In recent years, Southern Shores homeowners have posted their own signage to deter cut-thru traffic. Erection of this sign on a South Dogwood Trail yard pre-dates construction of the eastside sidewalk.

Tommy Karole, the chairperson of the citizens’ Exploratory Committee to Address Cut-Thru Traffic, has provided The Beacon with a copy of the written report he submitted to the Town of Southern Shores on March 15. We reproduce it, with editing changes for style and clarity–but with Mr. Karole’s boldfacing and underlining–below:

Traffic Committee’s Recommendation for an Ordinance

All long- and short-term solutions suggested below should be supported by a traffic calming ordinance that prevents cut-thru traffic and excessive speeds on local roads, thereby promoting public health, safety, and welfare for the citizens of the Town of Southern Shores. An ordinance will help ensure that phone traffic navigation apps such as Waze and Google Maps will reroute traffic accordingly. An ordinance alone will go a long way toward accomplishing our goal of eliminating cut-thru traffic in Southern Shores.

Traffic Committee’s Short-Term Traffic Mitigation Recommendations

The traffic committee supports the recommendation of [consultant] J.M. Teague Engineering and Planning to install a gate on South Dogwood Trail, [but the committee recommends that] this gate be closed on Saturdays and Sundays from May 1 through September 30. The committee recommends placement of this gate at the entrance of South Dogwood Trail and [agrees with the J.M. Teague report that it] should be supported by signage on U.S. Hwy. 158, alerting drivers that South Dogwood Trail is CLOSED.  In addition, the left-turn arrow at the U.S Hwy. 158 intersection should remain RED. This short-term, inexpensive solution would offer the citizens cut-thru traffic relief during the 2021 summer season and allow the Town of Southern Shores time to implement a long-term solution.

Radio Frequency-Controlled Gates

The radio frequency-controlled gates, mentioned below in the Long-Term Mitigation Recommendations, are economical and eliminate the need for on-site staff or police. These gates allow a small windshield tag to control opening of the gate from approximately 18 feet. A tamper-resistant option is available at no additional cost. Tags should be distributed to property owners only, in a manner similar to the Town of Southern Shores parking permits. If convenient for the Town staff, tags could be incorporated into Town of Southern Shores parking permits. These gates not only solve the problem of cut-thru traffic traveling north but [they would] also trigger navigation apps to block traffic leaving the northern beaches and traveling south through Southern Shores.  If needed, the traffic committee would be happy to share information and to do additional research on tags and gates.

[Mr. Karole provided an example of a tag that looks like a product bar code.]

Cut-Through Traffic Committee’s Long-Term Mitigation Recommendations


We recommend installation of TWO year-round radio frequency-controlled gates located at A) the entrance to South Dogwood Trail, OR on South Dogwood Trail near Widgeon Court AND  B) Juniper Trail.  Turnarounds would need to be installed to allow vehicles ample space to maneuver.  A gate at the entrance to South Dogwood Trail would be left open during the school year at pickup and drop-off times (for example, 7 am to 9 am and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.) to accommodate Kitty Hawk Elementary School parents and staff. Traffic engineers should be consulted to determine the best placement of the gates.

Hinged Seasonal Signage

Hinged folding signs would allow for easy control of seasonal signage. [Mr. Karole’s report includes examples of such signage.]

Signs Saying Road Closed to Thru Traffic and/or Local Traffic Only tell you that you need to take a different route and should only enter if you have no other option to reach your destination.

For example, if the driveway to your home or worksite can only be accessed on the restricted roadway, you are local traffic and not thru traffic. If your destination is beyond that stretch of road, you should take another route. These signs need to be supported by local ordinance. The installation of these signs would trigger traffic apps such as Waze and Google Maps to reroute traffic and would discourage travelers from exiting off Duck Road to access residential streets. The committee suggests consulting with a traffic engineer to discuss the most effective placement of seasonal signage.  The committee would like to share with the engineers the following suggestions:

Seasonal Signage Suggestions

A) A Do Not Enter Sign should be placed on Ocean Boulevard at the cellular tower [Duck Road split] to prevent people from traveling north to Hickory Trail [then cutting over to Duck Road].

B) Do Not Enter Signs should be placed at the east entrance to Porpoise Run, Trout Run, and Dolphin Run [off of Duck Road] (prevents the same cut-over to Duck Road at Hickory Trail).

C) Do Not Enter Signs should be placed at the west entrance to Porpoise Run and Dolphin Run [off of Duck Road] (prevents passage north via Wax Myrtle Trail).

D) Stay on Route 12–No Thru Traffic Allowed signage should be located on Duck Road between Chicahauk Trail and Porpoise Run AND between Trout Run and East Dogwood Trail. 

E)  Local Traffic-Only Signs should be placed at the entrance to Wax Myrtle Trail, Sea Oats Trail, Hillcrest Drive, and Hickory Trail, off of East Dogwood Trail (prevents northbound travel by unauthorized vehicles and triggers navigation apps).

F)  Stay on Route 12—No Thru-Traffic Allowed signage should be located on Duck Road between East Dogwood Trail and Hickory Trail (to discourage cutting through on northern portions of Wax Myrtle, Sea Oats, and Hillcrest). 

Mr. Karole first presented the recommendations of the traffic committee verbally at a public meeting March 11 with the committee’s two Town Council sponsors/advisers, Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Morey and Councilman Matt Neal. (See The Beacon, 3/11/21).

