If SAGA is allowed to proceed with reported development plans, this vintage flat-roof cottage at 1213 S. Virginia Dare Trail in Kill Devil Hills (as pictured on Dare County GIS) will be demolished and replaced by a 28-bedroom wedding venue with a gazebo-chapel that accommodates 100 guests.

Happy Labor Day weekend, everyone.

I have been laboring elsewhere of late and, hence, have let The Beacon blog and Facebook page go silent for a while. I will resume my Southern Shores life after Monday.

Before I left, I met briefly with one of the Kill Devil Hills homeowners who is organizing a campaign against SAGA Realty and Construction’s proposed oceanfront “mini-hotels” at 1207-1209 and 1213 S. Virginia Dare Trail. She contacted me because I manage the website, nominihotels.com, and distribute “NO! MINI-HOTELS” yard signs.

You may have seen some of these signs pop up in KDH recently. The homeowners also have started a Facebook page, which you may access by searching for “KDH Against Mini-Hotels” on your Facebook account. For background on the SAGA’s proposed developments, see:


SAGA’s KDH plans reportedly call for the demolition of a modest flat-roof cottage built in 1952 at 1213 S. Virginia Dare Trail (see photo above) to make way for a 28-bedroom event building that will have 28 parking spaces, a two-story tiki bar, and a gazebo-chapel that will seat 100 people. This mega-mansion/church/commercial wedding venue–whatever it is–will be wedged between two beach-box cottages built stacked on one oceanfront lot to the north and a cottage court to the south.

Acting as a limited liability corporation known as SVDT LLC, SAGA purchased this property, which consists of one lot and a portion of another, from a family trust on Aug. 8, 2019, according to the deed that was filed with the Register of Deeds office on Aug. 15, and that I accessed through the Dare County GIS (geographic information system) website.

You can imagine how homeowners located adjacent to this proposed residential-commercial monstrosity feel. Never in their wildest dreams did they imagine the construction of such an offensive hybrid-use building to occur in their back yards.

Speaking only for myself, I think it is a disgrace that the KDH Board of Commissioners has allowed the threat of this potential destruction to occur.

Is KDH really that hard up for revenue that the Commissioners cannot reach consensus on changing the zoning code to save what’s left of the town’s family beach from SAGA’s scorched-earth annihilation? The KDH government has had years to take protective action and has miserably failed.

I say “potential” destruction because it is not too late for the KDH Commissioners to take emergency action to prevent SAGA from plundering the oceanfront in this area. As far as I understand, SAGA does not yet have “vested rights” in developing the property at 1213 S. Virginia Dare Trail. The Town can still intervene.

SAGA also reportedly plans to demolish a historic bungalow built in 1955 at 1207 S. Virginia Dare Trail and to replace it with a 24-bedroom structure. According to The Outer Banks Voice, the Kill Devil Hills-based developer intends to build a second 24-bedroom structure on vacant land adjacent to the bungalow at 1209 S. Virginia Dare Trail.

My Dare County GIS search reveals that each of these properties is owned by the same family group. Either SAGA has not purchased them yet, or, if it has, the deeds have yet to be registered. In either case, there is still time before SAGA’s rights of property use vest for KDH to take expedient action and prevent these developments.

[I have been advised by a reader, whose habitual snideness guarantees that his comments will never be published, that the family that owns these properties is developing them. I have not been able to visit the KDH planning department to check for permit applications, and I may not have the opportunity to do so. My reporting is based on The Outer Banks Voice, conversations I have had with the KDH homeowner, and the Dare County GIS. I welcome any factual corrections supported by evidence and submitted without insult. One reason I write is to further the exchange of information.]

I have not been able to visit the sites of these reported proposed projects, but I can tell you that the Outer Banks Beach Club is located to the north at 1101 S. Virginia Dare Trail, and that an old strip shopping center containing The Lamp Shop is on the west side of the road, just to the south. I locate addresses along the beach road by landmarks, and The Lamp Shop, which I have frequented for as long as it has existed, is one I know well. This is around milepost 9.

The first permit an oceanfront developer must secure is a Coastal Area Management Administration (CAMA) permit, issued by the State with a local permit officer’s approval. The CAMA statute applies because the oceanfront is an “area of environmental concern.” Thereafter, SAGA would proceed with applying for town permits that would allow it to demolish the two existing structures and to build.

A property owner with legal standing may appeal a zoning permit issued by the town if there is cause to do so. I have taken only a cursory look at the KDH zoning code, but nowhere among the permitted and conditional uses of property in the Ocean-Impact Residential Zone did I see a use that encapsulates the wedding venue that SAGA proposes. I have advised the homeowners to consult a local land-use attorney.

I have been told there is an online petition that you can sign to support “KDH Against Mini-Hotels,” but I have not located it yet. I will provide the website address for the petition as soon as I have it.


As I acknowledged above, I manage the website, nominihotels.com, which pertains to litigation in Southern Shores regarding SAGA’s 12-bedroom, 12-bathroom, hotel-amenity-filled structures at 98 and 134 Ocean Blvd. The mini-hotel at 98 Ocean Blvd. has been rented through Carolina Designs (see “Aquadisiac”) since early August. The mini-hotel at 134 Ocean Blvd., which is also offered for rent through Carolina Designs, is still in construction.

As some of you may have read in The Outer Banks Voice recently, an administrative law judge issued a ruling Aug. 12 that was adverse to the homeowners who appealed the CAMA permits granted to SAGA for these two developments. I have not reported on this decision, which was a grant of a summary-judgment motion made by the N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality—and, therefore, a dismissal of the homeowners’ legal claim based on the Southern Shroes land-use plan— because the petitioners have until Sept. 11 to appeal it. I will update the nominihotels.com home page after that date has passed.

