Another Dare County resident has died as a result of COVID-19, according to the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services’ case dashboard today.

The death brings the number of Dare locals who have died of COVID-19 since the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic began last year to 17.

This is the second COVID-19-related death reported in Dare County during the past week. (See The Beacon, 8/25/21.)

The DCDHHS provided no details about the person who died, not even his or her age.

Seven Dare County residents are currently hospitalized with the disease, according to the dashboard. Last week there were eight.

The DCDHHS updates the number of new COVID-19 cases in the county on a daily basis, from Monday through Friday, with Monday’s total including positive tests reported on the weekend.

In the past two daily reports, the health department has reported how many of the new positive COVID-19 tests were in vaccinated people, making them “breakthrough cases.”

A person who tests positive for COVID-19 two weeks after receiving a final vaccine dose is considered a breakthrough case.

Today, of the 103 new cases reported, 20 or 19 percent were of vaccinated people. On Friday, 12 of the 49 new cases—nearly 25 percent—were breakthrough cases. 

The DCDHHS will publish its weekly update about COVID-19 cases in Dare tomorrow.

Last Tuesday, the DCDHHS reported that since the week of April 12, 2021, when the first breakthrough case was identified locally, 250 of the 1,346 positive cases of COVID-19 in Dare County—or about 19 percent—have been breakthrough cases. Of those 250 cases:

  • 136 reported mild symptoms, and 10 reported moderate symptoms
  • One was hospitalized
  • 57 had the J&J vaccine
  • 95 had the Moderna vaccine
  • 96 had the Pfizer vaccine
  • Two had the Astrazeneca vaccine

Of the total number of COVID-19 vaccines administered by the DCDHHS, it said, 5 percent were J&J; 24 percent were Pfizer; and 71 percent were Moderna.

The DCDHHS is now accepting online registration requests for booster vaccine doses from moderately to severely immuno-compromised people, who were vaccinated with either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. You may register at http://www.darenc.com/Register4Vaccine. (See The Beacon, 8/25/21.)

The health department anticipates that all other people who were vaccinated with either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at least eight months before they receive a booster dose will be able to get one by the third week in September.

U.S. public health officials are reportedly considering recommending boosters for vaccinated people just six months after they receive their final vaccine dose.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 8/30/21


Another Dare County resident has died as a result of COVID-19, according to today’s dashboard of the Dept. of Health and Human Services, which makes no mention of the death in its now-daily reporting of new cases.

The dashboard shows that seven residents are currently hospitalized because of the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus—a total that has held steady recently and is greater than at any other time in Dare County before the emergence of the Delta variant.

UPDATE: As of 8/26/21, there are eight Dare County residents hospitalized.

Since March 2020, 16 local residents have died from COVID-19, according to the DCDHHS.

The Beacon, 8/25/21


Dare County is now accepting registration requests from moderately to severely immuno-compromised people for third “booster” shots of the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines.

You may submit your request to the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services at Vaccine Registration | Dare County, NC (darenc.com)

According to the DCDHHS website, a call center member will call you back with an appointment date and time as soon as vaccine is available.

The DCDHHS says that it is experiencing a high volume of calls from people desirous of third doses, so it could take several days before you receive a return call.

Repeat: The booster shot is only being offered now to people whose immune systems have been significantly compromised.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that people who are moderately to severely immuno-compromised include those who have:

  • Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood
  • Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
  • Received a stem cell transplant within the past two years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
  • Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskoff-Aldrich syndrome)
  • Advanced or untreated HIV infection
  • Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress your immune response

The CDC also suggests that people talk to their healthcare providers about their medical condition and ask him/her if an additional vaccine dose would be appropriate for them.

The Beacon knows of two over-75 residents in Southern Shores who have registered for booster shots with the DCDHHS. Neither falls within the CDC’s categories, above. One has type 2 diabetes and the other has a history of cancer.

According to the CDC, information about the risks of receiving an additional dose of a COVID-19 vaccine is “limited,” and “the safety, efficacy, and benefit of additional doses of COVID-19 vaccine in immuno-compromised people continues to be evaluated.”

The public-health agency reports that reactions experienced, thus far, by people who have received a third dose of the Moderna and Pfzier vaccines are similar to those of the two-dose series, with fatigue and pain at the injection site being the most common. Although rare, serious adverse effects, such as anaphylaxis, may occur.

The Beacon has largely suspended its local coverage of COVID-19 cases because most readers keep updated daily through other Outer Banks media, as well as through the DCDHHS website. We made an exception today because we have not seen much local news about booster vaccinations.

THE BEACON, 8/25/21


Every Southern Shores property owner will pay a tax amounting to 4 cents per $100 of property value to fund the 2022 beach nourishment project. Property owners in designated districts on or near the oceanfront will pay more.