Since that meeting the Town Council has held a fiscal year 2021-22 budget workshop during which both techniques and costs for cut-thru traffic mitigation for this summer came up for discussion. (See The Beacon, 3/17/21.)

Council members indicated at this March 16 budget workshop that they support prohibiting the left turn from U.S. Hwy. 158-east on to South Dogwood Trail over eight summertime weekends, starting in late June. Town Manager Cliff Ogburn also made reference to four streets at which, The Beacon confirmed later, the Town is considering erecting “Local Traffic Only” signs and barricades to prevent northbound traffic from entering them off of East Dogwood Trail.

Those four streets are Hickory Trail, Hillcrest Drive, Sea Oats Trail, and Wax Myrtle Trail.

Mr. Ogburn has not yet presented the Town’s plan for mitigating cut-thru traffic this summer, which the Town Manager said he has been developing with Police Chief David Kole’s assistance, and the Town Council has not yet approved any cut-thru traffic mitigation plan.


Barring the scheduling of a special meeting before then, the Council’s next meeting is a regular monthly meeting to be held Tuesday, April 13, at 5:30 p.m. in the Pitts Center—a week later than usual because of local schools’ spring break time.

The agenda has not been released yet for the April 13 meeting, but the Town Council will definitely be taking a vote then on whether or not to establish any municipal service districts for purposes of funding beach nourishment by levying higher taxes on property owners on or near the oceanfront.

(The Beacon has written extensively about the proposed municipal service districts, most recently on 3/17/21, in a report on the Town Council’s March 16 MSD public hearing.)

N.C. law requires these service districts to be defined in a Town ordinance and for the Town Council to approve the adoption of that ordinance by a majority vote of the members present at two separate meetings. See NCGS sec. 160A-537(f).

It is likely that a morning budget workshop will be held on Tuesday, April 20, but the Town has not announced one yet. If the Town Council approves the MSD ordinance on April 13, it will likely take its second vote at the April 20 workshop, and proceed to set tax rates for the districts and the Town, to finance both beach nourishment and the general Town operating fund.

The Council could decide to hold another budget workshop on or around April 27, however.

Mr. Ogburn has said that he will have a Town Manager’s recommended FY 2021-22 budget ready to present to the Town Council at its May 4 regular meeting.

This budget must be balanced. At the March 16 budget workshop, Mr. Ogburn reported a shortfall of more than $1 million in his preliminary revenue-expense calculation.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 3/29/21


Discarded deck furniture is a common sight in Southern Shores before the town’s two large-item pickup dates.

The Town of Southern Shores’ bulk trash pickup date this spring is Friday, April 16. All bulk-waste items that the Town has approved for collection must be placed in the street right-of-way by 5 a.m. that day. The Town requests that you not place any items by the roadside earlier than the previous Friday, April 9.

Among the approved bulk-waste items that can be placed on the roadside are the following, according to a release by the Town:

  • Furniture, including sofas, chairs, dressers, mattresses, etc.
  • Exercise equipment
  • Hot tub covers (but no hot tubs)
  • Appliances (refrigerators, freezers, and any other appliances that may contain refrigerant must have a tag on them stating that the Freon has been removed. Refrigerator/freezers doors should be removed, as well.)
  • Yard waste and vegetative debris (the debris must be bagged in clear or brown paper bags)

Among the bulk-waste items that will NOT be collected are:

  • Televisions (TVs may be taken at no charge to the Kitty Hawk/Dare County Recycling Center or to the Dare County landfill)
  • Hot tubs, water heaters (these items also may be taken at no charge to the Kitty Hawk/Dare County Recycling Center and the landfill)
  • Hazardous materials, such as paints, solvents, chemicals
  • Building materials, including lumber, roofing, doors, screens, windows, stairs, carpet, cabinets, toilets and demolition debris, etc. (these items may be taken with a $50 permit to the Kitty Hawk/Dare County Recycling Center or to the Dare County landfill at no charge)
  • Soil, rocks, concrete, and stumps (these items may be taken at no charge to the Kitty Hawk/Dare County Recycling Center or to the landfill)
  • Tires and any item containing gasoline (they may be taken at no charge to the Kitty Hawk/Dare County Recycling Center, a maximum of four at a time)

For more information about acceptable items for the Town’s bulk-waste pickup, as well as details about the collection itself, see:


All items will be picked up by the contractor in one day.

The Town conducts two large-item collections each year, one in the spring, usually in April, and the other in the fall, usually in October.

For more information about the Kitty Hawk/Dare County Recycling Center, see:


See also: https://www.kittyhawknc.gov/departments-and-services/public-works/recycling/

The recycling center is located at 4190 Bob Perry Road in Kitty Hawk, which is off of Kitty Hawk Road. You may take Woods Road, which is the extension of South Dogwood Trail, south to Kitty Hawk Road, turn right, and then make a left on to Bob Perry Road.

The center is staffed by an attendant and is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., and 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday. It is closed on Wednesday.

If you have any questions, you may call the Kitty Hawk Public Works Dept. at (252) 261-1367.

We have dropped many items off at the Kitty Hawk Recycling Center and have found it to be a well-run operation that is very convenient for Southern Shores residents.

The county landfill is located at 1603 Cub Road in Manns Harbor and is not very convenient. The phone number is (252) 473-2059.

For more information about the landfill, see: https://www.darenc.com/departments/public-works/c-d-landfill-rubble-transfer-station.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 3/25/21


Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services.

