4/3/19: MAJORITY OF TOWN COUNCIL FAVORS ZTA 19-01PB, TO PREVENT LARGE HIGH-OCCUPANCY HOUSES, BUT FALLS ONE VOTE SHORT OF PASSAGE; SECOND READING TO BE HELD MAY 7; NO DECISION MADE ON BEACH NOURISHMENT

SAGA0402
The proposed 12-bedroom structure at 98 Ocean Blvd. as it appeared on April 2. Because of pending litigation, developer SAGA Construction & Development is building its mega-structure, which it advertised for rent through Carolina Designs as a special-event house with a capacity of 100 guests, at its own risk. See http://www.nominihotels.com for more information.

The Town Council voted last night in favor of approving zoning changes designed to prevent the construction of large high-occupancy houses, but not by the “super-majority” needed for immediate passage. The Council will have a second reading of zoning text amendment (ZTA) 19-01PB, which received support last night from three Council members, at its May 7 meeting.

The Town Council also heard from 18 property owners during its public hearing on beach nourishment, but made no decision on the three replenishment options proposed by Aptim Coastal Planning & Engineering of N.C., Inc. (APTIM) that were the impetus for the hearing. Mayor Tom Bennett informed the large crowd at the Pitts Center that the Council would “take time to deliberate over the next few months.”

The Beacon will publish a full report on last night’s Town Council meeting tomorrow. Today’s blog is a summary of the key action that occurred.

The Town Council divided sharply in a lengthy discussion about ZTA 19-01PB, its consequences, and its enforcement. The proposed Town Code amendment restricts occupancy in all houses within the town’s residential districts by limiting the septic capacity to 14 overnight occupants and further caps the number of overnight occupants in “vacation cottages,” which the ZTA defines by “transient occupancy,” to 14.

Here is the text of ZTA 19-01PB, which the five-member Town Planning Board unanimously recommended:

https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/ZTA-19-01PB-PBVacationCottagesHDSepticCapacityLimit-HREMv001.pdf

Councilman Jim Conners supported the septic-capacity restriction in ZTA 19-01PB, but not the creation of a new permissible “use” within the residential districts of a vacation cottage.

“A single-family home is a single-family home,” Mr. Conners said, in support of a motion that he made to approve the ZTA, “without mention” of vacation cottage or transient occupancy. Mayor Bennett seconded Mr. Conners’s motion.

After Mr. Conners’s motion failed, 4-1, ZTA 19-01PB, as written, without amendment, was approved 3-2, with Mayor Bennett and Councilmen Gary McDonald and Fred Newberry voting in favor of it. Councilman Christopher Nason joined Mr. Conners in opposition.

A super-majority of four of the five Council members must approve a zoning text amendment for it to be enacted on first reading. On second reading, only a simple majority is required for passage. Therefore, if the same three Council members approve ZTA 19-01PB in May, it will become town law.

The only action the Town Council took on the prospect of nourishing the town’s shoreline north of Pelican Watch was to approve amending the fiscal year 2018-19 budget to authorize funding for a beach-profile survey by APTIM in June.

APTIM performed a baseline survey of Southern Shores beaches in 2017. The company “profiled” 22 shoreline locations, which are spaced 1,000 feet apart from each other.

According to APTIM vice president Kenneth Willson, who presented the results of the profile survey to the Town Council at its March 6, 2018 meeting, the survey showed that 1) the shoreline is “stable,” having lost only 0.4 feet between 2006 and 2017; and 2) the volume of sand in the system increased during the same time period.

The June survey will assess any changes that have occurred in the past two years.

Of the 18 people who spoke during the public hearing on APTIM’s proposals, 11 of them favored beach nourishment, generally, without addressing the consultant’s vulnerability assessment and beach management plan, which Mr. Willson submitted Dec. 21, 2018.

Of these 11 people, six have property on Seventh Avenue, which is not included in any of the beach-nourishment options proposed by APTIM, and three of them have property or an association with the Pelican Watch development at the southern end of Southern Shores near the Kitty Hawk Pier.

