7/7/19: TOWN COUNCIL MEETING TUESDAY FEATURES FIRST PUBLIC HEARING ON SOUTH DOGWOOD TRAIL SIDEWALK DESIGN; FURTHER DISCUSSION OF POSSIBLE ‘SPECIAL EVENT’ REGULATION; Planning Board Appointments for Three Vacancies

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It’s summertime.

Tuesday’s Town Council meeting promises to be a marathon session, with three public hearings scheduled, and further consideration of whether and how to regulate “special events” in residences, on the agenda. Three Planning Board appointments also are expected to be made.

The meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. in the Pitts Center, overlapping for two hours with Republican primary election voting there. (For more about the primary, see The Beacon, 6/27/19.) According to Michele Barnes, director of the Dare County Board of Elections, voting will take place in a room other than the main meeting room.

SOUTH DOGWOOD TRAIL SIDEWALK & PRIORITY CAPITAL PROJECTS

Among the public hearings will be the first and only town-wide forum of any kind on the sidewalk proposed to be constructed along the east side of South Dogwood Trail, from the Dogwood trails intersection to the Southern Shores cemetery.

On June 4, the Town Council, by a 3-2 vote, appropriated $1 million from the Town’s undesignated fund balance to pay for this sidewalk project because the annual capital infrastructure improvement budget, which consists of monies set aside for streets and sidewalks, is insufficient.

The undesignated fund balance is intended principally for emergencies, but it has a sufficient surplus above the $3 million that the Town Manager has advised the Town Council to maintain to pay for the sidewalk, provided no major natural disasters occur.

The Beacon believes the South Dogwood Trail construction project merited a separate special meeting later this month, during which the Town’s contractual engineer could have presented his design, discussed the impact it would have on the environment, and answered any questions that Town residents have.

The Beacon would have liked to have been given more than just links to diagrams on the Town website.

We believe that addressing the project during a busy regular meeting as just another item of new business is giving the project and all homeowners short shrift. We hope that the majority of the Town Council that approved the $1 million appropriation will not regard the public hearing as merely pro forma. The aesthetics, as well as the safety, of South Dogwood Trail are of concern to all Town residents, regardless of where they live.

Aside from the hearing about South Dogwood Trail, the Town Council will hold public hearings Tuesday regarding the latest zoning text amendment on nonconforming lots, ZTA 18-09PB01, which carves out exceptions to the Town Code for certain individual property owners; and adoption of the Capital Infrastructure Improvement Planning (CIIP) Committee’s recommendation for target improvement projects in fiscal year 2019-20.

The Beacon has written extensively about the exceptions to the nonconforming lots ordinance that the Planning Board identified as deserving, most recently in blogs published June 20 and June 21.You will find the text of the proposed ZTA here: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/ZTA-18-09-PB01-Nonconforming-Lots.pdf.

There are aerial photographs of the properties that are being excepted in Tuesday’s meeting packet, which you may access here: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/minutes-agendas-newsletters/Meeting-Packet_2019-07-09.pdf.

The Town has $662,340 in its FY 2019-20 budget to spend on capital improvements. The CIIP has recommended that the following projects be given priority status for these funds:

  1. Hillcrest Drive: from the intersection of Hickory Trail to the SSCA tennis courts, a length of 3,700 (+/-) linear feet. During this project, the width at the hilltop once known as Lookout Point would be reduced.
  2. East Dogwood Trail: from N.C. Hwy. 12 east to Ocean Blvd., a length of 670 LF (+/-), including stormwater improvements.
  3. Sea Oats Trail: from Eleventh Avenue north to N.C. Hwy. 12 (no length provided).
  4. Dewberry Lane: 230 LF (+/-).

In their most recent meetings, CIIP Committee members have indicated that the $662,340 in the capital budget will likely not cover more than the first two projects, i.e., Hillcrest Drive and East Dogwood Trail.

For the full list of the committee’s 24 recommended capital improvement projects, prioritized in three groups, and for more background on the South Dogwood Trail project, see: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/CIIP-May-30-2019-Meeting-Minutes.pdf.

POTENTIAL SPECIAL EVENTS REGULATION: A CONTINUED DISCUSSION

Southern Shores has been maligned in recent weeks on local social media because of a grossly inaccurate article/press release written by Porter Graham, a non-resident paid lobbyist for the Outer Banks realtors and home builders associations, that The Outer Banks Voice published, without fact-checking.

Mr. Graham falsely asserted that an ordinance to regulate all special events attended by more than 25 people has been “proposed” in Southern Shores.

Although I commented on The Voice’s blog beneath Mr. Graham’s distorted and biased story about the many errors he committed, and many of those errors were corrected by The Voice, the damage was done. Uninformed people writing on various social media sites have applied the snob label to Southern Shores, saying that the Town is anti-party, anti-fun, anti-the-masses-having-a-good-time-on-the-beach.

The truth is that the Town Council is considering regulating “special events” so as to require residential property owners to obtain permits and to provide information designed to ensure public safety; but the Council has done nothing more than discuss various options. The Town is not forming a Fascist regime intent on quashing birthday parties.

The matter of special-event regulation came up at the request of Town Councilman Gary McDonald, who asked Town staff to present for discussion at the Council’s June 4 meeting a “Special Events and Occupancy Limitation Ordinance” that Town Attorney Ben Gallop drafted in December 2015, and the Council rejected in January 2016.

