9/9/19: NONCONFORMING LOTS (AGAIN) TOP TOWN COUNCIL MEETING TOMORROW; PETITION TO DEAD-END HICKORY TRAIL AT HILLCREST DRIVE TO BE PRESENTED; At 5:30 PM in Pitts Center

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Northbound cut-through traffic backs up on Sea Oats Trail near its intersection with Duck Road in the early afternoon today.

Exceptions to the new nonconforming lots ordinance that the Town Council enacted just a year ago will again be the subject of a scheduled public hearing when the Council meets tomorrow for its monthly meeting, 5:30 p.m., in the Pitts Center.

The agenda for tomorrow’s meeting is light. See https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/minutes-agendas-newsletters/Agendas_2019-09-10.pdf

Besides the public hearing and possible action by the Town Council on Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) 18-09PB01, which seeks to amend Town Code sec. 36-132, the Council will hear from homeowner David Watson about a petition signed by Hickory Trail and Red Bay Lane property owners regarding curbing seasonal cut-through traffic and consider how to move forward with hiring a new town manager.

Town Manager Peter Rascoe retired Sept. 1, after nine years as head of the Southern Shores town staff. Wes Haskett, who has been serving as deputy town manager and planning director, has assumed the duties of interim town manager.

Included in the consent agenda business for tomorrow’s meeting is a resolution to designate Mr. Haskett as deputy finance officer. This appears to be a perfunctory action taken pursuant to N.C. statute to ensure that if Finance Officer Bonnie Swain is not available, Mr. Haskett has the power and duty to serve in her absence.

You may view tomorrow’s meeting packet here: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/minutes-agendas-newsletters/Meeting-Packet_2019-09-10.pdf

Most of the pages of the 62-page packet are devoted to Mr. Watson’s petition, as a copy of the form that each property owner signed is appended. (Full disclosure: I was a signee.) The petition 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, bicycles, etc., to pass on to said intersection, thus reducing unnecessary and unwanted automobile traffic on this side street.”

Also scheduled on the meeting agenda is a report by Mike Fletcher, chairman of the Exploratory Committee for Potential Branch Library. In light of Hurricane Dorian, the police and fire chiefs’ monthly reports, prepared for August, are likely to include information about how the town fared in recent days, as well.

NONCONFORMING LOTS

As you may recall, the last time ZTA 18-09PB01 was set for public hearing (in July), the Town Council unanimously tabled it until December. A month later, the Council unanimously reversed course and scheduled ZTA 18-09PB01 for hearing in September.

See The Beacon’s blogs of 7/17/19 and 7/18/19 for background.

At the Town Council’s Aug. 6 meeting, Councilman Jim Conners made a motion 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 asked Town Attorney Ben Gallop to “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.”

According to Mr. Conners, as The Beacon reported 8/7/19, his motion envisioned: 1) the passage of ZTA 18-09PB01 “to give immediate relief” to unfairly disadvantaged property owners; 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.

Included in the meeting packet on pages 21-23 is a new ordinance currently designated ZTA 19-X that proposes to address the limited situation that Mr. Conners described. The language of ZTA 19-X is language that Mr. Gallop drafted last year, but the Town Planning Board did not endorse.

As longtime readers know, The Beacon has been reporting on the nonconforming lots issue—some might call it a dilemma—since spring of 2018 when The Beacon debuted. On Sept. 5, 2018, the Town Council revised the then-existing Town Code sec. 36-132, titled “Regulation of Structures and Uses Nonconforming,” by enacting language that clearly stopped the trend of property owners selling off developed 100-foot-wide parcels as two 50-foot-wide lots, which could be (and were) separately developed.

This trend arose on the oceanfront and west side of Ocean Boulevard, where the majority of houses were required by custom and restrictive covenant to be built on 100-foot-wide lots, ensuring the low-density-population development for which Southern Shores is noted and acclaimed.

Historically, the developers of the Southern Shores oceanfront sold 100-foot-wide parcels as two 50-foot-wide lots, which were expected to be, and were, combined into one buildable lot. When, during the past few years, old structures built upon these 100-foot-wide parcels began to be razed and two structures began to appear in their place, as property owners sold off 50-foot-wide lots, the Town Council stepped in to regulate.