Property tax bills for fiscal year 2021-22 started arriving yesterday in Southern Shores mailboxes. The ad valorem taxes levied go into Dare County’s General Fund, the Town of Southern Shores’ General Fund, and the Town’s 2022 beach nourishment (“BN”) project fund. 

Considerable public discussion about tax rates for the beach nourishment project was held in the spring by the Town Council and Town Manager Cliff Ogburn. We appreciate, however, that some of you may have missed the public dialogue and the Town Council’s decision-making and explain below what occurred.

But first we note that the General Fund tax rate imposed for FY 2021-22 remains the revenue-neutral rate of 19.58 cents per $100 of property value that was calculated when Dare County reassessed all properties in 2020. You paid 19.58 cents in FY 2020-21, too.

The revenue-neutral rate seeks to achieve the same level of revenue that was raised with the tax rate that was being levied before the reappraisal occurred. In Southern Shores, that rate was 0.2200 or 22.00 cents. In FY 2022-23, you can anticipate an increase in the ad valorem tax rate for the Town’s General Fund to at least that amount. (Note: If two new people are elected to the Town Council in November, this might not be a foregone conclusion.)

On June 1, the Town Council approved the following ad valorem tax rates to fund the beach nourishment project:

  • For properties in municipal service district (“MSD”) 1: 7.15 cents per $100 of assessed value
  • Properties in MSD 2: 3.0 cents per $100
  • Properties town-wide, not in either MSD 1 or 2: 4.0 cents per $100

After holding State-mandated public hearings, the Town Council enacted on July 1 an ordinance creating and establishing the two MSDs, defining them as follows:

  • MSD 1: “All properties that abut the ocean beach of the Atlantic Ocean having an eastern boundary greater than or equal to 25 feet, beginning at the southern town limit and extending to the northern town limit.”
  • MSD 2:
  • “All properties in District 1 and
  • “All properties located east of Ocean Blvd./N.C. 12 and Duck Road/N.C. 12 beginning at the southern town limit extending north to the northern town lines; and
  • “All properties located west of and abutting Ocean Blvd./N.C. 12 beginning at the southern town line extending north to 137 Ocean Blvd., and abutting Duck Road/N.C. 12 beginning at 139 Duck Road extending north to 149 Duck Road.”

(See ORD-2021-04-01-MSD.pdf (southernshores-nc.gov))

The Town views MSD 1, the oceanfront area, as subsuming both MSD 2 and the town-wide district, and MSD 2 as subsuming the town-wide district. Computed cumulatively, the BN ad valorem tax rates, therefore, total for each district:

  • MSD 1: 14.15 cents per $100 of property value (7.15 + 3.0 + 4.0)
  • MSD 2:  7.0 cents per $100 (3.0 + 4.0)
  • Town-wide district: 4.0 cents

If you add the General Fund tax rate of 19.58 cents per $100 of property value to the BN rates, property owners are paying a combined total ad valorem tax rate, per district, of:

  • MSD 1: 33.73 cents (14.15 + 19.58)
  • MSD 2: 26.58 cents (7.0 + 19.58)
  • Town-wide district: 23.58 cents (4.0 + 19.58)

The BN tax rates are expressed in your tax bill as “SS BN” (town-wide); “SSMD1” (MSD 1); and SSMD2 (MSD 2). These rates are only in effect for the 2021-22 fiscal year and may be changed by the Town Council in subsequent years of the five-year debt cycle for the nourishment project.

According to Mr. Ogburn, the Town’s annual debt for the project will be about $1.4 million, of which the Town will pay $200,000 from its undesignated fund balance.

Of the remaining $1.2 million, he has explained, MSD-1 property owners will pay in this fiscal year 20 percent; MSD-2 owners will pay 17 percent; and the remaining property owners in town will pay 63 percent. 

You may access the Town’s FY 2021-22 budget ordinance here: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/ORD-2021-06-01-Budget-Ord.pdf.

An explanation of the tax rate-assessment is given on Page 3 of the ordinance.   

Dare County’s FY 2021-22 budget appropriates $177,886,587, of which $112,706,798 is for General Fund expenses. Its property-tax rate has been 0.4005 (40.05 cents per $100 of value) for the past two fiscal years.

You may access Dare County’s FY 2021-22 budget here:


You may see Dare’s tax rates for the past six fiscal years at https://www.darenc.com/departments/tax-department/tax-rates.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 8/22/21


Local-traffic-only barriers were removed this weekend.

The Town lifted all cut-through traffic mitigation efforts this weekend, including the left-turn ban at U.S. Hwy 158 and South Dogwood Trail, because vacationer traffic generally trickles off after mid-August as the resumption of school approaches.

Dare and Currituck county public schools start Monday—as do most school systems in North Carolina—while schools in the Hampton Roads area are not open until Sept. 7. 

