The repair of Hillcrest Drive from its intersection with Hickory Trail north to the SSCA tennis courts emerged unanimously at the March 7th Capital Infrastructure Improvement Planning (CIIP) Committee meeting as the committee’s current top recommended priority “target” for road improvements in Southern Shores in fiscal year 2019-20.
The seven-member committee, which is co-chaired by Mayor Tom Bennett and Town Councilman Jim Conners, will meet May 30 to take final stock of its recommendations, factoring in new road conditions in need of attention that may have arisen in the interim.
The Town Council considers the committee’s priority-target list when it makes a final decision in June on selected road improvements.
Also in May, the CIIP Committee will be considering any recommendations that members have for how to change the Town’s street standards to make them more environmentally friendly, particularly in regard to preserving the maritime forest. (See below.)
After Hillcrest Drive, which is beaten down by vacationer cut-through traffic every summer, the CIIP Committee unanimously approved the following projects, in descending order:
*(2) East Dogwood Trail, from N.C. Hwy. 12 east to Ocean Boulevard, a stretch of 670 linear feet (“LF”), which also requires stormwater improvement;
*(3) Sea Oats Trail, from 11th Avenue north to Sea Oats Court (about 1,110 LF), although the committee also discussed repairing the road north to its intersection with Hwy. 12 and constructing a five-foot-wide sidewalk from Hwy. 12 to Sea Oats Court;
*(4) Dewberry Lane, a 230-linear-foot road off of Bayberry Trail near its intersection with East Dogwood Trail; and
*(5) Wax Myrtle Trail, from its intersection with East Dogwood Trail south to its end (about 2,720 LF), including Dolphin Run and Porpoise Run.
Town Manager Peter Rascoe said he had “redone” the latest list of priority targets “in light of recent meetings,” during which homeowners strongly objected to a proposed widening of South Dogwood Trail, a project that the co-chairs and other committee members had elevated to a high-priority status. (See The Beacon, 2/1/19, 2/8/19, 2/13/19, and 2/21/19.)
“Any reference to South Dogwood Trail, and any reference to a comprehensive plan” involving South Dogwood Trail, Mr. Rascoe said, “have been removed.”
South Dogwood Trail’s ranking as a priority target is now No. 11. There are 22 projects on the list, assigned to one of three groups: A, B, and C, with “A” consisting of the top four targets.
Mr. Rascoe, to whom the co-chairpersons usually defer in CIIP Committee meetings, also characterized the decision whether to rank the Hillcrest Drive project or the Sea Oats Trail project as the No. 1 priority as “a coin toss” for him and engineers with Deel Engineering, PLLC, with whom he consults.
Southern Shores has a contract with Deel Engineering that expires June 30.
Like Hillcrest Drive, the targeted section of Sea Oats Trail is also part of the well-traveled cut-through route.
In addition to the committee members and Mr. Rascoe, Deputy Town Manager/Planning Director Wes Haskett, Police Chief David Kole, Public Works Director David Bradley, and Deel engineers Andy Deel and Joseph Anlauf also attended the March 7 meeting.
Mr. Rascoe announced that the projected budget for capital street funds in FY 19-20 is $662,340, which represents a levy of 5 cents (.05) on the current Town tax base value.
“You’re not going to get through one, two, three, four [on the priority list] in one fiscal year,” Mr. Anlauf said.
“Hillcrest Drive,” he observed, “will account for the full budget.”
SIDEWALKS ON HILLCREST, SEA OATS, AND EAST DOGWOOD, AND PRESERVATION OF THE MARITIME FOREST
The proposed Sea Oats Trail project seemed to grow with the CIIP Committee’s consideration of it. It remains to be seen how much of the road between its intersections with Hillcrest Drive and Duck Road (Hwy. 12) will be targeted for improvement, when it eventually is done.
Committee member Glenn Riggin suggested constructing a “walking path” on the north side of the street from Sea Oats Court to the intersection of Sea Oats Trail with Duck Road. Member Andy McConaughy supported that idea and suggested that a similar sidewalk be considered for Hillcrest Drive, near its intersection with Duck Road.