You will find the text of this ordinance in the minutes of the Dec. 18, 2015 meeting, on pp. 8-12, as well as in Tuesday’s meeting packet:

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

Mr. Gallop prepared this ordinance as a means by which the Town Council could prevent SAGA Construction Inc. from building a threatened 16-bedroom wedding-destination house on the oceanfront at 64 Ocean Blvd. Instead, the Council defeated the event house by enacting the 6,000-square-foot maximum house size ordinance.

On Tuesday, the Town Council is expected to hear from Town staff about a new version of the 2015 Town Code amendment (TCA) on special events and from the Planning Board about its suggestions. (The Planning Board has no authority in regard to Town Code amendments, but the Town Council asked for its advice.)

The new version of the special events ordinance is being called TCA 19-01. Both it and a redlined version of the 2015 TCA, which shows the changes suggested by the staff, are in the Town Council’s meeting packet.

In 2015, the THEN-proposed ordinance defined special events as “temporary public or private gatherings,” including, but not limited to, “pre-planned events, community uses, private parties, and traditional family events.” It imposed permitting requirements on property owners who hold special events that they expect will be attended by more than 25 people.

Pursuant to the THEN-proposed ordinance, permit application and inspection requirements would have varied and increased 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 THEN-proposed ordinance also provided, significantly, that no more than three special events requiring a permit could occur during a continuous 12-month period on any parcel of property. If more than three occurred, then the property’s use would be considered commercial, rather than residential, and, therefore, in violation of the Town’s zoning code.

The CURRENT definition of an “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.

Nearly four years ago, the THEN-proposed ordinance did not subject “traditional family events” to this three-within-12-months limitation.

The Beacon has reviewed both the new redlined version of the 2015 Town Code Amendment (TCA 19-01), prepared by the Town Attorney presumably with the assistance of other staff members, and the suggestions submitted by Planning Board Chairperson Elizabeth Morey and member Andy Ward. Most noteworthy in the new version are the following:

  1. The exclusion of all traditional family events from the definition of special event;
  2. The imposition of permit and other requirements only on those property owners who hold events with at least 75 attendees;
  3. A limitation of 10 special events per property owner during a continuous 12-month period.

Ms. Morey and Mr. Ward also suggest exempting traditional family events from the definition of special event, but they propose a permit-requirement “threshold” of 50 attendees, not 75. They also recommend limiting property owners annually to no more than six special events with 50 to 100 attendees and no more than three special events with 100 or more attendees.

You will find the Morey/Ward suggestions on page 40 of the Town Council meeting packet.

The Beacon supports the Morey/Ward suggested threshold of 50 attendees and is undecided about the annual limits. We would like to know more about how many special events are currently being held in Southern Shores and what kind of events they are.

There are many more details contained in TCA 19-01 and in the Morey/Ward suggestions, all of which, The Beacon is certain, will receive the Town Council’s attention in due course. The public will have ample opportunity to comment on any special-events Town Code Amendments that are “proposed.”

PLANNING BOARD VACANCIES/APPOINTMENTS

The three-year terms of two regular members on the Planning Board expired June 30: those of Ms. Morey and Joe McGraw, who also served recently as vice chairperson. The Beacon has previously reported that Ms. Morey would like to be reappointed to another three-year term and that Mr. McGraw has elected not to seek reappointment.

The Beacon was unaware until reading a memorandum from Mr. Haskett to the Town Manager, which is in Tuesday’s meeting packet, that Planning Board alternate Leo Holland resigned, effective June 30.

Mr. Holland was appointed to a three-year term just one year ago. The Beacon wonders if Mr. Holland, who won election to the Town Council when he ran unopposed in 2013, might be contemplating another run for Council.

The filing period for candidates interested in one of the three Southern Shores Town Council seats up for election in November started July 5 and continues through noon on July 19.

According to Mr. Haskett’s memorandum, Planning Board alternate Michael Basilone has said he cannot serve as a regular member. Mr. Haskett further writes that previous Board applicants Anthony DiBernardo, of Ninth Avenue, and Donald D. Sowder, of Ginguite Trail, have expressed an interest in being appointed to a three-year term, i.e., to Mr. McGraw’s seat.

Whoever is appointed to the vacancy created by Mr. Holland’s resignation will serve until the expiration of his term, which is June 30, 2021.

The Planning Board will select its chairperson and vice-chairperson at its July meeting.

Mr. DiBernardo is a retired hearing examiner in the Pennsylvania criminal justice system. He received a B.A. in anthropology from Temple University in 1972.

Mr. DiBernardo has been active in Southern Shores Civic Assn. affairs, serving for three years as chairperson of its Architectural Review Board and on the SSCA committee that developed a vegetation ordinance for Southern Shores. He has been vice-chairperson of the Southern Shores Historical Landmark Commission since its inception.

Mr. Sowder is a retired colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves who spent his career in pharmaceutical and health-care industry management. He received a B.S.degree in food science from Virginia Tech in 1959. He previously served on the Chesterfield County, Va. Board of Supervisors.

Colonel Sowder is currently commodore of the Southern Shores Boat Club.

Town Council agenda: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/minutes-agendas-newsletters/Agendas_2019-07-09.pdf

Town Council meeting packet: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/minutes-agendas-newsletters/Meeting-Packet_2019-07-09.pdf.

See you at the meeting.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, July 7, 2019

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