Although the Town Council has not approved initiating beach nourishment in Southern Shores, outside of Pelican Watch, and property owners were strongly divided two years ago at the Town’s public forum on the subject, the Town Council entertained options and financial planning for beach nourishment at its Tuesday morning special planning session as if it had decided to move ahead.
Publicized as a planning session, the Town Council’s meeting Tuesday played out, more so, as a series of presentations for how the Town can spend millions of dollars on special projects, without any real discussion of priorities and/or needs among the four elected officials who attended.
Town Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Christopher Nason was on the road with his daughter’s high school basketball team for a first-round state championship game.
Most noteworthy among the presenters, a consultant from a Wilmington, N.C.-based coastal engineering firm reported the results of its “vulnerability” assessment of Southern Shores’ 3.7-mile shoreline and outlined three proposed beach-nourishment plans that it would recommend, if the Town were to invest in such a project. (For details, see next section, below.)
Homeowner Paul Borzellino seemed to speak for all Southern Shores property owners present when he told the Town Council in public comments: “My mind is just blown away by the costs.”
Mr. Borzellino, who lives on Seventh Avenue, which is north of the targeted oceanfront-nourishment area, later described the “numbers” as “daunting.” The Beacon agrees.
The cost estimates for three beach-nourishment plan “options” submitted to the Town by Aptim Coastal Planning & Engineering of North Carolina, Inc. (APTIM) range from $9 million to $13.5 million, including a 10-percent contingency cost.
Earlier in Tuesday’s meeting, the Town Council also heard multi-million-dollar cost analyses from representatives of a Rocky Mount, N.C.-based architectural firm for options to renovate and add on to; demolish and replace; and/or otherwise improve upon the Town’s five facilities.
The five facilities include the Town Hall, which, at 31 years, is the oldest of the buildings; the Pitts Center, built in 1996; the police station (1998); the police training and storage building (2013), and the public works facility on Pintail Court (2001).
Cost estimates submitted in a written report by partners Tim Oakley and Ann Collier of Oakley Collier Architects, who conducted a visual inspection of the facilities last September, range from $2.6 million to over $6 million and cover several different design concepts. Ms. Collier and architectural intern Sam Eichhorn presented the firm’s assessment and design analysis to the Town Council.
Overall, Ms. Collier said, the facilities are “in fairly decent shape.”
APTIM Project Manager Ken Willson, who worked with Southern Shores on the 2017 Pelican Watch nourishment project and has arrangements with the other Dare County-Outer Banks towns, broke down the beach-fill cost-estimate options for the Town Council.
He also informed the elected officials, “The dune system in Southern Shores is in pretty good shape.” It is “fairly intact,” he said, providing protection against storms and erosion.
If Southern Shores were to make a commitment now to beach nourishment, which Mr. Willson projected to occur in summer 2022—when the Towns of Duck, Kitty Hawk, and Kill Devil Hills are doing their five-year beach-nourishment maintenance—it would be starting much earlier in the process than beach towns usually do, he said.
Also Tuesday, the father-son financial-adviser team of Doug and Andrew Carter, of DEC Associates in Charlotte, explained to the Town Council the various complicated methods available for beach-nourishment funding.
Popular among them are special obligation bonds, which permit a town to set up “municipal service districts” and to levy different tax rates within the MSDs, Andrew Carter explained, so that, for example, people who own oceanfront property would pay more than other property owners do for the sand fill/replenishment.
Once a beach town embarks upon a nourishment plan, said Mr. Carter, whose firm specializes in N.C. shoreline protection financial planning, it commits to “long-term planning” for future periodic maintenance and beach operating costs.
He echoed Mr. Willson’s earlier assertion that beach nourishment is “an exercise in adaptive management. . . . It is never seen as a one-time event.”
The Carters said their fees would be $35-$40,000 for developing a financial plan and setting up a “beach fund” for the earmarked funds; and $30,000 for working on finding the financing, which is typically for five years.
We have “significant financial challenges ahead of us,” Councilman Fred Newberry said, in a wrap-up comment period of the meeting that was allocated 30 minutes on the agenda, but lasted only about five minutes.
While Mayor Tom Bennett and one or two of the three other Town Council members present seemed prepared to choose one of APTIM’s plan options, members also expressed an interest in receiving input from the community. They did not confer at all about the architects’ facilities assessment.
Other than to suggest that a Town Council-Town staff committee convene to discuss the priority of expenditures and financial planning, the Council took no action.
