11/12/22: BE THERE: OPEN HOUSE TO KICK OFF TOWN LAND USE PLAN UPDATE TO BE HELD TUESDAY, 5 P.M. TO 7 P.M.

An open house to kick off the update project of the Southern Shores Land Use Plan will be held Tuesday, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., at the Pitts Center. The event is being publicized by the Town as an information session with the consultant hired to manage the update, Stewart Inc. of Raleigh, and an opportunity for residents to share their “thoughts and perspectives”—presumably about the update process and the town’s future, which is the focus of the update.

The open house will cap an eventful day during which the consultant will meet in the Pitts Center with the Town Council and Planning Board in a joint session (10 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.) and with the Town staff (11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.) and then tour the community (1:45 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.) to visit sites that “document character images, recent successes, and future challenges and opportunities,” according to the day’s agenda on the Town website.

The meetings with the government bodies and the staff are open to the public.

See the agenda at https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/sites/default/files/fileattachments/planning/page/2509/11-15-22_kickoff_day_agenda.pdf.

The N.C. Coastal Area Management Act—familiarly known as CAMA—requires the state’s 20 coastal counties to adopt land use plans (LUP) in accordance with guidelines established by the N.C. Coastal Resources Commission (CRC). CAMA does not require coastal towns to have such plans, but Southern Shores has had one since 1980 and has updated it four times.

All Dare County towns have land use plans. Stewart assisted the towns of Duck and Manteo with their recent updates. The Town has an $80,000 contract with Stewart to perform its update, which is expected to take more than a year.  

WHAT IS A LAND USE PLAN? WHAT FORCE DOES IT HAVE?

A CAMA land use plan is “a collection of policies and maps that serves as a community’s blueprint for growth,” according to the N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality, the state department that oversees the CRC.

We think of a land use plan as both a blueprint and a vision for a community’s future growth. Local governments must adhere to rules established by the CRC in developing and adopting their plans. The CRC’s required format, set of issues, and other elements of a plan are very specific and may be found in the N.C. Administrative Code, chapter 15A, subchapter 07B: subchapter b rules.pdf (state.nc.us)

Needless to say, the protection of natural resources is a paramount element of a coastal community’s plan.

The most recent Southern Shores Land Use Plan was certified by the CRC in 2012, but it actually was submitted to the Dept. of Coastal Management, whose staff works with the CRC, in August 2008. Because of questions the State had about the Town’s plan, and the Town’s slow response to those questions, there was substantial delay in the LUP’s certification.

A note by the CRC on the first page of the LUP states that the plan is to be considered a 2008 update. “The data in this Plan reflects the circumstances at the time of the initial submission [August 2008],” the Commission observes.

We consider the LUP to be 15 years old. Certainly, the public has not had an opportunity in a group setting to identify community issues and concerns about the town’s development and to participate in formulating a community vision statement for the plan in at least 15 years.

The last gathering of the public to discuss what became the current Land Use Plan was in March 2007 at the Duck Woods Country Club for a workshop called “Speak Out for Southern Shores.”

Despite the tremendous growth and the major changes in Southern Shores during the past 15 years, past Town Councils dragged their heels on updating the LUP, even once doing an about-face on approving an update: A Council member elected in November 2017 joined the previous minority of two, who did not want to update the LUP, to un-do what had been approved.

The reasons given by former Town Council members for not updating the LUP always struck us as fuzzy and ill-informed. They principally boiled down to: We’re not required to update the plan, and we don’t think it’s necessary that we do. This approach contradicted advice by Planning Director Wes Haskett, who now also serves as deputy town manager, that the Town update the LUP.

Perhaps if the Town had initiated an update five years ago, we wouldn’t now have two mini-hotels on the Southern Shores oceanfront or houses built, or being built, on 50-foot-wide lots. Public concern about both would have flagged both of these issues.  

The LUP “playing field” changed last year, however, when the N.C. General Assembly intruded into municipal zoning business with new State legislation that made the need for an LUP more urgent. Any remaining Town Council resistance to an update dissipated.

As of July 1, 2022, all local governments are required by the new N.C. law to have a “reasonably maintained” comprehensive plan or a land use plan in order to retain authority to adopt and enforce zoning regulations.

The new law does not define “reasonably maintained,” but according to Adam Lovelady, an associate professor at the UNC School of Government, “[P]rofessional practice calls for community plans to be updated every five to ten years.”

See Professor Loveland’s article, “Comprehensive Plans and Land Use Plans Required for Zoning,” at https://canons.sog.unc.edu/2021/08/comprehensive- plans-and-land-use-plans-required-for-zoning/.

