The Southern Shores Town Council will meet next Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. for what its agenda suggests will be a light business meeting, with the Town Manager’s update on the beach nourishment project being the item of most interest to residents and property owners.
Although there are two public hearings scheduled, they concern matters that The Beacon would characterize as perfunctory and likely to be approved unanimously by the Council.
The meeting will take place in the Pitts Center and be live-streamed on the Town’s You Tube website at https://www.youtube.com/@SouthernShores/streams.
To access the agenda, click on https://mccmeetings.blob.core.usgovcloudapi.net/soshoresnc-pubu/MEET-Agenda-79323b51e79b4bfe9e0230e8a41d8de9.pdf.
The background meeting packet, which is largely about a request for a special use permit to construct a new Dare County Emergency Medical Services station/SSVFD fire station at 28 E. Dogwood Trail—the subject of one of the public hearings—may be accessed here: https://mccmeetings.blob.core.usgovcloudapi.net/soshoresnc-pubu/MEET-Packet-79323b51e79b4bfe9e0230e8a41d8de9.pdf.
We regret that we will be unable to attend Tuesday’s meeting, but we will live-stream it and report on highlights as soon as possible.
It has been a month since the Town’s beach nourishment program manager and coastal engineer, Ken Willson of Coastal Protection Engineering (CPE), acknowledged at a public meeting that dredging contractor Weeks Marine “over-filled” the Southern Shores beaches south of 4th Avenue with more sand than they needed, and, as a result, under-filled the beaches north of 4th Avenue.
While Weeks Marine and CPE delivered the contractually agreed-upon 894,000 cubic yards of sand per linear foot to the Southern Shores oceanfront, Mr. Willson said at a Nov. 30 meeting, that volume was not distributed as the Town expected it to be. Instead, too much sand was deposited on the southern beaches, leaving the northern beaches short of volume.
The beaches north of 4th Avenue were to receive 22 cubic yards of sand per linear foot, Mr. Willson informed an active in-person and Zoon audience that attended the meeting a month ago.
In fact, he clarified in response to a homeowner’s question, those beaches only received 13 cubic yards of sand per linear foot—which was deposited over a three-day period, from Nov. 20-22.
The speed with which the dredging occurred caused alarm among northern Southern Shores property owners, who posted comments on the social media site, Nextdoor, expressing their concern. (See The Beacon, 11/28/22, 11/30/22, and 12/1/22 for background.)
The Nextdoor commenters essentially “broke the story” of this project failing.
While Town Manager Cliff Ogburn showed empathy for property owners in remarks he made at the Dec. 6 Town Council meeting about the nourishment project, he did not detail any facts about the sand shortfall on the northern beaches nor did Mayor Elizabeth Morey or any other member of the Town Council address what happened.
Anyone who attended or viewed the Council meeting without having read The Beacon or attended/viewed the Nov. 30 meeting would not have known what was going on.
According to Mr. Willson on Nov. 30, a “significant discrepancy” occurred between a survey of the beach that was performed in 2021 for design purposes and an August 2022 survey of the beach that was performed before construction began. Conditions of the beach changed, as they so often (and predictably) do. But the project design did not change to accommodate this “discrepancy.” No adjustments were made. Weeks Marine operated with a “template”— as Mr. Willson called it—for construction that was appropriate for the 2021 beach, but not for the August 2022 beach.
CPE was “in discussions” with Weeks Marine about how to address the shortfall in the northern beaches, he said a month ago.
About a week later, Mr. Ogburn replied in response to public comments at the Council’s December meeting: “I understand completely the accountability that the Town has to the taxpayers and to those in the MSDs, but at this time . . . we’ve got questions that we need to get answered.
“It’s a complicated process,” he continued. “There’s a lot of contracts associated with this. There are a lot of missing pieces, and so we’ve got some work to do, and I want to promise you that I’m going to do everything I can do make sure we get what we should have gotten, and that there’s a remedy to this.”
Mr. Ogburn concluded by saying that he will meet with representatives from Weeks Marine and CPE this week [by Dec. 9] “so we can start those discussions.”
The Beacon believes it is time for the Town Manager and the Town Council to provide some answers to Town property owners about what actions will be taken—or, at least, what actions are being considered— to remedy the contract breach.
While we appreciate that negotiations can be sensitive and some communications should remain confidential, we strongly believe that the public has a right to know the status of discussions among the parties to date and the direction the Town, whose interests are being represented by Dare County, is pursuing.
A month ago, Mayor Morey said about the dredging shortfall, “We’re not going to be satisfied until we’re satisfied.”
It is time for the Mayor to elaborate upon actions by Weeks Marine and CPE that would satisfy the Town and whether any steps have been taken toward arriving at that satisfaction.
TWO PUBLIC HEARINGS
In addition to holding a public hearing Tuesday on a special use permit application submitted by the engineering firm tasked with building a new EMS/fire station on East Dogwood Trail, the Town Council will hold a hearing on a proposed Town Code Amendment (22-04) that would add a section on conflicts of interest (COI) to the Code.
