The Beacon opposed appropriating $1 million from the Town’s undesignated funds for the 1.3-mile South Dogwood Trail sidewalk, which a simple majority of the five-person Town Council approved Tuesday, and continues to oppose the Town Engineer’s design of the proposed five-foot-wide concrete sidewalk. (See The Beacon, 6/5/19.)
We believe all infrastructure improvements should be funded by the set-aside capital budget, which the Town Council should increase to accommodate long-range planning of projected capital needs. The Town’s undesignated fund balance, which is principally for emergency natural-disaster relief, should only be “raided,” as one resident called the $1 million appropriation at Tuesday’s Town Council meeting, for necessary expenses that all Town Council members approve.
Three people in this town should not be permitted to transfer hundreds of thousands of dollars—much less $1 million—from our emergency “insurance” fund for non-essential capital projects, no matter how popular they may be. If such a financial decision is to be made, unanimity should be required.
Town Manager Peter Rascoe said at Tuesday’s meeting that the Town would notify by U.S. mail all property owners on both sides of South Dogwood Trail about the proposed sidewalk construction, but not meet with any of them unless an owner requests a meeting.
In response to an inquiry from Councilman Fred Newberry, who has shown concern for uninformed homeowners, Mr. Rascoe said he believes the property-owner population on the street is too large for the customary pre-construction meeting with affected owners.
Mr. Rascoe also announced that a public hearing would be held at the Council’s next meeting, currently scheduled July 9, on the proposed design of the sidewalk, which has been envisioned as running along the east side of the road: See https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/notice-public-hearing-july-9-2019-proposed-design-walking-trail-northern-half-east-side-south-dogwood-trail/.
The Beacon not only opposes elements of the sidewalk design because of issues we have with its width, appearance, and pathway, we question its location.
Why isn’t this sidewalk projected to run along the west side of South Dogwood Trail, instead of the east side? Or, alternatively, why isn’t it running along some of the west side and some of the east side, with a single crosswalk connecting the sides?
WHAT ABOUT THE WEST SIDE?
According to a member of the Town’s Capital Infrastructure Improvements Planning Committee with whom The Beacon spoke, the committee never had before it the decision of whether to construct the sidewalk on the west side of the road or on both sides. The Town Engineer, they said, resolved the location.
Although the Town has a contract with Deel Engineering, PLLC, exclusively, and the name Anlauf Engineering, PLLC, is not mentioned in that contract, both Deel Engineering and Anlauf Engineering perform work for Southern Shores.
Joe Anlauf, who owns Anlauf Engineering of Kitty Hawk, describes Andy Deel of Deel Engineering on his company’s website as a “common subcontractor” or “project teammate.” See https://www.anlaufengineering.com/about.html.
Mr. Anlauf has overseen the South Dogwood Trail sidewalk project. The Beacon would like Mr. Anlauf to explain publicly to homeowners, or to release in writing for publication on the Town’s website, the comparative cost, engineering, and environmental-impact analysis he did on the two sides of the road to decide the sidewalk’s placement.
It is not enough to say that the South Dogwood Trail sidewalk should connect with the existing sidewalks in front of the cemetery and on East Dogwood Trail and, for that reason, should be on the east side. Crosswalks can be provided.
In fact, The Beacon believes a crosswalk could be easily and safely designated at Wild Swan Lane. The sidewalk could run along the west side south from the North-South-East Dogwood Trails intersection to Wild Swan Lane, and then from there, along the east side, where the land is flat and the right-of-way is already clear, up to the cemetery.
It does not take a land survey to see that most (clearly, not all) of the houses on the west side of the road are built farther back from the right-of-way than those on the east side. Whether or not the west-side lots are generally deeper than those across the street is a question that cannot be resolved by mere visual inspection from the road. But the terrain on the west side certainly does appear to be far less hilly than that on the east side—in toto, not in all areas.
The Beacon believes that far less destruction to the roadside environment and aesthetics would occur if the sidewalk were built on the west side, or, alternatively, if it were to be on the west side between the Dogwoods intersection and Wild Swan and on the east side between Wild Swan and the cemetery. Certainly, fewer yards would be adversely affected.
Of course, we may be wrong about this.
Mr. Anlauf should confirm or refute this observation with his environmental-impact assessment. Further, he should tell homeowners about the engineering challenges he would confront on both sides of the road.
