6/15/22: YOU WILL NOT BE FINED FOR LEAVING YOUR TRASH OR RECYCLING CAN ROADSIDE FOR MORE THAN 24 HOURS AFTER COLLECTION . . . AND OTHER CLARIFICATIONS OF THE SOLID WASTE ORDINANCE CHANGES.  

One of the serial offenders.

The revisions to the Southern Shores solid waste ordinance adopted by the Town Council April 5 do not require residents to place their trash and recycling receptables in the street right-of-way only within 24 hours of collection and to remove them by midnight after collection.  

Just as the former Town Code section (26-5) that deals with placement and maintenance of receptables did, the revised ordinance recommends this timing for rollout and rollback—using the verb “should,” not “shall”—it does not mandate it. Residents and rental property owners are not at risk of being cited for a Code violation if they or their renters put their cans on the roadside too soon or leave them out too long.

We have not previously delved into the changes that the Town Council made to Chapter 26, the solid waste ordinance, and that the Town newsletter has highlighted for months now. (See https://library.municode.com/nc/southern_shores/ordinances/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=1144846. The changes have not been codified yet.)

But, after hearing worried and/or confused residents express concern over being cited for a violation for rollback failure, we decided to step in and clarify the “should-shall” of receptacle etiquette.

The intent of Town Code Amendment 22-02, which the Town Council adopted unanimously at its April regular meeting without holding a public hearing—as it is legally entitled to do—is 1) to prevent roadside litter caused by trash and recycling receptacle overflow and by receptacles without lids and 2) to prevent receptacles from becoming road obstructions. It is not to punish residents for leaving their trash or recycling cans out too long, according to some people’s sense of aesthetics, although it would rather you did not.

The following changes made by the Town Council to Chapter 26 are mandatory requirements:

*Trash and recycling receptables shall be placed within the street right-of-way within three feet—an increase from two feet in the former ordinance—of the pavement, and three feet of clearance—a decrease from four feet—shall be left around the containers.

(If you place the receptacle too far from the street, we can assure you that Bay Disposal will not empty it. Too close to the road and it becomes an obstruction.)

*All residential receptacles shall have “fully functional lids that cover the entire receptacle” and “fully functional wheels.”

(This is a new requirement. We strongly support the put-a-lid-on-it movement!)

*Residential units of four bedrooms or fewer that “are offered for vacation rentals” shall have at least three solid waste receptacles—an increase from two in the former ordinance—and two recycling receptacles—an increase from one; and residential units of five or more bedrooms that are offered for vacation rentals shall have at least five trash receptacles—an increase from three—and three recycling receptacles—up from one.

(Having been a rental property owner for more than 30 years, and having family history with the Southern Shores rental business dating back 50 years, we believe these numbers are excessive for many rental houses, and the Town Council should have been more discriminating. The “offending” houses that always have overflowing trash and recycling cans in front of them (see above) are well-known to us seasoned veterans. Requiring all owners of five-bedroom rental houses to have five trash receptacles and three recycling receptacles strikes us as an increase of can clutter. We also believe that the previous number of cans required for four-bedroom or fewer rental houses was more realistic.)   

*Residential occupants shall be responsible for maintaining the roadside pickup area clear of debris and vegetation.  (This is not a new requirement. We just believe it is worth noting.)

Inasmuch as the foregoing are mandatory requirements, they are enforceable and punishable by a civil penalty. Chapter 26 requires the Town to issue the property owner of record a warning citation and subjects the property owner to a fine if the Town must issue subsequent notices of violation. (The ordinance imposes a $50 fine upon first notice after a warning; $100 on second notice; $150 on third notice and for additional violations in a 12-month period.)

TCA 22-02 also specifies that solid waste or recyclable materials that are placed outside of the receptacles will not be collected and that the property owner of record is subject to a civil penalty for such debris, after first receiving a warning of a violation.

While the Town now has stickers available that read either “Trash Only” or “Recycling Only,” and indicate with arrows which side of a receptacle should face the street, residents are not required to affix them to their receptacles.

New Town Code section 26-5(e) states that “every residential receptacle should be labeled with a town issued sticker,” not that it shall be so labeled.

We think the stickers are a good idea for receptacles at rental units, where, inevitably, guests position them backwards on the street. You may pick up the stickers at Town Hall for no cost.

RECYCLING PICKUP ON FRIDAY IS A TERRIBLE IDEA

The only real bone we have to pick with the Town’s solid-waste changes is the shift in the recycling pick-up day from Wednesday to Friday.

There is no worse day for recycling pickup at rental houses, which typically rent from Saturday to Saturday, than Friday. It is well known to us seasoned veterans that renters depart in a semi-conscious whirlwind of activity, putting trash and recycling out at the last minute, if they put them out at all.

I manage both a Friday-to-Friday rental and a Saturday-to-Saturday rental and am not convinced that the new Friday recycling pickup helps me with either.

Only the most organized and fastidious renters will put their recycling out on Thursday night and then only if the “property owner of record” papers the house with notices asking them to do so. And maybe not even then. Even the good-as-gold repeat renters who have been coming to the same cottage for 20 years and leave a lovely message in the logbook may slip up and forget. Renters enjoy every disengaged moment they have until Saturday’s (or Friday’s) frenzy.  

I share with you my experience last Saturday of checking on the 51-year-old, four-bedroom family rental cottage that I now own with my three siblings: I arrived around 10:30 a.m. to find the front door to the house wide open—seriously, the renters were too much in a hurry to close and lock the door—and the trash and recycling cans next to the house, a long driveway’s walk from the roadside.

The trash can had balloons and other party inflatables in it that I burst before I wheeled it down to the road for Monday’s pickup. The recycling can, which I sorted for nonrecyclables, was three-quarters full. Now we have another, but can I reasonably expect the next renters to roll out the previous renter’s recycling?

In all of my years as a rental property owner, I have never known renters to dispose of any disposables except their own, so tomorrow evening, I will be trying to drop by the house unobtrusively to roll out the nearly full recycling can left by last week’s vacationers.

