The Town of Southern Shores has contracted to purchase the historic flat top at 13 Skyline Road currently owned by the Outer Banks Community Foundation, which operates from the location, but is moving to Manteo after more than 15 years in Southern Shores, Mayor Elizabeth Morey announced at the Town Council’s April 4 meeting.
The purchase price for the property, which is adjacent to a now-vacant lot at 7 Skyline Road that the Town bought in 2015, is $400,000, the Mayor said.
The Town Council, which has met in a closed session during five of its past six regular meetings, did not hold any open public discussion about the desirability of purchasing 13 Skyline Road or about its potential use. The Mayor simply made an announcement about the transaction after the Council returned from a closed session, which was held after a 38-minute public business meeting.
In contrast, the Town Council amply discussed the purchase of 7 Skyline Road in several meetings, thus giving the public an opportunity to participate in the decision-making process—including by suggesting ways in which the property might be used—and to learn all of the Council members’ opinions about the acquisition.
Only three of the five current Council members voted in favor of the flat top purchase: Mayor Pro Tem Matt Neal and Councilman Leo Holland did not attend the April 4 meeting because of family “issues,” the Mayor said.
The Town paid $205,000 for the 7 Skyline Road property, which is adjacent to the Kern Pitts Center. It subsequently demolished a small single-story house in need of rehabilitation that was on the site and has yet to use the property in any capacity.
The public sentiment about that purchase was decidedly mixed, if not tending toward opposing it. The Beacon can recall when one of the ideas for the property’s use was as a parking lot.
The Town and the OBCF jointly issued a press release about the purchase of 13 Skyline Road, which was published in the Town’s April 6 newsletter. The release did not disclose the purchase price.
The OBCF, a charitable organization established in 1982 by a group of community leaders, including author, historian, and Southern Shores developer David Stick, actor Andy Griffith, attorney Martin Kellogg, and businessman George Crocker, acquired the property in 2007 as a gift from longtime owners, Dr. John R. Tietjen and his wife, Norma F. Tietjen. As the covenants in the deed of gift make clear, the Tietjens, who are now deceased, sought with their largesse to preserve Southern Shores history and to benefit non-profit causes.
Neither the Mayor nor the two Council members who were present April 4 elaborated upon the covenants that run with the title to 13 Skyline Road and are set forth in the July 19, 2007 deed of gift between the Tietjens and the OBCF.
According to the deed, Southern Shores founder and original developer Frank Stick constructed the flat top in 1953, making it the “first cottage on the dune.” As a condition of their gift, the Tietjens required the OBCF to erect an “appropriate and permanent memorial plaque on the existing cottage” or a “memorial monument” on the grounds to commemorate Mr. Stick’s life and contributions to the Town of Southern Shores and the Outer Banks.
The Tietjens also restricted the use of the property to the offices of the OBCF, the offices of “any similar organization or entity” qualifying as a section 501(c)(3) [non-profit] organization under the IRS Code, or any federal, state or local government offices.
Dr. Tietjen, a public-health physician formerly with the Central Intelligence Agency, died in 2015, two months shy of his 99th birthday. You may read about his extraordinary life here: https://www.legacy.com/us/obituaries/washingtonpost/name/john-tietjen-obituary?id=6045891.
Norma Tietjen, a nurse and homemaker, died last year just six days shy of her 99th birthday. You may read about her extraordinary life here: https://www.legacy.com/us/obituaries/washingtonpost/ name/norma-tietjen-obituary?id=34687216.
The couple were featured in Tom Brokaw’s book, “The Greatest Generation.”
The Mayor’s suggestion at the April 4 meeting that the historic flat top might be used as temporary housing for newly hired Southern Shores police officers while they seek a more permanent residence—a suggestion repeated in the April 6 newsletter item—is clearly contrary to the Tietjens’ covenant. A temporary residence for a new hire is not a local government office.
We also question the Town’s assertion in the newsletter that it is fulfilling the “wishes of the donors [the Tietjens]” by “maintaining” the property’s “non-profit use and ownership.” A government is not a non-profit organization. A public use is not equivalent to a non-profit use.
