12/7/22: PUBLIC SURVEY FOR LAND USE PLAN UPDATE EXPECTED TO BE POSTED ONLINE FRIDAY; RESIDENTS WILL HAVE ONE MONTH (DURING THE BUSIEST TIME OF THE YEAR) TO COMPLETE IT.

Sunsets over the Currituck Sound draw spectators, but it can be difficult to sit soundside when a rotten-eggs stench emanates from the water, as it does sometimes with a west wind. Water quality is one of the issues that needs to be addressed in the new land use plan.

A community survey that Stewart Inc., the Town’s land use plan update consultant, will use to help define the goals and vision of Southern Shores’ future, is in draft form and expected to be posted online soon, Deputy Town Manager/Planning Director Wes Haskett announced at last night’s Town Council meeting.

The survey will remain online for a month, Mr. Haskett said.

Surprised by the speed with which this survey was prepared, we checked the project timeline on the Town website today and learned that the survey is to be posted Friday, and all responses are to be submitted by Jan. 8. This is a revision of what was posted on the page in November—as well as just yesterday.

See the Land Use Plan Update page at https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/planning/page/2022-land-use-plan-update-project.

It appears from the timeline that Stewart, whose five-person update team is headed by planning manager Jay McLeod, will have the survey results analyzed, community goals drafted, and a proposed town vision statement written by Jan. 18.

The N.C. Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA) requires each of North Carolina’s 20 coastal counties to have a land use plan that accords with guidelines established by the N.C. Coastal Resources Commission. Each plan includes local policies about growth, such as the protection of natural resources and the desired types of economic development, as well as pertinent maps.

Although CAMA does not require coastal towns to have land use plans, 72 such towns and cities had them as of 1997, according to the N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality. They are used in the determination of CAMA permit decisions and in regulating growth. Southern Shores has had a Land Use Plan since 1980. The 2023 update will be its fifth update.

The N.C. General Assembly gave the Town Council additional incentive to update the Town’s 2008 Land Use Plan, which it had talked about doing since 2017, when it enacted a new law requiring all local governments to have a “reasonably maintained” comprehensive plan or a land use plan in order to retain authority to adopt and enforce zoning regulations. No longer could the Council kick the can down the road.

(For background on land use plans and the Town’s update, see The Beacon, 11/12/22.)

***

The Beacon believes it is unfortunate that Stewart and the Town have decided to draft the community survey without giving residents more time to contribute to its content, as well as to post the survey during the holiday period, when people are extremely busy and often out of town or visiting in town with relatives and friends.

It was just three weeks ago that Mr. McLeod, assisted by Stewart planner Andrea Radford, held a public open house to explain what a land use plan is and the process by which the 2008 Southern Shores Land Use Plan would be updated. The open house, promoted as a “kickoff meeting” for the Land Use Plan Update project, offered attendees an opportunity to share their thoughts and perspectives with Mr. McLeod or Ms. Radford in informal chats or by comment cards that posed the following questions:

*What do you love about Southern Shores and never want to change or lose?

*What needs work or the Town government should focus on improving?

*What is your biggest concern about the future of Southern Shores?

Only 22 people signed the attendance sheet for the open house, of whom four were members of the Town Council, who gave their views on land-use issues in a roundtable discussion that morning with Mr. McLeod that also included Town Planning Board members. The Planning Board is serving as the steering committee for the update project.

(You may view a You Tube video of the Town Council-Planning Board discussion at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1HDT6XcFa8.)

There are only 10 resident comment cards posted on the Land Use Plan Update page.

Among the issues and priorities identified by the Town Council and Planning Board in their roundtable were protection of the maritime forest; improvement of water quality, especially in the Currituck Sound; preservation of low-density residential neighborhoods and a small commercial district; prevention of stormwater runoff; and improvement of the navigability of the canals.

In light of the problems associated with beach nourishment this year, the public may wish to reconsider maintenance of the project, which, according to Ken Willson of Coastal Protection Engineering, means doing another sand fill in five years.