THE HOW-TO OF APTIM’S BEACH NOURISHMENT PLAN OPTIONS
APTIM’S cost estimates for its three proposed beach-nourishment plans were based on its vulnerability assessment, which used something called a “Storm-Induced Beach Change Model” (SBEACH).
While one Town Council member referred to APTIM’s assessment methodology as science, it is not. It is engineering based on technology.
(Admittedly, I have not read APTIM’s 150-page report, which is on the Town website as at https://www.dropbox.com/s/md1vpdogfkk7ipw/December%202018%20Town%20of%20Southern%20Shores%20Vulnerability%20Assessment%20%26%20Beach%20Management%20Plan.pdf?dl=0. But the point of an executive summary is to spare the reader such pain.)
According to the executive summary of the report that Mr. Willson submitted to the Town in December 2018, APTIM “used the storm characteristics of Hurricane Isabel such as wave heights, wave period, water level, and duration to drive the [SBEACH] model.” The vulnerability assessment, therefore, focused on “potential damage associated with” an Isabel-like hurricane.
How did the coastal planning and engineering firm manage to do that? It simulated the storm, according to the December report, using three different sea-level scenarios: “(1) as [sea level] occurred in 2003; 2) the storm with water levels based on 15 years of sea-level risk (2018 equivalent); and 3) the storm with 30 years of sea-level risk from present day (2048 equivalent).” Sea-level rise rates were derived from a 2015 report by the N.C. Coastal Resources Commission.
The results that APTIM obtained with its model, the summary says, “informed the development [of the beach-nourishment plan options] with regards to what sections of the Town may be vulnerable to impacts from the design storm, and what amount of additional [sand] volume would be required to reduce that vulnerability.” APTIM also conducted a physical assessment of the Southern Shores beach in February 2018.
The Southern Shores shoreline, the summary states, is highly variable, in terms of the height and width of the primary dune, the distance that residential structures are set back from the vegetation line, and the rates of sand-volume change. Before analyzing storm scenarios with its SBEACH model, as The Beacon understands APTIM’s summary, the firm determined the “linear extent”—the length—of the proposed shoreline project.
Bottom line: APTIM recommends for future beach nourishment a “main placement area” on the Southern Shores oceanfront that extends from near Third Avenue south to about 450 feet south of where Chicahauk Trail intersects with Ocean Boulevard.
APTIM further designates as a “transition area” a section of the beach that extends from the southern border of the main placement area to the town boundary with Kitty Hawk. An area that APTIM refers to as the “taper” extends about 500 feet north of Third Avenue.
The Beacon defies anyone, including coastal engineers—and second opinions would be welcome—to understand how APTIM used its SBEACH model and its design storm scenarios to arrive at the target volume densities in cubic yards per linear foot (cy/lf) of sand that must be maintained along the Southern Shores oceanfront in order to sustain it. If anyone can make sense of pages ii-iv in APTIM’s executive summary, please send The Beacon an email. As I said before, it’s not science.
The following are APTIM’s recommended options for “managing” the Southern Shores beach:
OPTION ONE, which is projected to cost a total of $11,593,000, with contingency included, targets a volume-density goal of 846 cy/lf. The “average” density measured along the “main placement area” in a December 2017 survey conducted by APTIM was reportedly 801 cy/lf. Therefore, Option One posits a recommended “fill density” of 45 cy/lf. At this density, the main placement area would require 450,000 cubic yards of sand.
Option One also includes fill for the taper and transition areas. The average volume density measured along the transition area in December 2017 was 818 cy/lf. Altogether, the total volume of sand projected for this option is 665,650 cubic yards.
OPTION TWO, which is projected to cost a total of $9,010,400, also targets a volume density of 845 cy/lf, but recommends adding only 30 cy/lf to the main placement and transition areas. The total sand volume for Option Two is 492,300 cubic yards.
OPTION THREE, which is projected to cost a total of $13,557,000, targets a volume density of 858 cy/lf. This option’s total design volume for the taper, main placement, and transitions areas of the shoreline would be 803,050 cubic yards.
Councilman Jim Conners sought to make these volumes more relatable by recalculating the cubic-yard figures as dump-truckloads. The average dump truck holds about 10 to 12 cubic yards of dirt or sand, he and Mr. Willson agreed. They then calculated that two dump-truckloads of sand would be required for each linear foot of beach.
The “biggest cost” in any beach-fill project, Mr. Willson said, is sand, especially if its source is distant.