This is not something that my siblings and I can ask our rental company agent to do for us. It never has handled rollout, even when it claimed it did. Being local I know when the agent’s claim that “the housekeepers roll the trash to the road” is simply not true.

Bay Disposal protested in the past that it could not handle both trash and recycling on the same collection day. Clearly, it can. How about double-booking the collector on Monday, so we can rid ourselves of renters’ recyclables two days after they depart, rather than six? A return to the Wednesday pickup would be preferable to what exists now.  

TOWN COUNCIL MEETING JUNE 21: The Town Council will hold a 9 a.m. workshop meeting next Tuesday in the Pitts Center. The agenda and agenda packet have just been posted on the Town website. See https://mccmeetings.blob.core.usgovcloudapi.net/soshoresnc-pubu/MEET-Packet-eb469370e27a44e29dd0054eed601863.pdf.

Included in the Town Manager’s report is an update on seasonal cut-thru traffic.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 6/15/22

6/12/22: TRAFFIC

Hickory Trail at Hillcrest Drive

Dear Neighbors:

We are aware of the horrendous traffic conditions yesterday on the South Dogwood Trail cut-through route and have read residents’ comments on Next Door. We elected not to cover the traffic, as we have every summer since we began publishing in 2018, because it’s old news. Déjà vu. And the déjà vu is only going to get worse now that the left-turn prohibition on U.S. 158 at South Dogwood Trail has been abandoned.

(For a report on why the no-left-turn was abandoned, see The Beacon, 5/13/22. Kitty Hawk has jurisdiction over the left-turn lane and declined to support the prohibition, but the Southern Shores Town Council had no problem with that decision because it believes faulty data purporting to show that the prohibition produced no benefit.)

We know from experience that signage doesn’t work; people ignore it. We also know that barricades don’t work as long as people can drive around them.

Yesterday morning we found out about a half-hour after Hickory Trail was closed at East Dogwood Trail that people who do not know each other will get out of their vehicles and work together to move heavy water-filled barricades enough so that they can drive their vehicles past. Seriously. We talked to homeowners who saw the maneuver.

The police had to restore the intersection and then waste their time explaining to drivers who ignored the “STOP DEAD END NO OUTLET” sign (see above) at Hillcrest Drive/Hickory Trail that they could not go through. That includes disbelieving locals who didn’t want to turn around.

Amazingly, there are people who don’t understand that taking the next block over will usually get you around a road closure. Apparently, detour signs need to be posted if the Hickory Trail closure is going to continue.   

We can assure everyone who commented on Next Door that all of the traffic-calming and traffic-controlling ideas that they raised—for example, installing speed humps on certain residential roads and convincing the Town of Duck to reduce its 13 crosswalks to a less disruptive number on summer weekends—have been suggested by residents. In eight years of lobbying the Town Council, we have been very thorough in identifying all manner of techniques to discourage and/or prevent cut-through traffic. 

Installation of the road closure/local traffic only barriers last summer was a big step forward, but without the left-turn prohibition, it is questionable how effective they will be. Judging from comments on Next Door, they were not very effective yesterday.

We hope everyone knows that a citizens’ committee on cut-through traffic, chaired by homeowner Tommy Karole, recommended a gate on South Dogwood Trail near the elementary school that could be raised by a transponder attached to Southern Shores property owners’ and guests’ vehicles. The professional traffic engineers that the Town Council hired to study the traffic patterns and congestion in Southern Shores also recommended a South Dogwood Trail gate and other permanent physical impediments.       

The bottom line is, as the traffic consultants told the Town Council, N.C. Hwy. 12 operates over-capacity in Southern Shores on summer weekends, and northbound motorists are going to seek a way around the gridlock, regardless of what signs direct them to do or not do.

We understand Southern Shores residents’ frustrations and invite you to express yourself here, rather than on Next Door, which is not Southern Shores-specific.

Have a good Sunday.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 6/12/22

6/10/22: TOWN COUNCIL APPROVES MIXED-USE DEVELOPMENTS, FY 2022-23 BUDGET; TOWN ATTORNEY RESIGNS; ALL TRAFFIC BARRIERS WILL BE IN PLACE THIS WEEKEND.

Water-filled barriers and signs sit at the ready on Hickory Trail at East Dogwood Trail this evening, when the northbound lane was already restricted to “local traffic only.” Not shown in the photograph are two more orange barriers sitting on the other side of the road. You can expect Hickory Trail to be closed this weekend.

The Southern Shores Town Council unanimously approved Tuesday a new mixed residential-commercial use of town property zoned “C general commercial” and an $8,790,776 town budget for fiscal year 2022-2023, which is $87,638 over the budget that Town Manager Cliff Ogburn initially recommended on May 3.

Town Attorney Ben Gallop also announced his resignation, effective July 6, at the Council’s Tuesday meeting—which was a lengthy session that lasted nearly two and a half hours because of the hearing on the mixed-use zoning text amendment (ZTA).

The addition of mixed-use developments in the Southern Shores commercial district was first proposed in ZTA 22-06, which was submitted to the Town and later revised by Ginguite LLC, a SAGA investment group that seeks to develop a 5.2-acre tract on U.S. Hwy. 158 with both residential and commercial facilities. The current Town Code does not permit both uses on the same property. (See The Beacon, 5/26/22 for background.)

In amending Town Code sec. 36-207(c) to add this new conditional use in the commercial district, and specifying building requirements for mixed-use developments, the Town Council broke with the Town Planning Board’s recommendation over the maximum lot coverage that should be allowed.

The Council decided to allow mixed developments the same maximum lot coverage as all-commercial developments, which is 60 percent, but can be up to 67 percent if a certain percentage of permeable pavers is used (to allow for ground water absorption). The Planning Board recommended capping lot coverage at 50 percent, with an increase to 55 percent, if permeable pavers are used.  

We will explore this zoning change and the Town Council’s and Planning Board’s decision-making process, and the issues and problems that arise for us, in a forthcoming column.

