Town Board of Adjustment, has granted five such variance requests, reducing side-yard setbacks on 50-foot-wide lots from the town’s prescribed minimum 15 feet to 12 feet. Monday, for the first time, the Board of Adjustment denied a setback variance for development on a 50-foot-wide lot, this one a former “paper street” adjacent to 85 Ocean Blvd. Applicant House Engineering, P.C., who represented property owner Richard M. White, of Elizabeth City, sought a setback reduction from 15 feet to 10 feet, not 12 feet.

A paper street is a street that appears on maps, but does not exist. Such streets usually occur when developers or planners lay out streets that are never built. According to online Dare County property tax records, Mr. White, who owns 85 Ocean Blvd., which is a developed 100-foot-wide lot that actually consists of two 50-foot-wide lots, purchased the paper street in 2014 for $25,000.

ZTA 18-07, the proposed new regulation of nonconforming lots, includes a provision that owners of single nonconforming lots—meaning they do not own any land adjacent to their lot—“may use” a side-yard setback of 10 feet.

According to Mr. Haskett, Rick House, of House Engineering, who appeared at the variance hearing Monday, sought a change May 11 in the variance application from 12 feet to 10 feet, after reading ZTA 18-07, and Mr. Haskett granted the change.

(The Beacon apologizes for its error in reporting the request as one for 12 feet. I did not click enough town-website links to discover the May 11 change.)

During its hearing on ZTA 18-07, which occurred after the denial of the variance, the Planning Board voted 4-1, with Chairman Williams dissenting, to recommend amending its setback provision to 12 feet.

If ZTA 18-07 becomes the Town’s zoning law on nonconforming lots, Mr. White will be unable to develop or to sell his 50-foot-wide lot separately. The lot will be “recombined” with his adjacent 100-foot-wide lot.

Fast Track to Enactment?

The Beacon has learned that Town Councilman Fred Newberry, who attended the Planning Board’s session, has requested that ZTA 18-07 be put on the Town Council’s agenda for its June 5 meeting.

Inasmuch as that meeting is only two weeks away, and I will write about the text of ZTA 18-07, as amended by the Planning Board, in advance of the public hearing before the Town Council, I will not say much now about the Planning Board’s discussions. The members were thorough in their analysis. The crux of ZTA 18-07 is its listing of those “scenarios,” as Mr. Gallop called them, that would trigger or require recombining.

As I have previously written, it was standard in the old pre-Town Zoning Ordinance Southern Shores to plat and record a 100-foot-wide tract of land as two separate 50-foot-wide lots. Although Mr. Haskett has said publicly that the number of single vacant 50-foot-wide lots in Southern Shores is only about 10, there is a much higher uncalculated number of 100-foot-wide lots that are actually two combined 50-foot-wide lots. ZTA 18-07 seeks to prevent such owners and owners of more than two adjacent nonconforming lots from treating them separately, for purposes of development, redevelopment, sale, or transfer.

I found myself at a disadvantage during the public hearing on ZTA 18-07 when I learned for the first time that Mr. Gallop had amended the text that I had read and analyzed for my May 17 blog—adding two new scenarios to his recombination trigger and substantially clarifying what is meant by “same ownership.”

Mr. Gallop’s revised ZTA 18-07 apparently appeared online May 17, after I had posted my blog and left town for a funeral. It frankly did not occur to me to check the “Public Notices” section of the town website on the morning of the hearing to see if the ZTA had been amended. Mea culpa . . . from now on I will click.

Mr. Gallop graciously acknowledged after the ZTA hearing that he had read my blog, and I had “some things right.” He also asserted that he had been mulling over what he had written and decided it needed strengthening. I congratulate him for improving the proposed zoning text amendment. You may access the revised ZTA in full here:

https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/5-17-18-ZTA-18-07-Nonconforming-Lots-1.pdf

The revisions include 1) the addition of two situations or scenarios that would trigger recombination of lots and 2) language that is designed to zero in on who or what constitutes same ownership of adjacent lots and what constitutes “control” of a legal entity, if a lot is owned, in whole or in part, by a legal entity, such as a limited liability corporation.

The two new scenarios are:

(d) “Prior to the sale or transfer of land when any portion of the land being sold or transferred was a parcel or part of a parcel of land upon which an existing structure or associated use is currently or has been within the previous five (5) years located upon or occurring on two or more lots under the same ownership;” [and]

(e) “Prior to the sale or transfer of land including a nonconforming lot or lots adjacent to one or more other lots under the same ownership.”

The Planning Board voted unanimously to recommend amending (d) above to specify seven years, rather than five.

I still think the ZTA language should (and could) be less confusing and clearer, so that people don’t have to read, reread, and reread it, to begin to understand its intent. I am not suggesting that legal terms, which have precise meaning, be eliminated, but rather that the phrasing of the provisions be less cumbersome. I know from experience, however, that once the Town Attorney drafts an amendment to the Code, non-lawyers are reluctant to rewrite it.

I will give Planning Board member Elizabeth Morey the last word on ZTA 18-07. During the hearing, she asked Mr. Gallop an excellent question:

“Are you pretty confident that what you have put together is comprehensive enough to stop what we want to stop?”