In the meantime, I can assure anyone who donates money to the No! Mini-Hotels GoFundMe litigation fund that his or her money will be well-spent. The homeowner who owns property across the street from 134 Ocean Blvd. has an appeal of a Southern Shores Board of Adjustment zoning decision, which went 3-2 against her, pending in Dare County Superior Court. I also can say that any lawyer who reads the administrative law judge’s Aug. 12 ruling is like to find cause to question the judge’s legal reasoning.

To reach the GoFundMe page, please go to nominihotels.com. Thank you for any support and/or donation you may give.

Happy holiday weekend.

Ann, 8/31/19



Planning Board Vice-Chairperson Andy Ward has his eye on SAGA’s nearly 6,000-square-foot, 12-bedroom/12-bathroom “Aquadisiac,” at 98 Ocean Blvd., which has been rented since early August.

The wheels of the Town Planning Board grind slowly and sometimes they veer totally off-track.

That is what happened Monday evening when all Board members gave credence to legal obstacles being touted by Porter Graham, lobbyist for the Outer Banks Assn. of Realtors (OBAR), and Chris Toolan, a realtor with Century 21 Nachman Realty in Kitty Hawk, and unanimously voted to postpone any action on a special-events policy out of concern that it might be illegal to have one.

The Planning Board’s well-intentioned “open forum” Monday on possible special-event regulation in Southern Shores devolved into the Board’s unquestioning deference to the OBAR. The only “stakeholders” from the community who spoke were Mr. Graham and Mr. Toolan, who both gave their addresses as Kill Devil Hills, and I.

Rather than attempt to find consensus on the matter of formulating a policy on weddings and other special events, the Board veered off-track into thinking that such a policy might now be illegal. Mr. Graham and Mr. Toolan raised this preposterous idea, and they prevailed over more knowledgeable “heads,” including my own. (You may consider this an editorial.) The Board put off any further discussion on a special-events policy for another month, in order to give Town Attorney Ben Gallop an opportunity to weigh in.

I was very disappointed by the Board’s action, or, more precisely, its lack of action.

Mr. Graham and Mr. Toolan misrepresented the effect of a new amendment to the N.C. Vacation Rental Act, arguing that it could render a town policy on registering special events illegal. Both suggested that the town might be sued if it were to proceed.

[8/22/19, PLEASE NOTE: I previously had written here that Mr. Graham raised the prospect of people going to jail. He has contacted me by email and advised that he did not make such an assertion. I thought he had, but I cannot confirm my notes without a videotape to consult, and Planning Board meetings are not videotaped. I will take Mr. Graham at his word. Apparently, it was Mr. Toolan who made the assertion.]

I could say more about the indefensible legal position that Mr. Graham and Mr. Toolan advanced, but I am going to let Mr. Gallop clean up the mess.

For those who are interested, here are the legal citations you need to read:

1) Session Law 2019-73, formerly known as Senate Bill 483, which amends the N.C. Vacation Rental Act by adding one critical sentence: https://www.ncleg.gov/Sessions/2019/Bills/Senate/PDF/S483v3.pdf.

This amendment passed the N.C. House of Representatives and N.C. Senate unanimously, and Governor Roy Cooper signed it into law July 1.

2) N.C. General Statute section 160A-424, which pertains to cities and towns and now, because of SL 2019-73, pertains to vacation rental properties, as well as other rentals:


N.C.G.S. sec. 160A-424 is titled “periodic inspections for hazardous or unlawful conditions.”

I would like to suggest to Planning Board members that in the future they skeptically and critically evaluate any and all legal arguments made by Mr. Graham and not passively defer to him. If the Outer Banks Assn. of Realtors wants to talk law, it should send an attorney to Southern Shores Planning Board and Town Council meetings.

Mr. Graham played lawyer Monday night, reading aloud sections of N.C. general statutes, that he took out of context and does not understand and, I doubt, the Planning Board understood either. In so doing, he succeeded in scaring the Board into doing nothing. That’s not the way town government should work.

Board Vice Chairperson Andy Ward heavily promoted the adoption of a town special-events policy at the Monday meeting. Calling himself a “lone ranger” on the Board, he said he would prefer an ordinance, but would settle for crafting a policy that is “framed for achieving certain goals,” such as minimizing the adverse effects of large social gatherings on neighbors, ensuring that traffic jams do not occur, and the like.

Mr. Ward did not get much support from the four other Board members who serve with him. Board members David Neal and Donald Sowder said they were not inclined to go forward now with such a policy, and neither Chairperson Elizabeth Morey nor member Ed Lawler clearly stated her/his views.

I strongly urge Mr. Ward to write a policy and to present it to the Planning Board at its September meeting for discussion. He does not need the Town Attorney or the Town Planning Director to draft it for him. Duck’s wedding-registration policy provides an excellent prototype. If the other Board members reject it, fine. That is their prerogative. You have to start somewhere.

(Please see The Beacon’s 8/18/19 blog for background facts and links to materials.)


The Planning Board was much more at ease in considering new language that it has drafted to alter the Town Code sections pertaining to building height and fill requirements.

I quoted this language in The Beacon’s 8/18/19 blog and will not repeat it here. The Board voted unanimously to incorporate the new language into a zoning text amendment, which likely will be subject to public hearing at the Board’s Oct. 21 meeting.

John Finelli, who represents Martin’s Point on the Planning Board, expressed an interest in discussing other fill issues that were not addressed in the new Code language, such as the type of material that a builder may use for fill and the construction of retaining walls that create a “doming effect.” Mr. Finelli’s concerns, which he documented after the Board’s July meeting, will be discussed at the Board’s Sept. 16 meeting.

