The Town of Southern Shores announced yesterday that it will hold a special meeting Wed., Nov. 7, 10 a.m., in the Pitts Center to consider all options “to further limit occupancy of single-family dwellings in Southern Shores.” Currently, the Town seeks to preserve its traditional open-space, low-density neighborhoods by restricting single-family house size to 6000 square feet of “enclosed living space.”
The Town’s meeting notice, posted on the front page of its website, cites “alarm” voiced by “some property owners” over the ability of a “party requesting [a] permit . . . to design 12 bedrooms within” the “maximum allowable 6,000 square feet of living space for a single-family dwelling,” as the reason for the meeting.
The notice makes no mention of the SAGA Construction building project at 98 Ocean Blvd. and its various features (e.g., 17 parking spaces) that have aroused “alarm”—and outrage—among “some” property owners—do dozens or hundreds qualify as “some”?—nor does it fairly represent those Town Council members who have expressed their opposition to the SAGA projects in informal discussions. The Beacon is aware that at least one Town Council member wanted to hold a special meeting well before Nov. 7, the same day that the Council meets in the evening for its regular monthly meeting.
And why has the Town scheduled a meeting on a week-day morning when daytime working people cannot attend?
I say SAGA projects, plural, because The Beacon has confirmed that, in addition to the 12-bedroom, 12-bathroom, 5981-square-foot rental house proposed by the Kill Devil Hills-based developer at 98 Ocean Blvd., as reported in this blog 10/10/18, SAGA also proposes to demolish a flattop and build a similar structure at 134 Ocean Blvd. (See photo above.)
According to Town Permit Officer Dabni Shelton, “134 Ocean Blvd., LLC,” whose agent is SAGA Construction, filed a CAMA permit application for that property, which is just south of the Duck Road split, on Oct. 11. In a telephone conversation I had with Ms. Shelton this morning, she characterized the proposed project at 134 Ocean Blvd. as “substantially different in parking and location of the pool,” from the one proposed at 98 Ocean Blvd.
Ms. Shelton said the “layouts” for the two projects differ, and that the “total floor area” claimed by SAGA for the proposed structure at 134 Ocean Blvd. is 5945 square feet, whereas the total floor area at 98 Ocean Blvd. is 6105 square feet. Total floor area is a measurement considered under CAMA. The Town’s calculation for living space is different. (I will review the permit file on 134 Ocean Blvd. at Town Hall as soon as I can. BLOG POST COMING 10/18/18 ABOUT THE PROPOSED STRUCTURE AT 134 OCEAN BLVD., WHICH IS VIRTUALLY IDENTICAL TO 98 OCEAN BLVD.)
The adjacent riparian property owners (homeowners) to the north of 134 Ocean Blvd.—at 136 Ocean Blvd.—have objected in writing to SAGA’s project, according to Ms. Shelton. This SAGA property, like the property at 98 Ocean Blvd., adjoins a beach access owned by the Southern Shores Civic Assn. The SSCA has objected to the proposal for 98 Ocean Blvd. (see The Beacon, 10/10/18), but not yet filed its response for 134 Ocean Blvd. (UPDATE: SSCA OBJECTION FILED 10/17/18.)
Ms. Shelton told me that the SSCA received delivery of the certified-mail notice of SAGA’s proposed project at 134 Ocean Blvd. on Oct. 9, according to U.S. Postal Service records. The civic association has 10 days after receipt of this notice in which to reply.
MY OPINION: The SSCA should wait until the last day of the 10-day period to file its letter of objection. Until this period lapses, and the SSCA either objects or accedes, 134 Ocean Blvd. LLC’s CAMA application is not complete.
Ms. Shelton said she is planning to do site visits at both properties tomorrow. The CAMA permit for 98 Ocean Blvd. could then issue “any time,” she explained, although “typically, there is a window of eight to nine days” after an application is complete before a permit issues. In the case of 98 Ocean Blvd., that window would expire Oct. 19.
I also asked Ms. Shelton how objections from adjacent riparian property owners are handled.
As a Local Permit Officer (LPO), she said, she “takes the nature of the objection” into consideration and has a “conversation with the [Division of Coastal Management] field representative” about it. The field rep will advise her as to whether a “state rule regulation” has been violated and whether the objecting party has standing to challenge the permit applicant over this violation. If both are the case, then a permit will not issue. An objecting property owner receives notification of both the permit and standing decisions.