The APTIM Project Manager advised the Town Council to initiate design and permitting for whichever plan option it chooses, in February 2020. This would enable projected construction to occur in summer 2022, when the Towns of Duck, Kitty Hawk, and Kill Devil Hills are doing their five-year maintenance. A collaborative effort would save on expense, he said.
The Beacon wonders why, if the dune system in Southern Shores is providing sufficient protection, the Town should undertake beach nourishment in summer 2022, rather than in 2027, when those same towns will be doing another five-year maintenance, or even later. As all speakers agreed, once a town embarks on beach nourishment, it has made a long-term commitment from which there is no return.
If APTIM’s reason for starting “more early in the process” of beach nourishment, as Mr. Willson said, has more to do with the timing of other towns’ maintenance than with the beach conditions in Southern Shores, then The Beacon does not see a compelling need to move ahead.
Prompted by Town Manager Peter Rascoe, however, the Town Council authorized the expenditure of an estimated $13-$15,000 for APTIM to conduct a beach-profile survey this June, in preparation for the 2022 construction.
THE HOW-TO OF THE TOWN BUILDINGS ASSESSMENT
According to their written report, Mr. Oakley and Ms. Collier toured the Town’s buildings on Sept. 26, 2018 with “County officials/staff,” including “representatives from each department who were familiar with the building systems and maintenance that has occurred throughout the years.”
That the principals of Oakley Collier Architects, P.A., did not include the names of the people with whom they toured or describe the methodology of their assessment are major omissions in their report. The Beacon would like to know how they compiled their data, if they only visited the sites once. How hands-on were they?
While the Oakley Collier report-analysis appears to be fairly comprehensive, its conclusions cannot be objectively assessed in the absence of the methodology.
The architectural team says it assessed the five facilities for their functionality, accessibility, efficiency of use, potential for expansion, and egress and life safety, among other factors, and also analyzed their sites for access and circulation, parking, and signage.
The Beacon did not attend Ms. Collier’s and Ms. Eichhorn’s presentation, but viewed the Town’s videotape of it. Ms. Collier made clear that she had worked with Town Manager Peter Rascoe and other Town staff for months. Mr. Rascoe reminded the Council that it had approved a budget item in the 2018-19 fiscal year for the facilities assessment.
A year ago, the Town Manager said, the Town staff identified three major deficiencies in the buildings in which they work, particularly Town Hall. They were work flow, confidentiality, and space. The Beacon agrees that the layout of the Town Hall is not conducive to “flow” and that privacy in the building is in short supply. There’s never enough space.
According to the consultants, each of the five facilities has a life expectancy of 50 years. In the three options that they propose, two of which involve some demolition, they also seek to maximize parking as much as possible. The options are as follows:
OPTION ONE: a total cost of $2,141,297, covering:
–Renovations and additions to the Town Hall and the police station;
–Correction of “Code” deficiencies in the Pitts Center and the police training building;
–General site work.
Option One represents an upgrade of the current buildings.
OPTION TWO: a total cost of $5,109.059, covering:
–Demolition of the Town Hall and the Pitts Center and construction of their replacements ($2.6 million);
–Renovation of and an addition to the police station;
–Correction of Code deficiencies at the police training building;
–General site work.
In this option, the assembly space that the Pitts Center now provides would be accessible from within the Town Hall.
OPTION THREE: a total cost of $5,917,190, covering:
–Demolition of the Town Hall, the Pitts Center, and the police station and construction of one building that would house everything ($4,850,000);
–Correction of Code deficiencies in the police training building, which would be connected to the larger complex;
–General site work.
To each of these options would be added the construction and sitework costs for renovating and adding on to the public works facility, for a total of $476,895.
Councilman Newberry asked the speakers if they uncovered any concerns that require “immediate attention,” such as safety hazards, and Ms. Collier said there were not. She did cite security, however, as a matter that should be considered now.
You may see the design schematics for the three options and read the analytical details in the full report, which is available online in a dropbox PDF at:
AND FINALLY, SOME GOOD NUMBER NEWS: SSVFD Fire Chief Edward Limbacher reported Tuesday that the original interest rate for the financing of the new $5.4 million fire station has been lowered from 3.71 percent to 3.15 percent. The annual cost to the Town over the 25-year term of the loan, therefore, has been lowered from $333,551.96 to $314,020, for a saving of $19,531.96 per year. (See The Beacon, 11/23/18 for background on the fire station financing.)
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 2/28/19; slightly revised 3/1/19