Upon passing the replacement ordinance for sec. 36-132 last September, the Town Council tasked the Town Planning Board with assessing the fairness of imposing the now clearly delineated requirements of lot conformity on individual property owners. ZTA 18-09PB01, which the Planning Board devised and unanimously approved, is written to give relief to known, identifiable property owners.

The Beacon has written extensively about nonconforming lots and the Town’s response to the higher-density-development trend, and we do not believe that the Town Council has yet hit on the proper approach. We believe that the impenetrable and confusing legal language of ZTA 19-X only exacerbates the confusion.

The problem traces back to Town Code enactment by the Town Council of minimum lot dimensions in the various residential districts that failed to take into account how the town was developed. The Council that established the minimum dimensions—some time around 2000, Mr. Gallop has stated—painted with too broad of a stroke.

In the RS-1 single-family residential district, in which the vast majority of us live, the minimum lot size is required to be 20,000 square feet, and the minimum lot width is 100 feet. (Town Code sec. 36-202(d).) Any lot that does not conform to these minimums is considered “nonconforming.”

But here’s the rub: Oceanfront properties may have been sold as 100-foot-wide parcels, but Southern Shores properties sold subsequently were narrower. As local builder and Town Council candidate Matt Neal has pointed out on numerous public occasions, all of the lots in Sea Crest Village are 75 feet wide. Sixty-foot-wide lots were sold on Skyline Road. It is safe to say that the variation in lot size among the different areas of town development is substantial.

The Beacon believes that the Town Council should examine the minimum lot standards established historically in the various areas when they were developed and revise the Town Code to conform with those standards. We urge the Council not to enact more torturous legal language. Change the minimum dimensions within the residential districts to reflect the different prevailing standards in various areas of those districts. It may take more research to do so, but the outcome will be more satisfactory for all property owners.

See you at the meeting tomorrow.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 9/9/19

9/8/19: VISITORS MAY RETURN TO SOUTHERN SHORES, NORTHERN BEACHES AT 4 P.M. TODAY; HATTERAS ISLAND MOVES TO PRIORITY THREE ACCESS AT NOON

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Visitors may freely enter all areas of Dare County north of Oregon Inlet today starting at 4 p.m., when “Priority Four” stage reentry takes effect, according to a bulletin posted this morning by the Dare County Control Group. Priority Three reentry will begin in Hatteras Island, effective at noon, the Control Group said.

See bulletin at https://www.darenc.com/Home/Components/News/News/5608/1421?backlist=%2fdepartments%2femergency-management

The Control Group advises all visitors to check with their rental-property providers before traveling to ensure that their accommodations are available.

Dangerous surf conditions remain. Beachgoers may check conditions at https://www.weather.gov/beac/mhx, according to the bulletin.

The Town of Southern Shores has not made any announcements about tree-debris removal. The Town customarily picks up limbs, leaves, branches, and other vegetative debris that is left unbagged at the roadside. It will not pick up building materials, shingles, concrete, and the like.

You may expect a regular trash collection tomorrow.

Ann, 9/8/19

 

 

 

 

 

9/7/19: 7:45 P.M. UPDATE: PRIORITY THREE REENTRY EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY IN SOUTHERN SHORES, NORTHERN OBX; PRIORITY TWO BEGINS IN HATTERAS ISLAND

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The moon through the Southern Shores trees

No sooner had I posted my last blog in which I said that the Dare County Control Group had proved me wrong by not ordering Priority Three reentry today than the Group posted a bulletin at 7:45 p.m. announcing that Priority Three reentry was effective immediately for the areas north of Oregon Inlet.

Priority Three applies to nonresident property owners and employees of non-critical businesses. (For more details on Priority Three, please see earlier blogs.)

The Dare County Control Group also announced that Priority Two reentry is effective immediately for areas south of Oregon Inlet, i.e., Hatteras Island.

The Control Group’s next bulletin will be issued no later than tomorrow at 8 a.m.

Good night.