It would appear that, even with the erroneous update year of 2012, the current Southern Shores Land Use Plan has not been reasonably maintained.

Land use plans adopted in response to the new law, which is in section 160D of the N.C. General Statutes, are advisory in nature, not regulatory.

Similarly, most of the provisions of a CAMA Land Use Plan are policies intended to serve as guidelines for actions and decision-making, not as regulations.

The Division of Coastal Management uses the LUP in making CAMA permit decisions and federal consistency determinations, according to the N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality. Proposed projects and activities must be consistent with the policies of a local LUP or the DCM will not allow them to go forward.

The Town of Southern Shores should refer to the LUP in evaluating individual development projects and a wide range of policy issues, including the enactment of regulatory ordinances, but it is not strictly bound by the plan.

CONTENTS OF THE LAND USE PLAN; PUBLIC PARTICIPATION

Perhaps the most often locally invoked component of the Land Use Plan is the Vision Statement, to which the Planning Board and Town Council refer when deliberating over Town Code changes, especially those to the Zoning Ordinance. Town officials and staff are sensitive to complying with the Vision Statement.

The current Vision Statement reads: “The Town of Southern Shores (TOSS) is a quiet seaside residential community comprised primarily of small low density neighborhoods consisting of single family homes primarily on large lots (i.e., at least 20,000 sq ft) interspersed with recreational facilities (e.g., marinas, tennis facilities, athletic fields, and parks), beach accesses, walkways and open spaces. These neighborhoods are served by picturesque local roads (rather than wide through streets) along the beach, in the dunes or in the sound-side maritime forest. The scale and architecture of new development and re-development is compatible with existing homes. The community is served by a small commercial district, located on the southern edge of town, which focuses on convenience shopping and services. The desired plan for the future is to maintain the existing community appearance and form.”   

The CRC requires a community vision to be part of a section in the LUP titled “Community Concerns and Aspirations.” It defines this element as follows:

“A community vision: The vision shall describe the general physical appearance and form that represents the local government’s plan for the future. It shall include objectives to be achieved by the plan and identify changes that may be needed to achieve the planning vision as determined by the local government.”

This is where the public’s input is especially important. For the local government to determine a planning vision, it must survey the local population and incorporate public views into its conclusion. In the past, Southern Shores residents participated in in-person workshops and written surveys. We will no doubt learn on Tuesday how residents’ views and opinions will be heard and considered in the 2022-23 update.    

In an Oct. 17 press release, Town Manager Cliff Ogburn listed some of the growth issues that will be addressed during the update process. They include:

*The pattern of desired growth and development and civic design, including the location, distribution, and characteristics of future land uses.

*Acceptable levels of public services and infrastructure to support development, including plans and policies for provision of and financing for public infrastructure.

*Recreation and open spaces.

*Mitigation of natural hazards such as flooding, winds, wildfires, and unstable lands.

*Protection of the environment and natural resources, including water and air quality.

*Protection of significant architectural, scenic, cultural historical, or archaeological resources.

You may access the current Land Use Plan here: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/sites/default/files/fileattachments/planning/page/2431/8-30-12certifiedadoptedlanduseplan.pdf. The update will adhere to the same format.

We will keep you informed on the update process. See you Tuesday.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 11/12/22

11/9/22: TOWN DEBUTS NEW WEBSITE.

A screenshot of the Town of Southern Shores’ new website home page.

The Town of Southern Shores debuted a new website today, much to our surprise and uncertainty. We will need some time to adjust to the changes before we can evaluate how much they improve the website experience.

While we have long believed the former website was not very user-friendly–and we have been critical of it–we had become familiar with its operations and knew where to locate the information we sought. It was a bit like an eccentric, but reliable friend. We especially liked the notices of upcoming meetings with links to background materials on the home page. We liked having a quick hit-and-run for what’s coming up in town. Now there is a calendar link on the home page and links within the calendar to get to the information we would like to read before a meeting.

What’s the unwritten rule in website design about the number of links a reader will tolerate before getting frustrated and quitting?

The “Beach Nourishment” button on the home page was also handy. Now we must search “Town Services” to obtain a beach nourishment project update.

Indeed, most of the nuts-and-bolts information that residents will want is listed under the “Town Services” link or under the “How Do I . . . ” link. These groupings will undoubtedly improve navigation for people who are new to the website. We will be curious to see how well the new “Search” function works. We have never had success using this function as a research tool. Knock on wood, we will now.