What has been your road experience today? How heavy has the traffic been on your street? Have you seen or been in backups? Have you noticed any difference this Saturday from last Saturday or any other summer Saturday?

Based on Sunday vehicle-count data this summer, Town Manager Cliff Ogburn decided to lift the South Dogwood Trail left-turn ban on the past two Sundays, Aug. 8 and Aug. 15. We argued against this decision, but it appears, at least anecdotally, to have been a cost-effective one that did not unduly burden residents.

Unquestionably, Saturday cut-through traffic through August is heavier than Sunday cut-through traffic. Should the Town Council have authorized Mr. Ogburn to reinstitute the left-turn prohibition this Saturday and next Saturday, using the funding that was saved by the Sunday decision?

We keep hearing that rental properties on the Outer Banks are booked through October. If that is the case, then the volume of cut-through traffic should reflect it. Please tell us what you have observed today on the residential roads of Southern Shores and on N.C. Hwy. 12 through our town.

Thank you. 

8/18/21: A MIX OF NEWS: Library Committee Meets Friday; No Gym or Veterans’ Parking in Marketplace; Charging Station at Pitts Center; & Road Maintenance.

One of the delights of summer. (Photo taken on Southern Shores beach in 2019. For information about this year’s sea turtle nests, see https://www.nestonline.org/nests-hatchlings/active-nest-status/.)

The Exploratory Committee for a Potential Branch Library in Northern Dare will meet Friday at 5:30 p.m. in the Pitts Center. The meeting is open to the public.

Please see The Beacon, 8/1/21, for a report on the committee’s last meeting during which members discussed regaining the momentum they had for the library/community center before the COVID-19 pandemic up-ended Dare County’s business agenda.

The proposed library would be located on Juniper Trail in Southern Shores and would serve the Duck-Southern Shores-Kitty Hawk legislative district, which also includes Martin’s Point.

On 8/1/21, we asked for readers’ thoughts about the project and received a sprinkling of responses.

Marilyn Hull of Fairway Drive said, “I totally support a Southern Shores library—it would be such an asset to our community!”

Fran Kapinos of Tenth Avenue agreed, emphasizing in particular the use of the library as a gathering place and community center.

“Love the idea of using it as a community center for gatherings, classes, etc.,” Ms. Kapinos wrote in a Beacon blog comment. “Pitts Center isn’t widely available because of town-related meetings. Over the last year folks have ordered their books online, so this can be a smaller branch with some books and pick up and drop off.  A meeting room would be widely used, similar to the one in KDH.”

Karen Bachman of Beech Tree Trail disagreed with opening a new library, advocating instead for a joint effort among towns to “create an improved KDH library,” thus making county money go “further by spending smarter.”

Three Beacon Facebook readers gave her comment thumbs-up.

Ms. Bachman could imagine building a “gorgeous” new and expanded library in Kill Devil Hills with funds that would go toward supporting a branch in Southern Shores.

One reader, whose name we cannot find now, suggested that a YMCA or a gym be built on the Juniper Trail site that landowner TowneBank has said it would rent for $1/year to Dare County for the new library.

At the Planning Board meeting Monday evening, we recalled this suggestion, when the discussion turned to what retail business might occupy the 6,000-square-foot space that Aston Properties proposes to build next to a Marshalls department store in the Marketplace. (See The Beacon, 8/17/21.)

We asked L. Karen Partee, Aston’s vice president of construction and development, if a health club or gym might be considered for this space. With a rather sour look, she replied, “Grocery stores don’t like gyms nearby.”

Since we are free-associating a bit, we will also mention that Planning Board member Tony DiBernardo asked Ms. Partee on Monday about the possibility of the shopping center landowner setting aside some reserved parking spaces for veterans, as is done in the Harris Teeter parking lot across the highway in Kitty Hawk.

Ms. Partee replied that those parking spaces are dedicated by the landlord at the request of the tenant. What she did not say is if Food Lion or CVS asked Aston to set aside veterans’ parking, it would be happy to do so. Nor did she say her employer would suggest the idea to either retailer.

The community-spirited Mr. DiBernardo also championed again an electric-vehicle charging station at the Marketplace, an idea that has not ignited a spark with Aston’s representatives.

There is now a 24/7 electric-vehicle charging station outside of the Pitts Center.


We will return soon to report upon the pavement condition survey that was presented to the Town Council yesterday morning at an hours-long workshop by SEPI engineer Anthony Roper. Mr. Roper’s draft report is online at  MEET-Packet-bacca4c9fff8459f8c796883c3efc33e.pdf (usgovcloudapi.net)

The good news is that SEPI’s survey of the asphalt on the 37-mile network of roads in Southern Shores revealed all streets to be in fair (73 percent), good (15 percent), or excellent (12 percent) condition.

