10/15/20: TOWN HIRING NEW PERMIT OFFICER, FULL-TIME BUILDING INSPECTOR/CODE ENFORCEMENT OFFICER; PLUS NEWS ABOUT BEACH NOURISHMENT, TOWN CODE REWRITE, PLANNING BOARD, AND MORE.

Just a reminder: Tree stumps placed in the public right-of-way for pickup tomorrow during the Town’s bulk-waste collection will be rejected, as will lumber and other building supplies. Television sets are also verboten. You will find the list of acceptable items for roadside disposal on the Town website. Just look at the top of the home page.

The Southern Shores Planning and Code Enforcement Department will change radically soon, with the hiring of two new employees to replace longtime Permit Officer Dabni Shelton, who recently retired, and her husband, James “Buddy” Shelton, who has been serving the Town part-time as its building inspector for the past three years.

Mr. Shelton came to Southern Shores after retiring as Dare County’s building inspector and has said that he is willing to work for the Town until early February, according to Wes Haskett, Planning Director and Deputy Town Manager.

Mr. Shelton’s position will become full-time and be reorganized as Town building inspector and code enforcement officer.

Mr. Shelton is willing to step down earlier if someone else is hired and sufficiently familiarized with his position, Mr. Haskett advised the Town Council at its Oct. 6 meeting.

This week, the Town interviewed five applicants for the full-time permit officer job and plans to interview at least two more people next week, Mr. Haskett told The Beacon.

“We hope to fill the position in early November,” Mr. Haskett said in an email.

The Town intends to hire a new building inspector/code enforcement officer “no later than late November or early December” so he or she can “shadow Buddy” and learn the job, Mr. Haskett said last week.

“We will most likely begin interviews in a couple of weeks” for that job, he told The Beacon.   

We are delighted that the Town is expanding the Planning and Code Enforcement Department with the addition of a half-time code enforcement officer.

Enforcement of the Town zoning code, after permits have been issued, as well as other ordinances is now complaint-driven, and we are hopeful that the hiring of another person will relegate that practice to the past.

In particular, Town employees should be on the lookout for code violations during the construction process, so that they can be addressed and corrected by builders before projects are finished. Homeowners and other residents should not have to report possible violations for the Town to be vigilant.  

Also at last week’s Council meeting, Mr. Haskett announced that:

BEACH NOURISHMENT GRANT: The N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality has “tentatively approved” the Town for a beach nourishment grant from its Coastal Storm Damage Mitigation Fund, with no indication of how much money it will award. The grant amount still had not been disclosed as of yesterday, Mr. Haskett told The Beacon. 

Although the Town Council has yet to select and approve a 2022 beach nourishment “option” plan from among those recommended by its coastal engineering consultant, the Town’s NCDEQ grant application propounded upon option 4, which had a $14,755,600 price tag.

NCDEQ can award up to $2.5 million to a grant recipient. It has up to $11.5 million available for coastal storm mitigation grants. (See The Beacon, 4/21/20)

TOWN CODE REWRITE PROJECT: Town Attorney Ben Gallop has finally reviewed the zoning code of the Town Code update/revision drafted by Chad Meadows of CodeWright Planners, LLC, of Durham, and submitted his comments to Mr. Meadows.

Mr. Haskett plans to speak with Mr. Meadows today; Town Manager Cliff Ogburn, he said, may participate in the conversation.

The expectation is that Mr. Gallop’s comments will be incorporated into CodeWright’s revision and a “public hearing draft” will be sent to the Town Planning Board for its review, Mr. Haskett told the Town Council.

The Beacon’s understanding was that Mr. Gallop, who has had Mr. Meadows’s Town Code revision since January 2019, was to review the entire draft, not just the zoning code chapters. The Town Code is a compilation of legal regulations, and Mr. Meadows is not an attorney.