We invite you to visit and explore the new website at https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/ and write to us about your experience.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 11/9/22

11/4/22: EARLY VOTING ENDS TOMORROW; ELECTION-DAY POLLING PLACE IN SOUTHERN SHORES IS THE PITTS CENTER.

The General Election ballot is two-sided. Pictured above is the reverse side.

Early voting at Kill Devil Hills Town Hall for the Nov. 8 election wraps up tomorrow: Polls are open today until 7:30 p.m. and tomorrow from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Nov. 8 polling place for Southern Shores voters is the Pitts Center behind Town Hall. Polls will be open next Tuesday from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

To view a sample ballot for voters who reside in Southern Shores, see:

https://www.darenc.com/home/showpublisheddocument/11455/637973818486600000.

The only contested elections on the county level are between Democrat Heather Euler and Republican Ervin Bateman for the at-large seat on the Dare County Board of Commissioners, which Mr. Bateman currently holds; between Democrat Andrian (Sweet Pea) Tillett and Republican incumbent Cheryl House for Register of Deeds; and between Dare County Board of Education candidates Marie Russell (Unaffiliated) against Matt Brauer (Republican) for the District 3 seat and Jessica Fearns (Unaffiliated) against Ron Payne (Republican) for the District 2 seat.

The District 3 Board of Education member represents Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, and Duck; and the District 2 Board member represents Kill Devil Hills, Nags Head, and Colington.

For information about all candidates, including those running for federal, state, and district offices, see www.vote411.org.

Southern Shores town elections only occur in odd-numbered years.

OTHER OFFICES AT STAKE

North Carolinians are electing a new U.S. senator, to succeed retiring U.S. Senator Richard Burr, in addition to electing new members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Positions on the N.C. Supreme Court (two of them), which is the state’s highest court, and the N.C. Court of Appeals (four seats), which is the intermediate state appellate court, are being contested by candidates from the two major political parties.

Seven justices sit on the N.C. Supreme Court and serve eight-year terms.

The Court of Appeals has 15 judges who sit in panels of three judges to hear appeals. They, too, serve eight-year terms.

Most cases appealed from the trial court level (district and superior courts) go to the Court of Appeals as a matter of right, although a few specific types of appeals are legally authorized to go directly to the Supreme Court. Much more typically, the Supreme Court exercises discretion in deciding which cases it will review.

The only contested election in the first judicial district, which includes Dare County, pits incumbent N.C. Superior Court Judge Eula E. Reid (Democrat) against Republican R. Andrew Womble, who is currently serving as the first district’s District Attorney.

Jeff Cruden, a Republican who is currently an Assistant District Attorney, is running unopposed to succeed Mr. Womble. Mr. Cruden defeated Assistant District Attorney Kim Pellini in the Republican primary.

THE BEACON, 11/4/22

11/2/22: TOWN COUNCIL SEEKS COMMUNITY INPUT ON E-BIKES AND THEIR REGULATION, TAKES NO ACTION ON PROPOSED ORDINANCE.  

With the kickoff of the CAMA Land-Use Plan project update just two weeks away, the Town Council decided last night not to move toward restricting electric-bicycle operators’ use of town sidewalks and other pathways. Instead, it will wait to learn what residents think about regulating E-bikes, as well as other transportation concerns, in upcoming LUP public workshops.  

The Council also elected not to act upon a proposed revision of the current Town Code prohibition on beach driving (sec. 20-109), again deferring to public input during the LUP update process. The revision of Code sec. 20-109, an ordinance that The Beacon views as a historic relic of a bygone time, would extend the driving ban to E-bikes and pedal-propelled bicycles.

Please see The Beacon, 10/28/22, for a detailed preview of the presentation on E-bikes and beach driving that Police Chief David Kole gave to the Town Council last night during its regular monthly meeting.

The Chief’s program is on pages 14-24 of the meeting agenda materials, which may be accessed at https://southernshores-nc.municodemeetings.com/sites/southernshores-nc.municodemeetings.com/files/fileattachments/town_council/meeting/packets/11992/town_council_regular_meeting_packet_document_2.pdf.

A public open house with the Town’s Land-Use Plan update consultant, Stewart Inc. of Raleigh, will be held Tues., Nov. 15, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Pitts Center. Residents will be able to learn the how and why of the update project and to share their thoughts and perspectives on issues that will arise. Community participation is especially important to evaluating questions about the Town’s future growth, development, vision, and identity.