The bad news is that all of the streets will inevitably deteriorate because of age, weather, and traffic load. “Asphalt dries out, gets brittle, and starts to break down,” Mr. Roper said.

The SEPI engineer, who previously worked with Town Manager Cliff Ogburn in Nags Head, proposed that the Town adopt one of two options for 10-year capital improvement plans (CIP), each of which is designed to preserve the roads by preventing damage, not to save the roads by completely rehabbing them, as the Town has been doing. Mr. Roper is proposing a “proactive approach.” 

The Town Council previously voted to invest $1 million annually in a 10-year capital-improvement plan. Mr. Roper’s survey and suggested scheduling of “right treatment, right road, right time,” as he said, gives the Town a blueprint to follow.

The Town Council was enthusiastic yesterday about Mr. Roper’s prevention techniques and his CIP options, but it made no decisions about implementation. Presumably it will do so after the SEPI report is finalized. 

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 8/18/21     


The Marketplace at Southern Shores currently has 16 tenants and 16 vacancies. Barrier Island Bagels has closed.

The Town Planning Board yesterday unanimously recommended conditional approval of Aston Properties’ revised site plan application to redevelop the Marketplace shopping center by constructing a 24,000-square-foot Marshalls department store and an adjacent 6,000-square-foot retail space in place of a building wing that would be demolished.

Several of the conditions imposed by the Board—which it is recommending to the Town Council that Aston meet before the Charlotte developer applies for a building permit—address stormwater management, inasmuch as the proposed construction would add about 10,000 square feet to the shopping center’s ground coverage.  

As The Beacon first reported 7/20/21, Aston’s proposal would demolish 19,775 square feet of existing shops to the west of CVS/pharmacy, replacing them with a new junior-box Marshalls and with an as-yet-to-be-identified 6,000-square-foot store, and would “reconfigure” about two acres of existing parking lot.

During a July 19 preliminary review of the site plan, the Planning Board expressed considerable concern about stormwater infiltration and drainage into a canal behind the Marketplace, which also borders residences on Palmetto Lane. Among the modifications that Aston submitted with its revised site plan was the use of permeable pavers in the parking lot to improve infiltration.

Permeable pavers are sections of porous pavement that allow rainwater to pass through them to be absorbed (infiltrated) by the ground underneath. Aston proposes creating 150 new parking spaces, 102 of which would have permeable pavers.

The Planning Board, led by member Ed Lawler, questioned Aston’s engineer, Kimberly D. Hamby of the Timmons Group in Elizabeth City, extensively about stormwater management and the efficiency of the current system in effect at the Marketplace.

Aston is not proposing a new stormwater-runoff treatment plan.

Ms. Hamby advised the Board that “There is no way for water from the parking lot to go straight out to the canal.” She also said that all water that strikes the 28,000 square feet of pavers that will be installed will infiltrate the ground.

Town Engineer Joe Anlauf informed the Board that the stormwater management system installed at the Marketplace site around 1985—including a filtration/drainage area behind Coastal Rehab that would bear the most impact from the redevelopment—was “forward-thinking” and should continue to perform well “provided everything is intact.”

Mr. Anlauf explained that there are two perforated pipes with filters on them in this basin site. (And that is as far as we will go with the engineering.)

According to conditions that Planning Director/Deputy Town Manager Wes Haskett suggested and the Planning Board approved, Aston must secure the following approvals before it applies to the Town for a building permit:    

  1. A soil erosion sedimentation control plan permit for land disturbance over one acre from the N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ);
  2. A stormwater management permit from the NCDEQ;
  3. Wastewater approval by the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services;
  4. Review and approval of potable water distribution system modifications or extensions from the Dare County Water Dept., which has already tentatively approved them.

The Planning Board added a fifth condition that Mr. Anlauf inspect in person, with an Aston representative, the current Marketplace stormwater system for any “glaring deficiencies,” as member Tony DiBernardo said in framing the condition, and, if necessary, produce a “punch list” of items that need addressing.

Mr. Anlauf said he was familiar with the stormwater basin adjacent to Juniper Trail, in front of the Farm Bureau’s parking lot, but not with the drainage area behind Coastal Rehab.


In addition to these five conditions, Aston must reduce its proposed lot coverage to 67 percent, in order to conform to Town ordinance.

In his report last evening, Mr. Haskett said that Aston’s current proposed lot coverage is 67.1 percent, which Ms. Hamby said she did not know.

Thanks to a zoning text amendment (ZTA) enacted by the Town Council (3-2) in 2016 when Aston sought a conditional use permit (CUP) to redevelop and expand the Marketplace with two drive-through businesses, the maximum lot coverage in Southern Shores’ general commercial district increased from 60 percent to 67 percent for “group developments” that “incorporate the use of permeable pavement . . . in excess of 5 percent of the total lot coverage.”  

