The Southern Shores Town Council will hold a public hearing Tuesday about Aston Properties’ proposal to demolish a section of the Marketplace shopping center and build in its place a 24,000-square-foot Marshalls department store and another 6,000-square-foot retail space for a business that has yet to be determined.
The hearing will be held during the Town Council’s regular monthly meeting Tuesday, at 5:30 p.m., in the Pitts Center.
All meeting attendees must wear face masks, regardless of their vaccination status.
The meeting will be live-streamed at https://www.youtube.com/user/TownofSouthernShores.
The Beacon first reported 7/20/21 on Aston’s site plan amendment application proposing to demolish 19,775 square feet of existing shops to the west of the CVS/pharmacy in the Marketplace and to replace them with a new junior-box Marshalls and a 6,000-square-foot store that has not yet been leased.
The Charlotte-based developer’s plan also calls for modifying and reconfiguring about two acres of existing parking lot, in part by using permeable pavers that would allow it to be eligible under the Southern Shores Town Code for a maximum lot coverage of 67 percent, instead of the commercial zoning district standard of 60 percent.
In order to accommodate the parking lot changes, Aston would destroy a wooded park in front of the future Marshalls site. Its plans show that 10 mature oak trees and one mature crape myrtle would be removed.
The Town Planning Board unanimously recommended conditional approval of Aston’s application at its Aug. 16 meeting.
We reported in detail 8/17/21 on the five conditions that the Planning Board advised must be met by Aston Properties before it can apply for a Town building permit. Besides not exceeding the maximum lot coverage, the most significant of the five addresses stormwater management on the site.
Aston’s current proposed lot coverage is 67.1 percent, not 67 percent, according to Town Planning Director/Deputy Town Manager Wes Haskett, whose report on the Planning Board’s conditional approval is in the Town Council meeting packet, as are Aston’s application materials.
(The meeting agenda is on the first two pages of the packet.)
Before Aston may avail itself of the 67 percent maximum lot coverage, it must, according to Town ordinance, “incorporate the use of permeable pavement . . . in excess of 5 percent of the total lot coverage.” (See Code sec. 36-207(d)(5)(b).)
One of the Planning Board’s five conditions requires Aston to submit documentation to the Town about the permeability of the pavers it proposes using in the parking lot.
As of Sept. 1, Mr. Haskett writes in his report, Aston had not provided sufficient documentation to assess how well stormwater would penetrate the pavers.
The permeability of the proposed pavers, he writes, “could affect the square footage of permeable pavers required.”
It is unclear from Mr. Haskett’s report if Aston Properties has met another Planning Board condition that one of its representatives work with Town Engineer Joe Anlauf to “evaluate the existing stormwater system [at the Marketplace] for glaring deficiencies and address them.”
TOWN MANAGER’S REPORT: Beach Nourishment and Traffic
Town Manager Cliff Ogburn’s chock-full-of-news report has become one of the Town Council’s monthly meeting highlights. Tuesday’s agenda shows Mr. Ogburn giving a beach nourishment update and reports on traffic and the FY 2021-22 tax bills. No other details are provided.
Mr. Ogburn most likely will relate his report to other business that the Town Council will take up after the public hearing, including an advisory agreement with DEC Associates, Inc. that spells out how the Charlotte-based financial consultant will assist the Town in closing the financing for the 2022 beach nourishment project; and a resolution that directs Town Finance Officer Bonnie Swain or her designee to apply to the N.C. Local Government Commission for approval of the Town’s special obligation bond to finance the project.
DEC has received $32,500 for advising the Town in the planning stage of the 2022 project’s financing; it will receive another $32,500 for its closing services.
According to the resolution pertaining to the Local Government Commission’s approval of the project’s funding, the aggregate principal amount of the bond is estimated “not to exceed” $8.1 million.
The Town Council will close out its meeting business with the consideration of two grant applications, one of which is for a $50,000 Dare County Tourism Impact Grant that would be used “to secure traffic data that will be instrumental in helping the Town better evaluate and understand the impacts that tourism related traffic generates,” according to Mr. Ogburn’s agenda summary.
Mr. Ogburn proposes to contract with Streetlight Data, a company that collects “location records from smart phones and navigation devices in connected cars and trucks,” in order to illuminate traffic patterns in Southern Shores.
This data, Mr. Ogburn explains, “can help us to better understand where the traffic that cuts through the residential streets . . . originates . . . [and] the volume of traffic that uses Southern Shores as a cut through by either turning off U.S. 158 or N.C. 12, [as well as where this traffic] exits the residential streets. . . .”
A white paper from Streetlight Data about its methodologies and data sources is included in the meeting packet.
PROTECTING THE LONG-DISTANCE RUFA RED KNOT OR NOT
We do not usually detail items on the Town Council’s consent agenda, which rarely are discussed publicly before a motion is made to approve them. This time, however, we were stopped short by item two of Tuesday’s consent agenda, which reads:
“Consideration of Resolution opposing U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s proposed designation of critical habitat for the Rufa Red Knot.”