Governor Roy Cooper will ease maximum occupancy limits in retail shops, salons, restaurants, gyms, bars, sports arenas, and other indoor venues, starting Friday at 5 p.m., when his current COVID-19 executive order expires. The statewide mask mandate and requirements for social distancing, however, will “remain in place,” the Governor said this afternoon at a COVID-19 update briefing.

According to Governor Cooper, the “main changes” under his new Executive Order 204 are:

  • 100 percent: Retail businesses and shops, salons and other personal-care businesses, museums, and aquariums will increase in maximum occupancy to 100 percent, up from the current 50 percent.
  • 75 percent: Restaurants, breweries and wineries, gyms and pools, and amusement parks will increase in occupancy to 75 percent, up from the current 50 percent.
  • 50 percent: Bars, sports arenas, conference centers, and live-event venues will increase in occupancy to 50 percent, up from 30 percent.

All businesses will be expected to enforce six-foot social distancing among customers and patrons, as they do now, he said.

Executive Order 204 also will raise the mass-gathering size limits to 100 people for outdoor gatherings, up from 50 people; and to 50 people for indoor gatherings, up from 25. The 11 p.m. curfew for on-premises alcohol sales also will “be lifted,” the Governor said, ending at 5 p.m. Friday.

The new Executive Order will remain in effect until 5 p.m. on April 30, unless it is rescinded, amended, or otherwise altered before then.

You may access EO 204 here:


FAQs about the order are available here:


The easing of restrictions comes after a sustained period of improvement in the state’s COVID-19 metrics and a “fast and fair” administration of vaccines statewide, the Governor said.

North Carolina is “holding stable” in the COVID-19 pandemic, and “our numbers are remaining steady,” he said.

“We’re in a promising place,” agreed Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services, who joined the Governor at the briefing.

But we still “need to keep our guard up,” the Secretary cautioned, because of the presence in North Carolina of COVID-19 variants, including the UK variant.

Dr. Cohen also said that while COVID-19 cases statewide have been declining, they “are starting to plateau,” which may be a consequence of the variants.

“This virus is changing,” she said, expressing concern about the “more contagious [UK strain that] spreads more easily.”

Dr. Cohen described as “lower-risk settings” those business venues and other public settings whose occupancy restrictions were either eliminated or increased above 50 percent by the new Executive Order. The COVID-19 risk is considered to be lower in settings where people are more apt to wear their masks consistently and to maintain six-foot social distancing, she said.

Bars, sports arenas, and other venues in the new 50-percent category are considered “higher-risk settings,” because people are gathered closely together indoors and do not consistently wear their masks when they “are not actively eating or drinking,” she said, nor do they maintain their distance from each other.

According to Dr. Cohen, 31.7 percent of North Carolina’s 18-and-over adult population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 18.8 percent of adults have been fully vaccinated.

“We’ve administered more than 4.1 million doses,” Governor Cooper said.

LOCALLY, the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services reported today a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases during the past week. Fifty-four new COVID-19 cases were diagnosed in Dare County from March 17 to March 23, an increase of 12 over the previous week and 20 or more cases over the two weeks immediately preceding it.

According to the DCDHHS’s bulletin today, “More than one-third of these new cases were linked to small outbreaks among employees at three different businesses and nearly all of the remaining new cases were linked to direct contact between family members and close friends.”

Fifty of the 54 people who newly tested positive for COVID-19 acquired the virus by direct contact with “an individual or individuals who were positive for COVID-19,” according to the DCDHHS.

The bulletin also noted encouragingly that there have been no cases in Dare County of “fully vaccinated people getting the COVID-19 virus”—at least, none, we would point out, who experienced symptoms and then tested positive for it. The possibility of fully vaccinated people becoming infected with COVID-19, but being asymptomatic and not seeking testing, still exists.  

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 3/23/21


Planning Director Wes Haskett identified at the Town Planning Board’s Monday meeting seven state law changes that must be incorporated into Southern Shores’ zoning and subdivision ordinances and will make up a single zoning text amendment (ZTA) application that he will prepare for the Planning Board’s consideration either at a special meeting or at its regular meeting in April.

Mr. Haskett, who is also the Town’s Deputy Town Manager, also announced at the meeting that longtime Planning Board member David Neal, whose current three-year term was to expire on June 30, has resigned.

The Town is seeking applications from volunteers for a Planning Board alternate position that will be vacant when the Town Council appoints, as it is expected to do as a matter of policy, first alternate Robert McClendon to Mr. Neal’s seat. (See below for details.)

The seven legal changes identified Monday by Mr. Haskett affect the following substantive areas, he said:

  • Performance guarantees (part of the subdivision ordinance)
  • Temporary health-care structures (zoning)
  • Requirements of protest petitions (zoning)
  • Allowable signage (zoning)
  • Minimum size of single-family dwellings (zoning)
  • Procedure for establishing a “minor” subdivision, which consists of four or fewer lots (subdivisions)
  • Manufactured homes (zoning)

The Town Council instructed “Town staff” at its March 2 meeting to take from CodeWright Planners’ “Adoption Draft” of a new Town Code of Ordinances those “valuable elements” that they believe should be incorporated into the current Town Code.

Mr. Haskett has started his review of the Adoption Draft for “valuable elements” by identifying state law changes that must be made.

(In a radical departure from its earlier implicit approval of CodeWright’s product, the Town Council decided unanimously that it prefers the language and format of the current Town Code to most of the language and the new format of CodeWright’s proposed revision.)