Five years ago Aston proposed relocating and rebuilding Starbucks and CVS with drive-through lanes and expanding upon and improving the appearance of the other retail and restaurant spaces at the shopping center.

According to its 2016 site plans, Aston was going to build a 7,210-square-foot four-tenant building, with a drive-through Starbucks, on Hwy. 158 between the Wells Fargo Bank and the main Marketplace entrance, and an expanded 13,225-square-foot CVS with a drive-through at the west end of the shopping center where Starbucks currently is.

Neither the Town Council nor the Town Manager ever made clear to the public what stopped Aston from going forward with this redevelopment, but The Beacon did hear that a wastewater problem thwarted it. Aston had a two-year “vested right” in its CUP. 

The revision to Town Code sec. 36-207 that permitted maximum lot coverage to go as high as 67 percent was actually a compromise. (See Code sec. 36-207(d)(5)(b).) Aston had introduced a ZTA bumping up the maximum commercial lot coverage from 60 percent to 70 percent.

For the developer to avail itself of the 67 percent maximum, it must show that at least 5 percent of the overall property is covered with permeable pavement. As we understand it, Aston will have to determine the percent of permeability provided by its paver product in order to do this.

At the July 19 Planning Board meeting, Ms. Partee projected a tentative opening date for the Marshalls store of spring 2023.


We end this report about the Planning Board’s consideration and recommendation of Aston’s revised site plan application by thanking Mr. Lawler for his argument in favor of preserving the lush grove of trees in the Marketplace parking lot located in front of the planned Marshalls site.

Mr. Lawler called the destruction of the 10 mature trees in this park-like setting “a heck of a sacrifice” and asked Ms. Hamby and L. Karen Partee, Aston’s vice president of construction and development, to reconfigure accessibility to the new stores. He also pointed out that the trees assist with stormwater absorption.

Ms. Partee replied that Marshalls would not have been interested in the Marketplace site if the trees were to remain.

Aston plans to do new landscaping, with clusters of new trees in islands near Hwy. 158, Ms. Hamby pointed out.

Mr. Lawler aptly captured the appeal of the grove when he said it “gives you some relief from the ugliness and the monotony of the parking lot.”

Not to mention the hollowness of a shopping center that is 50 percent vacant.

Said Planning Board Chairperson Andy Ward: The grove is “an oasis in the middle of a pavement desert.”


The Planning Board tabled until its September meeting a detailed discussion of a new Town Code sign ordinance. ZTA 21-08 is currently a work in progress.

The text of the ZTA that the Board considered yesterday was substantially different from the one we previewed 8/14/21. The Board did not receive the new version until a few hours before its meeting.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 8/17/21


The Planning Board will consider Monday a substantial revision of the Town’s regulations on signs—of all types and in all zoning districts—that is designed to eliminate all content-based restrictions that presumably violate the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The substantial revision is Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) 21-08, which proposes to strike most of the existing language of Town Code secs. 36-165 (“Regulations governing signs”) and 36-57, (definition of sign), in order to bring the ordinances into conformity with a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court case, Reed v. Town of Gilbert, 576 U.S. 155 (2015). 

You may access ZTA 21-08 here: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/ZTA-21-08-Signage-1.pdf.

The Planning Board meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. Monday in the Pitts Center. (See The Beacon, 8/11/21, for a preview of the agenda.) All attendees must wear face masks.

ZTA 21-08 was drafted by consultant Chad Meadows of CodeWright Planners, during his review/revision of the Town Code, and reviewed by Town Attorney Ben Gallop. The Town staff has recommended its approval.  

As Mr. Gallop makes clear in written comments that are included in the meeting’s materials, Reed v. Town of Gilbert is not as straightforward as it may appear to those unversed in First Amendment law. “A significant body of conflicting case law has developed since Reed was decided,” he writes.  

Indeed, the opinion itself, which was written by Justice Clarence Thomas, has three concurrences in which six of the justices make legal distinctions. So, although all nine justices agreed on the ultimate judgment in the case, they quibbled on the analysis.  

Fortunately, the Planning Board does not have to learn constitutional analysis. But it does have to be on the lookout for regulations that interfere too much with individual property owner’s rights.

It is generally well understood that while government cannot restrict speech—on signs or otherwise—because of its message, ideas, subject matter, or content, government can regulate signs for legitimate, content-neutral reasons such as to promote public safety (reduce traffic obstructions, for example) or to preserve “aesthetics.” 

Southern Shores’ current sign definitions in Town Code sec. 36-57 distinguish between commercial and noncommercial signs and address their use, purpose, and content. ZTA 21-08 deletes all of this language.

