7/14/22: TOWN COULD ‘DEPLOY’ ROAD BARRICADES AGAIN, MAYOR SAYS; PLANNING BOARD TO CONSIDER ‘AFFORDABLE HOUSING’ ZTA MONDAY.

This aerial photo from Dare County gis shows the Pledger Palace childcare facility at 6325 N. Croatan Hwy. (U.S. Hwy. 158) outlined in red. The owner of the business is seeking a change in the Southern Shores Zoning Ordinance to allow for a communal form of affordable housing in the commercial district.

The Town is “waiting until traffic counts are lower before we might put barricades back up,” Mayor Elizabeth Morey told a gathering of Southern Shores residents and Town officials yesterday afternoon at a “Mayor’s Chat” that focused primarily on the weekend cut-through traffic, including the possible restoration of the “Local Traffic Only” road barricades.

Nine residents (excluding The Beacon), Town Manager Cliff Ogburn, Police Chief David Kole, Deputy Police Chief Jonathan Slegel, and Council members Matt Neal, Paula Sherlock, and Leo Holland attended yesterday’s chat, which lasted 90 minutes and was not an official meeting of the Council.  

Among the nine residents, seven spoke about the traffic and the problems of congestion and speeding, as well as public urination and trespass by vacationers who exit their vehicles and use residents’ property to relieve themselves. Four of the seven asked for the orange, water-filled barricades that were placed at street intersections in the dunes from Memorial Day weekend through June 25-26 to be restored, saying they helped to reduce cut-through traffic flow.

Among them, Jerrica Rea, who lives on Sea Oats Trail between Hickory Trail and Hillcrest Drive, complained about the bathroom breaks she and her family witness and also said cut-through vacationers use her driveway and her trash cans and even park in her parking space.

Ms. Rea’s neighbor, Susan Adams, said public urination has become old news. Besides supporting the barricades, she called attention to speeding by cut-through drivers and to the road wear-and-tear that their vehicles cause.

Rick Haley of the north end of Wax Myrtle Trail said he had to endure “peeing” and the disposal of “dirty diapers” on his yard every summer weekend since 2017—until the “Local Traffic Only” barricades were employed.

Mr. Haley said that the barricades “helped us 100 percent.”  

Mayor Morey seemed surprised by this declaration.

“That’s the first time I’ve heard that,” she told him, apparently referring to his resounding support of the barricades because certainly residents have informed Town officials previously about their effectiveness.

Mayor Morey explained that the road barricades were removed because of “conflicts” that arose between “drivers and residents, residents and residents, and drivers and drivers.” People had heated exchanges in the streets, and too many cut-through drivers were ignoring the barricades.

Robert Green Sr. of Hillcrest Drive also said, “The barricades were working,” and vigorously pressed the Mayor for an accounting of the Town’s decision to remove them.

Ultimately, the Mayor acknowledged “it was a subjective decision,” not based on any incident data, and said the Town could “deploy the barricades again.”

She did not explain the logic of using the barricades when there are fewer vehicles on the cut-through route, and, thus, less need for them. Her chief concern seems to be to minimize the risk of angry confrontations occurring on the streets.

Tommy Karole, former chairperson of the citizens’ committee that studied cut-through traffic and recommended installation of a gate on South Dogwood Trail, renewed the committee’s proposal, explaining that tiny transponders attached to locals’ license plates or windshields would be used to open the gate.

Conditions as they are now are “unsafe,” Mr. Karole said, “and it’s obscene that our Council allows” them to exist. As he has in the past, Mr. Karole warned of the delay that backed-up traffic poses to emergency medical service vehicles and other first responders.

Mr. Karole, who lives on East Dogwood Trail near the North-South-East Dogwood trails intersection, also complained of vehicles speeding on East Dogwood Trail across the Dick White Bridge as cut-through drivers accelerate once they turn right (often without stopping) onto the road from South Dogwood Trail. Speeding also occurs in the other direction, but less flagrantly.

Wendy Hawkins of South Dogwood Trail responded favorably to Mr. Karole’s gate proposal, expanding upon it by suggesting that another means besides a transponder, such as a keycode, could be used to allow access to “people who legally need to get through.” Smart-phone technology opens up other possibilities.

Determining who would require access in addition to local residents—such as non-resident property owners, guests of homeowners and of the Duck Woods Country Club, renters, and essential servicepeople—and how to enable that access are just two of the issues associated with installing a gate.

Before Town officials get to assessing the logistical, technological, and physical requirements of a gate, however, they must resolve the hesitancy they feel about the legal position the Town would be in if it were to close South Dogwood Trail to cut-through drivers. There is no North Carolina law that prevents it from doing so. The Beacon will explore the legal picture in a future blog.

Ms. Hawkins spoke forcefully about the speeding and reckless driving on South Dogwood Trail that pose a danger to people walking on the sidewalk. She described vehicles coming so close to the curbs that their hubcaps scrape them.

A car “could jump the sidewalk,” she said, if drivers persist in rivaling on-coming traffic for passage, instead of yielding. It’s an eye-of-the-needle situation when two wide vehicles meet.   

Ms. Hawkins said she had two of the Town’s “Please be respectful” signs in her yard—and she even held one up for passing drivers to see—but she took them down “because they weren’t doing any good.”

“I’m very angry,” she said. “It’s horrible.”

Ms. Hawkins’s suggestion of installing a “Local Traffic Only” barricade on South Dogwood Trail was quickly dismissed as unworkable by Chief Kole and other Town officials.

