7/14/21: YOU ARE INVITED TO MY MARK-DOWN MOVING SALE TOMORROW AT 69 HICKORY TRAIL, 10 a.m. TO 3 p.m.; MANY ITEMS WILL BE FREE, INCLUDING ALL BOOKS.

Dear Beacon Readers:

Please join me tomorrow (Thursday), between 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., for an all-offers-considered, many-items-free moving sale at my former residence, 69 Hickory Trail, one door down from the East Dogwood Trail intersection.

If you do not feel like browsing or shopping, please drop by anyway for a visit and/or a mingle or just to say hello. I trust that all unvaccinated people will wear a facemask, and everyone will be mindful of physical distancing in what is about a 600-square-foot unfinished space on the ground floor of the home.

On sale at whatever low price we agree upon will be furniture (including a dining room table with six chairs and a desk); various electronics; women’s jewelry; lamps; luggage; cordless phones; office supplies; handbags; women’s shoes and clothing, including new/never worn and pre-owned shoes and clothes; framed prints; dishes, coffee mugs, and other kitchen supplies; vases and objets d’art;  and a miscellany of other items, everything from outdoor and indoor spot and flood lights to candles to wall mirrors.

There will be boxes of free items for you to sort through and shelves of free books for you to pore over.

As a former book critic and editor and a book author, I am committed to passing along books—both hardcover and paperback—without charge.

I look forward to seeing you at 69 Hickory Trail tomorrow. Thank you.

Ann, 7/14/21

7/14/21: COVID-19 CASES ON THE RISE IN DARE COUNTY, PERCENTAGE OF DELTA VARIANT INFECTIONS NOT YET KNOWN.

The Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services yesterday reported 40 new positive cases of COVID-19 during the past week, an increase of nearly 150 percent over the previous week’s total of 27. It also reported a marked increase in Dare’s COVID-19 positivity rate.

Dare County’s July 5-12 positivity rate, which is the percentage of positive cases among the number of COVID-19 tests administered, was 11.3 percent, whereas the previous week’s positivity rate was 7 percent. For the week of June 21-28, Dare County recorded a positivity rate of just 2 percent.

Thirty of the 40 new cases were Dare County residents, and 10 were nonresidents, according to the DCDHHS dashboard. The ages of the new cases range the gamut, from age 17 and younger to age 65 and older. Five of the Dare County cases are in the oldest age group.

The positivity rate statewide is also on the rise. After weeks of recording rates of about 3 percent, the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services is now reporting rates above 5 percent. The positivity rate reported on the NCDHHS’s dashboard yesterday was 5.3 percent.

Starting with the week of May 18-25, the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services (DCDHHS) reverted to reporting new COVID-19 cases on a weekly basis, rather than on a daily basis, as it had been doing since the spring of 2020. The DCDHHS issues its reports each Tuesday.

The DCDHHS also has a vaccine data dashboard, which it updates each Sunday. As of July 11, the dashboard showed 60 percent of the county’s population, or 22,143 people, had been fully vaccinated. An additional 993 people have received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

In addition to recording the number of new COVID-19 cases and the positivity rate for the week, the DCDHHS reports upon the percentage of new cases that are symptomatic; the percentage of new cases that were acquired by direct contact with unvaccinated people who tested positive for COVID-19; and the number of new “breakthrough cases,” which are cases of COVID-19 in vaccinated people.

Thirty-four of the 40 new cases (86 percent) were symptomatic, according to the DCDHHS, and thirty-six (90 percent) were acquired by direct contact with unvaccinated people.

Statewide, the DCDHHS reported, 99.2 percent of the newly diagnosed COVID-19 cases are in unvaccinated people.

For the first time yesterday, the DCDHHS further identified the breakthrough cases according to the vaccine that the infected people received. Of the eight breakthrough cases for July 5-12, five of them received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine; two had the Moderna vaccine; and one had the Pfizer vaccine.

No one from Dare County is currently hospitalized because of a COVID-19 infection. Twenty-nine people are in home isolation.

