In the shadow of Councilman Gary McDonald’s censure, the Southern Shores Town Council still managed to conduct business as usual at its Aug. 7 meeting, considering topics that ranged from the draft of a new fire services contract, to bids on the East Dogwood Trail walkway project, to the designation of a 1950s-era oceanfront house as a historic landmark, to pothole repairs and unsightly recycling cans. (See The Beacon, Aug. 9, for a report on the censure.)
Mayor Tom Bennett and the Town Council also honored Sam Williams for his nine years of service on the Town Planning Board and Planning Board alternate Carlos Gomez for his two years. (Mr. Williams actually served 10 years on the board, nine of them as chairperson.) Here are some of the other meeting highlights:
NONCONFORMING LOTS ZTA: BACK TO THE PLANNING BOARD
The Town Council voted unanimously to send the revised nonconforming-lot zoning text amendment, known as ZTA 18-07A, to the Town Planning Board, which will hold a hearing on the measure at its Aug. 20 meeting. The Council scheduled its own public hearing on ZTA 18-07A on Wednesday, Sept. 5, which is the date for its next regular meeting. PLEASE NOTE THE MEETING DAY CHANGE.
The Council declined to reconsider ZTA 18-07, the original Town Code amendment proposed to end the trend in town toward the development of nonconforming 50-foot-wide lots. The Planning Board unanimously approved ZTA 18-07. (For more about ZTA 18-07A, see The Beacon, Aug. 2.)
DRAFT FIRE SERVICES CONTRACT: CONCESSIONS MADE
The Town’s current 10-year contract with the Southern Shores Volunteer Fire Dept. expires June 30, 2019. Town Manager Peter Rascoe reported that he has been meeting with SSVFD Fire Chief Ed Limbacher for months to negotiate a new contract, a draft of which he presented to the Town Council. (See the Aug. 7 meeting packet, available on the Town website.)
According to Mr. Rascoe, the draft contract contains two “major concessions” from the SSVFD, including:
- The SSVFD agrees to submit an annual budget to the Town Council for its review and approval. In the current contract, the SSVFD’s compensation is calculated as a portion of Town property taxes. The base budget for future SSVFD operations will be set in the first year of the contract.
- In the event of a “default and termination of the contract” by the SSVFD because of an inability to provide fire services, the SSVFD agrees to be contractually obligated to “convey over to the Town all real and personal property.” Mr. Rascoe described this concession in a follow-up email as a “refinement and uncomplication” of the SSVFD’s legal obligation.
The Town Manager said that the draft contract does not obligate the Town to fund any “debt service” for the new fire station, upon which the Council has not yet voted.
The Town Council unanimously passed a motion stating that it agrees in concept with the draft fire services contract and looks forward to working with the SSVFD.
PLANS FOR THE NEW FIRE STATION: COUNCIL & PUBLIC REVIEW
Mr. Rascoe announced that the architect for the new SSVFD fire station, who is being funded by the Town, will present the potential building plans and site plan to the Town Council at its Sept. 5 meeting, in order to obtain feedback before the design is final. The architect’s drawings will be on display at the Pitts Center from 3 to 5 p.m. that day for the public to review. Bids on the project will be received in October, according to Mr. Rascoe.
The Town Council will take up both the final plans for the proposed new station and the SSVFD’s financing package at its November meeting. The Council has not yet approved funding of the $5-$6 million-plus fire station.
EAST DOGWOOD TRAIL WALKWAY
Mr. Rascoe announced that a pre-bid conference had been held with all potential contractors on the East Dogwood Trail walkway project and that bids are due today. In response to a follow-up inquiry by The Beacon, he said that four companies had attended the conference: Barnhill Contracting Co., RPC Contracting Co., Hatchell Concrete Inc., and Millstone Marine Construction. The Town Manager will officially inform the Town Council at its Sept. 5 meeting which contractor received the contract.
[UPDATE, 8/14/18: The Beacon has learned that Mr. Rascoe awarded RPC Contracting the contract. More details to come.]
The East Dogwood Trail walkway will start at the intersection of North, South, and East Dogwood Trails, and run along the south side of East Dogwood Trail to its intersection with N.C. Hwy. 12 (Duck Road). It will be a 5-foot-wide concrete path.
Mr. Rascoe previously announced that the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau will be contributing a matching grant for one-half of the project’s cost, up to $119,000.
Mr. Rascoe also gave updates on the Yaupon Trail improvements project and the Juniper Trail project. He said informal bids on the Yaupon Trail project will be reviewed Aug. 23 and a contract award made before the Town Council’s September meeting. The Yaupon Trail construction had to be delayed because of an environmental concern; construction activities in the water there cannot begin until October. The Juniper Trail project was not out for bid, as of last week’s meeting, according to Mr. Rascoe.