Standing is a legal requirement, typically considered before a lawsuit is initiated. In order to file a lawsuit or otherwise to legally challenge an action, such as SAGA’s proposed project, a party (person, corporation, or other legal entity) must have legally protected interests at stake and be at risk of suffering, or already have suffered, harm (an “injury”). There are standard factual elements that are taken into consideration in determining whether standing exists. Adjudicators, such as courts, make rulings on standing.
In the event a CAMA permit issues and the SSCA is viewed as lacking standing, Ms. Shelton said, the SSCA will have 20 days in which to appeal the standing decision to the Coastal Resources Commission. I will explore the appellate process if and when this scenario occurs.
PLANNING BOARD’S RESPONSE
With the Town Council’s meeting more than three weeks away, members of the Town Planning Board, which met last night, made it clear in their comments that they would consider holding a special meeting on large-house controls, if they deemed such action desirable and necessary. The question of large houses and occupancy limits was not on the Planning Board’s agenda.
“What’s at stake is the character of the town,” said Planning Board Chairperson Glenn Wyder. “… We will do our due diligence, and our Town Council will do its due diligence. . . . We can get a grip on this.”
Planning Board member David Neal, a longtime Southern Shores resident and builder, described the Town as being at a “crossroads” in terms of its character, quality of life, and development. Mr. Neal said that if SAGA’s proposed 12-bedroom rental house—which, at 98 Ocean Blvd., purportedly would have parking for 17 vehicles and septic capacity for 24 people—were to become the standard in Southern Shores housing, he would move.
As the Beacon explained on 10/11/18, until the N.C. General Assembly passed in 2015 new statutory language that appears to make a bedroom restriction illegal, the Town Code of Southern Shores defined a detached single-family dwelling in the R-1 residential district, which covers 98 and 134 Ocean Blvd., as:
“consisting of no more than seven bedrooms or septic capacity for more than 14 people.” (Sec. 36-205(b)(1).
It further defined a large home dwelling as “any home containing more than seven bedrooms (or rooms that could be considered as bedrooms using the county criteria for determining septic system design) or septic system capacity for more than 14 people.” (Sec. 36-57).
Senate Bill 25, which amended N.C. General Statutes sec. 160A-381, prohibits counties and municipalities from regulating “building design elements” and “aesthetic controls,” most of them having to do with the exterior appearance of a structure. Among the bill’s prohibitions, it bars towns from restricting the “number and type of rooms” in single-family and two-family dwellings. (For the text of the amended statute, see https://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2015/Bills/Senate/PDF/S25v3.pdf.)
SB 25 became state law on June 19, 2015. Although it appeared to invalidate the Town of Southern Shores’ bedroom limit, it did not prohibit its 14-person occupancy/septic capacity restriction.
On Jan. 22, 2016, when the Town Council held a special meeting in order to enact an ordinance that would limit occupancy in single-family homes and, thereby, prevent SAGA from building a 25-bedroom wedding destination home on the oceanfront, it considered three zoning text amendments: One of them restricted occupancy by septic capacity, and the other two sought to limit occupancy by house size. (See The Beacon, 10/11/18)
“I fought hard to keep the septic capacity in the [Town] ordinance,” said Planning Board member Andy Ward, who spoke during the January 2016 meeting. But, he acknowledged, “people were in favor of smaller house sizes.”
The Town Council’s decision to approve the maximum house size restriction, instead of a 14-person occupancy/septic capacity restriction, left him “with a lump in my throat,” said Mr. Ward, another longtime Southern Shores homeowner and builder.
“I still think,” he said last night, “that [restricting occupancy through septic capacity] is very feasible to do. We just have to figure out how to do it. As a town, we have to figure out how to regulate septic capacity.”
The Beacon has learned that members of the Planning Board have been in touch with members of Duck’s Planning Board, which is also grappling with large houses and occupancy limits. The Duck board meets tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. When it does, the Beacon will be there. [Mea culpa, folks. I erred when I confirmed this meeting on the Town of Duck website calendar. In fact, the Duck Planning Board met Oct. 10 and will next meet on Nov. 14.]
