8/3/22: ‘LOCAL TRAFFIC ONLY’ BARRICADES WILL BE BACK UP THIS WEEKEND; TOWN COUNCIL UNANIMOUSLY APPROVES YEAR-ROUND 35 MPH SPEED LIMIT ON N.C. HWY. 12; 7,000 VEHICLES TRAVELED ON SOUTH DOGWOOD TRAIL ON JULY 21.

The “Local Traffic Only” barricades will be in use this weekend.

The Town will place the “local traffic only” barricades at street intersections along the South Dogwood-East Dogwood trails cut-through route this weekend, Town Manager Cliff Ogburn announced at yesterday’s Town Council meeting.

Although last weekend’s northbound cut-through traffic was “just as bad, if not worse” than the traffic over the July 4 weekend, Mr. Ogburn said, he is hopeful that “we’ve seen the worst of it” this summer, and the cut-through traffic in Town residential areas will be more manageable.

In related news, Mr. Ogburn reported that 7,000 vehicles, including over-sized commercial trucks that would normally be prohibited by Town ordinance from passing through, traveled on South Dogwood Trail on July 21 when a section of N.C. Hwy. 12 was closed because of a water main break. On a typical summer Saturday, between 3,000 and 4,000 vehicles use the road.

“It just showed us how vulnerable we are,” Mr. Ogburn said.

The Town installed the orange, water-filled barricades over the Memorial Day weekend, but suspended their use after the June 25-26 weekend because it believed they caused unacceptably lengthy traffic backups on South Dogwood Trail that went past the Duck Woods Country Club—even to the Wright Memorial Bridge, Mr. Ogburn said.

Conflicts also arose between “drivers and residents, residents and residents, and drivers and drivers,” over the barricades, as tempers flared, Mayor Elizabeth Morey said at the July 13 Mayor’s Chat. The Town removed the barricades to eliminate the potential for angry confrontations.   

The barricades will be in place from Friday evening through Monday morning, Mr. Ogburn said.

The Town Manager also reported yesterday that:

  • The beach nourishment project is now expected to start in mid- to late-September and last 35 to 40 days.
  • The decision to start town-wide pavement improvements this week with South Dogwood Trail, instead of Twelfth Avenue and Hillcrest Drive, as announced Friday in the Town newsletter, was the result of confusion, not deliberate rescheduling. As soon as contractor Fred Smith Co. updates the road work schedule, “we’ll share it,” Mr. Ogburn said.
  • The repair to the damage caused by the July 21 water main break near 132 Ocean Boulevard, was done quickly, and will need to be completed in the fall. The water pipe cracked as the result of the impact of a lightning strike in the area, as The Beacon confirmed in a report July 24.

In other news from the Town Council meeting:

REDUCING SPEED LIMIT ON N.C. 12: The Town Council unanimously approved asking the N.C. Dept. of Transportation to set the speed limit on the State-owned N.C. Hwy. 12 in Southern Shores to 35 mph year-round. (See The Beacon, 8/1/22, for background.)

Currently, the speed limit on N.C. 12 is 45 mph, except from May 15 through Sept. 15 when the speed limit drops to 35 mph from the Kitty Hawk town line north to Trout Run.

Although Mayor Pro Tem Matt Neal said initially that he did not see the need to have a 35 mph speed limit on the thoroughfare year-round, just in the summer, he did not argue the point, joining his four colleagues to form a consensus.

The Town has authority under the N.C. General Statutes to set speed limits on State-owned roads in its jurisdiction, provided its request is supported by an engineering and traffic investigation. NCDOT completed a yearlong investigation of the Southern Shores section of N.C. 12 in June and recommended that the speed limit on it be 35 mph year-round. Town staff agreed with that recommendation.

Mr. Neal cited accident data from the NCDOT traffic study that clearly showed speed is not a factor in the overwhelming majority of accidents on the road. He said that, according to the report, most crashes occur at low speed, around 5 mph—they are predominantly rear-end collisions—and he had not seen any in the report above 30 mph.

Although we did not read all of the accident detail in NCDOT’s report, we tend to agree with Mr. Neal, but, like him, we recognize that public opinion runs in favor of a consistent 35-mph speed limit year-round on the thoroughfare.  

One consequence of the speed limit reduction that the Town Council did not address is that low-speed vehicle (LSV) drivers will now be permitted to use all of N.C. 12 year-round. LSVs are only permitted on roads that have speed limits of 35 mph or lower.