Ann, 9/7/19

 

9/7/19: PICTURES FROM THE SOUTHERN SHORES OCEANFRONT AFTER DORIAN

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Hurricane-related damage along Ocean Boulevard in Southern Shores was confined to relatively few structures and was minimal. Damage visible on a driving tour today under clear blue skies of the oceanfront and westside areas between the Kitty Hawk-Southern Shores line and the Ocean Boulevard-Hickory Trail intersection tended to be on rooftops, as pictured above. Shingles blew off roofs, and some screens and sections of siding also took flight in Dorian’s winds, landing in yards and on the roadside.

But such damage was the exception. The Southern Shores beaches and vacation cottages fared very well in the storm.

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This window (above) blew out of a westside bedroom in a beach box near the Duck Road split, but it landed intact in the yard. Nearby, a crimp near the top of the AT&T cell tower could be seen:

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There were no reports, however, that the damage to the tower’s structural integrity caused any cell-phone service problems.

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It was a gorgeous beach day. A beautiful September day with nary a reminder of the hurricane’s battering, bashing, scraping, lashing, hammering, pounding, slamming, smashing, ripping, and rocking. The news media used all of these provocative verbs and more in describing Dorian’s action.

The Dare County Control Group has proved me wrong about reentry. I thought the third priority stage would take effect today, and all visitors would be allowed access to the Dare County towns north of Oregon Inlet tomorrow. It would appear instead that another announcement about reentry staging will not be made until tomorrow morning.

While out and about, I saw no safety hazards in Southern Shores outside of the maritime forests on the soundside and in Chicahauk, and these could be managed by driving cautiously and alertly. Because of fallen trees and tree debris, some of the roads were passable only as single lanes.

Tree-removal and electricity contractors have been working diligently to restore power and clear roads to the wooded neighborhoods. Many residents were out today, clearing their driveways and yards and even the streets in front of their homes.

It was business as usual in the Southern Shores-Kitty Hawk commercial district on U.S. Hwy. 158.

Have a good night, all.

Ann, 9/7/19

 

 

 

 

 

9/7/19: ‘PRIORITY TWO’ PERSONS MAY REENTER NORTHERN OBX AT NOON TODAY, AS DARE BEGINS STAGED REENTRY; SOUTHERN SHORES STREETS CLEARED FOR ACCESS; Hatteras Island Remains Closed

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This photograph of a downed tree across Hickory Trail was taken this morning shortly before a tree-removal crew arrived to clear it.

“Priority two” permanent Dare County residents and essential personnel for critical businesses may return to areas north of Oregon Inlet today starting at noon, as Dare begins its priority reentry staging.

In a bulletin issued at 9:30 a.m., the Dare County Control Group advised that it has started the reentry process for the northern towns, including Southern Shores, but has continued to keep access to Hatteras Island closed until further notice. The county has established a checkpoint to restrict entry to Hatteras Island.

According to the bulletin, the Control Group “will continue to meet to assess conditions and implement reentry for additional priorities as conditions improve and power is restored.”

See Dare County Emergency Management (DCEM) bulletin at https://www.darenc.com/Home/Components/News/News/5604/1421?backlist=%2fdepartments%2femergency-management.

Priority two permanent residents must present a valid N.C. driver’s license or a government-issued ID card with a local address in an area north of Oregon Inlet in order to gain access. Essential personnel of critical businesses must present a priority two reentry permit with a matching government-issued ID, according to the Control Group’s advisory.

Priority one applies to essential personnel; priority three applies to nonresident property owners and employees at non-critical businesses; and priority four encompasses all visitors, including renters who have booked vacation cottages starting today.

Based on my experience and my observations, I do not envision the Control Group moving into priority four reentry until tomorrow. Priority three reentry could occur later today.

According to the DCEM bulletin, Southern Shores streets have been cleared for access. Town staff will be assessing the storm-generated debris and providing debris-removal information as soon as possible. As for our neighboring towns:

The bulletin advises that, although a town-wide damage assessment has not been completed in Duck yet, the damage there appears to be minor, just some minor siding, roof, and fence damage. N.C. Hwy 12 and all side roads in Duck are passable, despite some standing water and tree debris.

