The Southern Shores Town Council authorized Town Manager Cliff Ogburn at its Sept.. 7 meeting to pursue a $50,000 grant from the Dare County Tourism Bureau that would pay for a traffic-pattern study of summertime cut-through traffic and the purchase of barrels, cones, and other traffic barriers that the Town is currently renting.
As The Beacon reported 9/3/21, 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 explained in an email to The Beacon, “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. . . .”
Mr. Ogburn will decide how to write the request for a Dare County Tourism Impact grant, which does not need to be matched by the Town.
In other cut-through traffic news announced last Tuesday, Mr. Ogburn reported on the vehicle counts on South Dogwood Trail for the two Sundays in August when the Town decided to lift previously planned no-left-turn bans at the U.S. Hwy 158/South Dogwood Trail intersection.
On Sunday, Aug. 8, when the left-turn prohibition was in effect, 1,556 vehicles traveled on South Dogwood Trail, according to Mr. Ogburn. On the ensuing Sunday, Aug. 15, he said, 1,065 vehicles used the road, going north, and on Sunday, Aug. 22, the northbound traffic count was 1,217 vehicles.
The local-traffic-only barriers that had been in place on the residential roads in the dunes were removed during these two August weekends, as well.
During the weekend of Aug. 14-15, Mr. Ogburn reported, the cut-through traffic count in the 200 block of Sea Oats Trail increased from a summertime average of 939 vehicles to 1600 vehicles. Similarly, the traffic count on the 300 block of Sea Oats Trail increased from an average of 2400 vehicles to 3000 vehicles.
Town of Duck Pitching In
Mr. Ogburn also reported that the Town of Duck has hired a contractor who is “monitoring and counting” pedestrian use of its many crosswalks on N.C. Hwy. 12.
It has long been publicly discussed that the pedestrian crosswalks in Duck slow down the through traffic on N.C. Hwy. 12, creating a bottleneck at the town’s entry; but this is the first time we have heard from a Southern Shores town manager that Duck is concerned about the problem and is willing to cooperate with Southern Shores in addressing it.
Mr. Ogburn suggested to the Town Council that it would be a “good idea” for members to “sit down” with their counterparts in Duck and see “what we can do together.” We wholeheartedly agree.
Duck hired its new town manager, Drew Havens, in February, after longtime former Town Manager Christopher Layton resigned in July 2020, and Joseph Heard, Duck’s director of community development, served as interim town manager.
Mr. Layton resigned a week after being arrested on assault charges stemming from an incident involving a female co-worker. He was hired in November 2002, about six months after the Town of Duck was incorporated.
According to a public release from Duck, Mr. Havens is a former police officer and firefighter with more than 20 years of municipal government experience, including most recently as manager of the Town of Apex, N.C.
Write to Your Congressman
And finally, Mr. Ogburn encouraged residents and property owners to write to their U.S. congressional representative, Dr. Gregory F. Murphy, to enlist his assistance in the “Build the Mid-Currituck Bridge” campaign.
Emails may be sent to Representative Murphy at email@example.com. The Congressman’s mailing address is 313 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515; and his telephone number is (202) 225-3415.
BEACH NOURISHMENT TAXES ON VEHICLES
We have a confession to make: We never knew that the increase in Southern Shores property owners’ ad valorem taxes to pay for the Town’s share of expense for the 2022 beach nourishment project applied to personal property, as well as real property.
If the Town Manager ever clarified this point in a Town Council meeting during which beach nourishment was discussed—and we attended, live-streamed, or viewed on videotape all of them—we never heard it. We never heard the Town Council make this point, either, nor did we ever hear a private citizen raise it.
Thanks to retired Judge Vincent Ferretti Jr., of Wax Myrtle Trail, we now know this to be the case. He received his vehicle-tax assessment in August.
In public comments at the Town Council’s meeting, Judge Ferretti characterized the beach-nourishment tax on vehicles as a “penalty” and an “inequity,” because only those property owners who register their vehicles locally pay it, and said he had spoken with Mr. Ogburn, Mayor Tom Bennett, and other members of the Town Council about his objection.
“They recognize this is an issue,” he said.
Emphasizing that the beach nourishment tax rates assessed on real property in the two newly created municipal service districts and in the remainder of the town are based on the “benefit” that property owners receive from the sand replenishment, Judge Ferretti argued that his car doesn’t “benefit at all from beach nourishment.”
His car, he said, will not increase in value after the 2022 project is done, as, presumably, real property on or proximate to the oceanfront will.
“The nexus to personal property really doesn’t exist,” he said.
While Judge Ferretti said that the N.C. General Statutes “may command” this penalty/inequity, he did not cite any particular statute for his contention.
We did a very quick skim of the State statutes pertaining to municipal service districts (N.C.G.S. sec. 160A-535 et seq.) and only found this statutory provision on point:
“Property subject to taxation in a newly established district or in an area annexed to an existing district is that subject to taxation by the city as of the preceding Jan. 1.” (NCGS 160A-542(b).
The decision to levy higher taxes on properties in MSDs in order to pay for services in those districts is a discretionary one. (NCGS 160A-542(a).)
Judge Ferretti concluded by requesting that the Town Council ask Southern Shores’ representatives to the N.C. General Assembly to support changing the MSD statute so that the taxes apply only to real property, not to personal property, “which doesn’t benefit at all” from beach nourishment.
No one on the Town Council commented.
UPDATE ON THE 2022 BEACH NOURISHMENT PROJECT
Mr. Ogburn reported that Dare County opened on Sept. 2 the bids it received from three national marine construction companies on the 2022 beach nourishment project involving Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, and Kill Devil Hills, and identified Weeks Marine, Inc., which is headquartered in Cranford, N.J., as the low responsible bidder.
Weeks’s bid was $27,932,500 for the four projects, of which $11,370,102 represents Southern Shores’ project cost.
According to Mr. Ogburn, Great Lakes Dock and Materials of Muskegon, Mich., which submitted the second lowest bid, has done much of the dredging work on local nourishment projects.
The County will issue a Notice to Award the construction contract to the selected contractor by Oct. 2.
We refer you to a writeup in yesterday’s Town newsletter (Sept. 10) for more details about the construction and how the project will proceed.
The Town Council gave Mr. Ogburn all of the authority that he needs to follow up on the Town’s financing through special obligation bonds.
We also refer you to the newsletter for a report on the Town’s application for a Building Resilience and Communities (BRIC) Program grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The Town Council approved paying VHB Engineering $25,000 to prepare and submit an application in the Town’s behalf for a BRIC grant that would pay for remedying multiple stormwater issues along N.C. Hwy. 12.
POLICE SERVICE AWARD
We conclude our two-part meeting report with congratulating Deputy Police Chief Jonathan Slegal on receiving a well-deserved award for his 20 years of service to Southern Shores. We thank Deputy Chief Slegal for all he does to keep our town safe.
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 9/11/21