The report of the $7500 traffic study being performed by the Town’s traffic engineering consultant is expected to be submitted by Feb. 12, according to Tommy Karole, chairman of the citizens’ Exploratory Committee to Address Cut-Through Traffic, who has been in contact recently with Town Manager Cliff Ogburn.
Feb. 12 is the same date that Mr. Ogburn gave at the Dec. 10 study progress report meeting that the Town held via Zoom between two employees of consultant J.M. Teague Engineering and Planning of Waynesville, N.C. and members of Mr. Karole’s committee.
(See The Beacon, 12/14/21, for a report on that meeting. For other background on the study, see 12/4/20 and 10/14/20.)
Mr. Karole asked at the December meeting if his committee could meet remotely with the two Teague employees, Engineering Director Will Thompsen and Engineering Technician Forrest Lundgren, to share with them homeowners’ observations “in the trenches.”
Both Mr. Thompsen and Mr. Lundgren, who gave a slide presentation about their early study data analysis, said they would welcome hearing from locals “on the ground.”
Mr. Karole informed The Beacon Sunday, however, that Mr. Ogburn has advised him the Town will not permit this information session to occur. This is a decision that would have had to have come from Mayor Tom Bennett, with or without consultation with individual Town Council members.
There has been no discussion at a Town Council meeting since Dec. 10 about the traffic study. Nothing public.
Mayor Bennett has been opposed for years to taking any action to prevent summertime weekend traffic from cutting through the residential areas of Southern Shores. Last June for the first time, and under emergency conditions, he supported prohibiting a left turn at U.S. Hwy. 158 on to South Dogwood Trail on two weekends.
It bears mentioning that Mr. Bennett’s term ends in December. The four-year term of Councilman Jim Conners, who, until Council members Elizabeth Morey and Matt Neal were elected in November 2019, also refused to take action to curb cut-through traffic, expires this year, as well.
The picture of Southern Shores traffic that the Teague engineers painted at the Dec. 10 meeting was a grim, but accurate, one. They said that N.C. Hwy. 12 is operating over-capacity, at what they called “forced saturated flow,” during the peak-season weekends, and that because of this saturation, traffic “cascades” to alternative routes that affect Southern Shores’ neighborhoods.
The traffic bottleneck in Duck, caused by that town’s 25-mph speed limit and pedestrian crosswalks, is “the common denominator of all congestion that is formed in Southern Shores,” said Mr. Lundgren.
At the conclusion of their slide presentation, Mr. Thompsen said, “We’re continuing with examining different strategies to cope with [the] cut-through traffic, as we were tasked within our scope of services.” He did not offer any last December.
The Beacon is disappointed that the “Town” has decided not to allow the public (members of the citizens’ committee) to meet with the Teague study engineers.
People who have not experienced the oppression and hardships posed by the cut-through traffic cannot ever truly imagine its effects and, therefore, can never be fully informed in their decision-making. The value of their detached objectivity is diminished by their lack of firsthand experience.
The one site visit that Teague made to Southern Shores was in September, after the summertime traffic crush had subsided.
We look forward to receiving the Teague consultants’ recommendations later this month.
TOWN COUNCIL MEETING TODAY AT 5:30, IN THE PITTS CENTER
The Beacon will not be able to attend or to live-stream today’s Town Council meeting at 5:30 p.m. in the Pitts Center. We will view the videotape as soon as possible and report to you what happened.
See The Beacon, 1/31/21 and 2/1/21, for commentary about two business items on the agenda: the Town Manager’s filing of his report supporting the establishment of two municipal service districts for the purpose of levying higher tax rates on certain properties to pay for the Town’s proactive 2022 beach nourishment project; and the initiation of the construction bidding process for “improvement” projects on sections of Hillcrest Drive and Sea Oats Trail.
Regarding the MSDs, we would like to note further that the Southern Shores Civic Assn., which owns oceanfront property from Hickory Trail north to the Duck town line, as well as all of the beach accesses along the town’s 3.7-mile-long shoreline, has not endorsed the 2022 project.
In an email Jan. 29 to SSCA members, in which he announced that the SSCA Board of Directors has granted the Town easements for the project, president Rod McCaughey said: “I want to be perfectly clear that granting the easement[s] does not constitute an endorsement of any particular beach replenishment plan or project.”
(The SSCA is a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization and is exempt from real estate taxation.)
There also will be a public hearing at today’s meeting regarding a change in Town Code chapter 17, which established the Historic Landmarks Commission, to add an alternate member to the five-member commission.
The public hearing is strictly pro forma. We foresee the Town Council unanimously approving this change and appointing Michael Guarracino of Tall Pine Lane to the newly created alternate position.
Mr. Guarracino’s background is in law enforcement and security. You may view his application for the Historic Landmarks Commission, which he filed to fill a regular membership position that he did not get, in the meeting packet.
The Town Council also will honor Lorelei Costa, one of the founding members of the Historic Landmarks Commission, who, we are sorry to report, is leaving Southern Shores.
The members of the Historic Landmarks Commission serve as volunteers, without any compensation.
You may live-stream tonight’s meeting at https://www.youtube.com/user/TownofSouthernShores.
You may view the agenda and meeting packet at https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/minutes-agendas-newsletters/Meeting-Packet_2021-02-02.pdf.
It is not too late to submit public comments to be read at the meeting. Just send an email with “public comment” in the subject line to email@example.com.
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 2/2/21