At 10 a.m. that same day, the Town Council and Town Planning Board will hold a joint special informational meeting with Stewart in the Pitts Center.

E-BIKES AND BEACH DRIVING

In his presentation, Chief Kole defined “electric-assisted bicycles,” as that term is defined under N.C. law (and as it is contrasted with “mopeds” and “motor-driven bicycles”), and elaborated upon the potential regulation of such bicycles on roads and multi-use pathways, saying that 30 states so far have taken some action and 20 states have not.

In North Carolina, regulations of E-bikes have proceeded on a local level. State law requires E-bike operators to be at least 16 years old, but otherwise instructs only that E-bikes are to be treated by law enforcement as pedal-propelled bikes are treated, unless a local authority enacts regulations particular to E-bikes.

N.C. law defines an electric-assisted bicycle as “a bicycle with two or three wheels that is equipped with a seat or saddle for use by the rider, fully operable pedals for human propulsion, and an electric motor of no more than 750 watts, whose maximum speed on a level surface when powered solely by such a motor is no greater than 20 miles per hour.”

All bicyclists must observe the same rules of the road in North Carolina as motorists do.

Chief Kole offered the Council a new Southern Shores ordinance that would prohibit E-bike riders as follows:

“No person operating an electric assisted bicycle shall go or ride upon any town sidewalk or multi-use path, except to cross at a designated crosswalk or at a street intersection.”

The proposed ordinance includes the State’s definition of an electric-assisted bicycle.

“We’re just trying to be cautious, that’s all,” Chief Kole said in explaining the ordinance, whose language he based on ordinances enacted in Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head.

Earlier, he told the Council that the point of his presentation was “to educate you and give you some ideas.” He said the police have had some “issues, some complaints” about E-bikers, but specifically mentioned only problems encountered by Public Works employees during their outdoor maintenance.

Workers on South Dogwood Trail, the Chief said, were “nearly hit” by E-bikers, whom he described as “younger” than many of the E-bikers who ride in Southern Shores.

The Chief also distinguished in his presentation among various types of E-bikes, which vary considerably in terms of power and speed.  

Most such bikes do not exceed 20 mph, but the most powerful can reach speeds of 30 to 35 mph and higher, the Chief said.

In the Council discussion that ensued, Mayor Pro Tem Matt Neal said that both he and his wife have E-bikes, and he would not like to see an absolute Town ban of their use on sidewalks and multi-use pathways. Mr. Neal showed familiarity with the mechanics of the three types of E-bikes that currently exist and how they operate.

The Councilman also stressed the value of “green transportation” and mentioned some of the benefits of using an E-bike in Southern Shores, including the ability to get around traffic during the summertime.

In public comment, E-bicyclist Debbie Newberry of North Dogwood Trail cautioned the Town Council against “lumping all bikes together.” She and her husband, former Town Councilman Fred Newberry, “use multi-paths constantly,” she said, when they ride their E-bikes, which have recombinant seats and three wheels.

Ms. Newberry said E-bikes “are great for seniors,” providing excellent exercise and social opportunities. She suggested regulating the speed limit of E-bicycles rather than banning them from sidewalks and other roadside pathways.

In his public comment, Bill Ferretti of Wax Myrtle Trail agreed with Ms. Newberry, saying that electric-assisted bicycles are “opening up biking to a larger segment of the population.”

He also noted, as did the Police Chief and members of the Town Council, that Southern Shores has many different forms of roadside paths, including sidewalks that are not wide enough to accommodate the passing of an E-biker at the same time as another bicyclist or a pedestrian. (My dog and I always step aside when we see one coming.)

This discussion is to be continued . . . as is one about beach driving.

The rewrite that Chief Kole proposed of the current Town Code sec. 20-109 is as follows:

“It shall be unlawful for any person to operate any vehicle of any type, including but not limited to; motor vehicle, pickup truck, airplane/helicopter, beach buggy, jeep, motorcycle, bicycle, E-bicycle, any; one, two, three or four wheeled vehicles powered by any type of motor or physically propelled on the ocean beach area within the Town of Southern Shores.

“This shall not apply to Ocean Rescue, Fire, Police, USCG, Public Works or other town authorized entities such as beach survey/nourishment contractors, turtle (NEST) volunteers, Authorized Ocean/Sea mammal rescue/removal entities, authorized commercial fishing, or Extreme Emergency situation(s).”

Town Councilwoman Paula Sherlock said she thought it was “Draconian to ban bicycles from the beach.” Mayor Elizabeth Morey and Mr. Neal seemed to agree.