Is the desirability of beach nourishment going to be on the community survey, which Mr. McLeod said on Nov. 15 will be primarily multiple-choice?

Will the survey address cut-through traffic in town, which is surely a land-use issue? The Town Council and Planning Board did not bring it up.  

The Land Use Plan, whose format and content are defined by the Coastal Resource Commission’s rules, is to be used by the Town and its elected officials as a guide to decisions about land development and rezoning; growth and development priorities; public services and infrastructure to support development; the protection of environmental and other natural resources, and other planning topics.

We trust the community survey will be thorough and wide-ranging and reflective of a variety of perspectives. We will direct you to its location on the Town website when it is online.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 12/7/22  

12/6/22: TOWN MANAGER, NOT TOWN COUNCIL, SPEAKS OUT ON BEACH NOURISHMENT DISPUTE: ‘WE HAVE WORK TO DO,’ HE SAID.

Mum was mostly the word from the four Southern Shores Town Council members who attended tonight’s meeting as they let Town Manager Cliff Ogburn speak for the Town in the beach nourishment project dispute involving the sand shortfall in the northern beaches and made few statements of their own. They did not discuss the problem as a Dec. 1 Town special announcement represented they would.

The bottom line according to the Town Manager: “We’ve got some work to do, and we’re going to do it.”

In a Nov. 30 project update meeting, Ken Willson, a principal with Coastal Protection Engineering (CPE) who has served as project manager, acknowledged that dredging contractor Weeks Marine had “over-filled” the Southern Shores beaches south of about 4th Avenue and had run out of sand to fulfill the design goal in the north of creating a “sufficiently useable beach.”  

The problem on the northern beaches first came to light publicly on Nov. 25 when Southern Shores residents raised concerns on the Nextdoor social media site. Five days later, Mr. Willson revealed that, although the northern beaches should have received 22 cubic yards of sand per linear foot, they only received 13 cubic yards per linear foot.

(For more information about the beach nourishment project controversy, see The Beacon, 11/28/22, 11/30/22, and 12/1/22.)

Mr. Ogburn did not recap tonight what had been learned at the Nov. 30 meeting. He said only that the fill project had started on Oct. 7 and concluded on Nov. 22 and had nine days of “downtime.” Otherwise, he referred broadly to the task of remedying the shortfall.

“I wish I could stand here, and we would be in a celebratory mood and fashion, but unfortunately, we’re not,” he said in brief remarks, which came after two property owners spoke in public comments about the sand shortfall.

Tom Peabody of Sixth Avenue criticized both the reasoning behind the Town Council’s belated decision to include the stable northern beaches in the nourishment project—after it devised the novel “sufficiently useable beach” goal—and its inclusion of properties north of 3rd Avenue that are “13 lots deep” in the MSD-2 tax district.

(After surveying the Southern Shores coastline in 2017, CPE divided it into three sections: the northern, the central, and the southern. The northern section was defined as the oceanfront north of 3rd Avenue.)

Mr. Peabody cited a lack of need for the beach fill in the northern section and a lack of benefit to northern section property owners in MSD-2.

Mr. Peabody had previously requested that his property be excluded from MSD-2—as was his right under the N.C. MSD statute–and been denied by the Town Council.  

In her public comments, Debbie Newberry of North Dogwood Trail asked that the Town Council resolve the sand shortfall by adding more to satisfy the contract, without doing further damage to the beaches from heavy equipment and without asking property owners to pay more in taxes.

“I understand completely the accountability that the Town has to the taxpayers and to those in the MSDs,” Mr. Ogburn said, acknowledging Mr. Peabody’s and Ms. Newberry’s comments, “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 to 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 “so we can start those discussions.”

“I wish I had more that I could report and say,” he said, “but it’s been less than a week since a lot of this was put out there.

“We’ve got some work to do, and we’re going to do it.”

In response to a question by Councilman Mark Batenic about whether Dare County, which is the actual contracting party with Weeks Marine and CPE, is “behind the town”—a question to which we hope he knew the answer—Mr. Ogburn replied that he has had conversations with Dare County Manager/Attorney Bobby Outten, and “They have said they’ll stand with us and work with us for a result.”