See The Beacon, 3/3/21.

Among the seven changes, the Planning Board focused most of its attention on manufactured homes, which, Mr. Haskett explained, are of one piece, like single-wide or double-wide trailers, whereas “modular homes” are typically transported in multiple pieces and assembled on a housing construction site.

The Town of Southern Shores allows modular homes, the Planning Director said. “We currently do not allow manufactured homes. State law says we have to.”

Planning Board Chairperson Andy Ward asked Mr. Haskett how Southern Shores might be able to “stiffen” its regulations on manufactured homes, after meeting the State’s requirements.

Mr. Haskett said that the CodeWright Adoption Draft includes some aesthetics requirements that the Town can impose, such as mandating a deck around the manufactured home and steps up to the home’s entry/exit.

He read aloud CodeWright’s language about aesthetics, as well as other restrictions proposed by the consultant for governing manufactured homes in Southern Shores: It specifies, for example, that a manufactured home “shall be occupied only as a single-family dwelling,” not used for storage, and, thus, it would be subject to all building and flood-protection requirements that apply to all single-family dwellings in town. 

(Mr. Haskett specifically stated that a manufactured home would have to conform to the Town’s setback, lot-coverage, and other residential district requirements.)

According to section 22.4.4(A)(1)(a) of the CodeWright Adoption Draft, the exterior of a manufactured home in Southern Shores would be required to be made of vinyl or aluminum lap siding, cedar or another wood, stucco, brick or stone. The home would have to be at least 16 feet in width and be free of “towing apparatus, wheels, axles, and transporting lights.”

For other proposed restrictions on manufactured homes, see the Adoption Draft at https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/11-24-2020-Adoption-Draft.pdf

The Planning Board did not discuss whether it could propose creating a new residential district for manufactured homes, and, therefore, regulate their location in town—the presumption apparently being that where a single-family dwelling exists, a manufactured home may, too.

Mr. Ward said he would like to make restrictions on manufactured homes “as stringent as possible,” and no one on the Board disagreed with him.

As for some of the other six state law changes, Mr. Haskett said that:

  • The new signage language is a “complete replacement” for what is currently in the Town Code. (We look forward to reading it in one place.)
  • The Town must abolish its ordinance requiring single-family dwellings to have a minimum of 1,000 square feet of “enclosed living space” because minimum house-size requirements are no longer legal in North Carolina.
  • The Town’s review procedure for a proposed minor subdivision must be altered so that it will no longer be as extensive as the review procedure for a proposed subdivision of more than four lots.

After the Planning Board considers Mr. Haskett’s seven-in-one ZTA, which it may decide to edit, it will make a recommendation to the Town Council, which will vote about enacting the ZTA into law.

In other business, Mr. Ward asked Mr. Haskett to draft recommended Town Code language that would make it clear that the outermost three feet of eaves are excluded from calculations of all building setbacks, not just from front setbacks, as sec. 36-56 of the Code currently requires.

The setback exclusion for eaves, Mr. Ward said, “should go all around a house, not just the front.” In other words, the setbacks from the back and side property lines should be 15 feet from those lines to the building structure itself, not to an overhanging eave.

In discussing this minor change, Mr. Ward recalled that the Planning Board excluded eaves from consideration in computing maximum lot coverage for single-family dwellings in a ZTA that the Town Council enacted into law in 2018.

Planning Board member Ed Lawler, who was not on the Board in 2018, objected to this exclusion, saying that since eaves are “impervious,” they should count toward lot coverage.

Mr. Ward calmly replied that the Planning Board of three years ago did not agree.

If you would like to apply for the vacant Planning Board second-alternate position, go to the following link:

Planning Board members, who also serve on the Board of Adjustment, serve three-year terms. Both Mr. McClendon’s term as first alternate and Jan Collins’s term as second alternate are scheduled to expire June 30. If the Town Council elevates Mr. McClendon to the full Board, it will likely elevate Ms. Collins to first alternate.

The Beacon also would like to heartily thank David Neal, a longtime Southern Shores homeowner and builder, for his many years of service on the Planning Board and the Board of Adjustment.

David’s judgments on the Board were always thoughtful, careful, and deliberate, and they always derived from his love of Southern Shores and his desire to preserve the town’s low-density development and natural beauty, while also furthering individual property owners’ goals and dreams. We will miss his experience and expertise, as well as his warm and friendly manner.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 3/19/21


The tax-rate increases that the Town of Southern Shores has proposed by district* in order to pay for its 2022 beach nourishment project are as follows:

Townwide: 2.75 cents on $100 of assessed property value

MSD-2: 6.25 cents (plus the townwide rate of 2.75 cents, for a total of 9 cents)

MSD-1: 14.5 cents (plus the townwide rate of 2.75 cents and the MSD2 rate of 6.25 cents, for a total of 23.5 cents)

In order to meet its funding obligation for the $14.5 million project—which is $6,123,873—the Town must collect $1,224,775 per fiscal year for the next five years.

All Town tax rates will be set by the Town Council in an upcoming budget meeting. If the Town Council does not vote to establish the municipal service districts, it would have to determine a uniform townwide tax rate to underwrite beach-nourishment funding.

The annual MSD and townwide tax assessments for beach nourishment would be indefinite—in effect as long as the Town is engaged in beach-erosion control and maintenance—although the Town Council could decide to reduce the tax rates.

