The Southern Shores Town Council unanimously approved last night adopting the No-Thru Traffic Resolution, no. 2023.05.02, whose purpose, Mayor Elizabeth Morey said, is to “affect navigation applications,” such as WAZE, so that they will not direct motorists to the cut-thru residential streets, and rejected by consensus the placement of any barricades on the cut-thru streets, including on Ocean Boulevard at the Duck Road split or at any other intersections, where anecdotal evidence by residents might have suggested they were effective.

(See The Beacon, 4/28/23, for the text of the resolution and other background.)

The intent of the resolution, as the Mayor made clear, is not to legislate a cut-thru traffic ban, but to provide WAZE, which is owned by Google, with a municipal order that authorizes it to withhold from motorists alternate routes around congestion on U.S. Hwy. 158 and N.C. Hwy. 12.

The Mayor said she, Mayor Pro Tem Matt Neal, and Town Manager Cliff Ogburn had a Zoom conference with WAZE representatives to effect the resolution.

According to Police Chief David Kole, this new traffic-control tactic “can’t hurt,” but “we cannot enforce it.”

It was unclear from comments last night whether the Town would erect “No Thru Traffic” signs on any residential streets.      

In dispensing with the “Local Traffic Only” barricades, Mayor Morey said she thought the “potential for conflict” between and among drivers and residents over their use “outweighs their efficacy,” an opinion she based on her personal observations last summer and one that she has consistently expressed since June, when people acted out angrily over the closure of Hickory Trail at East Dogwood Trail. (See The Beacon’s coverage last June.)   

Town Councilmen Matt Neal and Mark Batenic agreed with the Mayor, saying that their informal observations last summer led them to believe that too many cut-thru drivers were ignoring the barricades. Town Councilwoman Paula Sherlock expressed her dislike for the “eyesore” that the barricades create.

It is a shame that the Town did not present any objective data about the barricades’ effectiveness or report on the number of hostile incidents (what, when, and where) that could be attributed to their deployment.  

The Council also showed by consensus an interest in exploring the implementation of speed bumps or humps on residential streets in response to a Wax Myrtle Trail property owner’s complaint about speeding by weekend cut-thru motorists on his street.

While the idea of installing temporary speed bumps/humps has come up repeatedly during the past eight years, elected officials have declined to act upon it.

“I’d be willing to try [speed bumps],” Mayor Morey said last night, “maybe.”  

The other three Town Council members present were equally tepid about their use. Town Councilman Leo Holland did not attend the meeting.

Last summer speeding complaints came from residents on South Dogwood Trail, Sea Oats Trail, and East Dogwood Trail (between Hickory Trail and South Dogwood Trail), in addition to Wax Myrtle Trail. (See The Beacon, 6/23/22, 7/14/22.) Such complaints are long-standing.

As we mentioned in our 4/28/23 post, we were not able to attend last night’s meeting or to live-stream it. We have watched most of the meeting videotape today, but, unfortunately, are not in a position to do more than submit this short report on the Council’s and the public’s discussion of seasonal traffic mitigation efforts.

We are disappointed that the Council adopted an all-or-nothing approach to the use of barricades, rather than examining where their placement might serve as a deterrent to cut-thru traffic (Ocean Boulevard**), and also did not consider any other means that might be employed this summer, such as preventing left turns off of residential streets on to Duck Road during certain hours of the weekend.

Andrew McConaughy, who lives on Wax Myrtle Trail, said in public comments that he thought the barricades “were working well.”

The Mayor heard similar comments from residents at her July 13, 2022 chat, which was held after the Town temporarily removed the barricades. (See The Beacon, 7/14/22.) Robert Green Sr. of Hillcrest Drive told her then: “The barricades were working.”

Even a closure of the Dick White Bridge, which is located on East Dogwood Trail between Hickory Trail and South Dogwood Trail, during certain hours on summer Saturdays merits some discussion. Mr. Ogburn mentioned the bridge closure as an idea that the Town has not tried, but no Council member picked up on it.

If ideas are going to be recycled, the bridge closure is certainly one that should be reconsidered.    

The No-Thru-Traffic Resolution was originally prepared in 2014-15, according to Mr. Ogburn, who said he basically did a “cut and paste” job in drafting it. It is a shame it took the Town Council eight years to get back around to it.

We were hoping that the resolution showed more commitment by the Town to protect the community from cut-thru traffic. It is not news to us that the navigation-app companies will respect town ordinances and resolutions regarding use of Town roads. Tommy Karole, the chairperson of the citizens exploratory committee on cut-thru traffic, often referred to this deference and the need for the Town Council to enact a resolution like the one that was adopted.

While we support the resolution, we also call upon the Town Council to do more to prevent the cut-thru traffic this summer.

IN OTHER NEWS . . . Mr. Ogburn presented a recommended budget for fiscal year 2023-24 of $9,731,450, which is 10 percent higher than the FY 2022-23 budget that was approved last June.

Although he suggested last year that a tax-rate increase might be necessary this year, Mr. Ogburn said last night that “A tax increase is not recommended at this time.”

The public hearing on the FY 2023-24 recommended budget will be held during the Town Council’s June 6 meeting, which starts at 5:30 p.m. in the Pitts Center.

You may access the recommended budget here: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/sites/default/files/fileattachments/town_council/page/3043/fy_23-24_budget._2_year_packet_1.pdf.

ANN G. SJOERDSMA, 5/3/23   


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