See https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Height-and-Fill_Finelli-comments.pdf.

As soon as the new ZTA on height and fill is prepared and posted online, The Beacon will publish it.

In comments at the end of Monday’s meeting, Mr. Sowder brought up the problem of blue-green algae in Southern Shores ponds, and Mr. Finelli warned of alligator weed in ponds and ditches. Mr. Sowder, who was appointed in July to a three-year term on the Planning Board by the Town Council, lives on the Mallard Cove pond.


I would like to extend, again, an enthusiastic and heartfelt thank you to all members of the Dare County Emergency Medical Services who responded to a 911 call placed by one of my mother’s caregivers Monday night while I was in the Planning Board meeting. Everyone who assisted my 95-year-old Mom after she fell on the front deck at her home was outstanding: kind, caring, conscientious, professional, efficient, respectful, courteous, and the admiring adjectives could go on and on.

Not only did Dare County EMS assist with caring for Mom after her fall and with transporting her to the Outer Banks Hospital Emergency Department, these wonderful people were there, at our request, when I returned home with Mom hours later, to transport her safely into her home.

I am very grateful to everyone and happy to report that my mother, a tough survivor who tried to convince paramedics not to take her to the hospital, is doing well.

(As a patient advocate and caregiver for many years now, I have had many experiences with Dare County EMS, and they have all been outstanding.)

Ironically, I decided on Monday night to turn off my cell phone during the Planning Board meeting. I have been known to leave it on at town meetings just in case a frantic caregiver needs to reach me. Clearly, I must figure out how to set it on vibrate, so I can avoid the embarrassing ringing that I’ve previously experienced and still be readily available in an emergency.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 8/21/19





The Town Planning Board will be looking north to Duck to evaluate how it handles wedding-related events when the Board takes up options for regulating special events in Southern Shores at its meeting tomorrow, in what is being called an “open forum,” similar to a Town Hall discussion. (The Beacon promoted this forum on Facebook yesterday.)

The Board will meet at 5:30 p.m., in the Pitts Center. Also on the agenda is a continued discussion of the Town’s current requirements for building height and fill and their possible amendment. (See below.)

Vice-Chairperson Andy Ward spoke at the Board’s July 15 meeting about determining a “balance” among special-events “stakeholders” and “getting the word out” about tomorrow’s forum so people can “talk about it some more.” The Board emphasized that it would like to hear the viewpoints of all interested people.

“We need to have some type of policy moving forward,” Mr. Ward noted.

Among the meeting materials that the Planning Board has posted on the Town website are links to the Town of Duck’s wedding-related event registration policy and a form that registrants must fill out and submit to the town at least 30 days before the event date. See:

Duck policy: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Duck-Wedding-Related-Event-Registration-revised2014-06-161.pdf

Registration form: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Duck-Weddings-Info.pdf

The Duck policy on wedding events defines “a wedding-related gathering” as “50 or more people in a private residence” in town for the purpose of attending a pre- or post-wedding party, a rehearsal dinner, a wedding ceremony, a wedding reception, or a brunch.

Duck’s registration form is designed for a wedding planner or other responsible party to complete. It asks for basic contact and event information, as well as the registrant’s plans for parking and traffic flow and trash collection and removal. It also advises the registrant of Duck’s noise ordinance, asking for details about the type of sound system that will be used during the event and the hours and location of its operation, and the town’s regulations on signage and decorations.

According to the wedding-related event registration policy, the registrant’s form is “circulated to neighborhood associations, the property manager or owner of the proposed venue, and the Town of Duck Police and Fire departments in order to ensure that they are aware of your event plans and also so that they can contact you prior to or during the event, should this be necessary.”

The policy further notifies registrants that the Duck Police Dept. will be “routinely monitoring conditions” during the event, in order to “preempt” noise and parking issues.

Unlike Duck’s governing body, the Southern Shores Town Council elected to approach the matter of regulating special events in town, such as weddings and other large social gatherings, via a new Town Code ordinance, rather than a policy. This approach did not pan out. In fact, it became a public-relations nightmare.

Although the Town Council unanimously voted in June to reconsider the “Special Events and Occupancy Limitation Ordinance” that Town Attorney Ben Gallop drafted in December 2015, and the Council rejected in January 2016, and send it to the Planning Board for evaluation, the Council decided 3-2 in July not to discuss the ordinance further.

In so doing, the majority ignored 19 suggestions that Planning Board Chairperson Elizabeth Morey, Mr. Ward, and Planning Director Wes Haskett, who is now acting town manager, had prepared as proposed modifications of the ordinance. You may view their suggestions here:


Chairperson Morey increasingly has encouraged Town Hall-type discussions at Planning Board meetings that do not limit the speaking time of members from the community. The Beacon applauds her for opening up the Board’s meetings to the public for responsive, respectful, and inclusive dialogues. So far, the give-and-take process among Board members and meeting attendees has worked well.


In this same spirit of open and collaborative government, Ms. Morey invited two local builders who spoke at the July Planning Board meeting about the Town’s current requirements on fill and building height to submit draft language to amend the Town Code, specifically sections 36-171 (lot disturbance and stormwater management) and 36-202 (which addresses the RS-1 single-family residential district).

The Beacon is pleased to see from the materials posted on the Town website that not only did a follow-up meeting between Planning Board members and local builders occur, but results of that meeting and subsequent related emails have been documented and made available to the public. The Planning Board is exhibiting the kind of transparency that The Beacon has long sought from the Mayor and the Town Council.