In other business Tuesday, Mr. Ogburn reported that all traffic barriers will be in place along the residential cut-through routes, and Hickory Trail will be closed at East Dogwood Trail, this weekend. N.C. DOT’s mobile message boards advising arriving visitors to stay on U.S. 158 and N.C. 12 also will be in use, he said.

Mr. Ogburn also updated the beach nourishment timeline for Southern Shores, saying that “We’re just kind of waiting in line,” for sand to be pumped in Kill Devil Hills and Kitty Hawk before it is pumped on our beaches, which now appears will be in early August.

At the start of its meeting, the Town Council heard a presentation by Outer Banks Visitors Bureau Executive Director Lee Nettles and Dare County Tourism Board Chair Tim Cafferty about a proposed 48,275-square-foot, $18 million event center to be built at the Soundside Event Site in Nags Head.

The Soundside site is on the 158 bypass next to Pamlico Jack’s Restaurant, which would be demolished to make way for an indoor facility to host sporting events, banquets, concerts, “galas with speakers,” and “smaller conventions,” according to Mr. Nettles, who also referred to the proposed facility as a civic center.

According to Mr. Nettles, this project jibes with the “mission” of the Tourism Board, which is “to promote the Outer Banks during less-than-peak months,” thus encouraging “year-round tourism,” which is not necessarily a goal of local residents or visitors who come in what is considered the off-season.

Mr. Nettles also noted that the center will be designed to “have equal appeal and value for people who live here as well as the visitors.”

The Outer Banks Visitors Bureau Director said the magic word, pickleball, several times in touting the sporting events that would be held in the center, which is designed to have three basketball courts end-to-end as well. (See below for more talking points.)

Mr. Nettles and Mr. Cafferty held a public forum on the project in Nags Head on Monday (See The Outer Banks Voice article) and have spoken to Kill Devil Hills town officials, trying to drum up support. The Nags Head Board of Commissioners will have to approve zoning changes in order for the plan for the event center to advance.   

FY 2022-23 BUDGET

After further workup by the Town Council and the Town Manager after the latter’s initial May filing, the town’s new fiscal year budget increased in expenditures by $87,638, from a recommended budget of $8,706,138 to an adopted budget of $8,790,776.

The bulk of that increase is an additional $80,000 transferred out of the Capital Reserve Fund to be used for canal maintenance, an amount that Mr. Ogburn raised from $20,000 to $100,000 for the year. In subsequent years, the Town Manager said, $50,000 will be allocated for canal maintenance.

No one on the Town Council mentioned property taxes during the public hearing that it held on the budget, and no town residents spoke.

In his closing remarks of the meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Matt Neal observed that, thanks to ample town tax revenues, the Council did not have any tough decisions to make about the FY 2022-23 budget, which will likely not be the case in FY 2022-23, when property taxes may have to be raised.

To balance the FY 2022-23 budget, the Town Council approved a transfer of $365,309 from the town’s unassigned fund balance.

The Town Council also unanimously approved by a separate motion and vote an increase in the town’s fee schedule for permits and other costs, which Mr. Ogburn said had not been increased since 2012.     

NEW TOWN ATTORNEY

Mr. Gallop announced Tuesday that his law firm, Hornthal Riley Ellis & Maland LLP, will continue to represent the Town, and that firm partner, L. Phillip Hornthal, III, will be its primary counsel. Mr. Gallop will be leaving his firm and going into solo practice, he said.

Mr. Gallop also announced that he has initiated lawsuits against five Southern Shores oceanfront property owners who have not granted the Town voluntary easements on their property for purposes of beach nourishment and that he plans to file the Town’s amicus curiae brief in the mid-Currituck County Bridge litigation on June 13.

Mr. Gallop further said that he would be “looking at” the Town’s proposed new sign ordinance, which has been knocking around since last year. The Planning Board gave the ordinance its best shot; we believe Mr. Gallop should have intervened and fixed the ordinance months ago.

CUT-THROUGH TRAFFIC

The experiment with closing the Hickory Trail-East Dogwood Trail intersection over the Memorial Day weekend led to myriad problems, Mr. Ogburn said at Tuesday’s meeting, including southbound motorists ignoring the “No Outlet” signs at Hickory Trail and Hillcrest Drive, and, therefore, having to turn around at Hickory-East Dogwood; northbound motorists driving onto the grass to go around the orange, water-filled barriers; and people even attempting to remove said water-filled orange barriers!

The police had a busy Saturday over the holiday weekend, but Police Chief David Kole did not elaborate upon any of the details in his monthly report.

During our own on-the-ground reporting, we witnessed southbound locals trying to convince the police that they should be an exception to the “no outlet” signage and be permitted access to and from Hickory Trail and an apparently inebriated man trying to move one of the barriers. We also are aware of efforts by neighbors to block the grassy areas next to the barriers with stakes and flags.    

Mr. Ogburn said that more water will be added this weekend to these barriers, which will be increased in number, and more signage will be posted to convince southbound motorists that Hickory Trail really is dead-ended.

TALKING POINTS FOR EVENT CENTER: Among the talking points offered by Mr. Nettles and Mr. Cafferty to promote the new event center are the following:

*It will bring in $25,250,000 in “new spending.” (But there will be no profit for the first three to five years.)

*It will generate more than 14,000 new “room nights” annually.

*It will create 191 new jobs, including nine full-time positions at the center itself.

*It will have a culinary training kitchen so that local people, especially students, will have an opportunity to acquire culinary skills.

*Its event hall will be 26,000 square feet; the meeting room will be 1,500 square feet; the training kitchen will be 2,800 SF; and the lobby, restrooms, halls, and back-of-house space for employees, storage, etc., will be 17,975 SF.

*It will host events with crowd sizes between 300 and 2,500 people. (No conventions.)

FINALLY, PLEASE NOTE: The recycling pick-up day has been permanently changed to Friday. From now until Labor Day, there will be two trash pickups in town, one on Friday and the other on Monday. We will return to once-a-week Monday trash pickups after the summer season is over.

Have a great weekend.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 6/10/22   

5/26/22: PLANNING BOARD RECOMMENDS MIXED-USE ZONING IN COMMERCIAL DISTRICT WITH PROPOSED BUILDING CONDITIONS FOR DEVELOPERS.

