2/1/19: TOWN COMMITTEE TRIES TO FAST-TRACK WIDENING OF SOUTH DOGWOOD TRAIL BY UP TO 7 FEET IN SPOTS; DISREGARDS INFRASTRUCTURE PRIORITY LIST; ALSO Notes on the Town Code Rewrite, Feb. 5 Town Council Meeting; The Beacon Seeks Assistance

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This is a view looking north on South Dogwood Trail between Wild Swan and Osprey lanes. If the road-widening and sidewalk-construction plans presented Wednesday to the CIIP Committee by the Town Engineers, and supported by the Mayor and Councilman Conners, are put into effect, all of the trees visible on the right side of this photograph would be destroyed.

Town Engineers Joe Anlauf and Andy Deel, of Deel Engineering PLLC, presented Wednesday to the Town Capital Infrastructure Improvement Planning (CIIP) Committee designs and cost estimates for proposed “capital improvements” on South Dogwood Trail that include a widening of the street to 24 feet, according to Town Manager Peter Rascoe’s minutes of the meeting.

The Town Engineers’ briefing numbers suggest a cost estimate for widening the road of up to $3 million. An additional $1 million-plus would be spent to build sidewalks along the road. [PLEASE NOTE: As of this writing, the design plans for the road-widening project are not on the Town of Southern Shores website.]

Mr. Anlauf also conservatively estimated that from 105 and 129 tree would have to be destroyed in order to widen the road. The reality is likely to be far more removals. How many, The Beacon wonders, would be signature dogwoods?

Mr. Anlauf calculated that 12 trees would have to be removed to build a sidewalk from the North-South-East Dogwood Trails intersection south to Fairway Drive, but he did not hazard to guess how many would have to be destroyed from Fairway Drive south to the Southern Shores Cemetery. The terrain from Fairway Drive to the cemetery is hilly, densely populated with trees, and more irregular.

See the minutes at: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/CIIP-Jan-30-2019-Meeting-Minutes.pdf.

Currently, according to a CIIP Committee member who asked to remain anonymous, sections of South Dogwood Trail measure from 17 to 19 feet in width. Widening the street to 24 feet, or to 20 feet, which the minutes show was also discussed at the Jan. 30 CIIP committee meeting, means an encroachment in the public right-of-way of up to seven feet.

Although the CIIP Committee has previously discussed construction of a 5-foot-wide sidewalk on the east side of South Dogwood Trail, starting at the North-South-East Dogwood Trails intersection and continuing south to the cemetery, it has not explored widening the street in such detail before. The Town Manager’s minutes show that the engineers presented designs for 1) just the sidewalk, and 2) for the sidewalk and the street widening.

Southern Shores property owners have never supported widening South Dogwood Trail. In even considering such a project, the CIIP Committee disregards the FY 2018-19 Capital Infrastructure Improvement Plan and its priority-ranking of road projects that the Town Council unanimously passed last July. The committee substitutes its own judgment for that of the Town Council, which approved the infrastructure plan and recommended road projects, in the form of Ordinance #2018-07-01, after a public hearing was held.

Enacted by the Town Council July 10, 2018, Ordinance #2018-07-01 adopts by reference a priority list of road projects that the CIIP Committee itself ranked in April 2018 in groups from A to C, with C being the lowest priority.

Since this approval and adoption, however, the CIIP Committee has disregarded most of the Group B priority projects in order to focus on the Dogwood Trails. South Dogwood Trail is ranked no. 13 on the priority list, the first project in Group C.

Some of the projects that the committee ignores in leapfrogging over Group B to Group C include improvements to Clamshell Trail, Ginguite Trail, Sea Oats Trail, Bayberry Trail, West Holly Trail, and Wax Myrtle Trail and other beach and dune roads. You may find the listing, designated “Attachment A,” in the minutes for the July 10, 2018 meeting.

The South and East Dogwood Trails Task Force, a citizen group convened to study the addition of walkways along East and South Dogwood Trails, specifically recommended in its Jan. 27, 2017 final report that the Town “continue its policy of not widening roads unless emergency vehicles cannot gain access to their desired location.” (p. 4)

The Task Force, which was chaired by Michael Fletcher and consisted of a cross-section of resident homeowners and “stakeholders,” including now-Town Councilman and CIIP Committee Co-Chairperson Jim Conners, also recommended that the walkway along South Dogwood Trail should:

*be designed to contain the elements of a greenway;

*be separated from the road by a green space three feet to six feet wide;

*meander among the trees thereby limiting the number of trees to be removed; and

*follow the grade of the land, where feasible. (p. 7)

In elaborating upon the issue of rebuilding roads, the Dogwoods Task Force noted that a majority of the Town residents who responded to its public survey (431 responses were received) “enjoy the character of” the Dogwood Trails, and the “sections . . . that are enjoyed the most are the relatively narrow, winding roads with overhanging trees. It reminds people of a small town setting and not a suburban setting with wider and straighter streets.” (p. 3)

Councilman Conners chairs the CIIP Committee with Mayor Tom Bennett. The Mayor made these appointments, absent a vote by the Town Council.

Despite a lack of public support for widening South Dogwood Trail, as documented by the task force’s survey, and despite Ordinance #2018-07-01, Co-Chairperson Conners made a motion Wednesday to “transmit” to the Town Council “an affirmation” of the engineers’ design for a 24-foot-wide street, according to the minutes.

Fortunately, this motion was tabled for a month in order to allow CIIP Committee members, three of whom were not present, to walk the roadway and evaluate the engineers’ plans.