Characterizing herself as initially skeptical about purchasing the OBCF property, Town Councilwoman Paula Sherlock said after her vote that she changed her mind after touring it and considering the possibilities for what could constitute a governmental “campus.”
It is a shame that Councilwoman Sherlock did not inform her constituents in a public meeting about her tour and the possibilities she envisions to justify spending $400,000 of the public’s money. But she said more than her colleagues did—just after the fact.
We have never heard a Town Council member refer to a governmental “campus” before. The newsletter item similarly refers to expanding the “Town’s footprint in the government and institution zoning district.”
According to the Dare County GIS, both Skyline Road properties are currently zoned RS-1 (low-density), but Planning Director/Deputy Town Manager Wes Haskett said at a recent meeting that they are in the Government and Institutional zoning district, which is defined in Town Code sec. 36-206. The minimum lot size in this district is 10,000 square feet.
We are strongly in favor of preserving Southern Shores’ architectural and human history and in honoring founder Frank Stick. We also are strongly in favor of safeguarding the wishes of Southern Shores homeowners who seek such historic preservation through gifts of property conveyed with protective covenants. We are grateful for the stewardship of Southern Shores by previous generations.
We daresay the Tietjens never imagined that the OBCF would sell their flat top for $400,000 just 16 years after receiving it and that taxpayers would foot the bill. As their online Legacy obituaries attest, both were very public service-oriented.
The point of the Tietjens’ covenant limiting property use is clear from the deed as a whole. If a government were to operate offices in the flat top, it would conduct business that inures to the benefit of the public. If the home is open for public access, many people would enjoy and appreciate it and learn about and remember the visionary builder who constructed it.
The Mayor encouraged Town residents to submit their ideas for the flat top’s use to the Town. We encourage you to do so, as well, bearing in mind the wishes of the Tietjens and their covenant.
UPDATE ON BEACH NOURISHMENT
Dredging contractor Weeks Marine has set up its staging at the SSCA’s Hillcrest Beach and parking lot and was expected to start its beach nourishment in Duck on Monday (April 10), Town Manager Cliff Ogburn announced at the April 4 meeting.
The Duck job should take Weeks Marine 30 days to complete, Mr. Ogburn said, after which the contractor will finish filling the Southern Shores beach from 4th Avenue north to the Duck-Southern Shores line.
Mr. Ogburn has previously forecast the work in Southern Shores to be done by mid-May. According to in-the-know/on-the-scene Southern Shores homeowner and volunteer Len Schmitz, the sand pumping started in Duck on Tuesday. Mr. Schmitz told The Beacon that the Southern Shores work should be done by the end of May.
Regardless of delays due to weather conditions and other factors, Weeks Marine must be “out of here” by June 15 at the latest, Mr. Ogburn has said.
UPDATE ON SIDEWALKS
In Chicahauk: The Town’s plan to move the sidewalk on Chicahauk Trail, near its intersection with Ocean Boulevard, back from the road to make it safer for walking has been delayed because of housing construction at the vacant lot at 97 Ocean Blvd., according to Mr. Ogburn.
On Duck Road: Construction of the 5-foot-wide sidewalk on the east side of Duck Road from Triangle Park, where the cell tower is, to East Dogwood Trail will occur in mid-September, Mr. Ogburn said.
PRESENTATION OF 2023-24 BUDGET
The Town Manager will present his recommended 2023-24 Town budget at the Town Council’s May 2 meeting.
The Council has the option of holding a budget session at its mid-month workshop meeting on Tuesday, April 18, but it did not vote on April 4 to schedule one.
LAND USE PLAN UPDATE PUBLIC WORKSHOP
The Town will hold a public workshop to receive comments on the draft of an updated Town Land Use Plan on Wed., April 26, from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Pitts Center. The plan draft will be posted on the Town website a week before the workshop, according to Mr. Haskett.
*PREVIEW: In our next posting, we consider the zoning dilemma at the Southern Shores Landing.
ANN G. SJOERDSMA, 4/14/23