We are concerned that our 3/17/21 article about the public hearing on municipal service districts may have misled people into believing that the increases for MSD-2 and MSD-1, respectively, are only 6.25 cents and 14.5 cents, when, in fact, property owners in these districts also pay the rate of districts that their properties overlap. Oceanfront property owners, therefore, pay a total of the increases in all three districts.

We believe the slide presented by Town Manager Cliff Ogburn at Tuesday’s hearing showing the proposed tax-rate increases was confusing, and we do not wish to contribute to that confusion. The cumulative tax rate should have been clearly indicated for each district: 2.75 cents; 9 cents; 23.5 cents.

The Town Council has brought up in session the possibility of raising the townwide tax rate to at least 3 cents, which, obviously, would have a ripple effect on the tax rates in the municipal service districts, if they are approved.

The Town Council will take its first vote on the MSDs at its April 13 meeting. Two votes of approval are required for the districts to be established.

Also yesterday we posted an article about FY 2021-22 budget considerations for cut-thru traffic mitigation measures and a possible general tax-rate increase in the next fiscal year, based on our coverage of the Town Council’s budget workshop on Tuesday morning.

The current Town tax rate is 19.58 cents on $100 of property value. This is a “revenue-neutral” tax rate that went into effect in FY 2020-21 after Dare County performed its property reevaluation. The revenue-neutral rate is designed to keep property owners’ taxes at the same level, even though the assessed value of their properties has increased.

Before the reassessment, the Town tax rate was 22 cents and had been for some years.

The Council did not reach a consensus at its workshop on raising taxes in FY 2021-22 to fund the Town’s general operations, exclusive of beach nourishment, but a majority of Council members appeared to support a one- or two-cent increase.

See The Beacon, 3/17/21.

The Town is unquestionably facing increased expenditures, especially in capital improvements.

The Council gave Mr. Ogburn permission Tuesday to increase annual expenses on street improvements to $1 million per fiscal year, as the Town Manager had recommended, starting in 2021-22. Before the pandemic 2020-21 fiscal year, annual expenses for capital improvements were most recently about $660,000.

The Town is also obligated to pay $314,020 per fiscal year for debt service on a 25-year loan that was taken out to pay for the new Southern Shores Volunteer Fire Dept. fire station.


* The Town has proposed establishing a municipal service district (MSD-1) that would include all properties that “abut the ocean” and all “oceanside” properties east of Ocean Boulevard that do not abut the ocean.

A second proposed district (MSD-2) would encompass all properties in MSD-1, all properties east of N.C. Hwy. 12 (both the Ocean Boulevard and Duck Road segments), and all properties west of and abutting Ocean Boulevard, from the southern town limit to 137 Ocean Blvd., and all properties west of and abutting Duck Road beginning at 139 Duck Road and extending north to 149 Duck Road.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 3/18/21


The Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services reported 22 new COVID-19 cases today, the first time since Feb. 2 that the county’s single-day new-case total has exceeded 20. Local residents accounted for 15 of the new cases.

At a COVID-19 update briefing today, Governor Roy Cooper described North Carolina’s COVID-19 metrics, including single-day case reports, as “low and stable” and “improving,” but he warned that “While our trends look good, we’re keeping a watchful and concerned eye on the more contagious COVID-19 variants we are seeing increasing in our state.

“Health experts tell us,” the Governor said, “that these variants spread more easily and can even make us sicker.”

Although the DCDHHS announced yesterday that it is moving into Group 5 in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout—accepting registrations from anyone age 16 or older who would like to be vaccinated—the Governor did not announce today an acceleration of vaccine eligibility statewide.

North Carolina is still in Phase or Group 4, which the Governor divided into two groups last week when he announced that people ages 16 to 64 with high-risk medical conditions and those of the same age who are in close congregate living settings, such as prisons, are eligible for vaccination as of today. All others in Group 4 will become eligible as of April 7. See The Beacon, 3/12/21.

The breakdown of today’s 22 new cases on the DCDHHS dashboard shows that three are people age 17 or younger; four are between the ages of 18 and 24; six are ages 25 to 49; and nine are ages 50-64. All are in home isolation. The seven nonresidents have been transferred into isolation outside of Dare County. 

Currently, there are no Dare County residents hospitalized with COVID-19, according to the dashboard.

Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services, said at today’s briefing that fewer people are getting tested now for COVID-19, which may account in part for a current “plateauing” of case reports in the state. Dr. Cohen urged people to get tested if they have COVID-19 symptoms—even if they are fully vaccinated.

Both Dr. Cohen and Governor Cooper stressed keeping up virus-transmission prevention efforts, such as wearing a mask and observing six-foot distancing.

“We’ll continue emphasizing prevention,” the Governor said, “even as we focus our priority on distributing vaccines in a way that’s fast and fair.”

Statewide, according to the Governor, 3.4 million people age 18 or older—or 25.7 percent of North Carolina’s adult population—have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 1.2 million people, or 16.5 percent of the adult population, are fully vaccinated.

“That’s fast,” he said of these vaccination numbers.   

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 3/17/21


Eighteen Southern Shores property owners spoke last night either in person or via Zoom at the Town Council’s public hearing on the proposed establishment of two municipal service districts to fund the Town’s 2022 beach nourishment project. About 35 others submitted written comments that will be posted on the Town website, according to Town Manager Cliff Ogburn.* (See comment at end.)

