The unprecedented cut-through traffic backups of the past two weekends received immediate attention from Mayor Tom Bennett, who reached out to Kitty Hawk town officials, state transportation officials, and Town staff to formulate a plan to prohibit the left turn at South Dogwood Trail/U.S. Hwy. 158 during the next two weekends.
The Mayor’s plan to hold so-called “unmanned” no-left-turn weekends on June 20-21 and June 27-28 unanimously passed the Town Council at its workshop meeting this morning.
“Unmanned” means the Southern Shores police will not monitor the intersection for violations, as they will for the three no-left-turn weekends that the Town Council approved two weeks ago.
It was unclear from the Town Council’s discussion today exactly what direct role, if any, Kitty Hawk would play during these weekends. Certainly, Southern Shores needs its northern neighbor’s consent and cooperation because the South Dogwood Trail/U.S. 158 intersection is in Kitty Hawk.
The Council also agreed that it would consider at its July 7 meeting doing the same in July for the weekends that have not been designated for street closure.
The total cost for renting barrels to block the left turn lane at U.S. Hwy. 158 over both remaining June weekends is $7400, an amount that the Council approved spending from the Town’s undesignated fund balance.
The turn will be prohibited from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on both days of both weekends.
Mayor Bennett has consistently voted during the past six years against prohibiting the left turn at South Dogwood Trail—an idea that first received resident consensus at a public workshop in October 2014—or taking any other actions suggested by homeowners to reduce traffic.
Indeed, he cast the sole dissenting vote against holding the three “manned” no-left-turn weekends this summer, on July 4-5, July 25-26, and Aug. 1-2.
Today, he said that he had long considered the traffic “the burden of living here.” But, with the traffic crush of the past two weekends, he felt compelled to act. We applaud his show of leadership.
Pointing out that even Circle Drive, a circular road east of N.C. Hwy. 12 (Duck Road) that begins and ends on Hickory Trail, had cut-through traffic on it, the Mayor said, “People are going to find a way on to our streets.”
The traffic jam-up of the past two weekends, he said, is “not a healthy situation.”
“This past weekend was miserable,” agreed Councilman Leo Holland, who lives in Chicahauk and monitors the app, WAZE.
Mr. Holland also referred to the traffic on Circle Drive–resort to which may be the ultimate exercise in futility and desperation.
WAZE gives real-time road condition updates and alerts. It routinely directs motorists to avoid N.C. Hwy. 12 and use roads through Southern Shores’ residential areas.
Action by the Town Council came after 30 minutes of public comments, during which about a dozen property owners addressed the June weekend traffic, by email, Zoom, or in person, calling it “ridiculous,” “horrendous,” and “unprecedented”; offered various solutions, including allowing residents to drive on the beach to get around the traffic; and requested help from the Town.
Because of the public hearing on beach nourishment that took place later, the Pitts Center was standing-room-only–but the standing was outside of the meeting room, in the hallways, because of social-distancing inside.
About a dozen members of the public were able to sit inside the meeting room at any time with the Town Council and Town staff members.
The Beacon thanks the Mayor and Town Council for stepping up now to take immediate action to ameliorate the weekend traffic nightmare. We also found encouraging talk by some Council members of devising a plan this summer to anticipate and deal with weekend cut-through traffic jams next summer.
This response by elected officials represents a big change. In the past six years, a Council majority inclined to take action on the cut-through traffic has not existed.
BEACH NOURISHMENT APPROVED, WITHOUT SPECIFICS
After a public hearing during which the overwhelming majority of the speakers supported a beach nourishment project in Southern Shores and after a lengthy question-and-answer period with the Town’s coastal engineering consultant, who appeared via Zoom, the Town Council voted unanimously “to pursue beach nourishment.”
The motion, made by Town Councilman Matt Neal, did not specify whether the project “pursued”—which the Mayor clarified as meaning that the Council will “proceed”—would be town-wide or only a portion of the beach. It also did not endorse one particular “option” recommended by the consultant, Coastal Protection Engineering of N.C., Inc. (“CPE-NC”), formerly known as APTIM.
In an interview after the meeting, Mr. Neal told The Beacon he was referring to a town-wide project. That appeared to be his implication, but he was not specific.
Mr. Neal’s motion came after an extensive discussion by the Town Council about beach nourishment and its funding, which The Beacon will attempt to cover at a later date.
It also came after Mr. Neal made another motion that he withdrew and reframed in a simpler form.
This much we will say now: The Council sought to delay as much as possible any decision-making on beach nourishment until after new town manager Cliff Ogburn takes office, which will be June 24. As town manager of Nags Head, which has done two sand-fill projects, Mr. Ogburn has been through the beach-nourishment process. Nags Head did not hire CPE-NC to manage its two projects.
Various members of the Town Council reported that more than 300 emails had been received by the Town in response to its mailer requesting comment by June 12. Of these, Mr. Neal calculated, 47 percent were in support of beach nourishment; 45 percent were in opposition; 2 percent were undecided; and 6 percent requested more information.
Several of the people who spoke in person at the meeting asked about the tax amounts cited in the survey mailer, which stated that beach nourishment costs per capita “could potentially range from an additional $100 to around $3,000.”
The speakers asked if these amounts were annual tax payments or one-time payments.
The answer is the additional tax will be annually assessed for the five-year term of the project financing.
In other business this morning, the Town Council unanimously approved retaining Joe Anlauf and Andy Deel as a town-engineer team for the next two fiscal years, at the end of which Mr. Ogburn will decide whether or not to continue the contractual relationship.
Before voting in favor of the Anlauf/Deel contract renewal, Mr. Neal clarified that he would like to reserve the right for the Town to bid out engineering jobs, if it thought another engineer would be more qualified to do the job.
Town Attorney Ben Gallop stated that there was nothing in the current town engineer’s contract that would prohibit that.
The Town Council also unanimously approved appointing current Planning Board member Ed Lawler to a new three-year term that starts July 1.
COVID-19 CASES CONTINUE TO RISE, TOTAL NOW 42
The Beacon has learned that the number of COVID-19 cases in Dare County has increased by three today, bringing the total to 42. We will publish a report on the latest cases, as well as cover the content of Dr. Sheila Davies’s update today. Please check back with us later.
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 6/16/20