Current Code Sec. 36-165 carries over this commercial-noncommercial distinction, and it, too, is eliminated by ZTA 21-08. Other regulations within this Code section, however, govern the permissibility of signs according to the zoning district in which they appear—residential, commercial, or government and institutional—and it is this framework that forms the basis of the Town’s proposed new signage regulations.

What ZTA 21-08 leaves you with are four categories of signage:

  • Permanent signage in a residential district
  • Permanent signage in the commercial district
  • Permanent signage in the government/institutional district
  • Temporary signage, in 1) residential districts and 2) all other districts

ZTA 21-08 then proposes to regulate the signage within these four categories by:

  • Maximum number of signs per lot
  • Cumulative sign area of lot (square footage)
  • Maximum surface area for a single sign (square footage)
  • Maximum height of sign (in feet above grade)
  • The type of signs allowed
  • Other “additional standards”

EXCEPT, in the case of temporary signs, ZTA 21-08 limits the number of days per year that a property owner may display the sign. In the residential district, the “maximum duration per calendar year” is 30 days; in all other districts, the maximum duration is 90 days.

We ask: Is this 30 days per temporary sign per year? If so, then a person could have 12 signs expressing the same sentiment and display them one at a time, each for 30 days. Doing so would defeat what appears to be the aesthetics rationale behind the restriction.

We also note that state and county regulations governing the placement of temporary campaign signs allow for about 60 days.

Interestingly, the current Town sign ordinance states that temporary signs may be posted for up to 90 days, “at which time the sign shall be removed or replaced.” (Code sec. 36-165(12)) If you look around Southern Shores, you can appreciate that this ordinance is not enforced. 

We believe that this arbitrary time restriction could be perceived as a subtle form of viewpoint-repression that does not have a content-neutral justification to pass First Amendment muster.

The limit on the number of signs that a property owner may have on his/her lot at one time also raises our eyebrows. The number selected is three. Why not five or 10? If property owner A’s lot is twice as large as property owner B’s lot, shouldn’t A be allowed six temporary signs?

Here again, we ask, is the restriction a subtle form of viewpoint-repression or is it justified by a legitimate aesthetic objective that overrides First Amendment protection?  

Certainly, a yard filled with the signs of a certain political candidate makes a stronger and more emphatic statement than a yard with only one of the candidate’s signs, even if some people think it is unattractive.

Provided the signage does not “obstruct or impair access to a public sidewalk, public or private street or driveway, traffic control sign, bus stop, fire hydrant, or any other type of street furniture, or otherwise create a hazard”—this is language from current Code sec. 36-165(12)(b)—how much say should the Town have in regulating this speech?

In his concurrence to Reed, Justice Samuel Alito listed some “reasonable sign regulations” that municipalities can enact without running afoul of content-based distinctions. He was joined in his opinion by Justices Anthony Kennedy (ret.) and Sonia Sotomayor. Among the regulations he listed were:

  • Rules regulating the size of signs
  • Rules regulating the locations in which signs may be placed (e.g., free-standing signs versus those attached to buildings)
  • Rules distinguishing between lighted and unlighted signs
  • Rules distinguishing between signs with fixed messages and electronic signs with messages that change
  • Rules distinguishing between the placement of signs on commercial and residential property
  • Rules restricting the total number of signs allowed per mile of roadway (not per lot)

Although Justice Alito’s concurrence is not the majority opinion in Reed, nor is his list “comprehensive,” as he notes, it offers fairly reliable guidance to municipalities in formulating their sign ordinances. The Town of Southern Shores seems to have adhered to it in ZTA 21-08, in large part, except for the maximum-day and maximum-number regulations that we point out above.

Temporary yard signs have long been a medium of political expression for Southern Shores residents, so much so that one enterprising homeowner on South Dogwood Trail dubbed Southern Shores the “town of yard sign opinions” (above)—and announced this cleverness on a yard sign, of course.

According to ZTA 21-08, a property owner in a residential district may post a maximum of three signs on his/her lot, each of which may be no larger than six square feet, and, cumulatively, cover no more than 21 square feet.

A free-standing sign in the residential districts may be as high as five feet above grade; a wall sign must be “under roof,” ZTA 21-08 says.

Further, temporary signs “shall not be illuminated or painted with light-reflecting paint” and “shall be placed outside the right-of-way and at least five feet from all lot lines.” The lot owner also must give his/her permission before the temporary sign is located on the lot.

According to ZTA 21-08 and the current Town Code, a temporary sign is one that is “intended to display messages of a transitory or temporary nature.” Is a yard-sign statement in support of world peace transitory or temporary in nature?

Examples of temporary signs in the Town Code include “portable signs, or any sign not permanently embedded in the ground, or not permanently affixed to a building or sign structure that is permanently embedded in the ground.”

Such signs are “typically constructed from nondurable materials, including paper, cardboard, cloth, plastic, and/or wallboard,” the ordinance states.