This aerial view of Southern Shores from Dare County gis shows Ginguite LLC’s tract at 6195 N. Croatan Hwy. outlined in red.

The Town Planning Board voted last week to recommend to the Town Council the creation of a mixed residential-commercial use of property located in Southern Shores’ C commercial zoning district, with specific requirements and conditions that builders of mixed-use developments must meet.

The recommendation came about at the Planning Board’s May 19 meeting, as a culmination of extensive discussions between Town staff and the Board with Ginguite LLC, a SAGA investment group that seeks to develop a 5.2-acre tract next to Southern Shores Landing on U.S. Hwy. 158 with both residential and commercial facilities.

The Southern Shores Town Code of Ordinances currently does not permit such mixed-use developments.

(Because of The Beacon’s six-month suspension, we did not follow discussions between Ginguite and the Planning Board at public meetings. We are catching up.)

Mixing residential and commercial uses on a single property in the commercial district is essentially “creating another zoning district,” said Planning Board Chairperson Andy Ward at the Board’s meeting last week, during which Sumit Gupta, representing Ginguite LLC, sought the Board’s recommendation of a Zoning Text Amendment—ZTA 22-06—that his company submitted to authorize and define mixed-use developments.

The Board unanimously rejected ZTA 22-06, because of a disagreement over lot coverage, then recommended its own conditions for mixed-use developments in the commercial district.

Ginguite has not presented a site plan for the vacant property at 6195 N. Croatan Hwy., which has both marshland and water on it, but Mr. Gupta, who is a Co-Founder, Partner, and Chief Executive Officer of SAGA Realty and Construction, told the Planning Board last week that the developer is considering designs with “luxury multifamily” dwellings, similar to the Run Hill Luxury Apartment Villas owned by SAGA in Kill Devil Hills.

“Affordable, workforce housing,” said Mr. Gupta, “is not [our] focus.”

Although Mr. Gupta addressed only the Ginguite property on U.S. 158, any amendment to the Town Code to allow mixed-use developments would apply to all commercial properties in Southern Shores. There are three others, according to Planning Director and Deputy Town Manager Wes Haskett. They are:

*5391 N. Virginia Dare Hwy., 7.9 acres (the Stones’ property, which includes the Southern Shores Realty office, the Southern Shores Crossing, and vacant land)

*5500 N. Croatan Hwy., 18.1 acres (the Marketplace)

*5355 N. Croatan Hwy., 4.1 acres (Southern Shores Realty maintenance building)

AMENDING THE TOWN ZONING ORDINANCE

The Town Code currently allows as “permitted uses” in the commercial district a variety of retail stores, business, financial, and professional offices, service establishments, and residential dwellings, among other facilities, and authorizes certain “conditional uses,” including group developments of commercial buildings.  (See Code sec. 36-207)

The residential dwellings it specifically permits are detached single-family dwellings, two-family dwellings (duplexes), and multifamily dwellings.

(The Town Zoning Ordinance is codified at section 36 of the Town Code of Ordinances. We sometimes refer to the Zoning Ordinance or the Zoning Code when referencing section 36.)

A mixed-use group development of commercial and residential buildings was clearly not contemplated by previous Zoning Code writers, who kept apartments and other multifamily housing units separate from retail shops and other commercial facilities.   

Chairperson Ward described ZTA 22-06 as the “fourth version” of efforts between the Planning Board and Mr. Gupta (Ginguite) to reach agreement on the requirements and conditions of a new mixed-use group development. Both ZTA 22-06, which the Planning Board considered insufficient, and the Board’s own recommendation amend the Code to make mixed-use group developments a conditional use in the commercial district.    

While Mr. Ward said the ZTA “versions” that Ginguite has presented “keep getting better,” a major sticking point between the Board and Mr. Gupta—one that consumed an inordinate amount of time at the May 19 meeting, as communication broke down—was the maximum allowable lot coverage for a mixed-use development.

MAXIMUM LOT COVERAGE FOR MIXED-USE  

Ginguite’s ZTA 22-06 provides that “no more than 40 percent lot coverage of the net parcel area” can be associated with residential building footprints and required residential parking. It does not address commercial lot coverage, however, which, if a certain amount of permeable pavement is used, can be up to 67 percent, according to Town Code sec. 36-207(d)(5)(b).

The Town Code currently allows a maximum of 40 percent lot coverage for multifamily dwellings in the commercial district, but not for single family homes or duplexes, which are limited to 30 percent coverage. (Sec. 207(c)(4))

Mr. Gupta argued last week that a developer of a mixed-use property should be able to use the maximum lot coverage permitted for commercial property, provided its residential buildings and parking do not exceed 40 percent of the net parcel area.

He seemed to view residential property as a “substitute” for commercial property, saying: “It would be nice to take some of the allowable commercial space and trade it for residential.”

Mr. Ward took a different approach, advocating that the maximum allowable lot coverage of the net parcel area should be evaluated in the aggregate, without regard to whether a building/structure footprint is residential or commercial, and proposing a maximum of 50 percent.

Board Vice Chairperson Tony DiBernardo further advanced the idea that a minimum lot coverage should be set for residential development. He cited a minimum of 25 percent and a maximum of 40 percent lot coverage of the net parcel area.

(There has been much discussion about mixed-uses behind the scenes, as well as at previous Board meetings, and we are unsure when these percentages arose and who originated them.)   

The Town Zoning Ordinance defines “net” acreage as the total area to be developed, “minus any area covered by waterways, marshes, or wetlands.” (Code sec. 36-57) The Ginguite property has all three.

Mr. Gupta said the Board’s aggregate 50 percent lot coverage “penalized” Ginguite “for bringing in residential” development.

The investors’ group bought the property on U.S. 158 in June 2014, and, according to Mr. Gupta, “The plan was to develop it within the current rules,” meaning strictly commercial, “which we can still do.”

He declined to agree with the 50 percent mandate at last week’s meeting, saying “Our current plan wouldn’t work” with it, and, further, that the “net” parcel area restriction “hurts us.”