THE DELTA VARIANT    

Although it is known at the state level that the Delta variant of the coronavirus has replaced other variants as the predominant one, Dare County has yet to receive specific data back from the state identifying the variants in the COVID test samples it submitted.

The Delta variant, aka B.1.617.2, originated in India and is more contagious than other variants because it has a stronger resistance to the human immune system.

Through genomic sequencing—basically an analysis of an organism’s genetic material— scientists can assess the variant or strain of a virus; but this sequencing, according to the DCDHHS, takes about three weeks.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention yesterday, about 58 percent of the new COVID-19 cases diagnosed from June 20 to July 3 in the United States were of the Delta variant, which has different symptoms from other COVID-19 strains, such as the Alpha variant associated with the United Kingdom, and is believed to cause more serious illness and hospitalizations.

In North Carolina, the most recent sequencing revealed that 40 percent of the COVID-19 viruses were identified as Delta variant. Epidemiological data suggest, the DCDHHS said in its report yesterday, that North Carolina is at the beginning of another surge of COVID-19 infections.

Unlike the other COVID-19 variants, the Delta variant does not cause a loss of taste and/or smell in an infected person. The Delta variant’s symptoms are more vague and have been described by medical experts as similar, upon onset, to a mild cold, with a runny nose or sore throat.

For a complete list of COVID-19 symptoms, see the CDC at

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html

The DCDHHS is encouraging everyone age 12 and older to get a COVID-19 vaccination, which may be obtained through the county health department and at many area pharmacies.

For the DCDHHS’s full report, see https://www.darenc.com/Home/ Components/News/News/7404/1483.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 7/14/21 

7/13/21: UPDATE: TOWN MANAGER SAYS HE WILL NOT CLOSE ALL FOUR ROADS OFF EAST DOGWOOD THIS WEEKEND

We just had a conversation with our hard-working Town Manager, Cliff Ogburn, who told us that he is “discouraged from closing all four roads” off of East Dogwood Trail this weekend because such action would “cause too much of a negative impact.”

After sending out postcards to Hickory Trail homeowners notifying them that their street would be closed Saturday and Sunday, Mr. Ogburn said he would decide tomorrow which of the four streets—Hickory Trail, Hillcrest Drive, Sea Oats Trail, and Wax Myrtle Trail—would be closed to left-turning northbound traffic.

(See The Beacon’s post earlier today.)

He also said that he is still evaluating the timing for the closures, which may not correspond exactly with the times when the left-turn ban at the intersection of U.S. Hwy 158 and South Dogwood Trail is in effect.

Last weekend, Mr. Ogburn experimented with preventing northbound left turns from East Dogwood Trail, and, like The Beacon, received “mixed responses” from residents about the barricades, some of them quite angry. He told us that some people were “really upset at the idea of altering their transportation” routes.

The chains blocking the left turns from East Dogwood were not in place on Sunday, he said, when the traffic was lighter than it was the previous day.

We think Mr. Ogburn is between a rock and a hard place, and we congratulate him for taking some action this summer to curb the cut-thru traffic. He seems to us to be thoughtfully evaluating all of the options, while also trying to give residents ample notice of closures. Stay tuned.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 7/13/21

7/13/21: TRAFFIC ALERT: TOWN TO CLOSE HICKORY TRAIL THIS WEEKEND.

The yellow chain will be across Hickory Trail, preventing all traffic from entering or exiting the road, this Saturday and Sunday, according to a notice mailed by the Town to Hickory Trail homeowners.

Hickory Trail will be closed at its intersection with East Dogwood Trail this weekend, according to a postcard sent by the Town of Southern Shores to Hickory Trail homeowners, who received the mailed notice today.

The postcard reads in part that before “implementing a road closure” at East Dogwood and Hickory trails, the Town wanted to give homeowners “advance notice so you can plan accordingly.”

It goes on to state: “We believe it is best to place the closure at this location to prevent northbound traffic. In the event we determine that negative impacts warrant [the] removal of [the barricade], we will be able to do so rather quickly.”

