5/21/19: CATCHING UP: PLANNING BOARD OKs 20-FOOT ADDITION TO CELL TOWER, PLANS TO TACKLE EVENT FACILITIES; CIIP COMMITTEE TO TAKE UP $1 MILLION SOUTH DOGWOOD TRAIL SIDEWALK; AGENDA FOR TOWN COUNCIL’S JUNE 4 MEETING EXPECTED TO BE HEAVY

celltower
A proposed 20-foot extension of the cell tower at the Ocean Boulevard-Duck Road split is part of a plan to improve phone service for Verizon Wireless customers.

News in Southern Shores has been slow since the Town Council unanimously passed zoning regulations that limit septic capacity and overnight occupancy in vacation cottages to 14 persons. That May 7 breakthrough—the culmination of months of effort by town officials, the Planning Board, the Town Attorney, and many homeowners—deserved to be recognized with a collective sigh of achievement and a break. (See The Beacon, 5/8/19, 5/9/19, and 5/11/19.)

The break is now over.

The Planning Board sprang back into action last night with a short meeting, during which it unanimously approved, with a number of conditions, a 20-foot extension of the cell tower at the Southern Shores Civic Assn.’s Triangle Park, and discussed the possibility of recommending additional restrictions on “events” and “event facilities” in town. (See below.)

The Capital Infrastructure Improvement Planning (CIIP) Committee will meet May 30 and address the proposed sidewalk for South Dogwood Trail, for which $1 million has been appropriated in the Town’s fiscal year 2019-20 budget, and on June 4, the Council will take up a heavy, wide-ranging agenda at its monthly meeting.

You may view the design plans for the five-foot-wide concrete sidewalk proposed for the east side of South Dogwood Trail at:

https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/design-plans-s-dogwood-trail-walking-trail/

The Town’s engineer recently submitted the plans for the section of the sidewalk that would run over the heavily forested and hilly area from Fairway Drive south to the cemetery. He will present these plans at the CIIP Committee’s meeting, which convenes at 2 p.m. in the Pitts Center.

In an unprecedented move, a three-person majority of Mayor Tom Bennett and Councilmen Jim Conners and Christopher Nason approved the transfer of nearly $1 million from the Town’s undesignated fund balance, which serves as a reserve for natural-disaster relief, to the capital budget to pay for the sidewalk project. (See The Beacon’s report on the April 23 budget session, 4/24/19.)

The three rejected an attempt by Councilman Gary McDonald to increase the capital budget itself by dedicating more tax revenue to it.

The Mayor and Mr. Conners co-chair the CIIP Committee.

Prominent on the Council’s June 4 meeting agenda will be a public hearing on the town’s FY 2019-20 operating budget and a discussion about summertime cut-through traffic, which Town Councilman Fred Newberry requested. The meeting will start at 5:30 p.m. in the Pitts Center.

You may view the Town Manager/Budget Officer’s recommended $7,450,846 budget at: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/town-government/administration/public-documents/fy-19-20-managers-proposed-operating-budget-2/.

The FY 2019-20 budget shows an increase in expenses of 12 percent over the previous fiscal year budget. (See page 10 of the proposed budget.)

The Beacon will provide links to the Town Council’s agenda and meeting packet when they are available and also preview the meeting.

‘EVENT FACILITIES’

The Council’s unanimous May 7 vote on large, high-occupancy dwellings “sends a message that we are united,” Planning Board member Andy Ward said last night at the Board’s regular monthly meeting. We will “take care of the issues of high occupancy and density,” he added with assurance.

Chairperson Elizabeth Morey agreed, but said she was “not necessarily satisfied,” because more can be done, and people may seek to “get around” the new laws. She cautioned her colleagues to be “vigilant.”

In that spirit, the Board placed on its June 17 meeting agenda consideration of how the Town Code can be amended to impose more restrictions on “event facilities,” which are currently defined as properties “designed, maintained, advertised or actually used for the primary purpose of hosting pre-planned events,” and restricted to the commercial district.