The DCEM bulletin did not provide details about conditions in Kitty Hawk, but notes that traffic signals are inoperable in parts of Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head. Generally speaking, standing water, tree limbs, and debris still remain on some roadways in the towns south of us.

There will be no ocean swimming today because of dangerous surf conditions and strong rip currents.

To obtain detailed information about the staged reentry process and to apply for a permit, which you can print out, visit http://www.darenc.com/reentry.

Ann, 9/7/19

 

9/6/19: MANDATORY EVACUATION, RESTRICTED ACCESS TO DARE REMAIN IN EFFECT UNTIL TOMORROW MORNING, WHEN STAGED REENTRY WILL BE DECIDED; Curfew Set for Hatteras Island

 

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Surf’s up on the beach at 11th Avenue, and the road to reach it remains passable, with very little standing water, according to SSCA President Rod McCaughey, who submitted this photo. Nearby houses, he reports, only suffered minor shingle damage.

The mandatory evaluation for Dare County remains in place because of hazardous conditions, and access to Dare County remains restricted, until the DCEM’s Dare County Control Group meets tomorrow morning to review safety assessments and determine reentry procedures.

In a bulletin issued at 4:35 p.m. today, Dare County Emergency Management described existing hazards as including “downed power lines and trees, impassable roadways, and widespread power outages.”

Southern Shores definitely experienced downed trees, impassable roadways, and some power outages, but they appear to have been largely in the woods, according to what readers have reported to The Beacon. Like Rod McCaughey, who photographed the ocean at 11th Avenue, Nancy Lorell of 13th Avenue saw a “very high and angry” ocean when she ventured to the beach this afternoon.

Ms. Lorell described “some ponding” on her street, “but not as bad as Matthew,” which caused widespread flooding on the oceanside three years ago. Thirteenth Avenue also has “some small limbs and leaf debris” on it, “but nothing major,” Ms. Lorell said.

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A single lane is passable on East Dogwood Trail near its intersection with Hickory Trail, thanks to quick work by the SSVFD which, according to neighbors, cleared a number of downed trees from the roadway.

Roadways on Hatteras Island are covered with sand and water, DCEM reports, and N.C. DOT is working to assess damage along N.C. Hwy. 12 there.

All of Hatteras Island is without power, just as is Ocracoke Island, which is in Hyde County, not Dare. Water service to Hatteras Village has been turned off due to a leak that cannot be found and repaired because of flooding. Repair crews are standing by.

The Dare County Control Group has established a curfew for Hatteras Island from 8 p.m. through 8 a.m. tomorrow. It applies to all areas south of Oregon Inlet.

The Control Group will determine the timing for the staged reentry process, which, as The Beacon previously described, will occur according to the “priority” status of returning persons.

Essential personnel may return first during stage one. Resident property owners who have the proper identification or a reentry permit may return during the priority two stage; nonresident property owners with proper ID must wait until priority three stage. Priority four applies to the general public and all other visitors. For more information about the reentry process, see https://www.darenc.com/departments/emergency-management/hurricanes/reentry.

If you would like to receive a DCEM alert via text, voice mail, or email, you may sign up at http://www.darenc.com/alerts.

(UPDATE MINUTES AFTER POSTING THIS: A reader reports that the AT&T cell tower at the Duck Road-Ocean Boulevard split was damaged during the storm.)

Ann, 9/6/19

9/6/19: THE CLEANUP STARTS AS DORIAN HEADS OUT TO SEA

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The SSVFD attends to tree obstructions near the intersection of East Dogwood and Hickory trails.

I heard the sound of a chain saw emanating from East Dogwood Trail, looked outside a window and saw a Southern Shores Volunteer Fire Dept. truck and the blue lights of a police car at the intersection of East Dogwood and Hickory trails, and decided to violate curfew by a few minutes. My neighbor had already started some sort of motorized device and was chopping wood. I could not resist.

No one is cutting through on Hickory Trail this afternoon.

After photographing the East Dogwood-Hickory trails intersection, I walked north to take a photo of this obstruction, which Lynanne St. Laurent reported earlier on The Beacon’s Facebook page:

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A downed tree blocks Hickory Trail, going north, before Red Bay Lane.