Mr. Gallop replied in the affirmative.

Aesthetics of Small Cells

The Beacon reported May 14 on ZTA 18-06 and, more generally, about the State of North Carolina’s “deployment” of wireless facilities statewide. North Carolina aims to be in the first car, not the caboose, of the new-technologies train to the future.

Southern Shores has already amended Town Code sec. 36-175, which deals with wireless telecommunications, to include the State’s language about small wireless facilities, found in the N.C. General Statutes at sec. 160A-400.50 through sec. 160A-400.57. The State is complying with federal law, just as the Town is complying with State law.

ZTA 18-06 deals only with the installation of new poles in Southern Shores residential zoning districts that would be used for wireless facilities, not with collocating small cells on existing poles. The Town previously dealt with regulations on collocation, by adopting statutory language propounded by the State.

Under the State’s scheme, Southern Shores has limited control over the collocation—meaning the placement, installation, maintenance, etc.—of small-cell wireless facilities on or near existing structures, such as utility poles or water towers, within its boundaries. This control is spelled out in the Town Code section dealing with the permit process for collocation: Southern Shores requires all wireless providers who apply for a permit to collocate small cells to affirmatively show that the proposed wireless facilities meet:

  1. The town’s applicable codes;
  2. The town code of ordinance provisions or regulations that concern public safety, objective design standards for decorative utility poles, city utility poles, or reasonable and nondiscriminatory stealth and concealment requirements, including screening or landscaping for ground-mounted equipment;
  3. Public safety and reasonable spacing requirements concerning the location of ground-mounted equipment in a right-of-way; or
  4. Historic preservation requirements in N.C.G.S. 160A-400.55(h).  [Town Code sec. 36-175(i)(l). The section specifies “or,” not “and.”]

One would think that the Town can exercise the same oversight of the installation of new small-cell poles, as it does of the collocation of small cells, in particular, requiring wireless-provider applicants to meet “objective design standards” and “concealment requirements.” But, as I understand it, the Town’s recently enacted changes do not specify this authority.

The Planning Board is seeking to ensure that all small-cell wireless facilities, whether collocated or stand-alone, are out-of-sight, out-of-mind, as much as is possible under the regulations imposed by the State. If cell-phone coverage is improved, but the visible hardware on wireless-facilities poles is an aesthetic nightmare, nearby property owners will not be pleased.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, May 23, 2018

(RE)DEVELOPING ‘NONCONFORMING’ LOTS & SUBDIVIDING SOUTHERN SHORES BEACH AREAS: Will ZTA 18-07 Stop an Unwelcome Trend? Planning Board to Hold Public Hearing May 21

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In an attempt to end an unwelcome recent trend in Southern Shores to redevelop 100-foot-wide lots on or near the oceanfront as two “nonconforming” 50-foot-wide lots, the Town has proposed amending the Zoning Ordinance to require the “recombination” of adjacent lots under the same ownership into a single conforming lot or multiple lots, if certain situations apply. The Town Planning Board will hold a public hearing on this zoning text amendment, ZTA 18-07, next Monday, at 5:30 p.m., in the Pitts Center.

Ironically, the Planning Board, in its capacity as the Town Board of Adjustment, is also scheduled Monday to hear a minimum side-setback variance request (from 15 feet to 12 feet) from applicant House Engineering, P.C., for development on a 50-foot-wide lot that property owner Richard M. White has numbered 85A Ocean Blvd.

Mr. White, of Elizabeth City, owns the adjacent property at 85 Ocean Blvd., which is a developed 100-foot-wide tract of land that is actually recorded as two 50-foot-wide lots.

In a May 11, 2018 blog about building on smaller nonconforming lots, The Beacon asked: Is Southern Shores going to start looking more like the beach towns to the south of it, where there are more houses on less land, and the population density is greater? Will ZTA 18-07 prevent that from happening?

The answer, we believe, is ZTA 18-07, if approved by the Planning Board as written, and then later enacted by the Town Council, will be a step in the right direction. But The Beacon does not believe that the proposed changes in the law go far enough to prevent the continued subdividing of previously combined-lot land tracts on both sides of Ocean Boulevard and elsewhere in the beach zone. We also find the ZTA difficult to interpret.

Such higher-density development has changed, and will continue to change, Southern Shores’ “existing community appearance and form,” which the Town Land-Use Plan seeks to preserve and which vacationers here choose over other Outer Banks environments. Our pristine, uncongested beaches are our siren song.

The Beacon also opposes establishing 10-foot side-yard setbacks for stand-alone existing 50-foot-wide lots, as ZTA 18-07 does. The editorial board is split in supporting the 12-foot side setbacks that the Board of Adjustment has been approving.

We do not wish to second-guess the drafters of ZTA 18-07, Town Attorney Ben Gallop and Town Planner and Deputy Town Manager Wes Haskett, who have been on the front lines of the nonconforming-lot controversy. We also believe that members of the Town Planning Board, led by Chairman Sam Williams, will robustly debate the amendment’s language and ask the right questions about its effect.