The Council members also agreed with Chief Kole (and The Beacon) that the current ordinance “makes no sense at all.” It needs “modernization,” as the Mayor noted.

IN OTHER MEETING NEWS . . .  

NEW POLICE OFFICER: Police Chief Kole reported that the Town has hired a new police officer, who is to start in two weeks, and is still searching for two more officers.

WHICH DRUGS?: Town Councilwoman Sherlock asked the Chief a question, the answer to which we always wonder, after he gave his October report. She inquired as to the nature of the drugs involved in Southern Shores drug arrests.

Surprisingly, Chief Kole initially expressed a personal lack of knowledge, then said they mostly concern drug paraphernalia and marijuana. He said people come down to the Outer Banks from Virginia believing that marijuana is legal in North Carolina and are surprised to discover it is not.

We would have liked to have heard an elaboration by the Chief on this point.

Later, when Chief Kole was no longer at the lectern, he could be heard on the meeting videotape to call out the word, “heroin.”

We believe all comments by public officials at Town Council meetings should be audibly on-the-record as a matter of decorum. Off-microphone comments should be disallowed. They are not in the interest of informing the public.

We encourage Councilwoman Sherlock to pursue this line of inquiry further. It is unclear to Southern Shores residents who are not privy to police action what the nature and extent of the “drug problem” in town are, but we have long heard that there is a problem.

BEACH NOURISHMENT: Town Manager Cliff Ogburn reported that two Weeks Marine crews are working now in Southern Shores, but progress of late has been slow.

The first crew is pumping sand north of 60 Ocean Blvd. to 86 Ocean Blvd., according to the Town Manager, while the second crew is working south from Trout Run to Blue Fin Lane.

The dredger Magdalen, which is working in Southern Shores now, will begin working in Duck on Nov. 7 or 8, Mr. Ogburn said, while the other dredger, B.E. Lindholm, continues working in Southern Shores.

He offered no tentative date for the start of nourishment efforts north of Dolphin Run, but he confirmed that the completion date for the project remains mid-December.

FINALLY, IN CASE YOU’RE WONDERING . . .  A SUGAR FIX IS COMING

The construction now under way on the U.S. 158 bypass just south of Outer Banks Furniture, north of Ambrose Furniture, and across from the former Kitty Hawk Regional/Sentara Medical Center is of a two-story, 7,500-square-foot retail candy store, which will have 24 parking spaces, according to a report by The Outer Banks Voice today.

The one-acre property is located in Kitty Hawk’s beach commercial zone, where such a project is a permitted use, according to The Voice, which speculates, based on property ownership records, that the store will be a Sugar Kingdom.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 11/2/22

11/1/22: BICYCLIST, 27, KILLED IN CRASH ON 158 BYPASS IN KILL DEVIL HILLS LAST NIGHT.

A bicyclist was struck by a minivan and killed while trying to cross the U.S. 158 bypass in the Avalon area of Kill Devil Hills last night, according to a report posted online this morning by WITN-TV of Greenville-New Bern-Washington.

Adam Alexander Simon, 27, of Kill Devil Hills, was trying to cross the five-lane highway from Avalon Drive about 10:10 p.m. when he was hit by a 2005 Dodge Caravan that was traveling north on U.S. 158, according to WITN-TV, which based its article on Kill Devil Hills police reports.

In another online news article, WAVY-TV reported that Mr. Simon was traveling east, trying to cross from West Avalon Drive to East Avalon Drive. The minivan was in the inside lane of the northbound lanes; its left front end reportedly struck Mr. Simon, who died at the scene, police said.

The Virginian-Pilot identified the driver of the minivan as 59-year-old William Lee Miller of Southern Shores. Mr. Miller stopped and called 911 for help, according to police. There are no charges pending against him, police said.

See The Pilot’s report at https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/crime/27-year-old-bicyclist-struck-and-killed-on-outer-banks/ar-AA13CaI8.

Kill Devil Hills police ask any witnesses to the collision who have not yet been interviewed to contact them at (252) 449-5337.    

The Beacon is reporting news of this tragedy as a public service. When we first posted this report, we were not aware of the minivan driver’s identity. We just care about the safety of all bicyclists and pedestrians on our roads. The 158 bypass, whose speed limit is 50 mph through Avalon, is especially perilous.

(Since we reported on Mr. Simon’s fatal accident, The Outer Banks Voice has published a statement about it from the Kill Devil Hills Police Dept. It does not substantially add to our account.)

THE BEACON, 11/1/22