As of 2 p.m. today, Hurricane Dorian was 125 miles northeast of Cape Hatteras and heading north out to sea at 21 miles per hour, according to The Weather Channel. With sustained winds of 90 mph, it is still a Category 1 hurricane. Our friends in Virginia Beach are now feeling its effects.

The roads in the Southern Shores woods that I have been able to see in person or in photographs sent to me are littered with tree debris. It is foolish to travel them now, but that reality has not stopped a few cowboys in pick-up trucks from venturing out.

Dare County asks residents to report loose and downed power lines to law enforcement (911) or the power company.

I would love to hear from someone on or near the oceanfront who can describe the damage in that area. Please email ssbeaconeditor@gmail.com or post a comment on the Facebook page.

How are folks in Chicahauk doing? In the dunes? Your observations and comments are welcome.

Ann, 9/6/19

9/6/19: CURFEW EXTENDED UNTIL 3 P.M. TODAY, EXCEPT IN NAGS HEAD

The curfews established yesterday for all areas of Dare County except Kitty Hawk have been extended until 3 p.m. today, except in Nags Head, where the curfew has been lifted, according to a noontime bulletin from the Dare County Emergency Management.

I have been adding updates to previous posts and to The Beacon Facebook page via comments.

Ocracoke was hit hard this morning when the waters of the Pamlico Sound rose 7 feet in two hours, starting around 8 a.m. There is widespread flooding on the island, as well as a power outage. Hatteras island is also without power and experiencing flooding.

I will add to this post when I have further updates about the curfew and damage in Southern Shores.

Ann, 9/6/19

 

9/6/19: SCENES FROM OCRACOKE, SOUTHERN SHORES

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These photographs were taken in Ocracoke at 10 a.m. today.

Pamlico Sound waters at Ocracoke rose 7 feet in two hours this morning, starting around 8 a.m., according to a report by The Washington Post:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2019/09/06/water-rises-feet-hours-ocracoke-north-carolina-eye-hurricane-dorian-moved-past/

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A view of the Currituck Sound at North Dogwood Trail in Southern Shores, around 11 a.m.

 

9/6/19: HURRICANE DORIAN MAKES LANDFALL AT CAPE HATTERAS; DCEM Advises All Residents to Stay Indoors Today, Warns of Soundside Flooding

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Graphic published by National Weather Service

Hurricane Dorian made landfall at Cape Hatteras at 8:35 a.m. today, according to the National Weather Service. Its winds were estimated at near 90 miles per hour, making it a Category 1 hurricane.

Closer to home, a northeast wind of 26 mph, and gusts of 39 mph, were registered at 9:15 a.m. in Manteo at the Dare County Regional Airport, according to the National Weather Service.

A flash-flood emergency is in effect for the Pamlico Sound in Hyde and Dare counties. (See graphic above.) I just received a report from a reader in Ocracoke that some people there have knee-deep water in their homes.

(Update: People are stranded in Ocracoke, inundated by flood waters and without power. The Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative reports on Twitter that the electricity is out throughout Hatteras and Ocracoke islands. Repairs to broken transmission poles will not occur until the area is deemed safe for workers to enter.)

Dorian is continuing to move northeastward, but its speed has increased to 14 mph.

Dare County Emergency Management advises all residents to “stay indoors, shelter in place” throughout today, as the storm’s strong winds and heavy rains affect our area.

In a bulletin issued this morning at 7:45, DCEM also warns that water levels on the sounds are dropping, as “water is pushed away by the wind,” but when the winds shift, “the sound water will rapidly return, bringing extreme soundside flooding.”

Those of us who live on or near the Currituck Sound have witnessed this phenomenon before. DCEM advises that you may access flood gauges online to view water levels in real-time at fiman.nc.gov.

Contact information for reporting power outages and viewing power outage maps, etc., is available at darenc.com/hurricanedorian.

For updated weather forecasts, watches, and warnings from the National Weather Service, see http://www.weather.gov/mhx.

Please feel free to comment here on the conditions in your area. If you would like to send a photograph, please email it to ssbeaconeditor@gmail.com.

Stay safe!

(A reminder: The curfew is still in effect until noon and may be extended.)

Ann, 9/6/19