Nonetheless, we do offer a more detailed assessment of the ZTA at the end of this blog. But, first, as always, some background:

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What Is Nonconforming? 

According to the Town Code, a lot in the RS-1 single-family residential district, which encompasses the majority of Southern Shores, including the oceanside areas, is said to be “nonconforming” when it does not conform to legally mandated dimensional requirements. (See sec. 36-202(d)) Since the town’s 1979 incorporation and its subsequent enactment of a zoning ordinance, the minimum width for a lot has been 100 feet—a longtime norm—and the minimum size has been 20,000 square feet.

The required minimum yard setbacks—i.e., the distance between any construction on the subject lot and its property lines—are 25 feet for the front yard; 15 feet for the side yard; and 25 feet for the rear yard. Until 2000, the minimum side-yard setback was 10 feet.

The maximum allowable lot coverage is 30 percent, but, as The Beacon reported on April 12, and April 20, a majority on the Town Council is apparently seeking to redefine how residential lot coverage is calculated and, thereby, allow larger homes to be built. The Beacon believes that any relaxing of current lot-coverage restrictions would greatly benefit people who own nonconforming lots, but not the general community.

The Southern Shores Land-Use Plan clearly endorses “small low-density neighborhoods,” achieved by “single-family homes primarily on large lots.”

In the old pre-Town Zoning Ordinance Southern Shores, it was standard to plat and record a 100-foot-wide tract of land as two separate 50-foot-wide lots. Although Mr. Haskett has said that the number of single vacant 50-foot-wide lots in Southern Shores is only about 10, there is a much higher uncalculated number of 100-foot-wide lots that are actually two combined 50-foot-wide lots. (Full disclosure: I am a co-owner of at least two such properties, only one of which is developed. I also co-own land adjacent to such properties.)

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Variances for Side-Yard Setbacks 

If the Board of Adjustment hears Mr. White’s variance application for 85A Ocean Blvd., it will be the sixth such request that the Board has heard in the past two years for a nonconforming 50-foot-wide lot. It approved the previous five requests.

According to Dare County land records, Mr. White purchased the nonconforming lot from Boddie Noell Enterprises in 2014 for $25,000. The lot’s pre-2014 history is not readily available online, nor is Mr. White’s ownership history at 85 Ocean Blvd.

The Town Board of Adjustment—which is the Planning Board wearing a different hat—is a quasi-judicial body whose decisions are subject to review by the Dare County Superior Court, not by the Southern Shores Town Council. Its duties, powers, standards for granting a variance (not easy to understand!), etc., are spelled out in the Town Code, at sec. 36-360 to 36-369. I will refer to it henceforth as the BOA.

The discussions recorded in the minutes for all five of the BOA’s nonconforming-lot/side-setback variance hearings document considerable confusion on the part of its members and the public about what current Town Code zoning law on nonconforming lots requires. One look at current Code sec. 36-132(a), and you can see why ambiguity triumphs. It needs to be replaced, as ZTA 18-07 seeks to do.

Although each case that came before it was different, the BOA granted reductions from 15 feet to 12 feet to all, thus permitting the construction of 26-foot-wide houses on 50-foot-wide lots. Its approval on March 19, 2018 of side-setback variances on two 50-foot-wide lots that comprise the property at 155 Ocean Blvd. finally compelled the Town to act by drafting ZTA 18-07.

Since the 1950s, a modest bungalow that sits across both lots, numbered 9 and 10, has occupied 155 Ocean Blvd. This structure, as well as an accessory building, would have to be demolished before redevelopment could occur.

Variance applicant Gray Berryman, a former member of the Town Planning Board who represented property owner James A. Miller, succeeded in getting a setback variance for both lot 9, which he told the Board he intended to buy and develop, and lot 10, which he said his friend and associate, Olin Finch, planned to buy and develop. Thus, there would be two houses on a building site where there once was only one, and each would have a different owner.

The BOA approved both variance requests, 4-1, with Glenn Wyder, a current Planning Board member who was acting in March as an alternate, dissenting.

***

Confusion, Not Harmony 

My research indicates that the first application heard by the BOA for a side-setback variance on a 50-foot-wide lot was filed by Steven D. Love and Kathleen Gorman, a married couple who live in Virginia. Mr. Love and Ms. Gorman bought and redeveloped 62 Ocean Blvd., which is on the oceanfront. Instead of a flat top, a large red-roofed white house that seemingly defies completion now sits on the site.

Reportedly to protect their investment, the Loves purchased an adjacent 50-foot-wide lot that was apparently part of a multiple-lot combination at 64 Ocean Blvd. from the SAGA construction company, which was planning to build a 16-bedroom wedding-destination inn next to their property. SAGA’s construction was derailed by the Town Council’s enactment of a 6,000-square-foot limit on “single family homes.” On May 16, 2016, the BOA unanimously approved the Loves’ side-setback variance of 12 feet.

(For the record, the Council approved the 6,000-square-foot size restriction, 3-2, with Mayor Tom Bennett and Councilman Christopher Nason, who is now mayor pro tem, voting against it. Current Councilman Jim Conners was not in office for this 2016 vote; his predecessor, Leo Holland, was.)