The month delay also will give Town property owners, especially those who live on South Dogwood Trail, the time they need and deserve to make their own evaluations and to communicate with the CIIP Committee and the Town Council. The CIIP’s next meeting will be Thursday, March 7, at 2 p.m., in the Pitts Center.

The Beacon was unable to cover the Wednesday committee meeting firsthand because its correspondent was called away at the last minute.

The design work for the proposed South Dogwood Trail sidewalk calls for construction in two segments, as referenced above: Segment 1) from the North-South-East Dogwoods intersection south to Fairway Drive, and segment 2) from Fairway Drive south to the cemetery.

PLEASE NOTE: The design plans for the sidewalk construction that are available online do not include widening of South Dogwood Trail. 

You will find the preliminary designs for the first segment, updated just yesterday, here:

https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/south-dogwood-trail-walking-trail-preliminary-plan-design/.

The latest designs for the second segment date to March 28, 2018 and may be accessed here: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/3-28-18-south-dogwood-trail-walking-trail-preliminary-plandesign-segment-1-fairway-dr-cemetery/.

You also may view these plans in hard-copy form in the Town Hall conference room. If the sidewalk construction moves ahead, the committee intends to begin with an initial section from the Dogwoods intersection to Sassafras Lane.

(The Beacon prefers to refer to the proposed walkways as sidewalks, instead of walking trails, the term used by the Town, because they will be made of concrete, not a natural material commonly used for trails. They will look like the sidewalk running along the south side of East Dogwood Trail.

(The Beacon also questions why they must be 5-feet-wide, instead of 3-½ feet-wide, like the much more attractive, earth-tone sidewalks in Chicahauk, which blend in better with the environment.)

Co-Chairpersons Bennett and Conners are joined by five other committee members: Jim Kranda, who was appointed by former Town Councilman Leo Holland; Carlos Gomez, appointed by Councilman Gary McDonald; Al Ewerling, appointed by Councilman Fred Newberry; Andy McConaughy, appointed by Councilman Christopher Nason; and Glenn Riggin, whom the Mayor appointed.

That Mr. Conners, the Council member with the least seniority, is a co-chairperson of this highly important committee, while Councilmen Nason, Newberry, and McDonald have no committee assignments—Mr. Nason serves on the Dare County Tourist Bureau—strikes The Beacon as improper and prejudicial. Inasmuch as Mr. Conners routinely votes with Mayor Bennett on Town Council matters, his selection also limits the diversity of viewpoints expressed in the committee, to the detriment of the public, The Beacon believes.

It also seems improper and biased to The Beacon to permit Mayor Bennett to name a member to the committee—essentially, doubling his vote—and to permit Mr. Holland’s appointment to continue now that Mr. Holland is no longer on the Town Council. A committee of five people is more than sufficient to do the CIIP’s business. The Beacon believes the committee should be revamped.

MUCH AFOOT IN SOUTHERN SHORES: TOWN CODE REWRITE

In addition to this sudden committee move toward widening South Dogwood Trail, The Beacon is tasked with reporting on the draft proposal of the new Town Code of Ordinances, and the agenda for the Feb. 5 Town Council meeting, which includes important public hearings on zoning-text amendments that seek to control high-occupancy dwellings and limit development on nonconforming lots.

Here are links to the agenda and meeting packet for the Feb. 5 meeting:

Agenda: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/minutes-agendas-newsletters/Agendas_2019-02-05.pdf.

Meeting packet: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/minutes-agendas-newsletters/Meeting-Packet_2019-02-05.pdf

The Beacon will brief you soon on the zoning-text amendments, especially the one that seeks to except specific 50-foot-wide lots from the scope of the new nonconforming-lots ordinance, which is codified at Town Code sec. 36-132. (You’ll find an update of the ordinance in the draft Town Code, but not in the Code section that is currently online.)

As for the proposed Town Code, The Beacon is of the mind that the draft needs further review and is seeking citizen volunteers to assist in that effort. If you are interested in being a reader/monitor/editor, please write to The Beacon at ssbeaconeditor@gmail.com.

At the public forum last night, consultant Chad Meadows, of CodeWright Planners LLC., advised that Town Attorney Ben Gallop will review the draft this month and the Town Planning Board will consider it in March and April, with an eye toward recommending those chapters that Mr. Meadows said the Board is required by North Carolina law to recommend. They include chapters 22 (zoning); 26 (subdivisions); 28 (flood damage prevention); and parts of chapters two (administration) and four (definitions).

No members of the Town Planning Board attended the public forum. Deputy Town Manager/Planning Director Wes Haskett was there, however, as were Mr. Rascoe, Mr. Gallop, Mayor Bennett, and all other members of the Town Council.

Mr. Meadows, who is a professional planner, not an attorney, authored the draft. The Beacon was not keen on hearing him refer to the Town Code last night as a “development code,” instead of uniformly as a code of ordinances. Ordinances are regulations, statutes, laws. Mr. Meadows has rewritten many of Southern Shores’ laws.

Perhaps the consultant has improved on them; perhaps he has not. Sections of the ordinances pertaining to lighting, street parking, and noise that were read aloud by property owners at last night’s meeting left little doubt that they needed substantial change. Indeed, Mr. Meadows himself referred to the language of the noise ordinance as “loosey-goosey.”

The Beacon believes it behooves property owners to find out how and where the Town Code has changed, especially for the worse, and to report their findings to the Town Council, whose members are not going to pore through the draft’s 381 pages. This requires an organized effort. If you would like to participate, please contact The Beacon.

AND FINALLY, CIRCLE THE DATE: The Town Council will hold a planning session on Tues., Feb. 26, at 9 a.m., in the Pitts Center.   

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 2/1/19

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