As a Hickory Trail homeowner, I received this notice in my mailbox today and was not thrilled. I had planned travel between Hickory Trail and North Dogwood Trail this weekend to complete tasks associated with a move. But, being a team player, I will, in fact, change my plans “accordingly,” as the Town requesed.

Honestly, I was more perplexed by another statement on the postcard that reads: “Some of you may recall signing a petition in July of 2019 that requested the Town take similar action.”

It is disingenuous—as well as unnecessary—to suggest that Hickory Trail homeowners should be more than happy to accommodate this closure because, after all, we petitioned for it two years ago! But, perhaps I am being too harsh.

The truth, of course, is that our 2019 petition requested a closure of Hickory Trail while Hillcrest Drive, Sea Oats Trail, and Wax Myrtle Trail remained open to left-turning northbound traffic off of East Dogwood Trail. The dramatically different situation now is that Hickory Trail will be the last northbound street off of East Dogwood Trail to close to traffic. (At least this is what the postcard and the traffic information on the Town website suggest. We will confirm this tomorrow with the Town Manager.)

We also were seeking closure of Hickory Trail at Hillcrest Drive, not East Dogwood. That’s a big difference.

There was a hue and outcry two years ago from people who live on Hillcrest, Sea Oats, and Wax Myrtle, as well as East Dogwood, about closing Hickory. Hickory Trail homeowner David Watson, who originated the petition, presented it to the Town Council, and no one supported it.  

With the closure of Hickory Trail this weekend, many people who live north of East Dogwood Trail will be essentially hemmed in, unable to go out of Southern Shores without having to cope upon their return with all or a portion of N.C. Hwy. 12-north.

If you use South Dogwood Trail to return home, you have to anticipate a vehicle backup at the traffic light on East Dogwood Trail before you can turn north on Duck Road to reach your residence.

Residents in the Southern Shores woods often take Hickory Trail to the Hillcrest Beach. That also will not be possible this weekend.

What do you think about closing Hickory Trail? Please let The Beacon and the Town know. You may reach the Town at info@southernshores-nc.gov.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 7/13/21

7/11/21: THE TRAFFIC ‘SPOT’-FIXING EXPERIMENT CONTINUES

Traffic backed up on East Dogwood Trail, heading east to Duck Road, as early as noon yesterday, because of the chain barricades in the median. This photo was submitted by a reader who lives on Sea Oats Lane, which is the extension of Sea Oats Trail on the south side of East Dogwood Trail. The side street to the right in the photo is Sea Oats Lane. The Beacon received email reports from residents throughout the day about traffic backups on Hickory Trail, Hillcrest Drive, and Wax Myrtle Trail, despite the barricades.

Dear Beacon Readers: Please post your comments about this weekend’s cut-thru traffic and the effectiveness of the mitigation measures that the Town implemented on this blog entry. Thank you!

7/9/21: CHAINS WILL PREVENT CUT-THRU TRAFFIC FROM TURNING LEFT FROM EAST DOGWOOD INTO DUNES.

A yellow chain hanging from a post on the western side of Hickory Trail at its intersection with East Dogwood Trail is ready to be extended across the road to bar all traffic. Similar posts have been installed in the median of East Dogwood Trail, so that chains may be drawn across the turn lanes to prevent motorists going east on East Dogwood from turning north on to Hillcrest Drive, Sea Oats Trail, or Wax Myrtle Trail. The ropes in the median of East Dogwood Trail are designed to prevent motorists from driving across the grassy area in order to execute a turn. (You know they would.)

7/9/21: CUT-THRU TRAFFIC: TOWN TO BLOCK NORTHBOUND LEFT TURNS OFF OF EAST DOGWOOD TRAIL AT HILLCREST, SEA OATS, AND WAX MYRTLE THIS WEEKEND.

Motorists traveling east on East Dogwood Trail this weekend will be physically barred from turning left (going north) on Hillcrest Drive, Sea Oats Trail, and Wax Myrtle Trail, the Town of Southern Shores announced today.

There will be post-and-chain barricades “placed in the middle of [East Dogwood Trail] or [its] median,” according to a special announcement released by the Town this morning.