On Aug. 7, Mr. Ward, Mr. Haskett, and Planning Board member David Neal reportedly met with Southern Shores builders Mark Martin and Matt Neal—who had spoken at the Board’s July meeting—and Jeff Haskett to discuss potential amendments to the Town’s current building height and fill requirements, which you may access here:


The group suggested the following new language, which would apply in all zoning districts, not just the RS-1 single-family residential district:

“Maximum building height shall be 35 feet, measured from the average of the existing grade at the building corners. If the average of the existing grade at the building corners is less than 8 feet above mean sea level (msl.), the maximum building height may be measured from up to 8 ft. above mean sea level (msl).”

Currently, the ordinance refers to “original” grade, not existing grade, and addresses situations when the average grade of the corners is either higher or lower than 7 feet msl.

The group also agreed that the Town’s current 3:1 slope requirement in side setback areas should be added to rear setback areas, as well.

See https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/8-7-19-Height-and-Fill-Recommendations.pdf

This draft language was modified about a week later, according to an email written by Mr. Ward, to incorporate suggestions made by Chairperson Morey and Mr. Matt Neal, both of whom are running for Town Council this fall. With their modifications inserted, the suggested language now reads:

“Maximum building height shall be 35 feet, measured from the average of the existing, undisturbed grade at the building corners. If the average of the existing, undisturbed grade at the building corners is less than 8 feet above mean sea level (msl.), the maximum building height may be measured from up to 8 ft. above mean sea level (msl), provided that the horizontal-to-vertical slope criteria can be attained.”

See: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Height-and-fill.pdf

In an Aug. 15 email to Mr. Haskett, Mr. Ward also asked that the following “potential” fill language, along with a sketch he drew, be circulated to Planning Board members for the meeting:

“No fill material may be re-distributed or placed on a lot in the rear or side setback areas unless the final horizontal-to-vertical slope is equal to or less than 3:1. This shall be calculated from the finished final grade to the rear and side property lines.” [Boldfaced language is new to the ordinance, Code sec. 36-171(1).]

Email: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Height-and-fill-2.pdf

Mr. Ward’s Slope Sketch: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/8-15-19-Ward-Slope-Sketch.pdf

John Finelli, who represents Martin’s Point as an at-large member of the Planning Board, also submitted comments about building height and fill after the July 15 meeting, but before the builders’ meeting. See https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Height-and-Fill_Finelli-comments.pdf.

The Beacon commends the Planning Board, especially the Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson, for their followup between meetings on potential special-events regulation and amendments to the Town Code on building height and fill requirements and for disclosure of some of their research and communications on these issues. Now anyone who attends tomorrow’s meeting will have the opportunity to inform him or herself and to come prepared for a meaningful discussion. Bravo!

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 8/18/19


8/12/19: SSCA TO DEDICATE BEACH ACCESS RAMP AT HILLCREST BEACH AUG. 22: And Notes on Sea Turtle Nests, Unattended Items on Beach, Roadside Trash, and More

Hillcrest Dedication Photo
The new Hillcrest Beach access ramp (Photo courtesy of the SSCA)

Mobility-challenged people have an access ramp to Hillcrest Beach, thanks to dedicated volunteers and partners of the Southern Shores Civic Assn.

The SSCA will officially dedicate the ramp, which opened in June, on Thursday, Aug. 22, from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.

According to SSCA president Rod McCaughey, the Mayor, Town Council members, members of the Southern Shores Volunteer Fire Dept., and Town staff have been invited to the event. Refreshments will be served.

SSCA Properties Director Joel Newton oversaw the ramp project. In a June email to association members, he said the project involved 150 hours of labor by nine volunteers.

I have not had a chance yet to see the ramp, but I look forward to taking my mother out on it for a view of the ocean, the gulls, and porpoises after the crowds disperse. Like so many older people, she walks with a walker over short distances, but needs a wheelchair to traverse long distances.

Hats off to the SSCA for this beautiful achievement.


Turtle nest watch: There is still no word from the Network for Endangered Sea Turtles (N.E.S.T.) about a hatch of Southern Shores’ first sea-turtle nest of the season, which “parent” volunteers have been monitoring since the week of July 29.

The eggs in this nest, the first of three so far on our oceanfront, were laid on June 5. Subsequently, female sea turtles created nests in Southern Shores on July 26 and Aug. 2, making the hatchlings’ due dates in September. The eggs’ incubation time is about 60 days.

This past Saturday, “a turtle mom crawled all the way up to the dune line in Swan Beach,” which is in the four-wheel drive area north of Corolla, according to N.E.S.T., and laid the Outer Banks’ 27th nest of the season.

Sea turtles deposit their eggs on our beaches between May 1st and Sept. 1st, so more turtle moms may yet emerge.

Unattended items on the beach: Over the weekend, a reader contacted The Beacon about beach chairs left throughout the day and night on a section of the beach near an SSCA access. Vacationers sometimes seek to “reserve” a space on the oceanfront by leaving beach furniture and personal items out overnight. Other times, they just tire of hauling things.

Section 34-55(b)(2) of the Southern Shores Town Code prohibits leaving “unattended personal articles” on the beach between 5 p.m. and 7 a.m. Such items, Deputy Town Manager/Planning Director Wes Haskett informed The Beacon, “are subject to removal and disposal.”

According to the ordinance, these items “may include, but shall not be limited to, volleyball nets, badminton nets, poles, tents, chairs, cabanas, sunshades, horseshoe stakes, croquet courses, umbrellas or any other personal property articles.”

“The Town’s community resource officer and the Town’s contracted lifeguard service typically tag items left on the beach during the prohibited hours early in the week and will remove them if they do not comply by the middle of the week,” Mr. Haskett told The Beacon in a prompt reply to our email inquiry today.  If you have an issue with abandoned personal property on the beach, please contact the Town.

