6/10/22: TOWN COUNCIL APPROVES MIXED-USE DEVELOPMENTS, FY 2022-23 BUDGET; TOWN ATTORNEY RESIGNS; ALL TRAFFIC BARRIERS WILL BE IN PLACE THIS WEEKEND.

Water-filled barriers and signs sit at the ready on Hickory Trail at East Dogwood Trail this evening, when the northbound lane was already restricted to “local traffic only.” Not shown in the photograph are two more orange barriers sitting on the other side of the road. You can expect Hickory Trail to be closed this weekend.

The Southern Shores Town Council unanimously approved Tuesday a new mixed residential-commercial use of town property zoned “C general commercial” and an $8,790,776 town budget for fiscal year 2022-2023, which is $87,638 over the budget that Town Manager Cliff Ogburn initially recommended on May 3.

Town Attorney Ben Gallop also announced his resignation, effective July 6, at the Council’s Tuesday meeting—which was a lengthy session that lasted nearly two and a half hours because of the hearing on the mixed-use zoning text amendment (ZTA).

The addition of mixed-use developments in the Southern Shores commercial district was first proposed in ZTA 22-06, which was submitted to the Town and later revised by Ginguite LLC, a SAGA investment group that seeks to develop a 5.2-acre tract on U.S. Hwy. 158 with both residential and commercial facilities. The current Town Code does not permit both uses on the same property. (See The Beacon, 5/26/22 for background.)

In amending Town Code sec. 36-207(c) to add this new conditional use in the commercial district, and specifying building requirements for mixed-use developments, the Town Council broke with the Town Planning Board’s recommendation over the maximum lot coverage that should be allowed.

The Council decided to allow mixed developments the same maximum lot coverage as all-commercial developments, which is 60 percent, but can be up to 67 percent if a certain percentage of permeable pavers is used (to allow for ground water absorption). The Planning Board recommended capping lot coverage at 50 percent, with an increase to 55 percent, if permeable pavers are used.  

We will explore this zoning change and the Town Council’s and Planning Board’s decision-making process, and the issues and problems that arise for us, in a forthcoming column.

In other business Tuesday, Mr. Ogburn reported that all traffic barriers will be in place along the residential cut-through routes, and Hickory Trail will be closed at East Dogwood Trail, this weekend. N.C. DOT’s mobile message boards advising arriving visitors to stay on U.S. 158 and N.C. 12 also will be in use, he said.

Mr. Ogburn also updated the beach nourishment timeline for Southern Shores, saying that “We’re just kind of waiting in line,” for sand to be pumped in Kill Devil Hills and Kitty Hawk before it is pumped on our beaches, which now appears will be in early August.

At the start of its meeting, the Town Council heard a presentation by Outer Banks Visitors Bureau Executive Director Lee Nettles and Dare County Tourism Board Chair Tim Cafferty about a proposed 48,275-square-foot, $18 million event center to be built at the Soundside Event Site in Nags Head.

The Soundside site is on the 158 bypass next to Pamlico Jack’s Restaurant, which would be demolished to make way for an indoor facility to host sporting events, banquets, concerts, “galas with speakers,” and “smaller conventions,” according to Mr. Nettles, who also referred to the proposed facility as a civic center.

According to Mr. Nettles, this project jibes with the “mission” of the Tourism Board, which is “to promote the Outer Banks during less-than-peak months,” thus encouraging “year-round tourism,” which is not necessarily a goal of local residents or visitors who come in what is considered the off-season.

Mr. Nettles also noted that the center will be designed to “have equal appeal and value for people who live here as well as the visitors.”

The Outer Banks Visitors Bureau Director said the magic word, pickleball, several times in touting the sporting events that would be held in the center, which is designed to have three basketball courts end-to-end as well. (See below for more talking points.)

Mr. Nettles and Mr. Cafferty held a public forum on the project in Nags Head on Monday (See The Outer Banks Voice article) and have spoken to Kill Devil Hills town officials, trying to drum up support. The Nags Head Board of Commissioners will have to approve zoning changes in order for the plan for the event center to advance.   