CONDITIONAL USE PERMIT GRANTED FOR NEW FIRE STATION
In other action at last night’s Planning Board meeting, the five-member Board voted unanimously to recommend to the Town Council that a conditional use permit be granted to the Southern Shores Volunteer Fire Dept. to build a new fire station at 15 South Dogwood Trail and Pintail Trail, the site of the current station, subject to two conditions:
- Before it submits an application for a Town building permit, SSVFD must have received a) a stormwater general permit, as required by NCDEQ; b) erosion control approval, as required by NCDEQ; and c) an improvement permit and authorization to construct a new wastewater collection, treatment, and disposal system as issued by the DCHD and reviewed and approved by the NCDHHS (if applicable); and
- SSVFD must strictly abide by all requirements of the Town Code and must strictly comply with all other applicable local, state, and federal requirements.
Before taking its vote, the Board questioned the SSFVD’s engineer, Joseph C. Avolis of New Bern, N.C., about stormwater management plans. All members were sensitive to the problems of stormwater runoff and flooding. Mr. Avolis said that, “on balance, I think we’ve pretty much covered [stormwater], 100 percent.”
I briefly interviewed Kenneth C. Newell, the SSVFD’s architect, on Sept. 5, when he came to Southern Shores for a public information meeting and a Town Council meeting.
According to Mr. Newell, who is a partner in the Gastonia, N.C.-based firm of Stewart, Cooper, Newell, PA, the N.C. State Building Code requires fire stations to last between 50 and 75 years. Planning Board Vice Chairperson Elizabeth Morey asked last night about the building’s life span.
FEMA requires the station to be designed as an “essential facility,” Mr. Newell also told me, and the National Fire Protection Assn.’s minimum response times for firefighters necessitate “immediate egress” from the station.
“We worked with the department to meet its minimum needs” and to be “cost-effective” on a site that poses constraints, Mr. Newell said. “There’s not a lot of fluff in the building,” which, if built, will be a single-level, 14,000-square-foot station equipped with four “double-loaded drive-through bays.”
The architect also noted that the “look” of the station “must reflect local character and local color. It must blend in and look like a civic building.”
Mr. Newell said he has designed 400 fire stations across the country, in 26 different states.
When asked by Councilman Fred Newberry at the September Town Council meeting what the anticipated cost of the project is, Mr. Newell cited the volatility of market prices and gave a range of between $325 and $425 per square foot. Thus, the cost for a 14,000-square-foot station would be between an estimated $4.6 million and $6 million.
The Town Council is expected to vote on whether or not Southern Shores will financially participate in the station’s construction at its Nov. 7 meeting.
Ms. Morey expressed concern last night about the size of the Town’s capital expenditure and the “green” standards that the architect observed in the station’s design. Mr. Newell did not attend the meeting.
“It’s a missed opportunity if the Town does not require the building to be forward-thinking,” she said, built to the “highest possible standards” for environmental responsibility and resource efficiency.
Mr. Neal concurred, saying, “The firehouse needs to be modern and efficient.”
AND FINALLY . . . The Planning Board unanimously voted to table its consideration of ZTA 18-08, an effort by builder Olin Finch to amend the fill section of the building height ordinance, which pertains to properties in the AE flood zone. (Code sec. 36-202(d)(7)(b).) It boils down to a question of how elevation is measured.
Mr. Finch, who lives in Duck, would like to use and distribute more fill in his lot at 237 Woodland Drive, where he is building a multi-story house, than the Town Code currently would permit him to do. Deputy Town Manager/Planning Director Wes Haskett advised Mr. Finch’s site manager, Marc Murray, who represented him last night, that he had to remove two feet of fill that had been unloaded and distributed. Mr. Murray referred in discussions with the Planning Board to a client, but Mr. Finch owns the property.
The Planning Board revised the building height ordinance in August 2017, and the Town Council passed its recommended rewrite on Sept. 5, 2017. Planning Board member Joe McGraw, a builder, and Ms. Morey, both of whom were on the Board in 2017, acknowledged that they gave short shrift to the provision on the use of fill in the AE flood zone—spending most of their time on changing how building height is measured in the X flood zone—and agreed that it needs revision.
NO NONCONFORMING LOTS DISCUSSION; RESCHEDULING OF NOV. MEETING
. . . The Board elected not to discuss the new nonconforming lots ordinance last night. Chairperson Wyder said the Board is “still gathering information about nonconforming lots and waiting for recommendations from the Town Attorney and the Town staff.”
The Board also voted, 5-0, to reschedule its regularly scheduled November meeting from Nov. 19 to Nov. 26.
(Believe it or not, whenever I start one of these blogs, I think it’s going to be short! Sorry for the technical difficulties.)
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 10/16/18