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 Regan’s applications, which remain on file, unless withdrawn by the applicant.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.


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


  1. GET A LIFE!!! This is just a platform for you to complain on! There are many big houses but I’m guessing this little stretch of new ones probably just block your view which is why you now are complaining. Also, I’m sure prior worked on your house on a Sunday to get it done. Ever think about that, of course not. Find a purpose helping people not trying to bring them down.


    1. This is a curious example of anonymous criticism. I hear an ax grinding, but I’m not going to speculate why. I do not know what “little stretch of new ones” the writer is referring to nor why he/she falsely assumes that I have a personal stake in that little stretch. No view of mine has been blocked. I’m also not sure what he/she means by “prior worked on your house.” I did not build my house, but I doubt the builder, hired by the original homeowners, broke local law by working on Sunday. All of the builders I know respect the noise ordinance. Which people am I bringing down? — Ann


    2. I’m sure Ann’s life is wonderful given that she decided to make Southern Shores her home. It’s likely the same wonderful life I’d hoped to have all my adult life thinking about retiring there and then buying 99 Ocean Blvd. several years ago. There is — was — no place quite like it all the years my family would rent the Sutton cottage — and many extended family members would rent nearby cottages to accommodate our being together for some of the most wonderful family vacations we’d ever had. We ‘moved’ further north to rent another lovely home on 10th Ave. when the Sutton cottage came off the market, and began to use that beautiful cottage as ‘home base’ for our family — again, with extended family renting nearby cottages, as needed. What we loved about Southern Shores was the large unspoiled open spaces surrounding each home — and, the natural beauty maintained by each homeowner in these georgeous single-family homes. And, now that it’s my time to live in that rare & beautiful setting, I find that things are changing. I feel cheated out of my dream home existence. All along I had felt safe that with a town government so intent on keeping things as wonderful as they were in this very special place that it’s charm would continue — only to find that that safeguard has been removed. I do hope these folks come to their senses & realize that the future of Southern Shores is in their hands — and, that the way it used to be is far better for those of us who fell in-love with this OBX jewel. Yes, Ann & I — and, so many others — will still try to make the best of what cannot be changed, at this point — as we look forward to a time when things settle down back into the place that gave us what we wanted to “have a life”. Thank you for listening to your new neighbor, and future SS citizen.


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