At a public forum on Jan. 31, 2019—one of a number that he held in an exhaustive process that began in September 2015—Mr. Meadows advised that Mr. Gallop would review the draft in February (2019) and that the Town Planning Board would consider it in March and April, with an eye toward recommending those chapters that Mr. Meadows said the Board is required by North Carolina law to recommend.

At that time The Beacon described CodeWright’s draft as big, bloated, and user-unfriendly. (See The Beacon, 2/1/19. See also The Beacon, “What Happened to CodeWright’s Revision of the Town Code?” 7/26/20; and The Beacon, “The Making of a Fiasco: CodeWright’s ‘Update’ of the Southern Shores Code of Ordinances,” 7/30/20.)

The news that, after 19 months of sitting on it, Mr. Gallop had finally reviewed the draft zoning code was delivered to the Town Council by Mr. Haskett, not Mr. Gallop. Not a single person on the Council asked the Town Attorney his opinion of what he read. Not one. And Mr. Gallop gave no report of his own.

Council members may already know, but we don’t.

Is there anything more important in Southern Shores than its Town Code of Ordinances? 

***

Speaking of the Planning Board, the position of vice chairperson, formerly held by Don Sowder, who resigned Aug. 1 from the Board after serving only one year of his three-year term, is still open, Mr. Haskett confirmed to The Beacon after we searched the Town website to learn of his replacement.

On Aug. 18, the Town Council appointed Board First Alternate Lynda Burek to serve out Mr. Sowder’s term. Since then, Planning Board Chairperson Andy Ward has not convened a meeting to hold an election.

A vacancy still exists for a volunteer to serve out the remainder of Ms. Burek’s term as first alternate, unless Second Alternate Robert McClendon is elevated to her spot. In that case, the second alternate’s position will be vacant. Both alternates’ terms run through June 30, 2021.

Mr. Haskett informed The Beacon yesterday that the Town has received only one application for the vacancy, so far. It is from Janis Collins.

The Beacon does not know Ms. Collins, but we certainly encourage more women to participate in Town government. The Planning Board plays a vital role in the development of Southern Shores.

If you are interested in applying for the Planning Board vacancy, you may submit an application to info@southernshores-nc.gov or to the Town Hall, 5375 N. Virginia Dare Trail, Southern Shores, NC 27949.

You will find an application form, as well as information about the Planning Board, which also serves as the Town Board of Adjustment, at: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/7-22-15-Board-Volunteer-Application.pdf.

***

And finally . . . you may be interested to know that . . .

*All Southern Shores police officers are now wearing body-worn cameras “in the field,” as Police Chief David Kole reported at the Council’s meeting last week, saying that they are “happy and proud” to have the new equipment; and

*”Finally, we’re in there,” Fire Chief Ed Limbacher said about the SSVFD’s occupancy of the new fire station on South Dogwood Trail, which took about nine months longer to complete than was initially projected.

Chief Limbacher said an open house will not be held at the new station because of the COVID-19 threat, but he plans to do a virtual walk-through for the public to access online.  

The station “turned out phenomenal,” the Chief said.

“It’s very expensive,” he acknowledged, “but it’s a 100-year building” that has “no maintenance.”

Chief Limbacher described himself as feeling “two feet taller” and said, “Everybody is happy.”

PLEASE NOTE: The Beacon will return to the subject of beach nourishment easements at a later date. The Town Council voted unanimously last week to give Town Manager Cliff Ogburn authority to proceed with trying to procure voluntary and irrevocable perpetual easements from oceanfront property owners.

The Council also unanimously approved, with some modifications, a draft perpetual easement prepared by the Town Attorney, which he said was a compilation of language taken from easements applied in other Dare County towns, as well as in Atlantic Beach, Emerald Isle, and Topsail Beach.

The Beacon has no use for kitchen-sink legal documents. Southern Shores is not Nags Head, Atlantic Beach, Emerald Isle, or any other North Carolina coastal town.

See The Beacon, 10/2/20, for background.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 10/15/20

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