The Southern Shores Beacon endorses Matt Neal, co-owner of Neal Contracting LLC, and Town Councilman Fred Newberry for election to the Town Council on Nov. 5. We believe both are outstanding candidates who will lead the town forward, decisively and intelligently, and with equanimity and fairness.
Both Mr. Neal and Mr. Newberry care deeply about the town and the people who live here and will work together to serve both well.
MATTHEW NEAL, 36, is a Southern Shores native—third generation, he says—who has shown in numerous public comments before the Southern Shores Planning Board and the Town Council that he is committed to environmental and historic preservation and smart growth. In fact, he played a critical role in formulating the new Town ordinance that limits overnight occupancy and septic capacity in vacation cottages to 14 persons.
Mr. Neal is very familiar with the letter and application of the Town zoning code: Had the Planning Board and Council listened to him, The Beacon believes the nonconforming lots imbroglio, which has yet to be fully resolved, may not have occurred. Even now he can offer a solution that will protect both the Town and those property owners who did not benefit from the Council’s recently enacted zoning amendment.
Mr. Neal and his wife and business partner, Rachel Neal, and two small children live in a modernized flat top on Wax Myrtle Trail.
We have been very impressed with Mr. Neal’s wealth of knowledge about zoning, stormwater problems, and other development issues of concern to Southern Shores property owners, and with his quick thinking. He is well-informed and prepared to address any matter that comes before the Town Council with thoughtfulness and practical reason. He also has leadership skills.
In truth, Mr. Neal, who has been the president of the Outer Banks Home Builders Assn. for the past two years, had to win us over. We were skeptical about having an active builder on the Town Council, especially one who has participated in the OBHBA’s legislative lobbying efforts. But Mr. Neal’s devotion to his hometown, his knowledge of seemingly every inch of Southern Shores, and his balanced viewpoints have convinced us that he would be a tremendous asset on the Council.
As Mr. Neal said at the Oct. 7 candidate forum, he has “a lot to offer.”
His term as OBHBA president expires in December.
Mr. Neal’s campaign is hosting a candidate meet-and-greet tomorrow night (Oct. 30) from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Duck Woods Country Club. You do not need an invitation to attend, but Mr. Neal asks that you RSVP at email@example.com, so that the club will have an accurate guest count for the drinks and light refreshments being served.
COUNCILMAN FRED NEWBERRY, 71, who was first elected in 2015, has made and is making inroads on the Town Council in terms of dealing with the cut-through traffic, which is a top priority of residents, and of planning and budgeting for the town’s future. Mr. Newberry is seeking to ensure that all necessary projects–especially infrastructure projects–get done without the need to raise real-estate taxes.
We believe that Councilman Newberry, whose campaign slogan is “I work for you,” should be returned to office so that he may continue his progressive efforts.
Mr. Newberry is very much of a democrat—with a small “d”—not an autocrat. He is committed to giving the public, his constituents, a strong voice in the Town Council’s decision-making.
Mr. Newberry and his wife, Debbie Newberry, live on North Dogwood Trail and own a modest rental house on Ocean Boulevard.
Councilman Newberry has made reducing the cut-through traffic a primary goal of his campaign. He currently is sponsoring a citizens’ committee to study the problem and to recommend solutions that “work for everyone,” he said. Mr. Newberry expects the committee’s conclusions to be presented to the new Town Council in December.
Councilman Newberry spearheaded with Councilman Gary McDonald, who decided not to run for re-election, the no-left-turn (NLT) weekend trial that was held in June 2018 and was largely viewed as a success by Southern Shores residents, even those who live on Duck Road.
Both councilmen considered the NLT trial an opportunity for an assessment of the effects that the restriction would have on traffic cutting through on residential streets in town, including in Chicahauk, over one June weekend, not as a “one-and-done” experiment.
Councilman Newberry also has come out in favor of a case-by-case approach to doing beach nourishment in Southern Shores, as was done in 2017 when the beach in front of Pelican Watch, next to the Kitty Hawk Pier, was re-nourished.
The Committee to Elect Fred Newberry is holding a candidate meet-and-greet on Sunday, Nov. 3, from noon to 3 p.m., at 148 Ocean Blvd., which is just north of the cell tower on the beach road. The event is open to the public. Drinks and light refreshments will be served.
THIRD COUNCIL SEAT: The Beacon is aware, of course, that voters will be electing three people to the Town Council on Nov. 5, and that candidates Leo Holland, 78, and Elizabeth Morey, 60, also are vying for a seat. Mr. Holland served on the Town Council from 2013-17 and elected not to run for re-election two years ago. Ms. Morey has served on the Planning Board for eight years and has been its chairperson since January. She has only recently started attending Town Council meetings.
Ms. Morey is an effective communicator and dedicated public servant whom The Beacon likes, but currently cannot support.
Mr. Holland is a nice man who has not displayed the independent-mindedness and preparation that The Beacon considers essential to its candidate endorsements.
For more on both candidates, see The Beacon’s reports on 10/11/19 and 10/13/19 about the Oct. 7 candidate forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Dare County. You may watch a video of the event here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_N6ukMB8l1Y&t=4814s.)
WRITE-IN CANDIDATE: Earlier The Beacon reported hearing rumors that a grass-roots write-in campaign had formed. Although some voters have urged a write-in vote to re-elect Councilman Gary McDonald, who initially filed for re-election, but then withdrew, Mr. McDonald has informed The Beacon that he personally has not launched a campaign. When we asked if he would serve if he were to be elected by write-in, Mr. McDonald said he would.