The historically vulnerable Pelican Watch oceanfront, whose topography is more like that of Kitty Hawk’s than the remainder of Southern Shores, is already in a nourishment plan and is scheduled for maintenance in 2022.

Of the remaining two proponents, one has property on Sixth Avenue; and the other said her oceanfront at Purple Martin Lane has narrowed significantly in the past 37 years.

Opponents and those more neutral in their assessment of beach nourishment spoke of a lack of coastal-engineering data to support a Southern Shores project; the high cost taxpayers would incur if the Town were to green-light a project; the lack of Town planning for simultaneously funding numerous big-ticket budget items, including the new fire station, continued infrastructure improvements, and possible replacement or renovation of the Town building complex; and the timing.

“We need to have more transparency on how much this is going to cost,” said Yvonne Duiker of Kingfisher Trail. Actual numbers.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more meeting details.

WE CAN’T HEAR YOU! AND WE’RE UNNECESSARILY CONFUSED!

I would like to conclude this blog report by encouraging the Town Council, the Town Attorney, the Town Manager, and anyone else associated with the Town to speak up and to enunciate during town meetings. Please stop mumbling. As a play director would say: Project so that the people in the back of the theater can hear you!

I think I speak for many of the people who attended last night’s meeting when I say that much of what was said, particularly by soft-spoken Town Council members, was lost. This is not the first time this has occurred. If you can’t speak so that your audience hears you, please get a microphone. And, Council members, when you vote on a measure, if you can’t say “yay” or “nay” loudly, then please raise your hand high and keep it up so that people will see it.

The only Council member who speaks so that he can be heard and understood is Councilman Jim Conners, and I thank him for that courtesy.

I also believe that last night’s meeting’s proceedings were more confusing than they should have been. The Town Council and Town staff need to advise people in the audience about what, specifically, is happening. At a minimum, the Mayor should give a recap of all motions that are made, who seconded them, what the votes were, and, if they weren’t unanimous, how each Council member voted.

Town Attorney Ben Gallop had a tall order last night in explaining ZTA 19-01PB and 19-01CUP, which, even if you’ve read them, as I have, are difficult to process.

So as not to lose property owners who would like to be informed, but don’t have the time, savvy, and/or inclination to navigate links on the Town website, or to sort through an 82-page agenda packet, I would like to suggest that the Town provide paper copies of the ZTAs when public hearings are held.

Yes, there would be an expense associated with printing paper copies, but it would be money well-spent.

And speaking of money well-spent, I wonder how many people in the audience know how much APTIM’s beach survey in June will cost the Town. At no time during the Town Council’s consideration of the FY 2018-19 budget amendment was the cost of the survey stated. It should have been.

Answer: $15,000. I’ve heard the figure before, and I looked it up in the agenda packet to confirm it.

But now I’m confused. At its March 6, 2018 meeting, the Town Council unanimously authorized paying APTIM $94,000 in FY 2018-19 for 1) a vulnerability assessment of oceanfront structures; 2) continued monitoring of beach profiles (in calendar year 2019); and 3) a determination of the minimum cross-section of sand volume that would be needed to reduce potential storm damage on the oceanfront.

No. 2 above is the same survey for which the Town Council just authorized paying $15,000, by withdrawing monies from the Town’s unassigned fund balance. But the Town Council approved allocating $34,000 for this survey in March 2018 and $60,000 for the vulnerability assessment and volume determination.

So, what became of the $94,000 that the Council approved? Did APTIM run over its projected costs? Did the Town pay $75,000 for nos. 1 and 3, leaving APTIM with only $19,000 to apply to the beach survey, for which it wants/needs $34,000?

Here again, an explanation is warranted. Property owners are entitled to know how much and for what the Town has paid APTIM so far and how much more it expects to pay. Property owners deserve an accounting.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, April 3, 2019

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s