It now appears from online Dare County land records that a limited liability corporation known as 64A Ocean Blvd. LLC owns the 100-foot-wide lot at 64 Ocean Blvd., which is being developed, and the 50-foot-wide lot, which the parties may wish to call 64A Ocean Blvd., is owned by the Loves. If anyone can figure out what’s going on in this stretch of the oceanfront, please let The Beacon know.

The ownership history of 103 Ocean Blvd. similarly eludes easy tracking. Owners there managed to subdivide a 100-foot-wide lot into two 50-foot-wide nonconforming lots and build two new detached single family homes on each.

Before the BOA unanimously approved side-setback variances on March 20, 2017, for what was described as lot 5 at 103 Ocean Blvd., and on June 18, 2017, for what was described as lot 6, an old brick duplex sat centered on 103 Ocean Blvd.’s 100-foot-wide lot. The duplex had been there for decades.

According to BOA hearing minutes, Rick House of House Engineering, P.C., which you’ll recall is representing Mr. White on his application for a variance at 85A Ocean Blvd., also referred to the lots as 103A and 103B Ocean Blvd.

I’ve done enough online land-record research to know that the owners of lot 5, now said to be Jimmie and Dana Summerell, and the owners of lot 6, now represented as Gretchen Owens and Edwin Goldman, co-trustees of the Georgia J. Goldman Trust, were not strangers. They achieved their ownership interests, at least in part, by transferring each other property by gift, not sale.

The Beacon does not seek to deprive any individuals of their private-property rights. But zoning laws came into being to preserve and protect the general public health, safety, and welfare, not to advance individuals’ personal interests. By local law, the Southern Shores Planning Board is further charged with bringing about the “coordinated and harmonious development” of the town. (Town Code sec. 24-27(a)) Redevelopment is development.

On March 19, 2018, the Board of Adjustment finally opened Pandora’s box when it approved the two side-setback variances at 155 Ocean Blvd.

Although Chairman Williams said at this hearing that he didn’t personally favor these variances “as a matter of land use planning and policy,” he also said he was committed to performing his BOA duties and could be impartial. The current confusing town law on nonconforming lots had all BOA members asking questions.

(Note: I should have mentioned earlier that the minutes for the March 19 Planning Board/BOA meeting have not been approved yet by the Board. The Chairman has indicated that the Board will take them up at its June 18 meeting, and he has amendments to make to them.)

***

ZTA 18-07

The Town’s intent in establishing the RS-1 district is clearly stated in the zoning law: “to provide for the low-density development of single-family detached dwellings in an environment [that] preserves sand dunes, coastal forests, wetlands and other unique natural features of the coastal area.” The district is intended to “promote . . . abundant open space, and low impact of development on the natural environment and adjacent land uses.” (Code sec. 36-202(a))

In their preamble to ZTA 18-07—the “whereas” section of the proposed ordinance—Mr. Gallop and Mr. Haskett reinforce this intent, stating that the 50-foot-wide lot “redevelopment” that has occurred is “inconsistent with the low density character of the Town,” which it seeks to maintain.

You may access the ZTA in its entirety here:

https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/ZTA-18-07-Nonconforming-Lots.pdf

They then go on to state—in a manner that would benefit from less legalese and more plain English—that a single-family dwelling may be built on any single nonconforming lot that met all legal requirements at the time of its creation and recording, provided no adjacent lot is under the “same ownership.” If such lots are 50 feet wide or less, the proposed law states, their owners “may use a side yard setback of ten (10) feet.”

I asked Mr. Haskett about the 10-foot setback, and he advised me by email that he and Mr. Gallop “drafted the ZTA to include 10 ft. side setback requirements based on the side setback requirements that were in effect until 2000 when the requirement was amended to 15 ft. . . . It is a starting point that may be subject to change following Planning Board consideration. Ultimately, the Town Council could decide to accept it, keep it at 15 ft., or decide on a different requirement.”

Ten-foot-wide side setbacks have not been the norm in Southern Shores for nearly 20 years. The Beacon believes that turning back the clock will only result in the crowding (density) that the Town seeks to prevent.

The crux of ZTA 18-07 concerns the recombination of all adjacent lots under the same ownership into a single lot or multiple lots if any of the following occur:

1)      Development is proposed upon land under the same ownership which includes one or more nonconforming lots adjacent to one or more other lots under the same ownership;

2)      Demolition or redevelopment exceeding 50% of an existing structure’s value is proposed and any portion of the existing structure or associated use is located on two or more lots under the same ownership; or

3)      Development is proposed of a new structure or use to be located on two or more lots under the same ownership.

I’m not fond of regulatory language that has to be read, reread, and reread, in order to be understood by both lawyers and laypeople alike, and I believe this language fits that description. If the Planning Board embraces the ZTA’s approach, I would encourage it to find a simpler way to state these “situations” and then to include a “catch-all” situation that would discourage property owners, both sellers and buyers, from finding a way around 1-3, above.

Does the ZTA cover the situation at 155 Ocean Blvd.? I’m not sure. If I own two adjacent 50-foot-wide lots on which I’ve built a house, and I sell each lot to a separate buyer without demolishing the house first, must I “recombine” the lots? I’m not proposing any development or demolition. I’m just selling.

