5/29/19: TOWN COUNCIL’S JUNE 4 MEETING: EXPLORING CUT-THROUGH TRAFFIC COMMITTEE, RECONSIDERING ORDINANCE TO REGULATE ‘SPECIAL EVENTS’ AT RESIDENCES; CIIP Committee Meets Tomorrow to Consider S. Dogwood Trail Sidewalk, Recommend 2019-20 Projects

speedindicator
Said East Dogwood Trail homeowner Tommy Karole, in advocating for a committee to study ways to stop cut-through traffic in town: “I see what the traffic is doing. I see the speed.”

The formation of a committee to explore ways to curtail the summertime cut-through traffic and the reconsideration of a proposed 2015 ordinance that would regulate the holding of “special events” in residences headline the new business that the Town Council will discuss at its June 4 meeting.

The Council will meet at 5:30 p.m. in the Pitts Center, behind Town Hall.

Other key items on the agenda include a public hearing on the Town Manager/Budget Officer’s proposed fiscal year 2019-20 budget and an announcement by Mayor Tom Bennett and/or Councilman Jim Conners of the construction projects recommended by the Capital Infrastructure Improvement Planning Committee (CIIP) for prioritization in FY 2019-20.

The Mayor and Mr. Conners co-chair the CIIP Committee, which meets tomorrow at 2 p.m. in the Pitts Center to approve its recommended list of projects. A public hearing on the committee’s recommendations will be held during the Council’s July 9 meeting.

June 4 Town Council Meeting Agenda: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/minutes-agendas-newsletters/Agendas_2019-06-04.pdf.

May 30 CIIP Committee Meeting Notice: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/ciip-committee-scheduled-thursday-30-2019/

At the top of the CIIP Committee’s priority list is expected to be the construction of a five-foot-wide concrete sidewalk on South Dogwood Trail.

A majority of the Town Council voted to transfer $1 million from the Town’s undesignated balance fund to cover the cost of the sidewalk, which represents 13 percent of the Town’s proposed FY 2019-20 budgetary expenses of $7,450,846.

Proposed FY 2019-20 budget: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/town-government/administration/public-documents/fy-19-20-managers-proposed-operating-budget-2/

Councilmen Fred Newberry and Gary McDonald are the proponents, respectively, of the exploratory committee on methods for curtailing summertime cut-through traffic and the Council’s reconsideration of a proposed 2015 “Special Events and Occupancy Limitation” ordinance that it tabled by consensus in January 2016.

Councilman Newberry’s suggestion came in response to public comments by homeowner Tommy Karole at the Council’s May 7 meeting. Mr. Karole, who lives on East Dogwood Trail near its intersection with North and South Dogwood Trails, asked the Council to consider forming a citizens’ committee “to study ways to stop the cut-through traffic in Southern Shores.” He expressed an interest in being on such a committee.

“I see what the traffic is doing. I see the speed,” said Mr. Karole, who has lived on East Dogwood Trail for 18 years. “ . . . Someone is going to get hurt on that road. . . . We can do something to stop it.”

(Despite the wording of the agenda item, Mr. Newberry actually sought more than just a consideration of a committee at next week’s Council meeting. He expressed an interest in hearing from residents affected by the cut-through traffic for more than just the three minutes that are allotted to a speaker during public comments. He sought to engage the public and to hear what people think about the traffic problem and possible solutions.)

Councilman McDonald also cited public comments by residents, including Andy Ward, who is a member of the Planning Board, in recommending at the May meeting that the Town Council reconsider a Town Code amendment that would establish a permitting procedure for public or private gatherings held in residential properties.

Pursuant to the proposed ordinance, “special events” permits would be required of property owners based on the number of people they expect to attend their events.

BACKGROUND ON ‘SPECIAL EVENTS’ REGULATION

On Dec. 18, 2015, during a special meeting of the Town Council, Town Attorney Ben Gallop presented four draft ordinances that he had prepared to address the construction of dwellings that are designed to be used primarily for events rather than as family-vacation rentals or single-family homes.

At the time, SAGA Construction Inc. was threatening to build a 16-bedroom wedding destination venue on the oceanfront at 64 Ocean Blvd. The Kill Devil Hills-based developer had not yet sought any permits from the Town, however.

With SAGA knocking at the door, three newly elected Town Council members—Mr. Newberry, Mr. McDonald, and Christopher Nason—had a steep learning curve to master quickly. Each one had been sworn into office on Dec. 1, 2015.

Three of Mr. Gallop’s proposed ordinances were zoning text amendments (ZTAs). The fourth ordinance was a police-power ordinance, relating to public health, safety, and welfare—not zoning. If it had been adopted, it would have applied throughout the town, not just in particular zoning districts.

In the opinion of The Beacon, the police-power ordinance, known as the Special Events and Occupancy Limitation Ordinance, was too much too soon for the newly constituted Town Council to tackle. (I was present at the 12/18/15 meeting.) The ordinance went by the wayside when the Council decided at its Jan. 5, 2016, regular meeting to consider only the three ZTAs.

According to minutes from that January meeting, Councilman Leo Holland said he thought the special events ordinance was “well-intended,” but “complicated and confusing.” Councilman McDonald purportedly questioned how it would be enforced. No one on the Council proposed taking action on it.

On Jan. 22, 2016, the Town Council voted 3-2, with Councilmen Newberry, McDonald and Holland in the majority, to limit maximum house size to 6,000 square feet, thereby defeating SAGA’s plans—at least, the plans the developer had then.

SAGA’s proposed structures at 98 and 134 Ocean Blvd.—which it is building at its own risk, with litigation pending—represent its second attempt to disrupt the character of our low-density town.

More than three years later, a seasoned Councilman McDonald no longer questions the enforceability of the special events ordinance. Now he wants to take another look at it.

You will find the text of this ordinance in the minutes of the Dec. 18, 2015 meeting, on pp. 8-12:

https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/minutes-agendas-newsletters/Minutes_2015-12-18.pdf

The proposed ordinance regulates special events, which it defines as “temporary public or private gatherings,” including,  but not limited to, “pre-planned events, community uses, private parties, and traditional family events,” according to the number of expected attendees. (All of these terms are also defined in the ordinance.) It imposes permitting requirements on property owners who hold special events that they expect will be attended by more than 25 people. Under 25, no permit required.

Pursuant to the ordinance, permit application and inspection requirements vary and increase according to the number of attendees, with 25 to 75 people being viewed as a “small” special event; 75 to 125 as a “limited” special event, and over 125 attendees as a “large” special event.

The proposed ordinance also provides, significantly, that no more than three special events requiring a permit may occur during a continuous 12-month period on any parcel of property. If more than three occur, then the property’s use is to be considered commercial, rather than residential, and, therefore, in violation of the Town’s zoning code. Traditional family events are not subject to this limitation.

The Beacon will delve into more detail about this ordinance, if it gains traction. We do not view it as confusing or complicated. But we do see the need for “tweaking.”

YAUPON TRAIL INTERSECTION

Besides determining its FY 2019-20 priority infrastructure projects and hearing from the Town Engineer about the design plans for the Fairway Drive-to-the-cemetery segment of the proposed South Dogwood Trail sidewalk, the CIIP Committee will address the recent reconfiguration of Yaupon Trail’s intersection with South Dogwood Trail.

During a repaving project, the two-way entrance on to Yaupon Trail was replaced by a single-lane entrance/exit that is too narrow to accommodate two vehicles at the same time. The Town Council decided at its May meeting to refer Yaupon Trail homeowners’ complaints about the changes to this intersection to the CIIP Committee.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 5/29/19

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