Opposing the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS)? Surely, this is a misprint.
Our second thought was: What is a rufa red knot?
It turns out that the rufa red knot (Calidris canutus rufa) is a “robin-sized shorebird” that is “truly a master of long-distance aviation,” according to the USFWS. (Actually, we think photos on the Wildlife Service’s website show the knot to be much larger than a robin and much more vibrantly colored.)
“On wingspans of 20 inches,” the USFWS writes in an online summary about the birds, “some knots fly more than 9,300 miles from south to north every spring and repeat the trip in reverse every autumn, making this bird one of the longest-distance migrants in the animal kingdom.”
See more details at Northeast Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (fws.gov)
In 2015, the USFWS added the rufa red knot as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act and announced that a proposed critical habitat designation would be forthcoming.
That designation did not occur until July 15 of this year when the Wildlife Service proposed setting aside 649,066 acres of “critical habitat” across 13 states—including New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida—for the long-distance rufa red knot.
Large flocks of rufa red knots, the Service explains, arrive each spring “at stopover areas along the Delaware Bay and the U.S. Atlantic coast . . . with many of the birds flying directly from northern Brazil.”
The knots’ spring migration coincides with the spawning season of the horseshoe crab, whose eggs provide them with a rich food source. Delaware Bay is a prominent stop-over point, apparently, because it provides an abundance of horseshoe crab eggs.
Mussel beds and small clams on the Atlantic coast are also important food sources for migrating knots, in both the spring and the fall, the Wildlife Service says.
In the 19th century, according to the USWFS, rufa red knot populations in the United States were decimated by commercial hunting. After knot hunting ended in 1918 with the passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the birds were able to recover, but they were again threatened in the 20th century by coastal development and an overharvest of the horseshoe crab.
From the 1980s to the 2000s, the USFWS reports, the knots’ numbers declined about 75 percent.
The smaller populations that remain now, it says, face many hurdles to recovery, including sea level rise, climate change, coastal development, shoreline stabilization, dredging, disturbances by vehicles, people, dogs, aircraft, and boats, etc.
In its proposed resolution, the Town alleges that the USFWS has “indiscriminately” designated oceanfront shoreline as critical habitat for the rufa red knot, including a 150-mile continuous stretch of N.C. oceanfront in Carteret and Dare counties; and it seeks a “more fine-tuned designation of important habitats” for the shorebirds.
In an email to The Beacon, Town Manager Ogburn said his concern with the critical habitat designation is it “will affect our beach nourishment in the future.”
“[T]o the extent that [the designation] might close beaches during our summer construction windows,” he continued, “it could significantly impact our ability to construct projects and would certainly increase our costs if we were somehow required to construct outside our current windows.”
Mr. Ogburn said that the critical habitat on the USFWS’s proposed map appears to stop “at the northern end of the Oregon Inlet,” and, therefore, does not appear to directly affect Southern Shores or the 2022 beach nourishment project, but “it could have [an] impact on the southern portion of Dare County.”
As worded now, the Town’s resolution expresses strong opposition to the USFWS’s proposed designation of rufa red knot critical habitat along the shoreline between Emerald Isle and Atlantic Beach and along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
It also asks the USFWS to “revisit” its habitat designation methodology in order to arrive at a more fine-tuned area map. This seems like a reasonable request.
We delve into so much detail here about the rufa red knot because we love birds and were charmed to learn about the existence and habits of this one. We thought you might enjoy learning about the knot, as well.
We also think that the USFWS’s critical habitat designation is a reminder that humans coexist with a large variety of other species, and we always need to be cognizant of how our actions affect their lives, especially when we cause potential harm.
The Wildlife Service’s critical habitat proposal is available for public review and comment at https://www.regulations.gov/docket/FWS-R5-ES-2021-0032. Comments must be received by Sept. 13.
With the Southern Shores municipal election just two months away (Nov. 2)–and early voting starting Oct. 14–you should begin to see political signs in people’s yards soon.
It is already legal in Southern Shores to display a political sign, provided you do not place it in the public right-of-way. Signs may be placed in the right-of-ways of N.C. Hwy. 12 as of Sept. 14.
For news about my Town Council candidacy, including how to obtain a yard sign, I invite you to check out my website, vote4ann.com, and my Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/annsjoerdsmaforcouncil.
Political campaigns will be largely electronic this year because of the surge in Delta-variant COVID-19 cases.
The League of Women Voters of Dare County has already announced that its candidates’ forums will be virtual. The one for Southern Shores is scheduled Wed., Oct. 13, at 6:30 p.m. We will pass along more details when we have them.
Happy Labor Day weekend, everyone. There will be a trash collection on Monday. The last Friday pickup of the season occurred today.
Have fun and stay safe.
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 9/3/21