ELECTION DAY: The polls will be open at the Kern Pitts Center on Nov. 5, from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.
EARLY VOTING continues today through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Kill Devil Hills Town Hall and the Dare County Administration Building in Manteo.
The four Southern Shores Town Council candidates’ names appear on the ballot in alphabetical order. You will find a sample ballot here: https://www.darenc.com/home/showdocument?id=5809
TOWN PLANNING BOARD AND TOWN COUNCIL BUSINESS
Planning Board Unanimously Approves Amended ZTA on Lot Fill, Building Height, Rejecting Bank Cupola Exemption; Will Look at Retaining Walls
As expected, the Town Planning Board unanimously approved on Oct. 21 proposed Zoning Text Amendment 19-02, which changes the means by which the 35-foot maximum building height is calculated and defines what material may be used as lot fill—among other Town Code refinements—but only after recommending that a section of the ZTA concerning banks fronting on U.S. Hwy. 158 be stricken.
The proposed height-calculation change reflects a recognition that many of the remaining undeveloped lots in town are irregular in topography.
Planning Board First Alternate Tony DiBernardo, serving in place of absent regular Board member Ed Lawler, objected to a height exemption in ZTA 19-02 for “decorative cupolas” and “ornamental watch towers” atop banks that have street frontage on U.S. Hwy. 158, but are not in the Martin’s Point area.
John Finelli represents the extraterritorial jurisdiction, aka ETJ, of Martin’s Point, on the Planning Board. Over the summer Mr. Finelli submitted to the Board written comments about changes to the Town’s building height and lot fill requirements that its members were discussing. His comments included a recommendation that banks not be given special treatment.
See Finelli comments at https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Height-and-Fill_Finelli-comments.pdf.
Section 6(b)(1) of ZTA 19-02 would allow banks fronting on Hwy. 158 in Southern Shores to have cupolas or water towers extending up to 15 feet above their rooflines, which must peak at 35 feet. This provision is expressly designed to accommodate the existing cupola at TowneBank’s branch building at 1 Juniper Trail.
TowneBank abuts an RS-1 single-family residential district. The other banks in Southern Shores along Hwy. 158—Wells Fargo and First National Bank—are exclusively in the Town’s commercial district.
After first inquiring whether TowneBank’s cupola could be “grandfathered in,” rather than accorded a Code exemption that would apply to all banks fronting on Hwy. 158, Mr. DiBernardo stated that he could see no reason why a bank should be permitted to exceed the 35-foot height limit.
“There’s no function to [the height extension] other than decorative,” he said. “I don’t understand the purpose to it.”
Interim Town Manager and Planning Director Wes Haskett replied that the purpose was “purely aesthetic” and said that he would speak with the Town Attorney if “you want to explore grandfathering.” The Board indicated it did.
“Do we want more banks with cupolas or do we not?” asked Board Chairperson Elizabeth Morey.
Envisioning a cupola atop each of the other two banks in Southern Shores that currently front on Hwy. 158 and atop other future banks that may be built in the commercial area, Planning Board members made it clear that they do not.
The Beacon missed an earlier Planning Board meeting during which ZTA 19-02 was discussed, and the topic of retaining walls came up. In his written comments, Mr. Finelli recommended that retaining walls constructed “for the exclusive purpose of retaining fill material above naturally occurring grades” be limited to two feet in height.
Southern Shores homeowner Doug Boulter sparked a renewal of the Board’s discussion about retaining walls when he addressed them in his public comments. He said he thought a 30-inch retaining wall “in the setback area” was “more than reasonable.” Mr. Finelli also prefers a 30-inch wall, according to his comments.
The current retaining wall regulation, Town Code sec. 36-97, provides that “within or abutting any residential district,” a retaining wall “shall” not exceed six feet in height.
“I know what the back lot of a six-foot retaining wall looks like,” said Planning Board Vice-Chairperson Andy Ward, “and it’s not pretty.”
The Board agreed to “revisit” the subject of retaining walls, starting at its Nov. 18 meeting. Town Council candidate Matt Neal suggested to the Board that the subject merited many meetings because of the possibility of causing “unintended consequences” if a proposed amendment to sec. 36-97 is not carefully considered and drafted.
THE TOWN COUNCIL MEETS NOV. 6, 5:30 P.M., IN PITTS CENTER
The Town Council will hold a public hearing on ZTA 19-02 at its Nov. 6 meeting, which features several important items on the agenda, including a presentation of the annual Town audit, possible selection of a contractor for the South Dogwood Trail sidewalk project, and a discussion about the beach nourishment process with Dare County Manager Bobby Outten and Dare County Board of Commissioners Chairman Bob Woodward.
The Beacon will preview the meeting in more detail in a blog over the weekend or next Monday. Newly elected Town Council representatives will not be sworn in until Dec. 3.
You may access the meeting agenda here: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/minutes-agendas-newsletters/Agendas_2019-11-06.pdf.
AND FINALLY . . . NOV. 15 IS BULK TRASH PICKUP DAY: For dos and don’ts, see https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/?s=bulk+waste+collection.
CORRECTION, THIS JUST IN . . . SSCA President Rod McCaughey has called a special general membership meeting on Nov. 21, 7 p.m., at the Pitts Center, for the purpose of finalizing the votes on the 2020 SSCA budget and the proposed changes to the bylaws. Both of these items were tabled at the SSCA’s Oct. 14 general membership meeting.
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 10/29/19