The reality is that the lots that the ZTA proposes to recombine have already, for all intents and purposes, been combined. Longstanding street addresses evidence this. I believe the Town should think in terms of preventing property owners from un-combining.

The history of Southern Shores is that small lots that became nonconforming when the Town enacted its Zoning Ordinance were developed by owners as if they were combined with one another. Owners and their successors in interest should not be allowed now to un-combine them. Preserving the character and appeal of the Town, and protecting the Town’s development intentions, are more important than an individual property owner’s financial gain.

A better understanding of Southern Shores’s development history would be helpful in deciding the nonconforming-lot issues that have arisen. When the Kitty Hawk Land Co. called my father 50 years ago and offered to sell him an oceanfront lot, it did not give him the choice of buying only one of the two platted 50-foot-wide lots. The two lots were a package deal.

ZTA 18-07’s definition of “ownership” also needs some tweaking. Although the ZTA states that the definition of “same ownership” should be broadly construed and is not limited to the meanings listed—which is good—it would benefit from more specificity.

What constitutes a “group of persons,” as this phrase is used? How do people become grouped? Do two people constitute a group or are at least three required? This definition is an important one to nail because the ZTA makes same ownership of adjacent lots so critical.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, May 17, 2018

5/14/18: PLANNING: REMEDYING POOR CELL-PHONE SIGNALS IN THE TOWN’S RESIDENTIAL DISTRICTS: Installing New Poles for Small Cells in Public Rights-of-Way

smallcellscalifornia
The Town of Southern Shores aspires to the San Francisco design (at left) of small wireless facilities, not the Oakland, Calif., design.

Do you have a problem with dropped cell-phone calls in Southern Shores? Do you suddenly lose your cellular signal when you enter certain areas in town? Do you go crazy with frustration in cell-phone dead zones?

If so, the State of North Carolina has enacted into law a systemic remedy for your signal problems, and the Town of Southern Shores has amended its zoning ordinance to enable wireless telecommunication facilities locally that further the State’s goal of “deploying” new technologies so that all N.C. citizens have access to them. The State is particularly interested in ensuring that police and other first responders have reliable wireless infrastructure.

In addition to a hearing Monday, at 5:30 p.m. on ZTA 18-07, about non-conforming lots (see the Beacon’s 5/11/18 post), the Town Planning Board will take up Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) 18-06, which addresses the installation of new poles in town for the placement of small cells, also called small wireless facilities.

Understandably, residents on the streets where such poles are erected will want to know how their design, location, look, and other issues affecting them and their environment can be controlled. The Town has only limited authority in this area. The zoning law favors the wireless provider, such as Verizon, who applies to the Town for permission to install the facilities.

Small cells are low-powered cellular radio access nodes that often sit atop, or extend out from, existing utility poles, such as telephone poles or street lights. In the extensive zoning changes that the Town enacted earlier this year—amending Town Code sec. 36-175 to conform to the State’s mandate on wireless telecommunications facilities—it authorized wireless providers to “collocate” small cells along, across, upon, or under any town rights-of-way.

The Town also permitted wireless providers to “place, maintain, modify, operate, or replace associated poles, city utility poles, conduit, cable, or related appurtenances and facilities along, across, upon, and under any town rights-of-way.” The Town required any such placement, modification, replacement, etc., associated with the collocation of small wireless facilities within rights-of-way, to conform to the following:

1) Each new utility pole and each modified or replacement utility pole or city utility pole installed in the rights-of-way shall not exceed 50 feet above ground level.

2) Each new small wireless facility in the rights-of-way shall not extend more than 10 feet above the utility pole, city utility pole, or wireless support structure on which it is collocated.

ZTA 18-06 now imposes further specifications and restrictions on the installation of all new poles in residential districts. I will quote it below, after providing a little more background.

***

The Town’s amendments to Code sec. 36-175 track the State’s language in its wireless telecommunications facilities act, found in the N.C. General Statutes at sec. 160A-400.50 through sec. 160A-400.57. The State is complying with federal law, just as the Town is complying with State law. In its 2017 session, N.C. General Assembly made numerous substantive changes to the State wireless facilities act, which became effective July 21, 2017. The Town’s actions this year have been to update its zoning ordinance accordingly.

These changes are not yet available in the online Town Code that can be accessed through the Town’s website. I obtained them by searching on the Town website for “ZTA 18-02.” Where once the Town Code addressed wireless telecommunications sites and towers, it now addresses wireless telecommunications sites, facilities, and towers.

(Some of you have undoubtedly noticed that the cell tower erected at the N.C. Hwy 12-Duck Road split in the road did not cure your dropped calls. Taylor Woolford, manager at the Verizon store in the Marketplace, told me that many Verizon customers who jumped to AT&T when the tower went up have returned to Verizon because of continued signal problems. He described a dead-zone area from the cell tower north to the intersection of Duck Road with E. Dogwood Trail and then west into the dunes and woods. Typically, he said, signal problems occur with calls outdoors, not indoors.)