The message delivered by the 15 of the 18 property owners who supported the project—and two of the three who squarely did not—was consistent: The cost of the townwide 3.7-mile-long beach nourishment project should be “equitably shared” and “more equitably distributed,” so as to “impose a more equitable burden on taxpayers,” especially those who own oceanfront property.

The Town Council took no action after the hearing. It will cast its first vote on approval of the municipal service districts at the Council’s April 13 meeting. N.C. law requires a municipal government body to vote twice to approve MSDs before they can be established.

The Town has proposed creating one district (MSD-1) that would include all properties that “abut the ocean” and all “oceanside” properties east of Ocean Boulevard that do not abut the ocean.

A second proposed district (MSD-2) would encompass all properties in MSD-1, all properties east of N.C. Hwy. 12 (both the Ocean Boulevard and Duck Road segments), and all properties west of and abutting Ocean Boulevard, from the southern town limit to 137 Ocean Blvd., and all properties west of and abutting Duck Road beginning at 139 Duck Road and extending north to 149 Duck Road.

No properties in Chicahauk or west of Duck Road in Southern Shores are included in either proposed MSD.

According to Mr. Ogburn, Dare County recently “fixed” the cost of the Southern Shores project, for purposes of determining how much it will contribute from the county Beach Nourishment Fund, at $14,538,000. The actual project cost estimated in January 2020 by the Town’s coastal engineering consultant was $14,755,600.

Dare County will contribute $7,774,375 of the total cost, Mr. Ogburn said; the Town will pay $6,123,873, or roughly 40 percent; and a grant from the N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality will cover $1,408,247. The total of these amounts adds up to more than the project costs because of debt service over a five-year period.

“If the [construction] bid comes in over $14,538,000, then we either have to cut back somewhere or find the money,” Mr. Ogburn told The Beacon today in response to an email. “I don’t foresee going above the $14,538,000 though.”

(Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Morey brought up at the Town Council’s budget workshop yesterday the possibility of the Town contributing monies from its unassigned fund balance, which has “excess” millions in it, to the beach nourishment project, in order to “reduce the amount of tax on MSD taxpayers,” she said, as well as to reduce the amount of money that the Town would have to borrow. Town Councilman Jim Conners objected vigorously to this idea, saying that funding for beach nourishment, should be “self-sustaining,” while both Mr. Ogburn and Councilman Matt Neal pointed out that a significant amount of money—at least $1 million—would have to be invested before it would have an impact.

(Other Dare County towns, such as Duck, have appropriated monies from their general funds to pay for some of the cost of a beach nourishment project.)     

Of the Town’s $6,123,873, as Mr. Ogburn explained last night in pre-hearing remarks, the Town Council has tentatively decided that property owners in MSD-1 will pay 35 percent; those in MSD-2 will pay 30 percent; and property owners in the remainder of the town will pay 35 percent.

“Every town property will be taxed and should be taxed,” he said.

All Town tax rates will be set by the Town Council in an upcoming budget meeting. Mr. Ogburn nonetheless projected yesterday that the following tax-rate increases would be necessary in order for the Town to pay $6,123,873 or $1,224,775 per year for five years:

Townwide: 2.75 cents

MSD-2: 6.25 cents (plus the townwide rate of 2.75 cents, for a total of 9 cents)

MSD-1: 14.5 cents (plus the townwide rate of 2.75 cents and the MSD2 rate of 6.25 cents, for a total of 23.5 cents)

The annual tax assessments for beach nourishment would be indefinite—in effect as long as the Town is engaged in beach nourishment and maintenance—although the Town Council could decide to reduce the tax rates.

Several property owners suggested last night that equity in cost distribution means that:

  • “all residents should be taxed the same” for beach nourishment, as Misty DeZutter of Pelican Watch said;
  • all property owners “should pay a uniform amount,” according to Michael Iwashchenko, an oceanfront property owner and geologist who said he “adamantly” opposes beach nourishment; and
  • the costs should be “applied across the board,” according to Tim Panoff, whose family has owned his oceanfront home since 1968.

“I marvel at the stability of the beach,” said Mr. Panoff, who appeared via Zoom and described a 66-year history with Southern Shores.

If all Southern Shores property owners paid equally for the beach nourishment project, Mr. Ogburn has estimated that each would pay 8 cents more per $100 of property value per year.

Jane Smallwood, a longtime permanent owner-resident of an oceanfront property on Mockingbird Lane, whose home has been in her family for multiple generations, suggested last night that oceanfront property owners who reside in their houses should pay less in tax than property owners in the proposed MSD-1 district who do not.

This would not be legal, nor would it be legal for the Town to tax property owners in the two proposed MSDs who rent their homes more than those who do not rent them, or otherwise to discriminate among property owners based on their residency status and/or the use of their properties.

The N.C. law (NCGS 160A-537(a)) that the Town Council is tasked with applying requires it to define a MSD only upon a finding that the “proposed district is in need of [beach-erosion control and hurricane/flood protection] to a demonstrably greater extent than the remainder of” Southern Shores.

We have made the argument that, except for the southern area of the coastline, at and near Pelican Watch, the Southern Shores project is proactive and not designed to address current damage to the beaches. The standard of “need to a demonstrably greater extent” cannot be met north of the southern area, and, therefore, if the Town Council chooses to proceed on a proactive basis, it should reject MSDs and tax all property owners equally.

A number of speakers last night spoke about paying their “fair share” of tax, but not more.