In the few remarks she made, Mayor Morey reiterated: “We have the county in agreement with us; we are working through the issues; it is complicated, and we’re not going to be satisfied until we’re satisfied.

“That’s kind of where we are.”

No one was specific about any relevant facts.

In his brief comments, Mayor Pro Tem Matt Neal raised the issue of when the Town—including the Mayor and members of the Town Council—knew about the sand shortfall.  

Mr. Neal thanked Mr. Ogburn for his effort “over the last three weeks—getting the information that we’ve been asking for—pretty much rapid-fire, getting it from the contractor and the engineer back to us in a timely manner. . . .”

Could it be that Mr. Neal meant the last three days, not weeks? We did not ask, because we did not have time after the meeting adjourned and the Council went into a closed session with the Town Attorney, and will give him the benefit of the doubt.

“There’s a lot of fact-finding,” the Mayor Pro Tem said. “[Mr. Ogburn has] been digging hard.”

Both Mr. Neal and Mayor Morey referred to the voluminous amount of data involved in the project, but did not elaborate upon the nature of the data that are of concern in determining how Weeks Marine incorrectly distributed the sand on the Southern Shores oceanfront.

In brief discussions after the meeting, The Beacon learned from Town officials that Dare County has not made final payment to the contracting parties and that the unpaid amount is substantial.

Town Councilwoman Paula Sherlock did not attend the meeting because of “family medical issues,” the Mayor announced.

To be continued.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 12/6/22

12/6/22: TOWN WILL UPDATE STATUS OF BEACH NOURISHMENT PROJECT TODAY AT 5:30 P.M. COUNCIL MEETING; YOU MAY VIEW BY LIVESTREAM.

JUST A REMINDER: Town Manager Cliff Ogburn will provide an update on the Southern Shores beach nourishment project, which we learned last week was completed Nov. 22 without distributing the required amount of sand on the beaches north of about 4th Avenue, at the Town Council meeting today at 5:30 p.m. in the Pitts Center.

There will be two public-comment periods during the meeting, the first of which will occur before the update, which is on the agenda as “old business,” and the second of which will occur afterward. All speakers are limited to three minutes.  

In its last special announcement to residents, on Dec. 2, the Town said it had “communicated” its concern to Dare County about “less sand [being placed] on the beach north of 5th Ave. than the original project design set forward” and “will be coordinating with them moving forward.” It also said that the Town Council would discuss the situation at today’s meeting.

(We note that the Town’s coastal engineering consultant, who served as manager of the multi-town beach nourishment project, referenced 4th Avenue in a Nov. 30 meeting during which he acknowledged an “over-fill” of sand in the southern beaches of Southern Shores and an “under-fill” on the northern beaches.)

If you are unable to attend the meeting, you may live-stream it at (150) Southern Shores – YouTube.

For more information about the beach nourishment shortfall, see The Beacon, 11/30/22, 11/28/22, and 12/1/22.

You may access the agenda for tonight’s meeting at: MEET-Agenda-351b310086ca48faa05582d67f02080f.pdf (usgovcloudapi.net)

The background materials for the agenda, which primarily deal with the engineering firm whom the Town is recommending receive the construction contract for the Juniper/Trinitie Trail Bridge replacement, may be accessed here: MEET-Packet-351b310086ca48faa05582d67f02080f.pdf (usgovcloudapi.net)

THE SOUTHERN SHORES BEACON, 12/6/22

12/1/22: TOWN SAYS IT HAS CONTACTED DARE COUNTY ABOUT CONTRACTOR’S INADEQUATE SAND FILL ON NORTHERN BEACHES; TOWN COUNCIL WILL DISCUSS SHORTFALL AT DEC. 6 MEETING.

