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