2/6/19: TOWN COUNCIL SENDS NONCONFORMING LOTS ZTA BACK TO PLANNING BOARD, TABLES LARGE-HOUSE ZTA; COUNCILMAN NASON OFFERS TO RECUSE HIMSELF; HOMEOWNERS REJECT COYOTES AND SUGGESTED WIDENING OF SOUTH DOGWOOD TRAIL IN UNUSUALLY ACTIVE MEETING

Stevegudas
Steve Gudas protests yesterday against SAGA’s “mini-hotel” at 98 Ocean Blvd. Gudas, who owns a flat top on Wax Myrtle Trail with his wife, Sally, demonstrated in the public right-of-way across from SAGA’s mini-hotel at 134 Ocean Blvd. today. Because of pending litigation, SAGA is building both structures at its own risk. See nominihotels.com for more information.

The Southern Shores Town Council unanimously voted at its meeting last night to send the latest version of the nonconforming-lots zoning text amendment back to the Planning Board for further work and to table action on the ZTA creating an oceanfront overlay district until it receives the Planning Board’s recommendations for how to restrict high-occupancy large structures in town.

On Jan. 22, the Planning Board unanimously voted, with one abstention, not to recommend ZTA 18-10, which came out of a motion unanimously supported by the Town Council at its Nov. 7 special meeting on large houses. ZTA 18-10 would have defined an overlay district that encompassed the oceanfront and regulated housing within it according to specific factors, such as building height and setbacks.

During an unusually active session, the Town Council also took up or heard public comments last night on a wide range of issues, including the proposed widening of South Dogwood Trail, the threat of coyotes, damage repair on Juniper Trail, the town’s recent targeting of yard signs, and the response from Southern Shores’ representatives in the N.C. General Assembly to the town’s resolution seeking legislative approval to regulate density and occupancy by restricting the number of bedrooms in dwellings. (Resolution #2019-01-01)

The Planning Board is expected to take up the zoning text amendments that it directed Town staff to prepare in order to preserve low-density development in Southern Shores at its Feb. 19 meeting. (The meeting will be 5:30 p.m. in the Pitts Center.)

At least, this is The Beacon’s expectation. After last night’s hearing on the nonconforming lots ZTA 18-09 (see below), I’m not quite sure.

Although the Planning Board approved various means for controlling density and occupancy, such as limiting septic capacity in dwellings, as well as some of the language for a ZTA, it has not yet seen the Town Attorney’s drafts.

It has now been more than four months since the Town officially learned of SAGA’s proposed mega-structures at 98 and 134 Ocean Blvd., and it has taken no action to prevent other such structures from being built.

Neither Senator Bob Steinberg (R) nor Representative Bobby Hanig (R) supported Resolution #2019-01-01, according to Mayor Tom Bennett, who, along with three members of the Outer Banks Homebuilders Assn., met with the two legislators and members of the N.C. Homebuilders Assn. and their legal counsel, in Raleigh Jan. 29. According to the Mayor, with whom The Beacon spoke after the meeting, Duck Mayor Don Kingston did not attend.

Twelve people spoke during the general public-comment period of the Town Council meeting, five of them about the town’s coyote population and three about the possibility of widening South Dogwood Trail. Neither the coyotes nor the road widening, which was promoted at last week’s Capital Infrastructure Improvements Committee meeting, received support. In fact, comments offered about South Dogwood Trail’s future became quite heated.

Homeowner Tommy Karole, who lives near the intersection of South Dogwood Trail with East Dogwood Trail, pointedly asked: “Where does the idea of widening of South Dogwood Trail come from?”

Public sentiment in recent years has been squarely against such an idea.

The Beacon plans to address both South Dogwood Trail and the coyote threat, separately and in detail, in future blogs.

Last night’s meeting was so chock-full of business and commentary, and the phrases turned by some of the participants so critical, that The Beacon will be delaying its full meeting report until after the videotape is online and after it does additional reporting.

THE PLANNING BOARD, NONCONFORMING LOTS, & A RECUSAL OFFER

The Planning Board has been struggling for some time with “refining” the new nonconforming lots ordinance, which passed last September and is codified in Town Code sec. 36-132.

The nonconforming lots ZTA version (ZTA 18-09PB) that Town Attorney Ben Gallop said last night was recommended by the Planning Board was the third it had considered and was not actually seen in final form by the Board.

This irregularity troubled The Beacon, but no one on the Town Council seemed concerned. In fact, Town Councilman Jim Conners made a motion to approve the so-called “PB” version; but his motion died without a second.

While Mr. Conners’s motion was pending, Councilman Christopher Nason offered to recuse himself because of his business relationship with Steven Love and his wife, Katherine Gorman, who own the nonconforming lot at 64 Ocean Blvd. through their limited liability corporation, For the Love of Pete. “Pete” has applied for a CAMA permit on the site, but the Town has not issued it because the current Town Code ordinance on nonconforming lots (sec. 36-132) prevents Mr. Love and Ms. Gorman from developing it.

Mr. Nason admitted that he had prepared building plans for the site—which are on file in the Town Planning Department—but said last night that he is no longer “the architect of record.” In assessing his recusal, Mr. Gallop did not inquire as to when Mr. Nason ceased to be the Loves’ architect, nor did he ask any other questions.

The exchange between Mr. Gallop and Mr. Nason struck The Beacon as incomplete.

Mr. Nason indicated that he had spoken with Mr. Gallop before the meeting, but Mr. Gallop did not divulge the facts of their conversation. (The Beacon will review the videotape for the precise representations each public official made.)

The Town Attorney represents the Town Council, as a whole body, not its individual members, so Mr. Nason does not have attorney-client privilege.

Although Mr. Gallop rendered an opinion that Mr. Nason should be recused, no one on the Town Council made a motion to effect a recusal, purportedly because no motion arose on which Mr. Nason had to recuse himself.

Usually, Deputy Town Manager/Planning Director Wes Haskett presents a staff report on a ZTA before a public hearing is held. This time, he deferred to Mr. Gallop, who explained the three ZTA 18-09 versions that the Town Councilmen had before them. (See The Beacon’s report, 2/4/19, for background.)

Councilman Gary McDonald also ended up deferring to the Town Attorney in framing a motion that he made to send ZTA 18-09PB back to the Planning Board with specific instructions.

The rather convoluted motion that the Council passed unanimously, with Mr. Nason’s vote, seeks a comprehensive identification and equitable assessment of the (vacant) nonconforming lots in town. Heretofore, the Planning Board has sought to carve out exceptions for certain property owners because of the circumstances by which they acquired their nonconforming lots and the value of their investments.

Among the Town Council members, Councilman Fred Newberry objected most strenuously to “changing ordinances to accommodate individual circumstances.”

“There may be an approach that’s more wholistic,” Planning Board Chairperson Elizabeth Morey told the Council, later adding “There should be a better way to get to where we wanted to be.”

Mr. McDonald asked the Planning Board to “look at them all” [nonconforming lots in town] and then “come back with something that works.” That task is expected to be undertaken by Ms. Morey, Planning Board member Andy Ward, Mr. Gallop, and Mr. Haskett.

“The four of us will hash this out,” Mr. Ward told the Council.

The Beacon will conclude its meeting report there, with the assurance that it will revisit many of the issues discussed at a later date.

Folks who live in Chicahauk can expect Juniper Trail to be closed for a week while damage done during the recent road-improvement project near the south end is repaired. More on that later, too.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 2/6/19

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