The word “facility” is best understood in this context by people who work in the wireless industry. The Town Code defines a “communications facility” as “the set of equipment and network components, including wires and cables and associated facilities used by a communications service provider to provide communications service.”

The Code definition of a “wireless facility” is even broader. It includes “equipment at a fixed location that enables wireless communications between user equipment and a communications network,” including such items as radio transceivers, antennas, wires, coaxial or fiber optic cable, regular and backup power supplies.

The Town Planning Board unanimously approved (4-0, one person absent) ZTA 18-02, incorporating the State’s language on collocation of small wireless facilities, on Feb. 20, 2018, and the Town Council did the same, 5-0, on March 6, 2018.

At the Town Council hearing, Planning Board Chairman Sam Williams reportedly said that the Board did not fully support ZTA 18-02, but realized it had no choice but to approve it. According to the meeting minutes, he also stated that the Town has a small measure of control over 1) the fall zone; 2) design standards; 3) stealth concealment standards; and 3) historic preservation requirements.

When another homeowner asked in public comments about the frequency that the small cells will use, Andrew Darling, who is past president of the Outer Banks Repeater Assn., answered that small cells generally operate at a lower power than radio power, which can cause damage to human cells at high frequencies.

In a text message, Mr. Darling recently informed me: “Cell companies are quietly buying broadcast TV station frequencies, and so all frequencies will be in service from VHF through UHF with smart towers.”

He further stated: “There has been no evidence of problems with smart cells or regular towers.”

According to its website, www.obraobx.com, the Outer Banks Repeater Assn. is an organization of volunteers who provide communications in times of public need, such as during disasters, and who encourage amateur radio operators to be ready for emergencies.

***

If you Google “photos of small cells facilities” or “photos of small wireless facilities,” you will see an assortment of poles with attached equipment that appears to be slick and streamlined, almost imperceptible, at one end of the design spectrum, and ugly and bulky, very obtrusive, at the other end. (See the extremes depicted in the photos above.)

Mr. Woolford describes the small cells he’s seen as “dome antennas” that are “very discreet.”

“If you weren’t looking for them, you wouldn’t notice them,” he said.

Town Planner and Deputy Town Manager Wes Haskett has been in contact with a contractor working for Verizon to collocate small cell wireless facilities on eight existing utility poles in town.

Here is how ZTA 18-06, which the Planning Board will consider next Monday, proposes to further regulate the installation of new poles:

1)      No new utility pole may be installed for the principal use of wireless facilities if a pole exists within twenty (20) feet of a desired location.

 2)      The minimum distance of a new pole from any residential structure shall be at least 150% of the pole height and shall not be located directly in front of any residential structure located in a residential zoning district.

 3)      Along streets and within subdivisions where there are no existing utility poles (all underground utilities), wireless facilities may be attached to street lights in the public right-of-way.

 4)      New poles may not be erected in a residential area solely for wireless communication equipment attachment unless the [wireless provider] applicant has demonstrated it cannot reasonably provide service by:

a. Installing poles outside of the residential area;

b. Attaching equipment to existing poles within the right-of-way; or

c. Installing poles in rights-of-way not contiguous to parcels used for single family residential purposes.

If you have any questions about the placement or construction of small-cell wireless facilities in your neighborhood, I suggest you attend the Planning Board meeting. The Beacon will report on the hearing and on the Board’s decision. The Town Council will likely receive the Board’s recommendation and hold its own public hearing on ZTA 18-06 in June.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 5/14/18; updated 5/16/18

5/11/18: TOWN PLANNING: Houses Being Built (Or To Be Built) on ‘Nonconforming’ 50-Foot-Wide Lots: What’s Going On? (Besides Confusion)

50footwide
The scene at 103 Ocean Blvd.: Two new single-family homes, each on a 50-foot-wide lot, have replaced a single old brick duplex that covered part of both lots.

[5/15/18 CORRECTION: An earlier version of this blog incorrectly stated that the Board of Adjustment had approved a side-setback variance for only one of the two 50-foot-wide lots that comprise 155 Ocean Blvd. In fact, the Board approved setback variances for both lots. The Beacon regrets the error.] 

Mark your calendars for the next Southern Shores Planning Board/Board of Adjustment meeting on May 21, starting at 5:30 p.m., in the Pitts Center behind Town Hall. At issue is an important amendment to the section of the Town zoning ordinance that is designed to regulate development on “nonconforming” lots of record, meaning lots that do not conform to minimum zoning requirements—such as the minimum lot width requirement of 100 feet in the RS-1 residential district.

Is Southern Shores going to start looking more like the beach towns to the south of it, where there are more houses on less land, and the population density is greater? Will the zoning amendment, ZTA 18-07, drafted by the Town prevent that from happening?

You may have noticed that the construction at 103 Ocean Blvd., pictured above, is no longer a quaint old brick duplex that sat centered on a 100-foot-wide lot. In its place, thanks to a variance granted by the Town Planning Board, serving in its capacity as the Town Board of Adjustment, are two new detached single family homes, each on a 50-foot-wide lot. (The powers, duties, meetings, and all other matters pertaining to the Board of Adjustment are spelled out in the Town Code, sec. 36-360 to 36-369.)