Roadside trash removal: Speaking of removal, we often see large items left on the side of the road, next to trash and recycling receptacles. Sometimes we see excess trash in boxes or bags that simply will not fit in already overflowing receptacles.

Anything left outside of a trash receptacle is the same as litter. Our trash collector, Bay Disposal, will not pick up these large items, boxes, bags, etc.—but vacationers do not know this. I can tell you as a rental-cottage owner that every turnover Saturday, I haul away something inappropriate that my guests left next to the roadside trash can. This past weekend I found an enormous box that a beach tent came in and a broken beach chair.

Here again, you can contact the Town about this roadside refuse, or you can do what I do, haul away what you can and store the large items for the bulk-trash pickup in October. In my experience, the Town is very prompt in responding to reports of roadside refuse that Bay Disposal will not pick up.

Planning Board meeting Aug. 19: The Town Planning Board will meet for its regular monthly meeting next Monday, 5:30 p.m., in the Pitts Center. On its agenda are continued discussions about Town Code building height and fill requirements and possible restrictions on special events in vacation cottages. In light of the Town Council’s decision to hold a public hearing Sept. 10 on the latest proposed nonconforming lots amendment, ZTA 19-01PB, the Planning Board will likely address nonconforming lots, as well.

And finally, The Beacon apologizes for not publishing last week the promised article on how salaries paid to key Town staff members in other Dare County beach towns compare to those paid by Southern Shores. We have received most, but not all, of the necessary data.

Have a great week, everyone.

Ann, 8/12/19


(Photo submitted by Tommy Karole)

Homeowners on South Dogwood Trail have long posted a front-yard sign asking drivers on their street to be considerate of walkers, bikers, and children. Today they added another all-caps, bold-faced message to their sign communications:


If you live on the cut-through route, you no doubt have said or thought about saying the same to drivers who collectively destroy your quality of life during summer weekends with their transient passage through the neighborhood. Perhaps a sign on every yard on the route would attract some attention where attention is lacking. Solidarity works.

Today, as it does every Saturday, The Beacon has written on Facebook about the oppressive traffic experience and invited readers to contribute their comments and observations. Please see https://www.facebook.com/southernshoresbeacon for details.

Ann, 8/10/19





The Town Council voted unanimously to designate the flat-top Mackey cottage at 218 Ocean Blvd., which was built in 1955 and modified in 1969, a Southern Shores historic landmark. Like the vintage home behind it, the nameplate on the mailbox has passed all tests of time.

In unanimous decisions last night, the Town Council appointed Deputy Town Manager/Planning Director Wes Haskett interim town manager effective Sept. 1, when Peter Rascoe retires, and scheduled a public hearing at its Sept. 10 meeting on the latest nonconforming lots amendment—thus reversing itself on a five-month delay that it approved just last month.

The Town Council also unanimously voted to hold a long-range planning and budgeting meeting on Sept. 17, after members discussed and amended a list of concerns that Mayor Tom Bennett had compiled as planning priorities.

Among the concerns added to the planning session, at Councilman Fred Newberry’s request, was the summer cut-through traffic, which a handful of homeowners on Hickory Trail addressed in public comments.

The homeowners supported a petition circulated among Hickory Trail and Red Bay Lane property owners by David Watson, another Hickory Trail homeowner, asking the Town to dead end Hickory at Hillcrest Drive. (See below.)

Mr. Haskett, who received eight weeks of managerial training at the University of North Carolina School of Government during FY 2018-19, will serve as acting town manager after Mr. Rascoe takes leave in August.

The Town Council also unanimously approved an increase in Mr. Haskett’s salary during his interim appointment of $250 per week. By a vote of 4-1, with the Mayor dissenting, the Council directed Mr. Haskett to “bring back in September a list of consulting firms”—i.e., recruiters—for members to consider in their search for a new town manager.

Mr. Haskett currently earns $86,598 in “total” salary, according to Town records. Mr. Rascoe’s total salary is $163,940. Including benefits, their respective compensation is $112,613 and $214,902.


As The Beacon previously reported, the Town Council unanimously voted at its July 9 meeting to table Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) 18-09PB01, which is a proposal recommended by the Planning Board to except certain nonconforming lots from the reach of Town Code sec. 36-132. (See The Beacon, 7/17/19 and 7/18/19 for details.)

Enacted by the Council last September after much discussion and confusion, Code sec. 36-132 is a rewrite of the nonconforming lots ordinance that had been on the books for decades. The new measure, viewed largely as a stopgap, passed 4-1, with Councilman Christopher Nason dissenting.

The Council’s intent was to unequivocally prevent property owners, particularly those on or near the oceanfront, from separately selling and/or developing 50-foot-wide lots that constitute part of a 100-foot-wide parcel. The language of the previous ordinance had been interpreted as failing to achieve this purpose because of inartful wording.

The new ordinance clearly compels the combination of adjacent nonconforming lots—principally, those that are less than 100 feet wide—owned by the same “owner,” a term defined in sec. 36-132 so as not to allow people to circumvent the ordinance by creating a corporation or transferring property to a family member.

The Council knew a year ago that the new ordinance would affect more people than the targeted property owners, so it directed the Planning Board to identify those who would suffer undue harm and, in the interest of fairness, to create exceptions for them in a new zoning text amendment.

ZTA 18-09PB01 represents months of effort by the Planning Board, the Town Attorney, Mr. Haskett, and other Town staff to do just that. The Planning Board’s recommendation was unanimous.