“SMALL WORLD” DESIGNATED HISTORIC LANDMARK
The Town Council voted unanimously to approve 116 Ocean Blvd., a small frame house with a gable roof known as “Small World,” as a historic landmark. Formerly known as the Small Cottage, the oceanfront house was built in 1954—the work product of Southern Shores founder and developer Frank Stick’s architect, Harry Lawrence, and his builder, Curtis Gray.
Lee Whitley, chairperson of the Southern Shores Historic Landmarks Commission, formally presented to the Council the historic-landmark application for Small World, which the five-person Commission unanimously approved.
Mayor Bennett told Ms. Whitley that he was concerned about the “upkeep and maintenance” of the Small cottage, which has experienced considerable deterioration. Ms. Whitley replied that the Commission has “no impact” on such issues, and that once the house is designated a historic landmark, the owners “can’t dramatically alter it.” Town Planning Director Wes Haskett noted that maintenance is not among the criteria that the Commission is required by the Town Code to apply in evaluating a property.
After describing the house, which has neither heat nor air conditioning, as “weathered,” but “structurally sound,” Councilman Jim Conners made a motion to approve its historic designation, and the Mayor seconded the motion. Clayton Small, one of the three grandsons of the original owners who now own the house, told the Town Council that he and his brothers intend to make improvements with the money they will be saving in real estate taxes.
THE BEST FOR LAST? POTHOLES & RECYCLING PICKUP
As I previously reported on The Beacon’s Facebook page, Town Manager Rascoe said that most of the calls received at Town Hall from residents during the three weeks before the Aug. 7 meeting were about potholes on Town-maintained streets. The potholes, Mr. Rascoe said, are being “triaged” based on safety, with the most hazardous potholes being repaired first.
You should be seeing both pothole repair crews and Town mowers out and about, attending to the streets and the grass in the public rights-of-way.
The rains this summer have certainly contributed to the creation and enlargement of potholes, as well as served as a deterrent for their repair. The irony of fixing potholes now, shortly before hurricane season begins, has not been lost on Town employees.
The Town has a hotline for reporting potholes. You may call 261-2394, option 5, or email info@ southernshores-nc.gov. See https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/pothole/.
The Town Council ended its business meeting with an extensive discussion about how the change in the recycling day pickup, from Monday to Wednesday, has aggravated the problems of roadway obstruction and littering posed by recycling and trash cans. In my opinion, none of the Town Council members seemed pleased with the pickup day change, upon which The Beacon has previously reported, and all were concerned.
Rather than renew the Town’s recycling-pickup contract with Waste Management of Virginia (WMV), which ended June 30, 2018, the Town Manager awarded the new recycling contract to Bay Disposal, which also handles trash removal. In so doing, Mr. Rascoe said, the Town saved $30,000 over what it was paying WMV, but Bay Disposal cannot pick up both trash and recycling on the same day. The move to Wednesday means cans sit out on the roadside longer than they did before, and more litter occurs.
The only solutions offered by the Town Council were to ask Bay Disposal to pick up both recycling and trash on Monday, which it reportedly cannot do, or to terminate the recycling contract, which the Town Manager just awarded, and give it to another company. Mr. Rascoe said that Bay Disposal has indicated a willingness to consider changing its operations next year.
When asked by the Town Council what other towns do with recycling, Mr. Rascoe replied that:
Two towns recycle by subscription only. (I learned after the meeting that they are Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills.)
One town handles the recycling itself, except for pickup in areas east of the 158 bypass, such as the beach road. (Nags Head)
One town handles recycling and trash pickup like Southern Shores does, contracting with waste-management services. (Duck)
The discussion ended with Mr. Rascoe saying, “I hear you. I’ll see what we can do.”
AND FINALLY, A QUESTION:
Mr. Rascoe reminded the Town Council that there will not be a meeting in October because he will not be available. In a follow-up email, the Town Manager confirmed that he has a “family commitment” in early October and that the Town Council has been informed of the cancellation at three previous meetings.
My question is why is Mr. Rascoe’s absence considered sufficient reason to deny property owners their right of access to the Town Council for one month and the Town Council members their monthly opportunity to confer over business in front of the public?
As The Beacon’s reports of today, last week, and in recent months attest, the Town is juggling a lot of balls. The September meeting is going to be chock-full of business items, concerns, and decisions. The Town and the public need more opportunities for dialogue, rather than fewer—especially before the November meeting, when the SSVFD and its new station will be headlining the agenda.
Mr. Haskett is now deputy town manager. Surely, Mr. Haskett can substitute for Mr. Rascoe, who can submit a written report, if he’d like. Finance Officer Bonnie Swain attends all Town Council meetings, as do other Town employees. Ms. Swain can report on financial matters. They’re both astute and experienced professionals.
If the Town Council believes it absolutely cannot do without Mr. Rascoe, then it should postpone its October meeting so that the Town Manager can attend. It’s ridiculous to me that Mr. Rascoe’s absence is viewed as just cause for canceling a monthly meeting.
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 8/14/18