A closure of Hickory Trail at its intersection with East Dogwood Trail is also being considered for “a later date,” the release said.

The Town Council discussed the cut-thru traffic problems at length at its meeting Tuesday and gave the Town Manager discretion to implement closures among East Dogwood Trail in order to mitigate traffic.

According to the announcement, “Our goal is to take away any advantage for those using South Dogwood Trail and East Dogwood Trail as shortcuts to points north.”

The announcement also indicated that the barricades will be removed if Town staff determine that “negative impacts warrant their removal.”

While The Beacon congratulates the Town Council and Town Manager for continuing to pursue additional cut-thru traffic mitigation measures, we consider it readily apparent that these closures will adversely affect the traffic flow, both north and south, on Hickory Trail, which is the favored road for northbound vacationers.

Not only will motorists cutting through on the Dogwoods overwhelm Hickory Trail, residents in the dunes trying to return to their homes by taking South Dogwood Trail will be forced to use it as well.

Local-traffic-only barriers will be placed at Hillcrest Drive, Sea Oats Trail, and Wax Myrtle Trail, off of Hickory Trail, but experience thus far indicates that many northbound motorists ignore these prohibitions.

The left-turn ban at the U.S. Hwy 158-South Dogwood Trail intersection will be in effect Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 7/9/21

7/5/21: TOWN COUNCIL TO CONSIDER CODE AMENDMENTS ABOUT TEMPORARY HEALTHCARE STRUCTURES, LOT ACCESS, AND EAVES.

A discussion about the summer cut-thru traffic is not currently on the Town Council’s meeting agenda tomorrow, but the subject may come up in Town staff reports and in the Town Council’s comments.

The Southern Shores Town Council will hold five public hearings on proposed amendments to the Town Code—four of them related to zoning—when it meets tomorrow for its regular monthly meeting at 5:30 p.m. in the Pitts Center.

You may access the meeting agenda and packet here:

Among the four zoning text amendments that the Council will consider is a revamp of a ZTA misconstrued by the Planning Board upon its first reading April 19 that permits temporary healthcare structures as accessory uses in single-family residential zoning districts.

This amendment would bring Southern Shores in conformance with N.C. law. The initial version of the ordinance was drafted by the Town’s consultant, CodeWright Planners.

The purpose of ZTA 21-06, which seemed to elude the Planning Board earlier, is to enable caregivers and legal guardians of mentally or physically impaired relatives to live in close temporary physical proximity to the relatives for whom they care.

Long-term living arrangements are not contemplated by the amendment.

According to the ZTA, a “temporary family healthcare structure” is a structure that is assembled at a location other than its installation site, is transportable, and has no more than 300 square feet. The proposed ordinance specifies that the temporary structure shall be located on residential property owned or occupied by the caregiver (or legal guardian) and that it shall be occupied only by the “mentally or physically impaired person.” (The qualifier, and/or, is not used in the description.)

Impairment is defined by the number of activities of daily living (so-called ADLs: bathing, eating, toileting, ambulation, etc.) with which the impaired person needs assistance. A minimum of two ADLs are required.

The Beacon addressed this ZTA at length in a 4/20/21 post in which we characterized the Planning Board as confused and in need of guidance from Town staff and Town Attorney Ben Gallop. Mr. Gallop has since reviewed ZTA 21-06, as well as the amendments recommended by the Planning Board, and rewritten it.

Such review should have occurred before the Planning Board took up ZTA 21-06 on April 19, so that Mr. Haskett could have adequately prepared the Board, whose members are not accustomed to reading and interpreting State legislation.

Otherwise, we frankly do not understand why a mentally or physically impaired person could not erect a family healthcare structure on his or her residential property to be used temporarily by a caregiver, but that option is not included in the ZTA.

We also think some of the language of the ordinance is imprecise and confusing—a sure sign that the N.C. State Legislature originated it.