FY 2022-23 BUDGET

After further workup by the Town Council and the Town Manager after the latter’s initial May filing, the town’s new fiscal year budget increased in expenditures by $87,638, from a recommended budget of $8,706,138 to an adopted budget of $8,790,776.

The bulk of that increase is an additional $80,000 transferred out of the Capital Reserve Fund to be used for canal maintenance, an amount that Mr. Ogburn raised from $20,000 to $100,000 for the year. In subsequent years, the Town Manager said, $50,000 will be allocated for canal maintenance.

No one on the Town Council mentioned property taxes during the public hearing that it held on the budget, and no town residents spoke.

In his closing remarks of the meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Matt Neal observed that, thanks to ample town tax revenues, the Council did not have any tough decisions to make about the FY 2022-23 budget, which will likely not be the case in FY 2022-23, when property taxes may have to be raised.

To balance the FY 2022-23 budget, the Town Council approved a transfer of $365,309 from the town’s unassigned fund balance.

The Town Council also unanimously approved by a separate motion and vote an increase in the town’s fee schedule for permits and other costs, which Mr. Ogburn said had not been increased since 2012.     

NEW TOWN ATTORNEY

Mr. Gallop announced Tuesday that his law firm, Hornthal Riley Ellis & Maland LLP, will continue to represent the Town, and that firm partner, L. Phillip Hornthal, III, will be its primary counsel. Mr. Gallop will be leaving his firm and going into solo practice, he said.

Mr. Gallop also announced that he has initiated lawsuits against five Southern Shores oceanfront property owners who have not granted the Town voluntary easements on their property for purposes of beach nourishment and that he plans to file the Town’s amicus curiae brief in the mid-Currituck County Bridge litigation on June 13.

Mr. Gallop further said that he would be “looking at” the Town’s proposed new sign ordinance, which has been knocking around since last year. The Planning Board gave the ordinance its best shot; we believe Mr. Gallop should have intervened and fixed the ordinance months ago.

CUT-THROUGH TRAFFIC

The experiment with closing the Hickory Trail-East Dogwood Trail intersection over the Memorial Day weekend led to myriad problems, Mr. Ogburn said at Tuesday’s meeting, including southbound motorists ignoring the “No Outlet” signs at Hickory Trail and Hillcrest Drive, and, therefore, having to turn around at Hickory-East Dogwood; northbound motorists driving onto the grass to go around the orange, water-filled barriers; and people even attempting to remove said water-filled orange barriers!

The police had a busy Saturday over the holiday weekend, but Police Chief David Kole did not elaborate upon any of the details in his monthly report.

During our own on-the-ground reporting, we witnessed southbound locals trying to convince the police that they should be an exception to the “no outlet” signage and be permitted access to and from Hickory Trail and an apparently inebriated man trying to move one of the barriers. We also are aware of efforts by neighbors to block the grassy areas next to the barriers with stakes and flags.    

Mr. Ogburn said that more water will be added this weekend to these barriers, which will be increased in number, and more signage will be posted to convince southbound motorists that Hickory Trail really is dead-ended.

TALKING POINTS FOR EVENT CENTER: Among the talking points offered by Mr. Nettles and Mr. Cafferty to promote the new event center are the following:

*It will bring in $25,250,000 in “new spending.” (But there will be no profit for the first three to five years.)

*It will generate more than 14,000 new “room nights” annually.

*It will create 191 new jobs, including nine full-time positions at the center itself.

*It will have a culinary training kitchen so that local people, especially students, will have an opportunity to acquire culinary skills.

*Its event hall will be 26,000 square feet; the meeting room will be 1,500 square feet; the training kitchen will be 2,800 SF; and the lobby, restrooms, halls, and back-of-house space for employees, storage, etc., will be 17,975 SF.

*It will host events with crowd sizes between 300 and 2,500 people. (No conventions.)

FINALLY, PLEASE NOTE: The recycling pick-up day has been permanently changed to Friday. From now until Labor Day, there will be two trash pickups in town, one on Friday and the other on Monday. We will return to once-a-week Monday trash pickups after the summer season is over.

Have a great weekend.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 6/10/22   

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