Echoing others, Ocean Boulevard property owner Paula Sherlock pointed out that she already pays higher real estate taxes for her home because it abuts the ocean, as well as higher insurance rates, and she said she has invested in sand fencing to protect the public-trust beach at her property.

Some property owners who rent their houses pointed out that they already indirectly contribute to the occupancy taxes collected by Dare County, one-third of which are set aside in the county’s Beach Nourishment Fund.

Mr. Ogburn said that Dare County is already collecting the maximum occupancy tax allowed by N.C. law. (This bears looking into, but not today. We are aware that Mecklenburg County levies an 8 percent occupancy tax, 2 percent of which is earmarked to fund a particular capital project.)

The N.C. sales tax levied in Dare County can definitely be increased, if the N.C. General Assembly gives the county permission to increase it.

In comments that likely tickled old-timers, Kenneth Rogers appeared by Zoom from his Texas home to say that his late father-in-law, Kern Pitts, who was mayor of Southern Shores from 1979 to 1997—before mayors were directly elected—and for whom the Pitts Center is named, would be delighted to see how much progress the Town has made in conducting business. Meetings of the Town Council were quite informal and not well-attended during Mr. Pitts’s era.

Mr. Rogers, who owns an oceanfront home on Ocean Boulevard, agreed with other speakers that the burden of additional taxes for beach nourishment should be allocated “as fairly as possible.”

*The Beacon disagrees with the decision not to read the written comments at the hearing. The public was informed that it had three ways in which to participate in the hearing, one of which was by written email. In fact, it only had two. Absent a reading of the comments at the hearing, there is no guarantee that each member of the Town Council read them. Certainly, neither the public nor the media got to learn their contents.

While the Town may have feared that the public hearing would “last well into the night,” that is what public hearings do. They are a crucial part of the democratic process and should last as long as they need to. Last night’s hearing only lasted 70 minutes.

(3/18/21 UPDATE: Having read some of the voluminous comments submitted by property owners, which are now accessible on the Town website by clicking on the “Beach Nourishment” link on the home page and then on the “2022 Beach Nourishment Project” link, we are even more disappointed with the Town’s decision not to read them aloud. Property owners in proposed MSD-1 and MSD-2 are overwhelmingly against establishing the municipal service districts and in favor of a townwide tax. Many of the property owners also attest to the stability of the dunes in Southern Shores and the accretion of sand on the beaches, indicating that there is no need to undertake a townwide sand fill.)

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 3/17/21


Arriving vacationers turn left on to South Dogwood Trail on a Saturday afternoon last summer.

The Town Council appeared at its budget workshop yesterday to authorize a line item in the fiscal year 2021-22 Town budget of about $50,000 to cover the costs of mitigating summertime cut-thru traffic, while also supporting eight no-left-turn weekends.

We say “appeared” because the Town Council did not vote on funding for traffic-control measures in FY 2021-22. It did, however, unanimously approve an expenditure of $14,600 in the current fiscal year to purchase five new roadside traffic counters/monitors, which would be placed on Wax Myrtle, Sea Oats, Hillcrest, and Hickory trails.

There would be two monitors on Wax Myrtle Trail, one on either side of its intersection with East Dogwood Trail, according to Town Manager Cliff Ogburn.

(Installation of monitors on these four streets was among the nine suggestions made to the Town Council last June by the citizens’ Exploratory Committee to Address Cut-Thru Traffic about implementing the no-left-turn prohibitions. The committee also thought a counter at Ocean Boulevard after the Duck Road split was advisable.)

Like the monitors currently in place around Southern Shores, the new ones would register the speed of passing vehicles, as well as record the number of vehicles. In discussing their purchase, Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Morey extolled the value of the monitors as a deterrent to speeding, which is a common complaint of residents in the dunes.

After the meeting, The Beacon spoke further with Mr. Ogburn and learned that a proposal to install “Local Traffic Only” signs and barricades in the northbound lanes of Wax Myrtle, Sea Oats, Hillcrest, and Hickory trails at their intersection with East Dogwood Trail is in the works.

The physical barricades would be installed on each street just north of East Dogwood Trail. Northbound local traffic would be able to pass in the southbound lane, Mr. Ogburn explained.

The Town Council is expected to take up this proposal, prepared by Mr. Ogburn with assistance from Police Chief David Kole, at another budget meeting. The Town Manager confirmed that the Town Council is aware of it.

Yesterday’s workshop was principally for the purpose of giving Mr. Ogburn guidance in prioritizing Town expenditures as he seeks to balance the FY 2021-22 budget, which he preliminarily has calculated as falling short by more than $800,000. (See The Beacon, 3/14/21, for background.) The figure of $50,000 for traffic-mitigation expenses was proffered by Councilman Matt Neal.  

During a discussion about the seasonal cut-thru traffic led by Mr. Neal, the Town Council showed support for prohibiting the left turn on to South Dogwood Trail from U.S. Hwy. 158 over eight weekends, starting in June. Any expenses incurred in June would come out of the Town’s FY 2020-21 budget, not next year’s budget.

According to Finance Officer Bonnie Swain, the Town spent between $21,000 and $24,000 last summer on no-left-turn weekend prohibitions, which were monitored by Southern Shores police officers.

Mr. Ogburn said that the per-weekend cost for the left-turn prohibition if the intersection were not staffed by police would be $3700.

Mr. Neal indicated in his remarks that Mr. Ogburn is “trying to figure out how to do it less expensively with other government agency help,” but neither the Councilman nor the Town Manager elaborated on the form of this potential help.