See Town Code sec. 36-57 at https://library.municode.com/nc/southern_shores/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=PTIICOOR_CH36ZO_ARTIIIINDETE_S36-57DESPTEWO.

Event facilities are a “permitted use” in the town’s C general commercial district, which is detailed in Code sec. 36-207.

Mr. Ward referred to the “stiff language” included in a Town Code amendment that Town Attorney Ben Gallop prepared more than three years ago in order to curtail event facilities. The Town Council rejected this amendment in January 2016 when it enacted the 6,000-square-foot maximum house size and approved other language regulating event facilities. Mr. Ward suggested that the Planning Board look at the rejected ordinance because “it had some teeth in it.”

Councilman McDonald has already requested that the Town’s regulation of event facilities be included on the Council’s June 4 meeting agenda. Mr. Ward expressed the expectation last night that the Council’s discussion will guide the Planning Board in its approach and any recommendation that it may make.

20-FOOT EXTENSION OF CELL TOWER

Also last night, the Planning Board unanimously approved a 20-foot extension of the cell tower at 148-A Ocean Blvd., in the SSCA’s Triangle Park at the Ocean Boulevard-Duck Road split, from 130 feet to 150 feet—subject to conditions, including that the taller tower be in compliance with the town’s setback and fall-zone requirements.

Board alternate Michael Basilone substituted for regular member David Neal, who was absent.

The extension was before the Planning Board as an application from American Towers LLC and Verizon Wireless to amend a conditional use permit (CUP) issued by the Town in November 2013. According to David G. Allen, an attorney with American Tower Corp. who appeared before the Board, the flagpole-style monopole tower will look the same, “except 20 feet higher.”

Mark Landers, an American Tower territory manager who works with carriers, said the purpose of the extension is to improve Verizon Wireless’s coverage and capacity in the area. Verizon Wireless is not now on the tower.

“AT&T is also increasing their capability,” Mr. Landers told the Board.

In a Dec. 17, 2018 letter that Mr. Allen wrote to Deputy Town Manager/Planning Director Wes Haskett about the CUP amendment, he said that the increase will “enable Verizon Wireless to install its equipment at the monopole facility in order to alleviate current reductions and bottlenecks in network connectivity in the area which result in interrupted and dropped calls.”

Mr. Landers told the SSCA membership at a meeting last October that the extension would “accommodate” the explosion in cell-phone traffic, which he described as a 40-percent annual increase in data. Simply stated, too many people are trying to use the network at the same time. (See The Beacon, 10/10/18.)

Mr. Landers said in October that the expansion would take about five months and that American Tower would pay $5400 more in rent to the SSCA, bringing the civic association’s total annual income from the tower to just under $40,000.

It is likely that the Town Council will take up American Tower’s request for the CUP amendment and the tower height extension at its June 4 meeting.

NO! MINI-HOTELS

According to Mr. Gallop, the recently enacted town regulations on septic capacity and overnight occupancy apply only to new building projects that have not yet been permitted. That means that SAGA’s two structures at 98 and 134 Ocean Blvd., each of which has septic capacity and sleeping arrangements for 24 persons, may be “grandfathered in” as nonconforming uses—provided they are allowed to be built.

There currently are two pending cases involving these properties. One of them is in the state administrative courts, before a judge; the other is local and likely headed for the Dare County Superior Court.

You may have noticed that construction at 134 Ocean Blvd., which is a subject of both cases, has essentially stopped, and that construction at 98 Ocean Blvd. is less than vigorous. The Beach does not believe this is coincidental.

At this stage of the litigation, it is difficult to predict the future. Appeals can consume months, even years. The petitioner-homeowners who have contested the permits that are at the center of these lawsuits are determined to protect their properties and the town from these mini-hotels. If you would like to help them, financially or otherwise, please visit www.nominihotels.com.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 5/21/19

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