Nonetheless, upon motion at the July 9 meeting by Councilman Nason to amend the agenda and not hold the anticipated public hearing on ZTA 18-09PB01, the full Council agreed, thus disappointing quite a few people in the audience who have a stake in its passage. Mr. Nason’s motion delayed consideration of ZTA 18-09PB01 until December, when a new Council will be seated.

Councilman Jim Conners requested reconsideration by the Council last night of its decision to table ZTA 18-09PB01 and came prepared with a motion, which he read.

He moved, according to text that he provided to Town Clerk Sheila Kane, to “reschedule a public hearing and Council discussion and /or action at the regular meeting of September 10, 2019 to consider the Planning Board recommendation of ZTA 18-09PB01 and that the Town Attorney prepare for Council discussion, a separate ordinance that addresses only the tear down of a structure located on two or more non-conforming parcels of land and then building two or more structures on non-conforming lots.”

After considerable discussion, during which Mr. Nason suggested repealing Code sec. 36-132, an action that would require another zoning text amendment, the Council unanimously approved Mr. Conners’s motion.

According to Mr. Conners, his motion envisions: 1) the passage of ZTA 18-09PB01 “to give immediate relief” to unfairly disadvantaged property owners, several of whom spoke last night; and 2) the “repeal and enactment of an ordinance that addresses the limited situation” of tearing down a structure that is situated on two adjacent nonconforming lots and selling off the two lots for separate development.

Councilman Nason indicated last night that, although he participated in the Council’s discussion and voted on Councilman Conners’s motion, he would not be voting on ZTA 18-09PB01 in September because of a conflict of interest.

In advocating repeal of Code sec. 36-132, which he did not support last year, Mr. Nason said that the Planning Board’s “attempts to solve [the ordinance] are making things worse.”


Although last night’s meeting agenda called for the adoption of a “meeting schedule” for future long-range planning meetings, the Town Council, in response to a motion by the Mayor, only approved one meeting: on Sept. 17 at 5:30 p.m. in the Pitts Center.

Mayor Bennett said he had “compiled a list” of five planning priorities by selecting from among “concerns submitted by Council members” those on which a “majority” agreed.

Thus, the answer to the question that The Beacon posed on 8/2/19 about who’s doing the planning is: Mayor Bennett.

The Beacon believes that the Mayor would have served his constituents far better had he shared at the meeting all of the concerns that the Town Council submitted to him and then conducted a public discussion about them. The Beacon would have welcomed an open and transparent decision-making process about the Town’s future.

The Beacon has a difficult time believing that a majority of the Town Council members decided independently to make a “town-wide walking path system” a planning priority.

In defending this priority, which Councilman Gary McDonald argued should be under the purview of the Capital Infrastructure Improvement Planning Committee, Councilman Conners said his intent was to improve upon the use of the Town’s walkways, not to budget “walkway infrastructure.”

As an example of the minor improvements he had in mind, Mr. Conners mentioned better crosswalks and “You are here” signs to assist pedestrians unfamiliar with Southern Shores.

The other four priorities identified by the Mayor as having been endorsed by a majority are:

*Beach nourishment, which Mr. Bennett called “the elephant in the room.”

According to Mr. Rascoe, APTIM’s beach-survey findings from earlier this year are being compiled and will be reported in mid-September. Hence, the Mayor’s scheduling of the long-range planning meeting on Sept. 17—the day after the Planning Board’s September meeting.

*Future capital rehabilitation/replacement of town buildings

*Capital apparatus/equipment needs of the SSVFD

*Town land-use plan update

To this list, Councilman Newberry added cut-through traffic, and Councilman McDonald added stormwater problems, such as those that beset the town three years ago in the wake of Hurricane Matthew when ponds in need of dredging overflowed and flooded roads and homes, causing significant property damage.

The Beacon finds the Town’s failure, thus far, to work with the Southern Shores Civic Assn., which owns the ponds, to manage their sediment and debris accumulation unfortunate. (Full disclosure: I paid thousands of dollars out of pocket to restore the ground floor of a rental cottage that is near the Circle Drive pond, which overflowed. That this could happen again, on the Town’s and the SSCA’s watch, after both have been sufficiently warned, strikes me as negligence.)

Mr. McDonald also advised putting roads and other capital improvements on the planning priority list and to “reanalyze what we’re putting in the capital improvement fund.” The Beacon has supported Mr. McDonald’s persistent effort to appropriate more money from the annual budget for capital improvements.

By previous agreement, the Town Council has determined that five cents out of every 22 cents per $100 of property value collected in Town real-estate taxes will be appropriated for the annual capital improvements budget. In FY 2019-20, that amount is projected to be $662,340.

At the Council’s April 23 budget session, Councilman McDonald proposed increasing the set-aside from property taxes to seven cents, but his motion was defeated 2-3, with Mayor Bennett and Councilmen Conners and Nason voting against it.

Finally, Mr. McDonald brought up the deterioration of the Marketplace and his desire to “make it more presentable.”

Mayor Bennett disputed that the Town has any say over what the private owners of the Marketplace do, but clearly the Town can regulate aesthetics through zoning. The Beacon would have liked to have heard Town Attorney Ben Gallop’s opinion on the concerns Mr. McDonald raised. The Marketplace has definitely lost its luster.


Last month David Watson, a longtime Southern Shores Realty Co. (SSR) employee who lives with his wife on Hickory Trail near Red Bay Lane, circulated a petition among his neighbors that reads:

“In an effort to restore Hickory Trail and Red Bay Lane to their original purpose and design as streets for ingress and egress, we, the owners of said homes and lots along Hickory Trail and Red Bay Lane, ask that the Town of Southern Shores dead end Hickory Trail at the Hickory and Hillcrest intersection, allowing only pedestrian[s], bicycles, etc., to pass on to said intersection, thus reducing unnecessary and unwanted automobile traffic on this side street.”