The Town of Southern Shores issued the following special announcement at 2 p.m. today about the design error committed by Weeks Marine in nourishing the beaches:

“Last week, based only on visual inspection it was difficult to determine if the project design goal had been achieved. At the biweekly public beach nourishment update meeting held Nov. 30 engineers with Coastal Protection Engineering confirmed that the contractor, Weeks Marine, placed less sand on the beach north of 5th Ave. than the original project design set forward. Having learned this information only yesterday, the Town Council has not yet had the opportunity to meet for discussion and determine options. Dare County entered the contract with Weeks Marine on behalf of four towns to nourish their beaches. The Town has communicated this contract concern to Dare County and will be coordinating with them moving forward. This matter will be on the agenda at the Dec. 6 Council meeting for discussion. The town appreciates everyone’s patience as we work to resolve this matter.”

For more information about this developing story, see The Beacon, 11/30/22 and 11/28/22.

You may access the agenda for the Town Council’s Dec. 6 meeting at: MEET-Agenda-351b310086ca48faa05582d67f02080f.pdf (usgovcloudapi.net)

The materials for the agenda may be accessed here: MEET-Packet-351b310086ca48faa05582d67f02080f.pdf (usgovcloudapi.net)

The meeting will be held in the Pitts Center at 5:30 p.m. There will be two public-comment periods.

THE SOUTHERN SHORES BEACON, 12/1/22

11/30/22: BEACH NOURISHMENT CONTRACTOR DEPOSITED TOO MUCH SAND ON THE SOUTHERN BEACHES, NOT ENOUGH IN THE NORTH. MISTAKES WERE MADE.

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, beach nourishment program manager and coastal engineer Ken Willson acknowledged at a public project update meeting today at the Pitts Center.

While Weeks Marine and Coastal Protection Engineering (CPE), Willson’s company, delivered the contractually agreed-upon 894,000 cubic yards of sand per linear foot to the Southern Shores oceanfront, 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. (Locals who were shocked by the change in the beaches south of 4th Avenue have reason to be.)

The beaches north of 4th Avenue were to receive 22 cubic yards of sand per linear foot, Mr. Willson said in response to questions from an active audience that attended both in-person and on Zoom.

In fact, he admitted, those beaches only received 13 cubic yards of sand per linear foot—which were deposited over a three-day period, from Nov. 20-22. The speed with which the dredging occurred caused alarm among northern property owners, who posted comments on the social media site, Nextdoor. (See The Beacon, 11/28/22.)

Twenty-two cubic yards of sand per linear foot is still considerably less volume than what the southern beaches were to receive, even if Weeks Marine had not over-filled them. They were supposed to receive one-third the amount of sand as the beaches south of 4th Avenue, Mr. Willson said.

“By design,” he said, “the northern beaches were never going to get the same amount of sand” as the southern beaches because coastal engineering surveys over a period of several years repeatedly showed that the northern beaches were not vulnerable to storm damage nor were they in need of mitigation from long-term erosion.

The Southern Shores beachfill project was designed to 1) provide for a reasonable level of “storm damage reduction” to the coastline in the event that a potential storm comparable to Hurricane Isabel hit Southern Shores (this level was determined by computer analysis) and 2) to reduce long-term erosion, which is a problem for only certain sections of the oceanfront, as The Beacon has previously documented.

The only reason the oceanfront north of 4th Avenue was included in the beach nourishment project was to create a “sufficient useable beach” in that area. This design goal was added to the project after homeowners on Seventh Avenue complained about their narrow beach, especially at high tide. In December 2020, the Town Council unanimously approved adding to the other two beachfill design goals the maintenance of a “healthy beach that provides sufficient useable beach and supports shorebird and sea turtle nesting habitat.”

CPE defined a sufficient useable beach as one that is 84 feet wide, as measured from “the wet-dry line to the toe of the dune,” Mr. Willson recalled today. The coastal engineer claimed that the beaches north of 4th Avenue currently do in fact have a width of 84 feet, even though they did not receive the sand volume that the construction design called for.

So, what happened? Why did the southern beaches receive so much of the sand that was to be deposited in the north?