Since 2016, the Board of Adjustment has been granting minimum side-setback variances to property owners who would like to build on 50-foot-wide lots. Instead of conforming to required 15-foot side setbacks, these property owners, often through representatives, have sought, and received, the Board’s approval for a reduction to 12-foot-wide side setbacks, thus permitting the construction of 26-foot-wide houses, instead of 20-foot-wide homes. (I’ll elaborate upon these variances case-by-case in a blog next week. The Board has understandably struggled with these applications and with interpreting the Town Code.)

Town Planner and Deputy Town Manager Wes Haskett has repeatedly said in public meetings that there are only 10 vacant 50-foot-wide lots in Southern Shores. It, therefore, would seem that these setback variances are not a big deal. The rub, however, is that many 100-foot-wide building sites in town, especially on and near the oceanfront, are actually recorded as two 50-foot-wide lots. That was standard procedure in the old pre-Town Zoning Ordinance Southern Shores. If property owners were to raze their old homes and sell their 100-foot-wide tracts as two separate 50-foot-wide lots, density would fast become an urgent concern.

(Full disclosure: My family’s oceanfront rental cottage, built in 1971, precisely fits this situation, as does the development to the north and south of our house.)

On March 19, 2018, the Board of Adjustment opened a Pandora’s box when it approved side-setback variances on two 50-foot-wide lots that comprise 155 Ocean Blvd. The two lots are #9 and #10 of block 29, section 3. Since the 1950s, a modest bungalow has occupied 155 Ocean Blvd., overlapping both of these lots.

Applicant Gray Berryman, representing property owner James A. Miller, succeeded in getting side-setback variances for lot #9, which, according to minutes of the hearing, he told the Board he intended to buy and develop, and for lot #10, which he informed the Board that Olin Finch, his friend and associate, would be purchasing for development. Thus, there would be two houses on a building site where there once was only one. At the time of the variance approvals, no property sale had occurred. (Mr. Berryman was a member of the Planning Board/Board of Adjustment when it approved the other side-setback variances on nonconforming lots.)

The Beacon seeks your assistance in addressing this zoning and building trend. There has been much discussion in public meetings about when two adjacent nonconforming lots–such as the two recorded for 103 Ocean Blvd.–must be (re)combined into one single lot of record. Ownership of the lots has been viewed as key to this determination. ZTA 18-07 attempts to settle the recombination issue. It also establishes a lower side setback requirement for 50-foot-wide lots than the Board of Adjustment has thus far approved: That of 10 feet, not 12 feet.

Please read the Town’s proposed zoning amendment to the Code and tell us what you think. Do you understand the legalese? Will it ensure the kind of development that you think the majority of Southern Shores property owners want? Here it is:

https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/ZTA-18-07-Nonconforming-Lots.pdf

We will tell you what we think next week, after we’ve had time to read your comments and do more homework.

Ann Sjoerdsma, May 11, 2018

 

duplex
The duplex formerly at 103 Ocean Blvd.

 

bungalow
The 1950s-era bungalow at 155 Ocean Blvd.

 

 

 

 

5/3/18: TOWN APPROVES NO-LEFT-TURN TRIAL AT HWY. 158-S. DOGWOOD TRAIL ON JUNE 23-24; Zoning Change to Allow Small Drive-Through Businesses Defeated After First Reading

 

traffic

The Town Council voted unanimously at its May 1 regular meeting to proceed with a no-left-turn trial at the intersection of U.S. Hwy. 158 and South Dogwood Trail over the June 23-24, 2018 weekend. The vote was 4-0, with Mayor Tom Bennett and Councilmen Fred Newberry, Gary McDonald, and Jim Conners voting in favor. Councilman Chris Nason was absent.

According to Town Manager Peter Rascoe, who described details of the traffic trial at the meeting, all motorists traveling east on Hwy. 158 from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. on that June weekend will be prohibited from turning left on to South Dogwood Trail. This turn, which is at the second traffic light after the Wright Memorial Bridge, is routinely taken by arriving vacationers who seek to avoid gridlock on N.C. Hwy. 12, as they travel through Southern Shores and Duck to the Currituck beaches.

Residents along South Dogwood Trail, East Dogwood Trail, Hickory Trail, and Sea Oats Trail have complained for years about the safety hazards (motorists run stop signs and drive perilously close to pedestrians), inconvenience (residents have trouble exiting their driveways or getting anywhere on the roads by vehicle), and other impositions (e.g., motorists and their passengers exit their vehicles and urinate in yards) generated by cut-through traffic on these residential streets.

Since the advent of cell-phone navigation apps, such as Waze, which direct motorists away from congestion, the residential-street traffic flow has worsened and now typically comes to a standstill at the intersection of Sea Oats Trail with Duck Road (Hwy. 12), as well as the intersection of Hillcrest Drive and Duck Road.

(Full disclosure: I live on a heavily traveled section of Hickory Trail and have seen a tremendous increase in traffic during the past 20 years. Just 10 years ago, I was only concerned about the oppressive traffic on Hwy. 12!)