RECOMMENDED REQUIREMENTS FOR MIXED-USE DEVELOPMENTS

As part of its recommendation to the Town Council, the Planning Board set forth requirements for future mixed-use developments, which pertain to allowable building size, residential density, and other common dimensional regulations in addition to lot coverage. They were largely culled from other sections of the Zoning Ordinance, but some are new. We quote them verbatim below:

*Minimum size of any building shall be 2,500 square feet. (This was in Ginguite’s version of the ZTA.)

*All buildings constructed within 35 feet of another building within the development are to be connected by a breezeway or covered walkway. (Also in Ginguite’s ZTA.)

*Lot shall be serviced by an existing community wastewater treatment facility permitted by NC DEQ DWR. (N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality, Division of Water Resources. Also in Ginguite’s ZTA.)

*Residential density shall be limited to RS-8 District allowances as established in Town Code sec. 36-203(a). (Note: The density requirement in the RS-8 multifamily residential district is eight dwelling units per net acre. The Town Council enacted this requirement, which was initiated by Mr. Haskett, at its May meeting. Ginguite agreed with it.)  

*A minimum of 25 percent and no more than 40 percent lot coverage of the net parcel area can be associated with building footprints containing residential uses and the required parking for residential uses.

*Minimum front yard (setback): 25 feet.

*Minimum side yard (setback): of 15 feet. An additional 5-foot-yard adjacent to the street is required for a corner lot.

*Minimum rear yard (setback): 20 feet.

*Maximum building height shall be 35 feet, measured from the average of the existing, undisturbed grade at the building corners

*No building or other facility (such as parking spaces, incinerators, trash collection areas, etc.) shall be located nearer than 50 feet to boundaries of residential districts

*Where a mixed use group development abuts a residential zone, a buffer of dense vegetative planting or natural vegetation is required (see Sec. 36-207(8))

*Maximum allowance lot coverage of the net parcel area by principal use and all accessory structures, in the aggregate, for the entire mixed use group development, shall be 50 percent.

*Mixed use group developments which incorporate the use of permeable pavement, as outlined in Section 36-207(d)(5)(a), in excess of 5 percent of the total lot coverage shall be allowed a maximum allowable lot coverage by principal use and all accessory structures, of no greater than 55 percent. (This compares with 67 percent if the development is strictly commercial.)

According to Mr. Haskett, the Town Council will hold a public hearing on ZTA 22-06 at its June 7 meeting, and he will report that the Planning Board recommended denial of it, as presented, but recommended approval of it with these additional conditions.

30% LOT COVERAGE IN RS-1 DISTRICT: Before the Planning Board considered mixed-use development, it took action on ZTA 22-05, which was an application by Stacia and Marc LeBlanc of 9 Tenth Avenue, to increase maximum allowable lot coverage from 30 percent to 35 percent for nonconforming lots in the RS-1 residential district of Southern Shores.

The Planning Board unanimously denied the LeBlancs’ application, although Board member Robert McClendon said he would consider increasing lot coverage throughout the district to 35 percent.

The LeBlancs’ lot on Tenth Avenue is 17,500 square feet, 2,500 square feet smaller than what is considered a conforming lot in Southern Shores. They built their 3,330-square-foot house, swimming pool, and other outdoor structures in 2020 and ran up against the 30-percent limit when they tried to add decking and walkways of their choice.

The LeBlancs argued their case for changing the lot coverage in a well-organized Power Point presentation that predominantly focused on how a change would benefit them and did not address how it would affect the town as a whole.

In evaluating the ZTA, Mr. DiBernardo said, “I just don’t see how this helps Southern Shores one bit. I don’t see any positive. . . . It will take away from the environment and also make lots look more crowded and closer together. . . . It might help individuals, but it doesn’t help the town as a whole.”

He later added, “Aesthetically and environmentally, there’s no plus to it.”

Planning Board member Lynda Burek said that there should be “no surprise [to property owners] if you’re over lot coverage” because of the permitting process. The Town will not approve building plans that are not in compliance with the Town Code.

Chairperson Ward, whose opinion has been key in defeating efforts to expand building lot coverage by exempting from its calculation certain structures (such as 500 square feet of a swimming pool), gave a history of the limitation, noting that the 30 percent restriction dates to 1981, when the first Town Code was enacted.

He also illustrated numerically how the benefit of a 5 percent gain in lot coverage increases as nonconforming lots get smaller. (See his chart at the 35-minute mark of the videotape.)

“We are slowly relaxing lot coverage,” Mr. Ward told the LeBlancs, “but we’re doing it very incrementally.” The Board, he said, is “protective” of Southern Shores.  

SHOUT-OUT: We would like to conclude this report by giving an appreciative shout-out to Councilman Matt Neal, who attended all 2 hours and 40 minutes of the Planning Board’s May 19 meeting. Thank you, Councilman Neal. You are a dedicated and informed public official.

Mr. Ward’s description of the lengthy meeting as “a little bit better than a root canal” was spot-on, and you didn’t budge from the endodontist’s chair.   

We also thank Stasia LeBlanc for giving The Beacon a shout-out when she said that she and her husband did not anticipate the negative response that their ZTA would receive.

Even “The Beacon is complaining about it,” she said.

We’re glad she’s reading us. Next time, perhaps, we’ll be on the same side.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 5/26/22  

5/20/22: PLANNING BOARD UNANIMOUSLY REJECTS APPLICATION TO AMEND TOWN ZONING TO INCREASE MAXIMUM ALLOWABLE LOT COVERAGE TO 35 PERCENT FOR SMALLER LOTS.

The Town Planning Board unanimously voted (5-0) at its meeting yesterday to recommend denial of the two zoning text amendment (ZTA) applications featured in a Beacon post Wednesday—one about increasing maximum lot coverage on lots that are smaller than 20,000 square feet and the other about amending the Town Code to accommodate a mixed-use commercial-residential development—according to Planning Director and Deputy Town Manager Wes Haskett today. 