Although both the traffic-engineering consultant’s report and the report of the Exploratory Committee to Address Cut-Thru Traffic recommended the installation of a gate on South Dogwood Trail to prevent cut-thru traffic from entering the residential areas, the Town Council did not discuss this option. A gate is not part of Mr. Ogburn’s proposal.

The citizens’ committee, however, did recommend the use of “Local Traffic Only” signs, or other prohibitive signage, at the entry to residential streets used by motorists who jump off of the Hwy. 158 and N.C. Hwy. 12 thoroughfares   

Yesterday Mr. Neal described the installation of any “temporary barrier” to traffic or other “hardened structure” to cut off traffic in town other than at South Dogwood Trail-Hwy. 158 as “the big outlier” in the Council’s decision-making, and “we don’t need to sketch that out now.”

Mayor Tom Bennett said he would like to see how well the eight no-left-turn weekends work, and if they don’t, “try something else.”

(See The Beacon, 3/11/21, for background.)

Town Councilman Jim Conners notably expressed hostility toward the citizens’ exploratory committee, making a motion to “disband it.” Mr. Conners’s motion did not receive a second, however, and was viewed by his colleagues as inappropriate for a budget workshop.

He also complained about the committee’s report being sent to the Town Manager at 11:30 p.m. Monday, calling the timing “beyond the pale.”

“I’m pretty much over the cut-thru traffic committee,” Mr. Conners said.

Mr. Neal, who is one of the co-advisers/sponsors of the cut-thru traffic committee, took responsibility for not briefing the Councilman on the committee’s report, which was submitted verbally at a meeting last Thursday. Both he and the committee’s other co-sponsor, Ms. Morey, told chairperson Tommy Karole at that meeting that he could file the written report after yesterday’s workshop.

Curiously, when the Town Council later discussed the possibility of raising the ad valorem tax rate for FY 2021-22, Mr. Conners suggested, “We could cut out any cut-thru traffic mitigation” to save on expense. But a savings of $50,000 clearly would not affect the need for a tax increase.

The Council did not reach a consensus on raising taxes to fund the Town’s general operations, exclusive of beach nourishment. This discussion will be continued at another budget workshop.

Both Mr. Neal and Councilman Leo Holland expressed a preference for not raising the tax rate, which is currently 19.58 cents on $100 of property value.

The current tax rate is a “revenue-neutral” rate that went into effect in FY 2020-21 after Dare County conducted its property reevaluation. The revenue-neutral rate is designed to keep property owners’ taxes at the same level, even though the assessed value of their properties has increased. It is viewed as a temporary stopgap.

In discussing a possible tax-rate increase, Mr. Neal said, “I don’t like monumental change. I like incremental change.” He stated his “first goal” was “to do without a tax increase” in FY 2021-22.

Mr. Holland said he was mindful of financial adversity experienced by people during the COVID-19 pandemic and did not think the tax rate should be raised now.

Mayor Bennett, Ms. Morey, and Mr. Conners all showed interest in raising the tax rate by one or two cents.

“I would not be averse to a 2-cent increase this year,” the Mayor said.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 3/17/21


Dare County has moved into Group 5 of the COVID-19 rollout and is now accepting registrations from anyone who is at least 16 years old and would like to be vaccinated, according to a bulletin posted today by the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services. Applicants may complete a registration form at www.darenc.com/covidvaccine.

According to today’s bulletin, the DCDHHS will be receiving a “special allotment” of the Pfizer vaccine, which is the only one of the three COVID-19 vaccines that has been approved for administration to 16- and 17-year-olds. Anyone under the age of 18 who would like to be vaccinated will need a parent or guardian to accompany him or her to the vaccine clinic.

The DCDHHS advises that it may take one to two weeks before a staff member calls new registrants to schedule vaccine appointments.

Dare County is ahead of Governor Roy Cooper’s statewide vaccine rollout, which does not officially enter Phase or Group 4 until tomorrow. Last week the Governor announced that eligibility for some Group 4 recipients, including people ages 16 to 64 with high-risk medical conditions, would begin tomorrow.

The Governor is scheduled to hold a COVID-19 update briefing tomorrow at 2 p.m., at which time he is likely to announce an acceleration of the rollout for vaccine providers like DCDHHS that are prepared to move into Group 5.

As of Sunday, the DCDHHS had fully vaccinated 8,340 people. Another 1,788 people have received their first doses and are awaiting their second.  

The Beacon, 3/16/21 



The Town Council will meet at 5:30 p.m. today in the Pitts Center for a public hearing about its possible establishment of municipal service districts (MSDs) for the purpose of levying a higher tax on owners of property in close proximity to the oceanfront for a proposed townwide beach nourishment project in summer 2022.

The Town has proposed two MSDs. You may read the Town’s report describing those districts here: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/.

You may participate in today’s MSD public hearing in one of several ways:

  1. You may attend in person and address the Council from the lectern.
  2. You may submit written comments to the Town Council by emailing info@southernshores-nc.gov. Please put “public comment” in the subject line.
  3. You may watch live and comment via Zoom. To do so, you must register in advance at https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJcoduGqqTksG9FO-toke6-JRDWakH7fMpnu. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email with information about how you can join the meeting.

For the agenda of the special meeting/public hearing, see https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Special-Meeting-March-16-2020.pdf.

The Beacon, 3/16/21