Mr. Rascoe said that “heavy barrels” will be placed in the left turn lane on Hwy. 158 and that two Southern Shores police officers will be posted at the intersection to ensure “zero-tolerance enforcement” on both weekend days. He also said the cost for this “exercise” would be $6200, $3400 for the barrels and $2800 for police overtime pay.

The no-left-turn trial could not occur without the cooperation of the N.C. Dept. of Transportation, which, Mr. Rascoe said, has an agreement with the town. The Town of Kitty Hawk, which has jurisdiction over the subject area of Hwy. 158, has deferred to Southern Shores and will not participate in the trial, he explained.

(It is important to understand that the Town of Southern Shores owns South Dogwood Trail and the vast majority of other residential roads within its boundaries. Some residential roads are private, but none is state-owned.)

After Mr. Rascoe’s presentation, Southern Shores Police Chief David Kole rose to inform the Council that he considers this trial a “one-time deal.”

“I do not have enough officers to do this through the summer,” Chief Kole said.

Both the police chief and Mr. Rascoe stressed that the town currently does not have the “manpower” to continue enforcing a left-turn prohibition at the Hwy. 158-South Dogwood Trail intersection this summer or to consider it next year. If it were to be repeated, new police hires would have to occur, according to Chief Kole.

While Mayor Bennett expressed concern about the “unintended consequences” of the left-turn prohibition, such as the possibility that traffic may divert to other residential streets in town, he supported the June 23-24 trial. The Mayor and all members of the Town Council agreed that this trial would give them data with which to assess the impact of any action they may take to minimize the cut-through traffic in town.

In public comments later, Glenn Wyder, who is president of the Chicahauk Homeowners Assn., expressed concern that this trial will “significantly affect Juniper and Trinitie Trails” in Chicahauk. Juniper Trail intersects with Hwy. 158 at the east end of the Marketplace; Trinitie Trail is a continuation of Juniper.

Mr. Wyder asked that the Town Council come up with a solution to the traffic that addresses both South Dogwood Trail and Juniper Trail.

In previous town discussions about the cut-through traffic on South Dogwood Trail, the Mayor and Town Council have been mindful of diversion to Juniper Trail and have stressed the need to control access to both roads on high-traffic summer weekends. When the Town Council passed its directive Sept. 5, 2017, for the no-left-turn trial, however, it elected to keep control and cost modest by focusing only on Dogwood Trail.

IN OTHER ACTION . . .

The Town Council did not approve a zoning ordinance change proposed by the Planning Board that would have allowed a drive-through business that fronts on U.S. Hwy 158 to operate on a lot less than 20,000 square feet. Current Town Code (sec. 36-57) requires all drive-through facilities in the C general commercial district, which includes the Marketplace, to be located on a lot equal to or greater than 2.5 acres.

The zoning change failed by a vote of 3-1, with Councilman Newberry dissenting. According to Town Attorney Ben Gallop, a unanimous decision was required in order for the zoning amendment, known as ZTA 18-05, to be enacted on its first reading. A second reading of ZTA 18-05 will be held at the Council’s June 5 meeting.

The Planning Board devised the new zoning plan, which categorizes drive-through facilities as either “small” or “large,” allowing both, in response to an application by Spiros Giannakopoulos to operate a drive-through ice-cream shop at 5415 N. Croatan Hwy. Mr. Giannakopoulos’s lot is located between Wells Fargo and First National banks on Hwy. 158 and is only 18,260 square feet, or 0.42 acres.

While the public hearing on ZTA 18-05 tended to focus on the desirability of having an ice-cream shop in the Marketplace and on the Elizabeth City resident-applicant’s business and community reputation, rather than on the proposed zoning changes, the Town Code amendment would apply to any lots smaller than 20,000 square feet that front on Hwy. 158.

Being burdened with a legal mind, I can readily see the what-ifs inherent in this situation, for example: What if the Town Council approves the proposed zoning plan, allowing a drive-through business on a very small lot, as well as Mr. Giannakopoulos’s site plan, and his ice-cream shop must close because of an unanticipated change in circumstances? His lot could be sold to a drive-through business applicant who wants to open a fast-food burger joint there, the type of establishment that Planning Board Chairman Sam Williams said Southern Shores property owners and residents have indicated they do not want. Other subsequent businesses might not seem as desirable as Mr. Giannakopoulos’s family-friendly restaurant.

I also wonder about other locations at the Marketplace that front on Hwy. 158. Currently, there is parking to the west of the main entrance into the shopping center, but that conceivably could change in the future. Brainstorming the possible adverse effects of the zoning amendment is a worthwhile exercise for the Town Council. The ZTA should be evaluated separately from Mr. Giannakopoulos’s business intentions.

In dissenting, Mr. Newberry said he was concerned about the “process” that resulted in the Planning Board’s new zoning proposal and with possible traffic congestion at 5415 N. Croatan Hwy. The prevention of congestion, particularly backups on Juniper Trail, was the reason the 2.5-acre restriction for drive-through businesses in Southern Shores’ commercial district was enacted, according to Planning Board member John Finelli, who represents Martin’s Point, at the Board’s April 16 hearing on ZTA 18-05.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, May 3, 2018