We refer you to our May 18 post for details about ZTA 22-05 (lot coverage) and ZTA 22-06 (conditional use in the commercial district). We were unable to attend the Planning Board meeting because of commitments out of town and would welcome comments by anyone who attended or live-streamed it.

Planning Board chairperson Andy Ward has been a strong proponent in recent years of keeping the maximum allowable lot coverage in the RS-1 residential district (single family dwellings with “abundant open space”) at 30 percent and not chipping away at that percentage by exempting swimming pools and other ground structures from square-footage calculations.

We would have been very surprised if he had endorsed an expansion of allowable lot coverage for nonconforming lots, i.e., those that are smaller than the standard minimum lot in Southern Shores of 20,000 square feet.  

We will follow up with a longer report later. We are writing now only because of the great interest our Wednesday post had among readers, especially those on Facebook.

Unless the applicants withdraw their proposed ZTAs, they will go to the Town Council for de novo consideration. The Council is not bound by the five-member Planning Board’s decisions, but it is heavily influenced by them.

We are aware of a recent extended conversation on Next Door about changes in the Town’s solid-waste regulations. We also will address these changes in an upcoming post, as well as the concern expressed by some Next Door subscribers that they were not informed about the changes until they were a done deal.

Questions: How can the Town better inform residents? Should the Town spend the money for a USPS-mailed notice to all property owners about changes to regulations of fundamental services, such as solid waste and recycling collections?

Questions: Do you read the Town’s biweekly newsletter and check the Town website for news? Do you attend Town Council meetings or watch them on videotape?

Our thanks to all who respond.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma   

5/18/22: HOMEOWNERS SEEK INCREASE IN MAXIMUM LOT COVERAGE FOR LOTS SMALLER THAN 20,000 SQ. FT., A ZONING CHANGE THAT WOULD REDUCE OPEN SPACE, COVER MORE GROUND: TOWN PLANNING BOARD TO HEAR THEIR ZTA APPLICATION, ONE FROM SAGA INVESTORS TOMORROW.

New homeowners in Seacrest Village are seeking to amend the Town zoning ordinance to increase the maximum allowable lot coverage for lots that are smaller than 20,000 square feet from 30 percent to 35 percent.

The Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) submitted by Stacia and Marc LeBlanc of 9 Tenth Ave. will be heard by the Town Planning Board at its regular monthly meeting tomorrow at 5 p.m. in the Pitts Center. (The Board usually meets on the third Tuesday, which, this month, was primary day.)

The Planning Board is also expected to take up a Zoning Text Amendment submitted by Sumit Gupta, Principal Partner and Chief Executive Officer of SAGA Realty & Construction, that would amend the Town zoning ordinance to permit and define a mixed commercial-residential use development. The SAGA investment group, Ginguite, LLC, owns a large tract on U.S. Hwy. 158 in Southern Shores that it has targeted for such a project.

PROPOSED LOT COVERAGE INCREASE

Stacia and Marc LeBlanc purchased their then-vacant 17,500-square-foot lot on Tenth Avenue in October 2018 and built a house, swimming pool, pool decks, and driveway in 2020, according to data on the Dare County GIS. All of this construction is included in a calculation of lot coverage.  

The LeBlancs’ Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA 22-05) seeks to add an exception to the “maximum allowable lot coverage” requirement of the Town Code, found at Sec. 36-202(d)(6), that would read:

“For lots less than 20,000 square feet as set forth in Section 36-202(d)(1), the maximum allowable lot coverage is 35 percent, provided total lot coverage does not exceed 6,000 square feet.” (proposed subsection f)

See ZTA 22-05 at https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/ZTA-22-05-Lot-Coverage-for-Nonconforming-Lots.pdf.

Town Code Section 36-202 specifies the dimensional requirements and restrictions of development in the Town’s RS-1 single family residential district, which is the primary district in town. According to Section 36-202(a), the RS-1 residential district provides for “the low-density development of single-family detached dwellings in an environment which preserves sand dunes, coastal forests, wetlands, and other unique natural features of the coastal area.”

That same Code section specifies that the RS-1 residential district was created to promote “stable, permanent neighborhoods characterized by . . . abundant open space.”

Section 36-202(d)(1), cited in the LeBlancs’ ZTA 22-05, says only that the “minimum lot size” in town is 20,000 square feet. Section 36-202(d)(6)(a), about lot coverage, states that the “maximum allowable lot coverage shall be 30 percent, except for town-owned facilities and fire stations,” where the lot coverage is capped at 85 percent.

The intent of the development requirements for the RS-1 single-family residential district is clearly to promote low-density housing, to preserve the natural environment, and to ensure “abundant open space.”

The 30 percent lot coverage requirement does this, as well as prevent stormwater runoff.

Seacrest Village, which consists of the avenues east of Duck Road, is comprised principally of lots that are not 20,000 square feet and, thus, are “nonconforming.”

If one were to argue that the maximum lot coverage for nonconforming lots should be different from conforming lots because of the size disparity, the obvious adjustment would be to reduce the maximum lot coverage, not to increase it. In advocating for a 35 percent maximum lot coverage, the LeBlancs are advocating for a destruction of more of the environment, a reduction in open space and stormwater absorption, and a promotion of higher density.

NUMBERS AND RATIOS

This result is well illustrated with numbers and ratios.

The language of the LeBlancs’ ZTA 22-05 increases maximum lot coverage to 35 percent, but caps total lot coverage at 6,000 square feet, which is the total lot coverage permitted for a 20,000-square-foot lot.

If a 20,000-square-foot lot is maxed out on coverage (6,000 sq. ft.), it has 14,000 square feet of open space, a ratio of 2.3 to 1 in favor of uncovered land.

If a 17,500-square-foot lot were to be maxed out at 35 percent coverage, 6,125 square feet would be covered, except for the LeBlancs’ proviso of limiting total lot coverage to 6,000 square feet. Maxing out lot coverage of the 17,500-square-foot lot at 6,000 square feet means that 11,500 square feet would be uncovered, a ratio of 1.92 to 1 in favor of uncovered land.