This project is transformative of the signature road in Southern Shores. There is much desirable “old growth” on South Dogwood Trail, growth that developer David Stick sought conscientiously to preserve. In fact, dogwood trees are specifically protected by the Town Code. They cannot be removed from the right-of-way unless the Town Manager gives his or her written permission (TC sec. 28-4).
In the 31 years that have passed since this Town Code protection was enacted, both the Town Council and the Town Manager’s office have become more political. The Beacon believes that the fate of dogwood trees in the right-of-ways of the dogwood trails and elsewhere should be in the hands of a citizens committee.
The Town needs to do far more than it has done to this point to elucidate the nature and consequences of the South Dogwood Trail sidewalk project.
SIDEWALK PEDESTRIAN SAFETY
As for the pedestrians who would use the sidewalk, The Beacon believes they would be at far less risk of being struck by a vehicle driven by a distracted driver that veers on to the right-of-way if they were on the west side of the road than on the east side.
The incoming summertime cut-through traffic on South Dogwood Trail already tends to be faster and more intense than the outgoing cut-through traffic, which trickles off after the morning. After the proposed sidewalk is constructed, arriving northbound tourists will not have to slow down for pedestrians and other obstacles in the road, nor will they be on the alert for them. We can expect them to drive even faster.
The same can be said of the flow of northbound trucks and other commercial traffic that traverses the cut-through route during week-day mornings. I see these “rush-hour” vehicles streaming through every morning on East Dogwood Trail and Hickory Trail when I walk my dog. Homeowners on South Dogwood Trail must see them, too.
The Beacon will further investigate the west-versus-east-side road analysis. Please let us know what you think, especially if you live on South Dogwood Trail. Please send your comments to email@example.com.
OVERLOOKED TOWER: The Beacon should have mentioned in Wednesday’s post that the Town Council unanimously approved the 20-foot extension of the AT&T cell tower at 148A Ocean Blvd., also known as Triangle Park, bringing its height to 150 feet.
The extension was requested by American Tower LLC and Verizon Wireless for the express purpose of improving Verizon Wireless’s coverage and capacity in the area. Verizon Wireless is not now on the tower.
The Southern Shores Civic Assn., which owns Triangle Park and the adjacent parking lot, receives rent from American Tower for the cell tower. In November 2013, the Town permitted the tower to be a conditional use of the SSCA property, which is in the RS-1 residential district.
According to American Tower attorney David Allen, who testified Tuesday in a public hearing about the corporation’s request to amend its conditional use permit to allow for the extension, the construction is expected to occur from October through May 2020. There will be “some brief outages” of cell-phone coverage, he said, but they will be for hours, not days or weeks.
Mr. Allen also confirmed that there will be no lighting added to the cell tower.
THE TOWN COUNCIL MUST WORK THE DOG DAYS: Councilman Christopher Nason made a motion Tuesday to cancel the Town Council’s August meeting. His motion was defeated 3-2, with only Mr. Conners joining Mr. Nason in seeking a summer break.
In opposing Mr. Nason’s motion, Councilman Gary McDonald spoke of the “duty” the Town Council has to property owners to conduct the Town’s business regularly, and Councilman Newberry pointed out that the Council’s meetings are an opportunity for the public to speak.
AND FINALLY . . . JUNIPER TO CLOSE TEMPORARILY: Starting around Monday, June 17, Juniper Trail will be closed to through traffic in the area of 32 Juniper Trail in order for street repairs to occur. The road closure is expected to last about a week.
UPCOMING: The Beacon will look next at the special events ordinance discussed by the Town Council Tuesday and at the committee it approved to study ways to restrict and/or reduce cut-through traffic in town.
It is unfortunate that traffic reduction did not factor into the Town’s planning of the South Dogwood Trail sidewalk. It is not too late for planning on traffic reduction and sidewalk construction to proceed hand-in-glove.
PLANNING BOARD APPOINTMENTS: The three-year terms of Planning Board Chairperson Elizabeth Morey and Vice Chairperson Joe McGraw expire on June 30. If you are interested in applying for one of these volunteer positions, please see: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/7-22-15-Board-Volunteer-Application.pdf. The Planning Board also serves as the Town Board of Adjustment.
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 6/8/19