PUTTING A STOP TO ‘FRONT-BACK’ SUBDIVISIONS OF LOTS

The only other proposed ZTA that we would like to elaborate upon is ZTA 21-07, which the Town Council requested of Mr. Haskett at its June 1 meeting after holding a public hearing on a homeowner’s request to subdivide her property into two lots, one of which would be behind the other and would not front on a public or private street.

The Town Code regulations on lot access currently provide that a lot must abut a public right-of-way or a private street or easement. (Sec. 36-95(a)(1).)

ZTA 21-07 would remove the possibility of creating new lot(s) that only have frontage on an easement. Access by a public or private street would be required.

The June 1 hearing concerned approval of a preliminary subdivision plat submitted to the Town by Lauren Kirby-Van Riper, who owns a 2.29-acre lot at 279 Hillcrest Drive with her husband.

Ms. Kirby-Van Riper is seeking permission to subdivide this large lot into two: one at the front that would measure 65,393 square feet and include all of the current development (house, swimming pool); and the other behind the first that would measure 34,720 square feet and be vacant.

The first lot, which abuts Hillcrest Drive, has been designated Lot 4A in documents; the second lot, which abuts a canal, has been designated Lot 4B.

The rub is there is no access to Lot 4B.

Ms. Kirby-Van Riper proposes remedying this deficiency by constructing a 30-foot-long public easement on the northern boundary of the property, starting at Hillcrest Drive and going west. All but a small section of this easement would be on Lot 4A.

Both the Planning Board and the Town Council gave conditional approval to Ms. Kirby-Van Riper’s subdivision plans, provided she meets all of the Code requirements.

We spoke at the public hearing about Ms. Kirby-Van Riper’s subdivision proposal not being in compliance with the longtime vision of Southern Shores—as set forth in the Town’s Land-Use Plan—as a low-density residential community comprised of single-family dwellings on large lots. We wondered how many other landowners might seek to subdivide their large property tracts in a similar fashion.

We are happy to see the language about low density quoted in Mr. Haskett’s report to the Town Council about ZTA 21-07, which fine-tunes the Town’s lot access requirements to eliminate access by easement only. If the Town Council passes the amendment, it would apply prospectively, and not to Ms. Kirby-Van Riper’s proposed subdivision.

EAVES: The Planning Board also has recommended to the Town Council a change in building setback requirements so as to allow eaves to extend three feet into the back, side, and front setback space without this encroachment reducing the setback calculations.

Previously, the Town Code exempted this encroachment in calculating the front building setback line, but not the side and back setbacks.

ZTA 21-02 would effect this change by amending the definitions of “building setback line” and “yard” in Town Code sec. 36-57.

PUBLIC COMMENTS: There will be two public-comment periods during tomorrow’s meeting. Returning to its pre-pandemic procedure, the Town Council is no longer accepting written comments submitted by email or U.S. mail. You must appear in person if you would like to make comments.

You may view the meeting live at https://www.youtube.com/user/TownofSouthernShores.

Because of a family member’s failing health, we will not be able to attend tomorrow’s meeting in person or to watch the livestream. We will view the videotape and report on any news as soon as possible.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 7/5/21

7/4/21: CHICAHAUK JAMS UP WITH CUT-THRU TRAFFIC, TOO.

Vacationer traffic cutting through Chicahauk backed up yesterday from the traffic light at the intersection of Chicahauk Trail and Ocean Boulevard (N.C. Hwy. 12) to at least Otter Slide Lane, according to a Chicahauk homeowner who sent this photograph to The Beacon. While a higher volume of northbound traffic, attributable to both the high-season holiday and the banner summer the Outer Banks is enjoying, surely contributed to the traffic jam in Chicahauk yesterday–as well as to other backups throughout Southern Shores–we would speculate further that WAZE’s agreement with the Town not to divert motorists to the South Dogwood Trail/East Dogwood Trail cut-through led to more vacationers cutting through Chicahauk. Despite the left-turn ban and the local-traffic-only road closures, the usual congestion hot spots in the Southern Shores dunes, particularly on Hillcrest Drive, still had bumper-to-bumper traffic throughout yesterday afternoon.