Last night Mr. Watson, who previously had met with Town officials to discuss his “dead-end” plan, advocated for it during the public-comment period. He explained that, besides being prevented from using Hickory Trail, drivers heading north through Southern Shores on summer weekends would be prevented from turning off of East Dogwood Trail on to Hillcrest Drive, Sea Oats Trail, or Wax Myrtle Trail—unless they had a residency sticker.

Viewing Hickory Trail as the “linchpin” for the cut-through traffic pattern, Mr. Watson said his intent is to steer any traffic that turns on to South Dogwood Trail back on to N.C. Hwy. 12 at its intersection with East Dogwood Trail.

Between July 17 and Aug. 5, Mr. Watson, who is SSR’s broker in charge, collected 34 signatures of property owners, he told The Beacon. Red Bay Lane has nine parcels of land on it, including a lot owned by the SSCA, he said, and the affected section of Hickory Trail has 28 parcels, one of which is owned by the SSCA.

The Beacon believes that any idea that promotes a faster flow of traffic through Southern Shores on Hwy. 12 should be considered by the Town Council. We have previously suggested that police officers be stationed at flashing-light intersections along Hwy. 12 to direct traffic as if it were exiting a sporting event. Such a plan would require cooperation from Duck so that its pedestrian crosswalks do not impede the flow.

Said Hickory Trail homeowner Etta Lanuti, in describing the ordeal she faces coming and going on weekends: “It’s just not fair. It’s not fair.”

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, Aug. 7, 2019


A Loggerhead sea turtle comes ashore in Southern Shores the evening of July 26 to lay her eggs. A reader submitted the photograph to The Beacon, which previously published it on Facebook.

Last Friday another Loggerhead sea turtle emerged from the ocean and laid her eggs on the Southern Shores beach—one week after the town received its second nest of the season, an event The Beacon reported in detail July 27 on its Facebook page.

According to the Network for Endangered Sea Turtles (N.E.S.T.), Aug. 2 was a busy night for local sea turtles. Another female turtle delighted beachgoers farther south by depositing her eggs on a stretch of the Kitty Hawk beach. This mother’s efforts were captured in a series of photographs that can be seen on N.E.S.T.’s website: www.nestonline.org.

The Kitty Hawk nest was the 25h laid on the Outer Banks, between the Virginia state line and South Nags Head, during this year’s May 1st-to-Sept. 1st nesting season. The Aug. 2 Southern Shores nest is the 26th and most recent. The July 26 nest upon which The Beacon reported on Facebook is the 24th.

Sea turtles generally lay their eggs at night. According to N.E.S.T.’s website, each nest will have about 100 to 120 eggs in it.

N.E.S.T. volunteers are currently monitoring the first nest laid in Southern Shores, which was the sixth of the Outer Banks season, for hatching. These eggs were deposited June 5. According to a N.E.S.T. volunteer with whom The Beacon spoke, the incubation time for sea turtle eggs in our area is about 60 days. Just like nesting, hatches occur in darkness, as well.

N.E.S.T. volunteers, trained to be nest parents, sit near a sea turtle nest during the night hours, starting around the 55th day. The baby turtles that hatch will try to make their way to the ocean. Volunteers assist them by reducing predation by other animals and limiting light pollution.

The hatchlings are “programmed,” says N.E.S.T. “to head toward the brightest horizon,” which is the ocean, in the absence of any human-created lighting.

N.E.S.T. volunteers will sit near nest #24 starting Sept. 19 and near nest #26 starting Sept. 26. The nests are clearly marked on the beach with stakes, yellow tape, and sign notification and should not be disturbed.


Don’t forget to attend the Town Council’s monthly business meeting today at 5:30 p.m. in the Pitts Center. See The Beacon’s post 8/3/19 for a preview of the agenda, which you may access here:


In addition to the business items highlighted earlier by The Beacon–including a possible revival of ZTA 19-01PB concerning exceptions to the new nonconforming lots ordinance–the Council will be recognizing five employees for their years of service:

Jennifer Couture, Administrative Assistant for the Southern Shores Police Dept.: 20 years

Bonnie Swan, Finance and Human Resources Director: 15 years

Wes Haskett, Deputy Town Manager and Planning Director: 10 years

Dabni Shelton, Permit Officer: five years

Cynthia Mills, Administrative Specialist: five years

The Town Council also will approve the election of Elizabeth Morey as chairperson, and Andy Ward as vice-chairperson, of the Town Planning Board.

See you there.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, Aug. 6, 2019


Pictured above is the westside entrance to the Mackey cottage, an oceanfront flattop at 218 Ocean Blvd. that was built in 1955 and modified in 1969. The Town Council will hold a public hearing Tuesday about the cottage’s designation as a historic landmark. The Southern Shores Historic Landmark Commission has recommended that it be approved.

A month after unanimously voting to table for five months a proposed revision of the Town’s nonconforming lots ordinance, the Town Council next week will consider taking it up in September, per a request by Councilman Jim Conners.

A possible rescheduling of a public hearing on Zoning Text Amendment 19-01PB from December to next month is one of two noteworthy items of business on the Council’s agenda for its meeting Tuesday, which will be held at 5:30 p.m. in the Pitts Center.

The other item is the adoption of a schedule for future long-range planning meetings by the Council, apparently organized around priorities identified by Mayor Tom Bennett and the four Council members, two of whom—Christopher Nason and Gary McDonald—chose not to run for reelection and, therefore, have only four more months in office.

