11/4/19: TOWN COUNCIL MEETING WED.: OUTTEN & WOODARD TO ADDRESS BEACH NOURSHMENT; 2018-19 AUDIT, S. DOGWOOD TRAIL SIDEWALK CONTRACT, PUBLIC HEARING ON ZTA 19-02 ALSO ON AGENDA. Traffic Committee to Hold Public Forum Nov. 19

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The Beacon took this photograph of the calm before Hurricane Dorian at the popular East Dogwood Trail beach access. Dare County officials will speak to the Town Council at its Wednesday meeting about their experience with beach nourishment.

Dare County Manager and Attorney Bobby Outten and Dare County Board of Commissioners Chairman Bob Woodard will speak to the Town Council Wednesday about their first-hand experience with beach nourishment on the Dare beaches, as Council members again consider whether to commit Southern Shores to an estimated $14 to $16 million nourishment project that would occur in 2022.

The Town Council will meet for its regular monthly meeting Wednesday, 5:30 p.m., at the Pitts Center—the day after three Council members are elected to serve from 2019 to 2023. The new Council will take office in December.

Check with The Beacon for election returns on Tuesday night. The polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Mr. Outten and Mr. Woodard headline a top-heavy Town Council agenda that also features the presentation of the 2018-19 audit by Teresa Osborne of Dowdy and Osborne; consideration of the three bids submitted by contractors for the construction of the South Dogwood Trail sidewalk project; and a public hearing on Zoning Text Amendment 19-02, which proposes changes in the Town Code building height and fill requirements.

Because the contract bids are included, the packet for Wednesday’s meeting is voluminous. It does not include Ms. Osborne’s audit, however, which is being submitted to Council members in paper form only. You may access the meeting packet here:

https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/minutes-agendas-newsletters/Meeting-Packet_2019-11-06.pdf.

Here is the agenda: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/minutes-agendas-newsletters/Agendas_2019-11-06.pdf.

The invitation to Mr. Outten and Mr. Woodard to appear Wednesday for what has been described as an information session arose out of a discussion that the Town Council had at its October meeting. Councilman Gary McDonald, in particular, expressed an interest in knowing more about the process involved in a beach-nourishment project, including how the County determines which towns receive available county monies that are set aside from collected occupancy taxes in a beach nourishment fund.

The Town opened all contractors’ bids on the South Dogwood Trail sidewalk construction project Oct. 3. They include:

  • $623,839.35, from Hatchell Concrete, Inc., of Manteo, which is a family-owned business
  • $819,710.00, from RPC Contracting, Inc., a contractor that the Town has frequently hired for infrastructure projects
  • $975,862.80, from Belvin Built General Contracting, Inc., of Powells Point

A fourth bid, submitted by Barnhill Contracting Co., was disqualified because it was incomplete.

Earlier this year, the Council voted 3-2 to appropriate $1 million from the Town’s undesignated fund balance for the sidewalk project because the capital improvement budget has insufficient funds to pay for it. Town Engineer Joseph J. Anlauf estimated a base-bid range on the project of between $862,127.19 and $1,034,552.62, according to the Town’s bid documentation.

Regardless of which contractor the Town Council chooses for the job, it is expected that the Town will receive some funding from Dare County for the project—perhaps as much as 50 percent of the total cost. (The Beacon has not perused the contractors’ proposals.)

The Beacon covered the opening of the bids in a post 10/5/19. In that same post, we recalled some of the Town’s past municipal elections and wrote the following:

“The Town Council election The Beacon finds the most intriguing was a November 2009 face-off between George Kowalski and Brian McDonald, who was then the incumbent. Mr. Kowalski beat Mr. McDonald by two votes! Even more stunning: Mr. Kowalski was a write-in candidate.”

We asked a month ago if anyone could “fill in the blanks” on this election, and several people did contact The Beacon. What we were told is that Mr. McDonald was allegedly targeted for defeat because he aligned himself with controversial former Mayor Don Smith, and that Mr. Kowalski had the strong backing of the Southern Shores Volunteer Fire Dept., which has long been a player in municipal elections.

Mr. Kowalski’s write-in victory is all the more astonishing to us because it occurred in the era of one-stop, no-excuse absentee voting, now known simply as “early voting.” For a history of absentee voting in North Carolina, see https://canons.sog.unc.edu/early-voting-in-north-carolina/. Early voting has been available in North Carolina in all elections since 2001.