Low-speed vehicles are motorized electric or gasoline-powered four-wheeled vehicles that generally do not travel at more than 25 mph. Regular golf carts are not LSVs, but there are LSV golf carts. LSVs must meet State of North Carolina requirements and be licensed in order for them to be street legal.

During the Town Council’s discussion about the speed limit change, Town Councilman Mark Batenic brought up what he considers the dangerous behavior of people riding electric bicycles (eBikes). He cited their excessive speed and disregard of traffic signage. Town Councilman Leo Holland said he has been approached from behind when he was walking on a multi-use pathway by eBicyclists who do not announce that they are passing him.

We think it’s safe to say that in Southern Shores, especially during the summer, one has to drive and walk defensively and be on the lookout for human beings operating all manner of two- and four-wheeled modes of transportation. The behavior of many is unpredictable.

CHOOSING A CONSULTANT FOR THE LAND-USE PLAN UPDATE: The Town Council unanimously approved the hiring of Stewart, an engineering, design, and planning firm based in Raleigh, to handle the Town’s update of its CAMA Land-Use Plan. As Mr. Ogburn explained, the update, which is expected to take from 12 to 15 months, will go beyond what the Coastal Area Management Act, a N.C. statute, requires. It will also incorporate a comprehensive Land-Use Plan (LUP) of growth and development for the Town of Southern Shores.

The Town received two proposals from N.C. planning firms in response to a Request for Proposal that it issued July 1 for a “qualified firm” to conduct the LUP update. The other firm was N-Focus Inc., of Kannapolis.

Although N-Focus’s proposed fee for service was lower than Stewart’s proposed fee—$67,750 as opposed to $80,000—both Deputy Town Manager/Planning Director Wes Haskett, who was unable to attend yesterday’s meeting, and Mr. Ogburn recommended Stewart, which recently assisted the towns of Duck and Manteo with updating their land-use plans.

Mr. Ogburn said yesterday that the Town will “get a better product” from Stewart than it would from N-Focus. Town Council members agreed, based on their review of the proposals.

The Town budgeted $80,000 in fiscal year 2022-23 for the LUP update—a fact apparently known to Stewart.

Although the last Town Land-Use Plan was not certified by the N.C. Coastal Resources Commission until Aug. 30, 2012, the LUP clearly states on its first page that it is to be considered a 2008 update. (The procedure and other requirements for a land-use plan update are governed by State law and regulations.)

The Town submitted its last LUP, as it is required by N.C. law to do, to the N.C. Dept. of Coastal Management, in August 2008. The document was returned to the Town, however, in December 2008 with comments and questions by the State. The Town did not adequately respond to those inquiries for nearly four years, for reasons unknown, hence the discrepancy in the dates.

Although Mr. Ogburn consistently refers to the current Town LUP as a 2012 plan, it is, in fact, a 2008 plan. The public workshop and survey upon which some of the plan is based were conducted in 2005.

REQUESTING GRANT MONEY FOR A SIDEWALK ON DUCK ROAD: The Town Council unanimously approved seeking grant money from the Dare County Tourism Bureau to help finance the construction of a 5-foot-wide sidewalk on the east side of Duck Road (N.C. 12) that would run from an area near the Duck Road split to East Dogwood Trail. According to Mr. Ogburn, the sidewalk is estimated to cost $164,256, and the Tourism Bureau could finance up to 50 percent of the cost.

AND FINALLY, THE CHICKENS COME TO ROOST: Jerrica Rea of Sea Oats Trail, who identified herself at the July 13 Mayor’s Chat as “the chicken lady,” made a pitch to the Town Council, during late public comments at yesterday’s meeting, for it to consider repealing the current prohibition on the keeping of chickens in Southern Shores.

Ms. Rea outlined advantages to keeping chickens (i.e., hens)—promoting them for their consumption of ticks, for example, as well as their egg-laying—and disputed common objections to them, having to do with noise, smell, and waste. Two other Town residents spoke in support of Ms. Rea’s request.   

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)

No one on the Town Council responded to Ms. Rea’s or the other residents’ comments. Mayor Morey said at the July 13 chat that the keeping of chickens in town would be an appropriate topic for discussion during the Land-Use Plan update process.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 8/3/22

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