According to Mr. Willson, a “significant discrepancy” occurred between a survey of the beach that was performed in May 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 do. The volume of sand in the system increased: The beach accreted, gaining 180,000 cubic yards per linear foot naturally.

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. In essence, it piled the sand on.

Whose fault is that? We leave that question to Weeks Marine and CPE to sort out and then for the Town to explain to residents. As Mr. Willson explained, the construction contract provides for an adjustment in the template, based on a change in conditions, provided Weeks gives CPE the requisite notice. A Weeks Marine employee who attended today’s meeting said the contractor had attempted notification, but clearly there was a disconnect between the parties.

CPE is “in discussions” with Weeks Marine about how to address the shortfall in the northern beaches.

So where does the Town stand in all of this?

Town Manager Cliff Ogburn did not speak publicly today, but he did speak with The Beacon after the meeting about the issuance of a statement to residents tomorrow. He also said the Town Council will be discussing the problems that arose with the beach nourishment project, starting at next Tuesday’s meeting at 5:30 p.m. in the Pitts Center.          

Mayor Pro Tem Matt Neal, who is a local builder, attended today’s meeting and asked Mr. Willson for copies of the 2021 and 2022 beach surveys. The only other Town Council member in attendance was Paula Sherlock, who appeared by Zoom.

Mr. Willson said that Weeks Marine and CPE should have a resolution regarding the northern beaches “within a couple of weeks.”

According to Mr. Willson, the first day of sand pumping in Southern Shores was Oct. 7; the last day was Nov. 22. The Beacon regrets that we said on Nextdoor that the pumping had started in September, which was the original plan. The photograph at top is of equipment at the Trout Run access on Sept. 17. Storms apparently delayed the start of the dredging for three weeks.  

We have been writing about beach nourishment for about four years now and are ready to turn over further explanations and disclosures to the Town.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 11/30/22
 

11/28/22: BEACH NOURISHMENT PROJECT FINISHED NOV. 22; PUBLIC UPDATE MEETING TO BE HELD WED. AT 1:30 P.M.

Contractor Weeks Marine finished its sand dredging in Southern Shores on Nov. 22, according to an update about the beach nourishment project posted on the Town website today.

The Town’s update also said that consultant/liaison Coastal Planning and Engineering of N.C. is currently surveying the beach and will be providing the Town with “the results to indicate that the project was constructed as designed.”

The project, which was slated to be completed by mid-December, appears to be complete–although the eye of the beach beholder may suggest otherwise.

Confusion arose last Friday on the social media site, Nextdoor, about the status of the dredging work, when Southern Shores property owners questioned whether Weeks Marine had sufficiently replenished the beach north of Fifth Avenue, in particular, at the Hillcrest Beach. The person who initiated the conversational thread said he had spoken with Weeks Marine crew members on-site and been informed by them that the Southern Shores project was over. The property owner had a different viewpoint based on his observations.

We entered the Nextdoor thread in an effort to correct misinformation and eventually contacted Mayor Elizabeth Morey and Town Manager Cliff Ogburn, who responded on Friday with the issuance of a special announcement that read as follows:

“. . . Earlier this week Weeks Marine announced that they were leaving the Dare County project and would be coming back in March to finish the portion in the Town of Duck.

“Based on a visual inspection it is difficult to determine if the project design goal has been achieved.

“Town Staff has discussed these concerns with Coastal Planning and Engineering. We expect to receive surveys early next week to verify that our beach has received the nourishment it should have.

“Once we receive this information we will be in a much better position to share with you all the status of our project.”

We do not wish to speak for the Town, but we believe it is safe to say that the width of the beach as it appears to the naked eye is not the determining factor in assessing whether the beachfill project goals have been achieved.  

If you have questions about the project, we suggest that you attend in person or via Zoom the next biweekly public update meeting, which will be held on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. in the Pitts Center. You may log into Zoom at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86210244731?pwd=MWFYVWIQRHpYN0FneXBTUzZrZjZjIRQT09. The meeting ID is 862 1024 4731; the passcode is 730379.

THE SOUTHERN SHORES BEACON, 11/28/22

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