A write-in campaign would have to be extremely well-organized to get a jump on early voting, which started Oct. 16 for the Nov. 5 municipal elections.

ZTA 19-02: HEIGHT AND FILL

Local builder and Town Council candidate Matt Neal has referred often in his public comments before both the Council and the Planning Board to Southern Shores being “90 percent built out.” Many of the undeveloped lots that are left, Mr. Neal has said, are the dregs—our word—that is, irregular lots that often defy flatness or are bowl-like and are not easily built upon.

It is largely for this reason that the Planning Board decided to research and discuss “potential amendments to the Town’s current building height and fill requirements,” as Interim Town Manager/Planning Director Wes Haskett explains in an Oct. 29, 2019 staff report to the Town Council that is included in Wednesday’s meeting packet.

Zoning Text Amendment 19-02 comes out of the Board’s research and discussions. The ZTA leaves intact the Town’s 35-foot building height restriction—which applies to all uses except for country clubs, churches, and school facilities—but changes the means by which it is calculated so as to help owners of low-lying properties and to simplify and clarify requirements. The ZTA also defines what material may be used as lot fill, among other Code refinements.

Currently, the Town Code addresses building height and the use of fill for elevation in the RS-1 single-family residential district, where most of us live, according to the property’s flood zone. Proposed ZTA 19-02 eliminates these provisions, which are in 36-202(d)(7), replacing them with the following language:

“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 corners of the building is less than 8 feet above mean sea level, the maximum building height may be measured from up to 8 feet above mean sea level.”

The current Code regulation uses seven feet MSL as a standard and speaks of the use of fill or the redistribution of fill for bolstering elevation. ZTA 19-02 deals with fill separately in Code sec. 36-171(1). It also adds to the Code zoning definitions, in sec. 36-57, the following definition for “fill material”:

“. . . material that is of substantially similar composition to the soils present on the lot being filled and shall not include debris, organic material, or be finished with soils or materials that will adversely affect the absorption of precipitation. Materials for landscaping shall not be included in this definition.”

Currently, the Town Code specifies top-plate height restrictions in all of the other zoned residential districts, which include RS-8 multifamily; RS-10 (high-density); and R-1 low density, and in the commercial district. Proposed ZTA 19-02 eliminates the top-plate and lowest-corner requirements from all of these districts, replacing them with the maximum building height calculation language quoted above—except for country clubs, churches, and schools, where the building height, but not its calculation, differs.

The maximum building height for principal buildings that make up country clubs and churches is 65 feet. For school facilities, the maximum height is 55 feet.

ZTA 19-02 also contains a height exemption—from the 35-foot building maximum—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.

This exemption is expressly designed to address the existing cupola at TowneBank’s branch building at 1 Juniper Trail, which the Town previously granted an exception, according to Mr. Haskett.

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.

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 Planning Board first alternate Tony DiBernardo, who was serving in place of absent regular Board member Ed Lawler, raised an objection to this exemption at the Board’s Oct. 21 meeting, the Board voted unanimously to recommend ZTA 19-02 without section 6(b)(1).

See The Beacon’s report 10/29/19 for background. You may access the ZTA here: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/10-18-19-ZTA-19-02-Building-Height-FIll-1.pdf.

The Beacon missed an earlier Planning Board meeting during which ZTA 19-02 was discussed, and the topic of retaining walls came up. The topic came up again at the Board’s October meeting, and the Board decided to consider amending the current retaining wall regulation, Town Code sec. 36-97, to address walls constructed for the exclusive purpose of retaining fill material above naturally occurring grades.

Town Code sec. 36-97, provides that “within or abutting any residential district,” a retaining wall “shall” not exceed six feet in height.

The Board will begin its discussion of retaining walls at its Nov. 18 meeting.

PUBLIC FORUM ON TRAFFIC . . . The Exploratory Committee to Address Cut-Through Traffic will hold a public forum on Tues., Nov. 19, at 5:30 p.m., in the Pitts Center. Town Councilman Fred Newberry is the Town Council’s sponsor of this committee, and homeowner Tommy Karole is the committee chairperson.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 11/4/19

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