The Southern Shores Town Council voted 4-1 last night during its regular monthly meeting to appoint engineering consultant and Chicahauk resident Ed Lawler to fill the late Glenn Wyder’s unexpired three-year term on the Town Planning Board. Mr. Wyder, who was chairperson of the Planning Board, started his term on July 1, 2018.
Mayor Tom Bennett expressed his appreciation to all of the Planning Board applicants, who also included Tony DiBernardo and Patrick Regan, and said he was proud to receive so many applications for the volunteer position.
The Council neither discussed nor took votes on Mr. DiBernardo’s and Mr. Regan’s applications, which remain on file, unless withdrawn by the applicant. Councilman Gary McDonald nominated Mr. Lawler, and Councilman Chris Nason seconded the nomination. Councilman Jim Conners cast the sole dissenting vote.
Last night’s meeting agenda was unusually light. In other noteworthy action, the Town Council unanimously approved a resolution asking the N.C. General Assembly to allow the Town of Southern Shores to regulate density and occupancy in its residential districts by setting a maximum number of bedrooms within one- and two-family dwellings.
The resolution, proposed by Mayor Bennett, requests the State legislature’s consideration and passage of a bill that would amend N.C. General Statutes sec. 160A-381 so as to permit the Town to 1) limit the number of bedrooms in homes, but in no case, 2) fewer than seven. (Resolution #2019-01-01.)
Mayor Bennett has sought to make contact with several legislators viewed as influential to furthering the Town’s effort. Council members agreed that the resolution would be sent first to the local legislative delegation, whose assistance would be critical in convincing a majority of both the N.C. House of Representatives and the N.C. Senate to vote to restore to the Town the authority it had to regulate the number of bedrooms before the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 25 (2015 N.C. Sess. Law 86) in June 2015.
S.B. 25, which was signed into law by former N.C. Governor Pat McCrory, substantially reduced the power of towns and other municipalities to regulate “building design elements” and aesthetics of housing, including the number and type of rooms.
The 2019 N.C. General Assembly session begins today.
Mr. Lawler will take his place on the Planning Board on Jan. 22, when the Board next meets. At that time, the Board will hold an election for chairperson. In the event that current Vice-Chairperson Elizabeth Morey is elected to the position, a new vice-chairperson also will be elected.
The new Planning Board appointee is a semi-retired engineering consultant with experience in house design and construction. He has lived in Chicahauk, in a house he designed, for 28 years. In a telephone interview he had with The Beacon Monday, Mr. Lawler said he has always “paid attention” to the environment and water quality and is a proponent of “slow growth” who does not favor accommodating “cluster-use houses.”
Mr. Lawler lived in Corolla from 1977-87 in a house he built himself and moved to Southern Shores after the northern beaches began to “deteriorate quickly,” he said. He referred to Southern Shores as “a place for family” and said he would seek to preserve its “single-family character.”
Mr. Lawler holds a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in marine science. He has extensive experience with water- and wastewater-treatment projects. He is also on the Chicahauk Property Owners Assn., serving as its treasurer.
PLANNING BOARD’S ACTION MONDAY ON ‘HIGH-OCCUPANCY’ HOUSES
The Beacon is aware that the actions taken Monday night by the Town Planning Board at the conclusion of its special meeting on “large” houses have confused people. One reader of The Beacon blog posted Tuesday about the zoning-text amendments that a majority of the Planning Board directed the Town Attorney and Town staff to draft asked: “So what does that mean?”
In a reply, The Beacon attempted to distill the Board’s actions to their essence, but also acknowledged the confusion surrounding them. (See Jan. 8 comment.)
Part of the problem was that a majority of the Planning Board rallied around a concept for controlling occupancy and language for implementing that concept that Town Attorney Ben Gallop had just emailed to Planning Director Wes Haskett around 10 a.m. Monday, Mr. Haskett said. This new concept and language—which actually dated back to November correspondence that Mr. Gallop had with Professor David Owens—took everyone by surprise. No one really had time to digest and analyze either.
“It was a very complicated Planning Board meeting to follow,” Councilman Conners told Ms. Morey during her report last night to the Town Council.
Mr. Conners, who was the only Council member in attendance at the Planning Board meeting, indicated that, although he was opposed to the septic-use capacity “option” for limiting occupancy in single-family dwellings, he was “now on board” with it.
(Mayor Bennett also attended the Planning Board special meeting.)
Although Planning Board member Andy Ward did not get a majority to approve the motion he made Monday to ask the Town Attorney and Town staff to prepare a zoning text amendment that would control high-occupancy dwellings and population density by limiting septic-use capacity, that option is still a viable one. The Planning Board has the authority under the Town Code only to make recommendations to the Town Council. It is the Town Council that creates new law by approving zoning text amendments. Members of the Town Council also may introduce ZTAs, if they wish.
The Beacon will have more to say about the actions taken by the Planning Board Monday night, as discussions ensue.
Suffice it to say that, currently, the Planning Board has taken a position 1) in favor of distinguishing single-family dwellings by their use and limiting the maximum overnight occupancy of those dwellings that are used as “vacation cottages” to 14 people; and 2) in support of reducing the maximum house size in town from 6,000 square feet to 5,000 square feet.
The overnight occupancy limit based on the dwelling’s use and the reduction in maximum house size are two separate issues that may well be (actually, should be) treated as such in separate zoning text amendments. But The Beacon is not going to make any predictions. The outcome of the Planning Board’s Monday night meeting proves that anything can happen.
(BTW, if you’re wondering about the construction work on East Dogwood Trail, near Hickory Trail, it has to do with Dominion Energy’s “load-balancing project” in town, which started last August and is halfway done, according to Project Manager Lucian Gregory. The utility company is installing underground cables. The project will improve electric service to an area around Tall Pine Lane, Yaupon Trail, Sassafras Lane, and South Dogwood Trail. If you have any questions, please call Town Hall.)
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 1/9/19