We commend ZTA 21-08 to you for your consideration.  


As we reported 8/11/21, the results of the pavement condition study by SEPI Engineering and Construction Inc. are in and will be discussed by the Town Council at its Tuesday 9 a.m. workshop at the Pitts Center.

You may now access a draft the SEPI report, dated Aug. 17, 2021, here:

According to its report, SEPI conducted a visual pavement condition survey in March and April this year of a street network of about 38 miles, which it broke down into 163 segments.

SEPI states in its executive summary that it found 12 percent of the Town’s street network to be in excellent condition; 15 percent to be in good condition; and 73 percent to be in fair condition. It did not rate any road sections as poor or failed.

The street system, the consultant writes on p. 12 of the report, “is in fair but aging condition and is well suited for preservation and minor rehabilitation repair treatments.”

For those of you who are acquainted with pavement “distresses,” we note that the top three distresses identified by SEPI in Southern Shores are “fatigue cracking, surface distresses, and transverse cracking.” We will delve into these problems in a subsequent, more detailed blog on SEPI’s study.

SEPI concludes its report with two recommended options for 10-year Town capital improvement plans (CIP) to preserve and rehabilitate the roads. The first would cost Southern Shores annually about $675,000 to implement, while the second would cost upwards of $1 million per year.

Last week, upon our request, and before the report was online, Town Manager Cliff Ogburn gave us a statement about the scope, intent, and use of SEPI’s work product, as follows:

“The intent of initiating the study was to have an evaluation of the pavement condition for each mile of town streets and then [to put] those results . . . into a 10 year CIP so that we have a plan to perform the recommended maintenance work starting with the streets in the poorest condition.  It’s important to note that the study looked at pavement only and not things like road width or how we classify the street. 

“The scope of the work includes several things but it produces two key deliverables . . . One is a color-coded map that will indicate the condition of every street with its PCI score (pavement condition index) and the recommended maintenance treatment.  My goal would be to place this map on the Town’s website so that any property owner could click on their street and see when and what is planned or recommended for upcoming maintenance. The other is a technical report that lists:

  • “every street by segment from worst to best condition;
  • “the amount of distress present for each item analyzed to generate a PCI (how much fatigue cracking, transverse cracking, surface defects, rutting/roughness, block cracking)
  • “recommended maintenance and cost

“The CIP is how we rank/prioritize the work.”

Mr. Ogburn concluded by saying that “The Council likely will not make any decisions at the meeting Tuesday.”

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, ©8/14/21


Aston’s redevelopment of the Marketplace calls for the demolition of all retail space to the left of CVS/pharmacy, above, up to and including Coastal Rehab. Photo courtesy of Caroline Walker/OBX Today.

Marketplace owner Aston Properties timely filed with the Town a revised site plan for its proposed “modification” of the Southern Shores shopping center, which includes the construction of a 24,000-square-foot Marshalls department store, and is scheduled to be heard on its amended application by the Planning Board Monday, at 5:30 pm., in the Pitts Center.

The meeting will be live-streamed on the Southern Shores You Tube website at https://www.youtube.com/user/TownofSouthernShores. People who attend the meeting in person must wear face masks.

The Marketplace project, which involves the demolition of a wing of shops to the west of the CVS/pharmacy, the construction of a 6,000-square-foot space next to the proposed Marshalls, and the addition of 27 parking spaces in a reconfigured lot, will lead off the Planning Board’s agenda, which is unusually heavy for August.

For background on Aston’s Marketplace redevelopment, see The Beacon, 7/20/21.

You may access pdf documents in support of the Charlotte developer’s amended site plan application here:


Aston has purportedly responded to concerns expressed by the Town about a minimum requirement for pervious pavement; landscaping and the preservation of open space; efficient stormwater runoff; and sufficient septic system capacity.

Fortunately, all of the topics on the Planning Board’s agenda Monday have what we consider public appeal and should make for an interesting session.

In addition to evaluating Aston’s amended site plan, the Planning Board will consider a zoning text amendment (ZTA 21-08) that rewrites the Town’s sign ordinance (Town Code sec. 36-165) to bring it into conformity with a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court case on the First Amendment and signage and discuss possible requirements for produce stands that operate in the Town’s general commercial district.

For the text of ZTA 21-08, which was suggested by consultant CodeWright as part of its revision of the Southern Shores Town Code, see: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/ZTA-21-08-Signage-1.pdf.

For Planning Director/Deputy Town Manager Wes Haskett’s staff report on ZTA 21-08, which recommends the new sign ordinance, see https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/PB-StaffReportZTA-21-08-1.pdf.

For an analysis by Town Attorney Ben Gallop of the legal impact of the Supreme Court case, Reed v. Town of Gilbert, 576, U.S. 155 (2015), on local signage regulations, see https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Reed-Case-Comments-1.pdf. (This link also provides commentary by CodeWright.)