WHICH CAME FIRST: CHICKENS OR EGGS, ANYONE?

Among other topics discussed at the chat, a Chicahauk homeowner asked about potential construction on Gravey Pond Lane; an Ocean Boulevard homeowner inquired about the Town extending its complimentary trash and recycling receptacle rollback service on Ocean Boulevard beyond the Duck Road split; and Jerrica Rea outed herself as “the chicken lady.”

Ms. Rea has campaigned on the social media site, Next Door, for the Town to allow residents to raise chickens, as the towns of Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills do.

The “keeping and having of livestock and fowl” in town is prohibited by Southern Shores Town Code sec. 4-24. The Code defines “fowl” as “edible birds commonly found on farms, such as chickens, turkeys, ducks, guinea fowl and geese.” (Sec. 4-21)

Ms. Rea revealed yesterday that she had spoken with Mr. Ogburn about the possibility of raising chickens at her home and that she had hired an attorney to assist her. Because of an issue with property covenants, Mr. Ogburn had not yet advised Ms. Rea about the process for repealing a Town Code ordinance.    

Mayor Morey indicated that she has heard strong opposition to chickens (or more precisely, hens) being allowed in Southern Shores. She suggested that the topic would be an appropriate one for discussion in one of the public workshops that will be held after the Town initiates its update of its Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA) Land Use Plan. The first such workshop could be held as early as September.

(The Beacon will inform readers about the Land Use Plan update after a consultant is hired to run the process, which is established by State law and regulations. The Town issued a Request for Proposal on July 1 for a “qualified firm” to update the currently adopted Land Use plan, which, although certified by the N.C. Coastal Resources Commission in 2012, was submitted to the State in 2008 and based, in part, on a public workshop and citizens’ survey conducted in 2005. Proposals for the update must be submitted to the Town by 5 p.m. on July 22.)

‘AFFORDABLE HOUSING’: A CHALLENGING ZTA FOR THE PLANNING BOARD

The Town Planning Board will consider at its meeting next Monday a Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) submitted by the owner of the Pledger Palace day care center to allow a residential structure she is calling a “shared space-occupancy dwelling” to be built in the C general commercial district of Southern Shores.

A document submitted by Patricia Pledger, president of Pledger Palace Child Development and Educational Center, Inc., with ZTA 22-08 indicates she envisions a so-called SSO as “an affordable housing solution” for international students coming to the Outer Banks through the J-1 summer work visa program.

Ms. Pledger is proposing converting her childcare facility at 6325 N. Croatan Hwy. in the Martin’s Point area into communal housing for at least 95 “non-transient” J-1 students.

According to Deputy Town Manager and Planning Director Wes Haskett, the Pledger Palace property is located in Southern Shores’ extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ), so it is “subject to the Town’s development requirements.”

John Finelli is the ETJ representative on the Planning Board.

The Pledger Palace is currently operating as a summer camp for children, according to Ms. Pledger’s letter.

The Board will meet Monday in the Pitts Center at 5 p.m. It also will take up a housekeeping ZTA submitted by the Town itself to ensure that the Town Code is consistent with N.C. statute.

See the Board’s agenda at https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/7-18-22-PB-Meeting-Agenda.pdf.

ZTA 22-08 proposes to amend the permitted uses section of Town Code sec. 36-207, which regulates the commercial district, to add shared space-occupancy dwellings, as well as to add a definition of an SSO to the Zoning Ordinance’s definitions section 36-57.

The Pledger Palace is being represented by attorney Casey C. Varnell of Sharp, Graham, Baker & Varnell in Kitty Hawk.  

The crux of the proposed zoning change is the definition of an SSO, which is described in ZTA 22-08, in significant part, as a “private structure” with “shared spaces . . . offered for rent for the purpose of providing affordable sleeping accommodations” to “persons who do not meet the definition of family.”

Each “shared space” may “accommodate up to 10 bunk units (maximum of 20 occupants).” It is further described as existing within “the confines of four walls, and separate and apart from any other shared space within the structure.”

ZTA 22-08 further specifies that residents of the SSO “shall share a kitchen facility and common living area with all other residents and shall share a bathroom facility with one or more other residents.” The owner of the SSO cannot use it as a primary residence, according to the ZTA.

The proposed definition concludes with this disclaimer: “SSO does not include dormitory and residence halls, single-family dwellings, multi-family dwellings, motels, or vacation cottages.”

Although the terms “dormitory” and “residence halls” are not defined in the Town’s Zoning Ordinance, both are prohibited in all zoning districts in Southern Shores by Code sec. 36-209(9).

ZTA 22-08 also would amend Town Code sec. 36-207(b), the permitted uses section, with details about the parking, bathroom facilities (separate for males and females), permitting, and other matters pertinent to SSOs.

See ZTA 22-08 at https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/7-12-22-ZTA-22-08-Shared-Space-Occupancy-Dwellings.pdf.

Although Ms. Pledger has submitted ZTA 22-08 in order to convert her childcare facility into “affordable housing” for J-1 students, the Town’s enactment of a new permitted use in the commercial district such as she is proposing would apply throughout the district. What she has submitted is not a building project peculiar to her property.

We think the Planning Board is going to find both the concept of a shared-space occupancy dwelling and the language defining it challenging, even though members may consider the purpose behind ZTA 22-08 laudable.  

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 7/14/22

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