The Town Council will decide tomorrow whether it will approve the enactment of septic-capacity and occupancy restrictions on residential dwellings, which are designed to prevent structures like the 12-bedroom, 24-person-capacity structures being built by SAGA Construction Inc. on the oceanfront and to preserve the town’s low-density environment.
The Council voted, 3-2, at its April 3 meeting to approve a zoning measure that would limit the septic capacity in all houses in Southern Shores, and the overnight occupancy in all of the town’s “vacation cottages,” to 14 persons. But a “supermajority” of four of the five Council members was required upon “first reading” to pass the measure, known as zoning text amendment (ZTA) 19-01PB, into law.
The vote tomorrow on the measure’s second reading requires only a simple majority of three members for approval. The Council will meet at 5:30 p.m. in the Pitts Center.
ZTA 19-01PB was unanimously recommended by the Town Planning Board, which spent months hearing from the public about options for curtailing large high-occupancy houses before it drafted the ZTA. The zoning text amendment amends three sections of the Town Code: sections 36-57 (definitions); 36-202 (RS-1 single-family residential district); and sections 36-204 and 36-205 (other residential districts).
On first reading last month, Mayor Tom Bennett and Councilmen Fred Newberry and Gary McDonald voted to pass ZTA 19-01PB. Councilmen Christopher Nason and Jim Conners opposed it. (See The Beacon’s reports on 4/3/19 and 4/4/19.)
The public will have an opportunity to comment on ZTA 19-01PB, which The Beacon has covered extensively, before the Council votes. There will not be another full public hearing, however.
Here is the text of ZTA 19-01PB:
A key provision of the ZTA is the creation of a new permitted use in the town’s residential districts of a vacation cottage, which is defined by its use for “transient occupancy.” The ZTA defines transient occupancy as follows:
“overnight occupancy in a residential structure for periods of less than thirty (30) days for vacation, leisure, recreation or other purposes by a person or persons who have a place of residence to which they intend to return including when such property or structure is offered in whole or in part for rent or use by the day, week, or other period of less than thirty (30) days.”
In imposing the 14-person overnight-occupancy limit, the zoning measure provides that vacation cottages shall not be “advertised to accommodate, designed for, constructed for or actually occupied by more than fourteen overnight occupants.”
The overnight-occupancy limit does not apply to residential dwellings that are not used as vacation cottages. But the maximum septic capacity of 14 overnight occupants applies to all dwellings, regardless of their use.
Despite some reservations about its wording, The Beacon supports enactment of ZTA 19-01PB and would like to see the Town Council unanimously support the Planning Board.
OTHER BUSINESS: THE BEACON URGES TOWN TO SPARE ICONIC YAUPON TRAIL TREE, ERECT STOP SIGN OR MIRROR INSTEAD
Also on the Town Council’s agenda tomorrow are:
*A vote on a resolution to oppose offshore drilling and seismic testing (The Council has previously expressed opposition);
*The appointment of a town representative to the Dare County Land Transfer Tax Appeal Board (The term of current representative, Michael Stone, expires June 30);
*Consideration of a request by the Mallard Cove Association that the town assume ownership of its private road;
*Consideration of the possibility of a Dare County branch library in Southern Shores and the appointment of a citizen committee to explore this possibility;
*A request by Mayor Bennett that the Council authorize removal of the iconic Yaupon Trail tree at the road’s intersection with South Dogwood Trail for safety reasons.
See the agenda here: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/minutes-agendas-newsletters/Agendas_2019-05-07.pdf
And the meeting packet here: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/minutes-agendas-newsletters/Meeting-Packet_2019-05-07.pdf
The Beacon would support the establishment of a Dare County branch library in Southern Shores if the county assumes all of the costs for establishing and operating it. The library proposal that Councilman Conners has presented to the Council states that the county would fund it. The Beacon would not support a donation of land by the town for this purpose.
The Beacon further finds commendable the idea of dedicating space within a Southern Shores-based library to a children’s room, a community meeting room, and public-access computers. (See the meeting packet for Mr. Conners’s report on the library proposal.)
The Beacon strongly opposes the destruction of the large iconic tree at the intersection of Yaupon Trail and South Dogwood Trail—a move that a group of Yaupon Trail homeowners seeks through a petition presented to the Mayor. The Beacon empathizes with the homeowners’ frustration over having their intersection reconfigured, but would like to see less invasive means taken to address it.
The Beacon supports the reinstallation of the stop sign that stood for decades on the south-bound side of South Dogwood Trail, at this intersection, or, alternatively, the installation of a mirror, similar to the one erected at the intersection of Tall Pine Lane and South Dogwood Trail, which enables drivers turning right (south) from Tall Pine Lane to see northbound traffic on Dogwood.