The LeBlancs are moving the equation in the wrong direction. If lot coverage on their 17,500-square-foot lot were capped at 28 percent, they could build on 4,900 square feet, leaving 12,600 square feet uncovered. This would produce a ratio of uncovered land to covered land of 2.57 to 1, which is comparable to the ratio preserved on conforming lots. Twenty-nine percent would get them a little closer to the 2.3-to-1 standard ratio.   

For another comparison, consider the much smaller 10,000-square-foot lot, which the Town Planning Board, Town Council, homeowners, and other residents did through most of 2018, when we all confronted the unwelcome trend by sellers and developers of dividing single 100-foot-wide lots into two 50-foot-wide lots and thereby doubling the density.

The nonconforming lots fiasco was eventually resolved with a rewrite of Town Code Section 36-132, which some of us thought should have been interpreted to prevent the sale of 50-foot-wide lots splintered off from combined 100-foot parcels; Town Attorney Ben Gallop, however, did not agree. Thanks to the fiasco and its resolution, we now have many more nonconforming 10,000-square-foot lots than we did before the trend, such as the three on Porpoise Run, east of Duck Road, where new multi-story townhouse-style homes now sit.

If the LeBlancs’ 35-percent lot coverage amendment were enacted, homeowners could cover 3,500 square feet of 10,000-square-lots, a coverage that computes to a ratio of uncovered land-to-covered-land of 1.86 to 1. If two such lots were side-by-side, 7,000 square feet of the total combined 20,000 square feet could be covered. This is 1,000 square feet more than would be permissible with 30 percent lot coverage.

We do not support ZTA 22-05 and trust the Planning Board, having gone down the lot-coverage amendment road many times in recent years, will agree with us.

As an aside, we note that during Planning Board meetings in 2018, we advocated for limiting the maximum house size on nonconforming lots, suggesting a staggered scale of square-foot house sizes according to lot sizes. While there was mild interest in this idea from some Board members, the consensus opinion was that the maximum 30-percent lot coverage limitation would keep nonconforming lot development in check and in line with the vision of the town as set forth in the Land-Use Plan. This is a test of that opinion.     

SAGA DEVELOPMENT ON U.S. 158

We are not familiar with the nature of the mixed-use development that Ginguite, LLC would like to construct on the 226,269.21-square-foot property it owns at 6195 N. Croatan Hwy. (U.S. 158) in Southern Shores. This tract is next to the rear of the Southern Shores Landing housing community and across the highway from the flag store. A SAGA sign marks the spot.

Ginguite’s ZTA 22-06 seeks an amendment of the conditional uses of the C commercial district, listed in Town Code Section 36-207(c), to add “Group development of commercial and residential buildings” as a new subsection 11. The ZTA speaks to the minimum size of buildings, residential density, and the lot coverage of the “net parcel area” that can be associated with building footprints containing residential uses and residential parking.

Quible & Associates, P.C., a construction engineering firm, is representing Ginguite on its ZTA application, which can be found at https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/ZTA-22-06-4-28-22-Comm.-Res.-Group-Developments.pdf.

SIGNS

According to the public notice for tomorrow’s Planning Board meeting, the Board also may reconsider ZTA 36-165, which concerns regulations of signs in town. This ZTA, which rewrites the current sign ordinance, has been kicking around for a while.

**We encourage everyone to attend the Planning Board meeting or to live-stream it on the Town’s YouTube website. The Planning Board is Ground Zero for public discussion about changes to the Town zoning ordinance, which affects all of us.   

ANN G. SJOERDSMA, 5/18/22

5/15/22: TOWN COUNCIL’S DISCUSSION ABOUT SUMMER CUT-THROUGH TRAFFIC DISAPPOINTS: THE DETAILS.

Today we continue our critique of the Town Council’s discussion of the Town Manager’s proposed summer traffic mitigation plan at its May 3 meeting. Members of the board showed during their limited exchange a lack of preparation, knowledge, and/or awareness of the extent of the problem. We also heard factual inaccuracies.

After Town Manager Cliff Ogburn detailed the mitigation “options” for the Council to consider implementing this summer, Mayor Elizabeth Morey asked who among her four colleagues wanted to start the discussion. No one said anything until Mr. Holland laughingly said, “Nobody.”

This is unacceptable. Cut-through traffic-plagued residents, who have been lobbying the Town Council for years for relief and who invested time and trust in a citizens’ committee, authorized by the Council itself, to address the problem, deserve far better from Town decision-makers than avoidance and hesitancy.   

The Town Council has authorized Mr. Ogburn to manage traffic “mitigation,” but it is still setting policy and calling the shots.

Minutes after the slow “Nobody” start at the May meeting, a Town Council member asked, “What happens if we do nothing?,” and other members seriously considered that prospect. Someone has to hold the decision-makers publicly accountable.

(For a detailed description of the mitigation options proposed and recommended by Mr. Ogburn, see The Beacon, 4/27/22 and 4/29/22.)

(For our article about discontinuing the no-left-turn at U.S. Hwy. 158 and South Dogwood Trail, see The Beacon, 5/13/22.)

TRAFFIC HOMEWORK

Property taxes and summertime traffic are the most important issues for Southern Shores residents. A Southern Shores Town Council member has to be well-versed about both in order to represent his or her constituency responsibly. Town Council members have to do their homework and make decisions in context, not off-the-cuff.

When Councilman Leo Holland spoke vaguely at the May 3 meeting about the Council trying “various mandates” over the years to address the cut-through traffic, he revised history, and those on the Town Council who know better allowed him to do so.

We’ve been here 30 years, most of them living smack dab in the middle of the cut-through route. We believe the traffic first became oppressive about 10 to 12 years ago and has steadily worsened each year. Before the experimental no-left-turn weekend in June 2018, the only means by which the Town sought to discourage cut-through traffic was by the occasional use of police checkpoints on South Dogwood Trail. The police stopped every vehicle and asked drivers for their licenses and registration. The checkpoints slowed the traffic and annoyed drivers.

We will gladly stand corrected if Mr. Holland can produce “mandates.” But all that he said at the meeting was that the town had tried “blocking here, doing this, doing that,” without being specific about any tactics. This level of discourse is unacceptable.

