I will be posting a full report of last night’s Town Council meeting tomorrow. Because of preexisting commitments, I do not have the time today to do more than post a few highlights.
Many of you will be interested to know that David Watson withdrew his petition to dead-end Hickory Trail at its intersection with Hillcrest Drive. Mr. Watson, a homeowner on Hickory Trail, is now a member of Tommy Karole’s Town Council-sanctioned committee to explore ways to curb the cut-through traffic. Mr. Karole announced last night that Victoria Green, a homeowner on Hillcrest Drive, is also a member of this committee, which Councilman Fred Newberry oversees.
Mr. Karole reported to the Town Council that he anticipates holding two public forums on the traffic this fall, one next month and the second in November. He further provided an email address where people can reach him: TOSStraffic@gmail.com. Interim Town Manager Wes Haskett will be meeting with Mr. Karole soon to discuss setting up a Town email address for his committee. Communications with Mr. Karole will be a matter of public record.
Mr. Karole and his family have been coping this summer with the illness and death of a very close loved one. The Beacon extends its sincere condolences to Tommy, his wife, and children.
Despite frequent trips out-of-town during the past three months, Mr. Karole said last night that he has talked to a number of people about their cut-through traffic solutions. He also has been carefully considering committee members and will likely add more to a group that he would like to be representative of the different areas of town.
The Beacon would like to thank everyone who contacted the Mayor and Town Council about the petition signed by Hickory Trail and Red Bay Lane property owners, whether you opposed or supported it. As I said on The Beacon Facebook page yesterday, I viewed the petition as the start of a much-needed community conversation. In public comments last night, I called it a “cry for help.”
Please don’t go away. Keep raising your voices. And make a point of attending all public forums and asking Town Council candidates where they stand on this important issue.
In other action last night, the Town Council, as expected, unanimously approved ZTA 18-09PB01, which grants exceptions to the nonconforming lots ordinance (Town Code sec. 36-132), enacted last September, to known individual property owners. The vote was 4-0 because Town Councilman Christopher Nason was recused.
During the public hearing on ZTA 18-09PB01, Councilman Jim Conners heatedly interrupted remarks I was making, seeking to prevent me from using the words I chose to use. I was not being profane or inflammatory in my advocacy.
Interruptions by the Town Council during public remarks have long been considered inappropriate; hostile interruptions like Mr. Conners’s are even more objectionable.
I was explaining how a 50-foot-wide oceanfront lot at 64 Ocean Blvd. was created from a 137 ½-foot-wide vacant parcel owned by SAGA Realty and Construction when Mr. Conners cut me off, and Mayor Tom Bennett intervened, seeming to support his objection. The Mayor certainly did not chastise his colleague for censoring me.
My personal opinion is that ZTA 18-09PB01 is ill-conceived and that the subject of nonconforming lots—which exist throughout Southern Shores because of how the town was platted and developed—should be considered wholistically in big-picture planning.
It does not make sense to apply the minimum dimensions for oceanfront lots, for example, to lots in the dunes and elsewhere that were not platted with the same dimensions in mind.
Local builder and Town Council candidate Matt Neal has been carrying maps of the town, showing the variations in lot area and width, to public meetings since at least last January, perhaps even last year. Despite Mr. Neal’s presentations, the Town Council has supported a piecemeal approach of identifying exceptions to the prohibition of nonconforming lots in town.
Again last night, Mr. Conners made a motion, which was unanimously approved, to refer the issue of nonconforming lots back to the Town Planning Board to “look for further exceptions.” Mr. Conners singled out as possible exceptions lots in Seacrest Village.
It has long been known that Seacrest Village is a community of nonconforming lots. This should not be news to any Town Council member. Mr. Neal has publicly stated this fact on several occasions, including before the Town Council, and The Beacon has published it. Nonconforming lots on Skyline Road and Wax Myrtle Trail also have been discussed before the Town Council and the Planning Board.
I will end this writeup about last night’s meeting, which I intended to be brief, with mention of an instrument that I recalled for Councilman Conners and that we all should prize: the First Amendment. Americans are privileged to live under the U.S. Constitution, especially the extraordinary Bill of Rights.
No member of a governmental body should ever censor a member of the public simply because he does not like what he is hearing. If Mr. Conners is not able to listen open-mindedly to all of his constituents, without imposing judgments upon them of what he believes they should be permitted to say, he should resign his office.
IN CASE YOU HAVE NOT YET HEARD . . . Dr. Greg Murphy, a Republican who currently serves in the N.C. legislature, is our new U.S. Congressman.
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 9/11/19