Police Chief Kole said he thought any sidewalk on Sea Oats Trail should go beyond Sea Oats Court, for safety reasons, and Mr. Anlauf said the preferred side for a sidewalk on the street, from an engineer’s perspective, is the south side. (Sea Oats Trail runs north-south until Sea Oats Court, when it curves east toward Duck Road.)
Flooding is a problem on Sea Oats Trail in this area. Because of “huge stormwater problems,” Mr. Anlauf said, “The shoulders of the road will have to change dramatically from what you see now.”
Mr. Rascoe reported that he also had evaluated the East Dogwood Trail block between Duck Road and Ocean Boulevard for sidewalk construction. Based on his and Mr. Bradley’s “eyeballing” of the road and the right of way, Mr. Rascoe concluded that “a narrow sidewalk,” of 36 to 48 inches in width, could be built on the south side.
After the discussion about priority targets ended, committee member Carlos Gomez brought up changing Town street standards to better “protect the value of the maritime forest.”
Mr. Gomez made a protracted motion—one of two he had in mind—that seemingly would have tasked the Town Planning Board, the committee, or another group, with reevaluating the Town street standards so as to “maximize preservation of the forest.”
In his presentation, Mr. Gomez referred to the conflict that arose in town recently with the proposed widening of South Dogwood Trail and suggested that the Town should do more to individualize street standards so as to protect the forest, which he called a “treasure” that gives Southern Shores much of its “identity.”
Committee member Al Ewerling, who lives on South Dogwood Trail, agreed that “the look and feeling” of a road, which are part of the “overall ambiance of the town,” should be factored into any road-design standards.
It was unclear what, specifically, Mr. Gomez was requesting in the one motion he made, which Mr. Ewerling seconded. Turning the discussion toward practicalities, Mr. Rascoe suggested that the emphasis be on “specific changes,” rather than on aspirations.
Theoretically, Mr. Rascoe pointed out, the Town could specify that no trees be removed during any road rebuilds.
Although Mayor Bennett expressed a willingness to consider changes to the street standards, his co-chair, Mr. Conners, opposed such scrutiny, defending the current standards as comprehensive.
The Mayor eventually proposed that committee members do their “homework” and come back in May “with recommendations on how to change standards or not.” Mr. Gomez accepted this approach and withdrew his motion.
A FINAL NOTE ON SUMMERTIME TRAFFIC: The CIIP Committee meeting ended with a note of divisiveness when Mr. McConaughy brought up diverting vacationer traffic away from the residential cut-through route and asked about last summer’s no-left-turn (“NLT”) weekend. He met immediate resistance from Police Chief Kole, Councilman Conners, and others.
In The Beacon’s opinion, the same biases that existed last June when the NLT weekend took place—and was a resounding success—still exist and do not bode well for residents.
Frankly, The Beacon does not understand why Chief Kole is not doing everything that he can to help year-round Southern Shores residents on summertime weekends. He is a public employee/servant. The Beacon also does not see the humor in the Chief’s reference to drivers speeding through our neighborhoods as “job security.”
It is undeniable that the traffic flow through the Southern Shores woods and dunes and along N.C. Hwy. 12 during the NLT weekend was vastly improved over the usual summertime traffic flow.
The cut-through traffic, which usually emerges at the intersections of Hillcrest Drive/Duck Road, 11th Avenue/Duck Road, and Sea Oats Trail/Duck Road, was not present to jam up Duck Road, so the thoroughfare traffic moved smoothly, as well. The only backup I witnessed on Duck Road occurred on the Saturday afternoon of the NLT weekend. Sunday was a breeze.
The Chief complained at the CIIP Committee meeting about the manpower his department invested in the NLT experiment and the few calls he received from residents on Wax Myrtle Trail and Sea Oats Trail, between East Dogwood Trail and Hillcrest Drive, who saw a slight uptick in traffic in front of their houses.
In a discussion after the committee meeting adjourned, Mr. McConaughy suggested hiring a contractor to handle the erection of barrels, which the Town could purchase, to block the left-turn lane on U.S. 158 at the South Dogwood Trail intersection. Certainly, the Town has ample funds to dedicate to preventing cut-through traffic in the residential district, and, thereby, also improving flow on Hwy. 12, if it so chooses.
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 3/11/19