The new COI ordinance is a requirement of the N.C. General Assembly. We discuss it below.
For the first hearing, we refer you to the meeting packet for the site plans submitted by engineering firm, Timmons Group, on behalf of Fire Service Real Estate, Inc., for a proposed 8,756-square-foot station. Fire Service is the owner of the property at 28 E. Dogwood Trail. Dare County EMS shares the current facility with the SSFVD.
The new station is part of an ambitious $18.8 million renovation/new construction project by Dare County to improve its eight EMS facilities.
According to the Southern Shores Town Code, fire stations are a permitted use in the R-1, low-density residential district in which the East Dogwood Trail property is located. For a station to be built in R-1, however, the Town Council must grant a special use permit, imposing conditions as it deems appropriate—after the Town Planning Board has first recommended approval.
Both the Town staff and the Planning Board have recommended conditional approval of the Timmons Group’s application, according to Deputy Town Manager/Planning Director Wes Haskett’s summary in the meeting agenda packet. Among the conditions recommended by the Planning Board is the submission of a light plan with Timmons’s application for building and zoning permits; no lights are shown on the plans filed with the special use permit application.
Another Planning Board condition that restricts the number of wall signs at the new station to two, not to exceed 64 square feet, has already been satisfied by Timmons.
The proposed conflicts of interest ordinance, which would be codified at section 1-13 of the Town Code, addresses participation by Town Council members; members of appointed boards, such as the Planning Board/Board of Adjustment; and Town administrative staff in decision-making on development and zoning matters.
The language of TCA 22-04 derives from N.C. General Statutes Chapter 160D, the Local Planning and Development Regulation, which consolidated and clarified development regulations for municipalities and counties and took effect in 2021. We quote TCA 22-04, in pertinent part, below:
“Town council: A town council member shall not vote on any legislative decision regarding a development regulation adopted pursuant to this Town Code where the outcome of the matter being considered is reasonably likely to have a direct, substantial, and readily identifiable financial impact on the member. A town council member shall not vote on any zoning amendment if the landowner of the property subject to a rezoning petition or the applicant for a text amendment is a person with whom the member has a close familial, business, or other associational relationship.”
Proposed sections on “appointed boards” and “administrative staff” use similar COI language.
Another section on “quasi-judicial decisions,” which the Town Board of Adjustment makes, specifies that:
“A member of any board exercising quasi-judicial functions . . . shall not participate in or vote on any quasi-judicial matter in a manner that would violate affected persons’ constitutional rights to an impartial decision maker. Impermissible violations of due process include, but are not limited to, a member having a fixed opinion prior to hearing the matter that is not susceptible to change, undisclosed ex parte communications a close familial, business, or other associational relationship with an affected person, or a financial interest in the outcome of the matter.”
Although the proposed ordinance defines what constitutes a “close familial relationship,” by listing relatives, such as spouse, parent, child, etc., it does not define a “business” or “associational” relationship. We view this as a major omission, especially in regard to what constitutes an “associational” relationship.
LAND USE PLAN UPDATE PUBLIC SURVEY
If you have not yet completed the Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA) Land Use Plan update public survey, you have until Friday to do so. You will find the survey here: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/planning/page/land-use-plan-update-public-survey.
The survey is also accessible by clicking on a link at the top of the Town website home page. As long as the holiday information link is at the top, however, you will have to click on the right arrow to advance to the survey link.
For background on the Town land use plan, the plan update process, and the public survey, see The Beacon, 11/12/22, 12/7/22, and 12/9/22.
It appears from the update process timeline graphic on the Town website that survey results will be compiled by Jan. 18 and draft recommendations for the Land Use Plan will be completed by Feb. 20.
We find the timeline chart very burdensome to use—its enlargement is fleeting—and would prefer to have a written-word schedule of update task deadlines.
CHRISTMAS TREE DISPOSAL
We conclude our last post of 2022 with a reminder that you may place a Christmas tree, cleared of all decorations, in the Town right-of-way for pickup during the regular sector-based limb and branch collection. Wreaths will not be collected.
You will find 2023 limb/branch service in your sector here: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/sites/default/files/fileattachments/town_services/page/2273/limb_branch_calendar_sector_info_flyer_2023.pdf.
Collection this week is supposed to be occurring in sector four, which includes addresses on Duck Road and streets generally north of the Duck Road split, but east of Sea Oats Trail. Wax Myrtle Trail is in sector three.
You also may recycle your tree by disposing of it at the Hillcrest Beach parking lot. Trees collected from the site will be used as sand fencing to help rebuild and stabilize dunes on the beach.
Monday, Jan. 2, may be a national holiday, but Bay Disposal will pick up the garbage. You gotta love that. Its consistency takes the guesswork out of our rollouts.
Happy New Year, everyone. Peace, joy, and good health to all.
ANN G. SJOERDSMA, 12/30/22