The Beacon will expound upon both Aston’s amended application and the proposed new sign ordinance in a subsequent blog post.  Stay tuned.

The written materials for the Planning Board’s meeting indicate that, in considering the introduction and regulation of produce stands in Southern Shores, the Board will be looking at requirements and definitions imposed upon “produce stands,” or, alternatively, “outdoor stands, accessory to shopping centers,” that are in effect in Kitty Hawk and Nags Head. For these town-specific guidelines, see: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Produce-Stand-Requirements-1.pdf.

The Southern Shores Town Code does not currently address outdoor produce stands and their regulation.

We have fond memories dating back to the early 1970s of a man who used to bring fresh vegetables to Southern Shores residents and vacationers in a horse-drawn wagon. He would walk beside his horse along Ocean Boulevard, calling out “fresh corn,” “vegetables,” and the like. At the time the only grocery store on the beach was Wink’s in Kitty Hawk, where visitors could buy on credit and pay their bills upon departure.

There will be two public-comment periods during the Planning Board meeting, one before the Board’s discussion of business and one afterward.

The Planning Board serves in an advisory capacity to the Town Council. Its decisions on site plan applications and zoning text amendments are not final.


The morning after the Planning Board’s meeting, the Town Council will hold a workshop to consider the results of the pavement conditions study it commissioned and how those results will be integrated into the Town’s capital improvement plan.

The workshop will be held at 9 a.m. in the Pitts Center. It, too, will be live-streamed on the Town’s You Tube website, and all in-person attendees must wear face masks.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, ©8/11/21


A collision on the eastbound span of the Wright Memorial Bridge can further frustrate vacationers arriving for their summer OBX time.

Your roving Beacon reporter will not be in Southern Shores today. Please let us know what kind of day you have, on the roads and elsewhere.

Town Manager Cliff Ogburn did not change his mind about canceling today’s left-turn prohibition at U.S. Hwy. 158 and South Dogwood Trail, telling homeowners who contacted him, and then contacted us, that he would restore the prohibition next Sunday if the traffic today warrants it.

On a different subject . . . Southern Shores Mayor Tom Bennett and members of the Town Council reported at their meeting last Tuesday about a special program they had attended at Jennette’s Pier concerning “sustainable” tourism.

“We’re at our saturation point” on the Outer Banks, Mayor Bennett said, succinctly stating what many of us year-rounders have been feeling this summer, as we head up or down the road on any day of the week and run into traffic backups.

The section of the so-called bypass from the site of the former Kmart, south to the YMCA, has been especially congested. So has the road to and from Duck.

Town Councilman Leo Holland said that if he were a vacationer, encountering bumper-to-bumper traffic upon arrival to, and departure from the Outer Banks, and then while staying here on any day, he would consider vacationing elsewhere. We can empathize with that view.    

It did not take a glance into a crystal ball during the past 25 years to foresee that with the pace and density of development in the Currituck County Outer Banks and with the redevelopment in towns to the south of Southern Shores that replaced modest family motels and cottages with “mini-hotels” and other high-density housing that a “saturation point” would arrive one day. (Which is not to say that Southern Shores, which adhered to a policy of gradual growth in its development rollout, has not contributed to the saturation.)

Perhaps the COVID-19 pandemic, which has taken the European vacation and other distant vacations away from American tourists, has accelerated the arrival of that day, and next summer, as Mr. Holland suggested, the traffic congestion will abate a little.

But the U.S. public-health scenario is not responsible for the increase in Airbnb and VRBO rentals, which add more people to resident single-family households, and encourage new buyers to purchase year-round houses and convert them to Airbnbs.

While we all can identify causes for the saturation, we would prefer to hear from our government officials, especially at the county level, what “solutions” they may have. A report to town residents from the Southern Shores Town Council about the ideas they heard at the “sustainable tourism” meeting would be much appreciated.

One idea that we believe deserves serious consideration—and at one time (decades ago) was implemented half-heartedly—is public transportation, including shuttle buses that ferry tourists from bus stops to destinations they commonly visit, such as the Wright Brothers National Memorial, the Nags Head Woods Preserve, and Jockey’s Ridge.

Any type of shuttle that allows vacationers to leave their vehicles at their vacation residences when they go out would be welcome. Minibuses or trolleys could take them to restaurants, to the outlet mall, to Roanoke and Hatteras islands for a day trip, or to “The Lost Colony” production, as just a few examples.

We believe Dare County, and the individual beach towns, need to engage in what is essentially urban planning to reduce the crush of “saturation.”

Your thoughts? 

We welcome your comments on the Beacon blog and Facebook page. Thank you and have a great day.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 8/8/21