I see some of you are posting today on Next Door about the oppressive cut-thru vacationer traffic that started flowing steadily this morning and grew into the usual summertime backup in the Southern Shores dunes this afternoon.
According to Dan and Pat Hardy of 172 South Dogwood Trail: “The traffic is worse than ever.” They also complain about someone in a “jacked-up truck” with Virginia plates “trying to run us over” yesterday.
Writes Vicky Green, of 317 Hillcrest Drive, who formerly served on the citizens’ committee to explore cut-through traffic: “Here we go!!! ALL THE WAY DOWN HILLCREST!” Ms. Green submitted the photograph above.
(You cannot count on the citizens’ committee any more. As far as the Town Council is concerned, it has completed its work and no longer has a purpose.)
One person on Next Door asks about prohibiting the left turn onto South Dogwood Trail from U.S. Hwy. 158 in order to deter the cut-thru traffic.
It is a lack of understanding by residents about when that deterrence technique will be employed this summer that compels me to interrupt my hiatus.
Despite all of the efforts made during the past year to study the obvious and already thoroughly studied cut-thru traffic problem and to receive and consider solutions to prevent it, neither the Town Council nor the Town Manager has openly and honestly informed the public about what will be done this summer about it.
You will recall that the Town Council allocated spending $7500—funding for two no-left-turn weekends—on a professional traffic study. Its five members timely received that report from their expert consultants in February, and never even discussed the report’s recommendations in a public meeting.
Oh, but they did agree to buy more roadside traffic counters to analyze the problem some more.
FACT: There will be no-left-turn weekends this summer, starting June 26-27, but no details about the hours that the turn prohibition will be in effect and whether or not police enforcement will occur have been announced by the Town.
Apparently the Town has not heard that the single-most important issue to residents in Southern Shores is traffic. It is not beach nourishment.
And I say that as someone who co-owns oceanfront property, solely owns property in the MSD-2 district, and solely owns property in a part of town outside of the municipal service districts and will be fleeced by Town taxation to fund beach nourishment I do not support for at least the next five years, if not much longer.
If only the Town Council cared as much about the quality of life, the health, and the safety of people who live in Southern Shores NOW as it does about what the beach may look like in 30 years.
All that has been released by the Town to the public is the fact that the fiscal year 2021-22 Southern Shores budget contains a line item of $30,400 budgeted for “seasonal cut-thru traffic.”
And you only know about this item if you read the Town Manager’s message that accompanies the recommended budget, which was first proposed May 4.
The $30,400 expense represents .0034 of the overall FY 2021-22 budget of $8,867,588—the largest budget in Southern Shores history. Only one-third of 1 percent of the revenue supporting this engorged budget is being spent on cut-thru traffic control. It’s jaw-droppingly inadequate.
Nearly half of the revenue for next year’s budget—$4,332,526—comes from our property and vehicle taxes, including increased ad valorem taxes to pay the Town’s debt on the beach nourishment project. And what do we get for our tax investment during the summertime weekends that we, too, would like to enjoy?
If you look in the budget itself, you will find a line item of $30,400 in the Public Works Dept. budgetary expenses, labeled “Contracted Service.” Presumably, this is the cost for setting up and taking down the barriers used to block the left-turn lane on U.S. Hwy. 158.
In the Town Council’s consent agenda for its meeting next Tuesday, at 5:30 p.m. in the Pitts Center, is a budget amendment for the current fiscal year that appropriates $3800 from the Town’s occupancy tax reserve to pay for “Seasonal Cut-Thru Traffic Measures (No Left Turn Weekend, June 26 & 27).”
The actual expenditure, according to Budget Amendment No. 28, is for “PW Contracted Services.”
This is how I know that the first no-left-turn weekend will occur at the end of June, after a month of resident aggravation and safety threats by out-of-towners who abuse residential streets for their own convenient thoroughfare to the northern beaches.
There is still time to urge the Town Council to appropriate monies for no-left-turn weekends on June 5-6, June 12-13, and June 19-20. The amount needed is apparently a measly $11,400, or one-tenth of 1 percent of next year’s budget.
Last summer hordes of COVID-19 refugees, eager to find sanctuary in the Outer Banks, arrived here well before the end of June, swarming Southern Shores’ residential roads and causing backups to the Wright Memorial Bridge. The gridlock was unprecedented in Southern Shores, as desperate vacationers even circled around Circle Drive trying to find a shortcut to Corolla.
The Town Council took emergency—albeit late—action then to protect residents from this vehicular scourge by implementing some unplanned no-left turn weekends. This summer the Town Council should know the hordes are coming again—everyone else does—this weekend and continuing next week and the week after and the week after that.
I encourage you to go to the Town Council meeting on Tuesday and demand action. You can speak during an early three-minute public comment period and/or you can speak during the public hearing on the FY 2021-22 budget.
There is no place in Southern Shores for the kind of “let them eat cake” attitude that our Town officials have evinced by their inadequate response–after a YEAR of planning time–to the cut-thru traffic “problem.”
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 5/29/21