Councilman Fred Newberry, whose four-year term also expires this year, is running for reelection in November.

You may access the Council’s agenda here: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/minutes-agendas-newsletters/Agendas_2019-08-06.pdf.

The Beacon has written extensively during the past year about the problems presented by nonconforming lots; the Town’s effort to stop development on 50-foot-wide lots, which culminated in the Council’s enactment last September of a new Town Code sec. 36-132; and the Planning Board’s decision-making and approval of ZTA 19-01PB, which grants exemptions to certain property owners from the restrictions imposed by sec. 36-132.

We refer readers to our most recent writings on July 17 and 18, which were posted after the Council voted at its July 9 meeting to table ZTA 19-01PB until December, when the new Town Council will be seated. We will be interested to hear Tuesday evening why Councilman Conners has changed his mind and to learn whether anyone else has.

We also will be eager to find out how the five long-range planning issues listed on the Council’s agenda came to be selected as priorities.

There has been no public discussion among Council members about the issues deserving of long-range planning and budgeting, just a discussion at the April 23 budget meeting concluding that long-range planning—which Councilmen Newberry and McDonald have advocated for years—must occur.

According to Mayor Bennett’s explanations at Council meetings, he asked each Council member to submit a list of priority planning concerns. He did not limit them to their “Top 5,” which would have comparatively focused priorities, nor did he advise them that he was going to use their lists as expressions of viewpoints that might support “consensus,” without further discussion.

The five planning issues identified on the agenda are:

*Beach nourishment

*Future capital rehabilitation/replacement of town buildings

*Capital apparatus/equipment needs of the SSVFD

*Town land-use plan update

*Town-wide walking path system

These appear to The Beacon to be the priorities of some of the Town Council members, who have made their views known at meetings, but not all.

The Beacon wonders why the Mayor cannot just allow the sessions to go where they will go, without trying to control them in advance.

Even more important: Why is he seeking to do this now with a lame-duck Town Council?

The Beacon will attempt to answer these questions after Tuesday’s meeting.


The Beacon would like to acknowledge and “shout out” to Mark Jurkowitz, editor and owner of The Outer Banks Sentinel and The Outer Banks Voice, for his refusal to accept “preconditions” that retiring Southern Shores Town Manager Peter Rascoe sought to impose upon the news outlets before he would grant them an interview with him.

In refusing to be manipulated by a news subject, Mr. Jurkowitz showed journalistic integrity. In refusing to grant an interview that he could not manipulate, Mr. Rascoe showed a blatant disregard for the public accountability inherent in his position.

Mr. Rascoe does not work for himself or for a private company. He works for us.

The Town Manager, who announced his Sept. 1 retirement through a front-page article in the fawning The Coastland Times, is a public servant whose salary and benefits are paid by taxpayer dollars and whose duties and powers derive from town ordinance (Town Code sec. 2-22), which is based on N.C. law. He has an obligation to respond to the media, even if it’s to say no more than “no comment.” To do otherwise is to be arrogantly dismissive.

The Beacon is embarrassed for Southern Shores. Once again residents are being victimized by a government official who withholds, rather than discloses, information that the public has a right to know. We are appalled that a municipal-government employee—one who owes his retirement at age 62 to taxpaying constituents—thinks that he is not accountable to journalism watchdogs who serve and protect the public’s interests.

On July 22, The Sentinel and The Voice published a short news story by reporter Michelle Wagner about Mr. Rascoe’s retirement, which he announced privately in a July 19 letter to the Southern Shores Town Council and publicly in an uncritical July 21 article in The Coastland Times. The copy in The Times article was so canned that The Beacon wonders if Mr. Rascoe wrote it himself.

(See https://www.obsentinel.com/news/rascoe-to-retire-as-southern-shores-town-manager/article_79c8361a-acc6-11e9-a585-67d81abab194.html.)

Ms. Wagner concluded her story with the following paragraph:

“When contacted about an interview, Rascoe declined to participate unless the reporter accepted a number of preconditions regarding the kind of topics that could be discussed and the people who could be interviewed for the story. The Sentinel [and The Voice] declined.”

Not only did Mr. Rascoe refuse an open interview, he imposed a gag rule on his staff! Unheard of! Disgraceful!

In a council-manager form of N.C. municipal government, the city/town manager serves as the chief administrator and is responsible (answerable) to the council. His/her position is nonpartisan, and he/she cannot be political. Mr. Rascoe’s imposition of restrictions on an interview by local media implicates the Town Council, at whose direction he serves. Sadly, but not unexpectedly, Mayor Bennett said nothing in the wake of the Town Manager’s obstruction, and The Sentinel did not question him.

(For more about this form of government, see https://www.sog.unc.edu/sites/www.sog.unc.edu/files/course_materials/CMG%2004_Managers.pdf.)

Had The Sentinel and The Voice accepted Mr. Rascoe’s terms, they might as well have ceased publication. Journalists are not public-relations operatives. They are truth-seekers who document history. In government affairs, they have a special duty to ensure that the public’s business is conducted honestly and transparently and that they report upon that business objectively, accurately, and critically.

As for Mr. Rascoe, the obvious question is: What does he have to hide?

Mr. Rascoe’s last day on the job is Aug. 16. Deputy Town Manager/Planning Director Wes Haskett will assume his duties until a new town manager is hired.

EXTRA: The Beacon has confirmed through the acquisition of town public records that Mr. Rascoe is indeed the highest-paid town manager in Dare County. We will publish a story about Mr. Rascoe’s salary and benefits, and those of other Southern Shores employees, vis-à-vis the compensation of public employees with the same positions in the other beach towns next week.

 Ann G. Sjoerdsma, August 3, 2019