In developing the roads in Southern Shores’ maritime forest, the town’s developers, especially David Stick, sought to preserve the environmental aesthetics as much as possible by saving the trees. Hence, part of North Dogwood Trail has a large treed median strip in the middle of it, many of the streets are narrow, and, until the recent completion of the Yaupon Trail repaving project, Yaupon Trail had an unusual split entry/exit to and from South Dogwood Trail.
The engineering plan for the Yaupon Trail repaving eliminated the fork in the road, thus narrowing the entrance to/exit from Yaupon Trail. Before this re-engineering occurred, Yaupon Trail homeowners wanted to preserve their signature tree, according to Mayor Bennett.
(I have test-driven the new intersection and did not find the tree to be an obstruction. I could see northbound traffic, but I had to stop fully and emerge slowly. I found the narrowing of the road to be more annoying.)
A two-way, or even a three-way, stop at this intersection would give Yaupon Trail residents the protection and space they need when they emerge from their street and turn right (south) on to South Dogwood Trail. It also would serve as a calming device for other motorists on the road, especially during the heavily-traveled summer weekends.
Short of that, a strategically placed mirror is an easy fix.
Mayor Bennett has said publicly that the Yaupon Trail tree is alive and healthy. It should not be sacrificed because of engineering error or oversight. The Beacon urges the Town Council to bring back the stop sign or to install a mirror.
TOWN CONTACTS HOMEOWNER ABOUT HIS COMPLAINT AGAINST SAGA ‘SPECIAL-EVENT HOUSES’ ONE DAY AFTER BEACON BLOG
Resident homeowner Tony DiBernardo, who complained at the March 5 Town Council meeting that SAGA Construction had advertised its proposed structures at 98 and 134 Ocean Blvd. for rent through Carolina Designs Realty as “special-event houses” with a capacity for housing 100 guests, heard from Deputy Town Manager/Planning Director Wes Haskett after The Beacon published its 4/29/19 blog asking what the Town had done about his complaint.
According to Mr. DiBernardo, whom The Beacon contacted last week for a followup, he also filed a written complaint with the Town about SAGA’s advertised event houses on March 14. Until last Tuesday, however, a day after The Beacon’s blog appeared, he had not received any word from the Town about a resolution.
Mr. DiBernardo told The Beacon that Mr. Haskett contacted him by email last Tuesday, and he was “satisfied” with the action the Town had taken.
In an email with The Beacon, Mr. DiBernardo said Mr. Haskett told him the Town had notified Carolina Designs that the property owners cannot use either structure as an event house, and, if they do, the Town will “move forward with enforcement.”
In an email exchange that The Beacon had with Mr. Haskett on Friday, May 3, he reported that “Carolina Designs was contacted directly by the Town and warned of the definition of Event Facility as defined in Section 36-57 of the Town Code.” He also said that a “condition will be included in the Certificate of Compliance/Occupancy for both properties that states that the property shall not be used as an Event Facility as defined in Section 36-57.”
In my inquiry, I asked Mr. Haskett with whom Town staff communicated at Carolina Designs, what mode of communication the Town staff used, and when (what date) the Town staff took action. I assumed that Mr. Haskett had initiated contact because the complaint was a matter of code enforcement. I also assumed that a written report of the disposition of the complaint would have been prepared for the official record and given to Mr. DiBernardo.
Mr. Haskett advised me that “the Town Manager [Peter Rascoe] called and verbally discussed the advertisements with a principal of Carolina Designs on the morning of March 6th, and warned her the advertisements were worded such that they possibly could be interpreted as advertising for a facility with a ‘primary purpose of hosting pre-planned events.’”
The definition of event facility in the Town Code is “an establishment, structure or property designed, maintained, advertised or actually used for the primary purpose of hosting pre-planned events.”
Event facilities are not permitted in Southern Shores’ residential districts, only in its commercial district, which is on the south edge of town.
Mr. Haskett referred me to Mr. Rascoe with any further questions.
It is The Beacon’s opinion that Mr. Rascoe and/or Mr. Haskett should have contacted the property owners of 98 and 134 Ocean Blvd. directly, not their rental agent. The Town should have written to SAGA’s investor groups, 98 Ocean Blvd. LLC and 134 Ocean Blvd. LLC, informing them of the complaint that had been received and quoting provisions of the Town Code regarding permissible uses in the RS-1 single-family residential district.
The Town’s warnings should have been directed to the property owners.
As for further questions of the Town Manager, I will leave them to the Town Council, to whom Mr. Rascoe reports. Mr. Rascoe made no mention of his followup with Carolina Designs during the report he gave at the Council’s April meeting. Perhaps he can include details of his communication in his report tomorrow.
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 5/6/19