The Town Planning Board, sitting as the Town Board of Adjustment, will convene Wednesday, Oct. 5, at 1 p.m. in the Pitts Center to hear an appeal from the property owner of 55 Skyline Road of the Town’s decision to deny its application for a recombination of the 80,000-square-foot parcel.
Adam Ward, an architect with Moment Design PLLC in Raleigh, filed the appeal on behalf of Skyline Oaks Properties LLC (“Skyline Oaks”), the business entity owner of the vacant tract on Skyline Road, which consists of lots 8-11 of Block B, Section 1, as shown on the original subdivision plat of Southern Shores, and additional land. (See the aerial photograph, above, of the property, on Dare County gis.)
In its recombination—which is essentially a subdivision—Skyline Oaks proposes to create four different lots of varying dimensions, according to the file records that have been posted on the Town website.
Mr. Ward prepared a recombination plat for Skyline Oaks that shows the location and dimensions of the newly created lots. This plat and other graphic documents submitted by the appellant situate two of the proposed lots behind the other two, and, therefore, not fronting on Skyline Road.
The property is in the Town’s RS-1 single-family dwelling residential zoning district.
To see all materials related to the hearing, go to https://www.dropbox.com/sh/54mt6u4pbed4k3l/AAB_EFUHE7kUMGZBX6u7tisTa?dl=0. (Click on the second item listed, “10-5-22 Special PB Meeting Request pdf.”)
Deputy Town Manager/Planning Director Wes Haskett, acting as Town Zoning Administrator, denied Skyline Oaks’ request on the grounds that the recombination would result in lot nonconformities, in particular, in a violation of the minimum required lot width in the RS-1 district of 100 feet. (See Town Code sec. 36-202(d)(2).)
In his decision, Mr. Haskett explained how the 100-foot width is calculated, writing: “[A]ll of the proposed lots should have a minimum width of 100 feet measured at a line that is parallel to and 25 feet from the current right-of-way, Skyline Rd.”
According to North Carolina records, Skyline Oaks is a domestic limited liability company that was formed in July 2021, shortly before it purchased the Skyline Road property for $650,000.
Skyline Oaks’ registered agent is Robert McClendon, who is a member of the Planning Board, and its principal mailing address is Mr. McClendon’s home address in Chicahauk.
Clearly, Mr. McClendon will have to recuse himself from the Board of Adjustment’s decision-making, as will any other member who believes he or she cannot be impartial. The Board members are subject to challenge by the parties for bias.
We have read the documents in the record, including Mr. Haskett’s decision and Skyline Properties’ appeal, and have some questions regarding the focus of the appeal. It seems to us to respond to a comment that Mr. Haskett made in his decision about the Town’s required minimum front yard setback of 25 feet, rather than to the minimum required width of each proposed new lot.
The Board of Adjustment hears administrative appeal in a quasi-judicial proceeding, which is similar to a court proceeding, but less formal and governed by different rules and protocol. The rules of evidence, such as the prohibition against hearsay, apply; sworn witnesses testify; and attorneys typically represent the parties, conducting witness examinations, making objections, and arguing their case in opening and closing statements.
If Skyline Oaks is dissatisfied with the Board’s decision, it has a right to appeal the decision to the Superior Court of Dare County.
Attorney W. Jay Wheless of Manteo will represent the Board of Adjustment, advising its members–particularly, presiding Chairperson Andy Ward–as needed, during the hearing.
Louis Johny Hallow III of the Elizabeth City office of Hornthal, Riley, Ellis & Maland, the firm that represents the Town of Southern Shores, will appear on behalf of the Town, according to Mr. Haskett.
As of this writing, there is no attorney of record for Skyline Oaks. Mr. Adam Ward attached a legal opinion from attorney Casey Varnell of the Kitty Hawk firm of Sharp, Graham, Baker and Varnell to his notice of appeal, but it does not appear from filings that Mr. Varnell will represent Skyline Oaks at the hearing.
[10/6/22 UPDATE: Mr. Varnell represented appellant Skyline Oaks at the Board of Adjustment hearing.]
We are reluctant to say more about the appeal because we respect the integrity of the quasi-judicial process, but we will say, nonetheless, that we do not understand why Skyline did not mediate this matter with Mr. Haskett.
The minimum 100-foot lot width is a clearcut dimensional standard in the RS-1 district. Had Skyline Oaks met with Mr. Haskett—assuming it did not—we are certain that he would have advised its representative(s) as to how to recombine the 80,000-square-foot vacant property at 55 Skyline Road to meet all required dimensional standards.
We are reporting on the Oct. 5 Board of Adjustment hearing because, although it may concern just this one property, we believe it may be instructive to other Southern Shores property owners who are contemplating or may later consider subdividing their properties.
[10/6/22 UPDATE: We decided not to report on the BOA hearing, which we attended, because there is likely to be an appeal of the Board’s 3-2 decision in favor of the Town to the Dare County Superior Court.]
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 10/1/22