DOING NOTHING

In response to appointed Town Council member and Chicahauk homeowner Mark Batenic’s alarming and appalling question of “What happens if we do nothing?”—which someone else on the Council should have immediately said was NOT an option—Mr. Holland said, “That’s been proposed once before some time ago.”

No, the truth is doing nothing had been the Town Council’s modus operandi until the June 23-24 experimental no-left turn weekend, which former Council members Fred Newberry and Gary McDonald spearheaded and former Mayor Tom Bennett opposed.

As we wrote in the May 13 Beacon, Mayor Bennett, who served from 2013 to 2021, opposed every no-left-turn ever put into place until last Memorial Day when cut-through traffic was so jammed—northbound traffic backed up on South Dogwood Trail to U.S. Hwy. 158 to the Wright Memorial Bridge—that he finally supported it.

When Mr. Holland said that “we had a mayor”—Mr. Bennett—who got so “tired of fighting” the cut-through traffic that he said, “Let’s do nothing,” he also was, to be kind, “revising history.”

Mayor Bennett never wanted to do anything. He supported the cut-through vacationers because, to paraphrase him, tourism is the hand that feeds us, and we shouldn’t bite it. Videotapes of Council meetings and his own writings, which we have on file, bear this out.

Last year, the Town Council gave Mr. Ogburn authority to try the road barriers, in response to homeowners’ complaints and public-safety concerns, and Mayor Bennett grudgingly went along. We can thank now-Mayor Morey and Councilman Matt Neal for this progressive action. But on May 3 they appeared decidedly reluctant about doing more than this.  

The answer for Mr. Batenic, who, according to his application for the Council appointment, has lived year-round in Chicahauk for about two years, is: If you do nothing, you roll back the clock at least five years, and you infuriate a lot of people who have been seeking help from the Town Council during that time. You ignore the needs of your constituency. You “let them eat cake.”

But you would not be the only one. The comments of newly elected Councilwoman Paula Sherlock had a decided Marie Antoinette spin to them.

“AESTHETICS” 

For example, Ms. Sherlock, who ran last November promising to work on traffic relief, said that she has “some real concerns about the aesthetics of all [the mitigation] and how this is going to look with barriers.”

At the time she said this, the Town Council was still, at least theoretically, considering closing Sea Oats Trail, Eleventh Avenue, Hillcrest Drive, and Hickory Trail at their intersections with Duck Road—although none of them realistically evaluated the impact of what they called “cul-de-sacing.” They just dismissed it. That is unfortunate.   

Mr. Batenic, whose biography is yet to be posted on the Town website, said he’s “uncomfortable blocking the streets,” an opinion that he accurately valued at “2 cents.”

A Council member’s comfort level is irrelevant to devising a solution to a problem as vexsome to so many as this one is. The issue is whether Mr. Ogburn’s proposed road closures, partial or complete, or other road closures that the Council itself might propose would have the deterrent effect on cut-through traffic that the Town presumably seeks.

(You would be forgiven if you watched the videotape of the May 3 meeting and concluded that the Town Council doesn’t seriously seek prevention. You may view the 27-minute discussion, starting at the 45-minute mark, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Tyu9o67ikU.)

As for aesthetics, we wonder what aesthetic value can be derived from having vehicles parked bumper-to-bumper in the roadways in front of Southern Shores residents’ homes all weekend long, or from seeing vacationers, stuck in those vehicles, emerge to urinate on lawns.

Or how about the aesthetics of having a speeding car pass within a foot or less of a resident as he or she walks a dog on Hickory Trail or bikes on Sea Oats Trail? Hickory Trail can open up temporarily and be a speedway until the brakes have to be applied on Hillcrest Drive. Ditto with Sea Oats before the 300 block.

The northbound-lane “local-traffic-only” barriers—which the police cannot enforce, according to Mr. Ogburn—were placed at the same locations last summer as they will be this summer. Many residents thought they had a deterrent effect. Homeowners objected to cut-through motorists driving around them, but no one complained about their appearance.

We suspect Councilwoman Sherlock hasn’t been in the dunes on a cut-through summer Saturday for some time, if ever. She should take a stroll there with Mr. Batenic. 

HICKORY TRAIL

Councilwoman Sherlock concluded that she wants to do “as minimal as we can to try to mitigate this.” Just whom is she representing when she talks about minimizing mitigation?

Is her goal to get cut-through traffic off of residential roads or not?

We also wonder whom she represented when she objected to closing Hickory Trail at East Dogwood Trail from late afternoon Friday through Monday morning—as Mr. Ogburn had recommended–and suggested closing it only on Saturdays.

This change, which the other Council members immediately endorsed without a word, costs the Town money: Mr. Ogburn cannot ask Public Works employees to work on weekends. He has to hire someone else.

All Ms. Sherlock said to explain her objection was, “That seems like a long time.” We would rather have heard what she thinks about the effectiveness of such a road closure and whether the constituents with whom she has surely spoken support it.  

If the Councilwoman’s concern is the effect of the road’s closure on response time of emergency personnel, then we need to know if she understands that response time is already impaired by the traffic!

(All Police Chief David Kole contributed (off-microphone, so he is not clearly audible on the videotape) to this conversation is that any time a road is closed, response time is affected.)

We also question Councilman Neal’s insistence that there be “citizen buy-in” from Hickory Trail residents for a Saturday closure at East Dogwood. He wants “unanimous support” from Hickory residents, but that’s hardly necessary. Just make an executive decision, Matt. Step up, don’t slide back. It’s a no-brainer. Any inconvenience to Hickory Trail residents, who previously requested closure of their street at Hillcrest Drive, is minimal, and anyone who objects is out of step.

Why burden Mr. Ogburn with more telephone calls?

If they could, Hickory Trail residents, with whom we speak regularly, would close the road at East Dogwood Trail year-round, so weary are they of every-day cut-through traffic that runs the stop signs at the Hickory-East Dogwood intersection and races up their road.   

Ms. Sherlock’s further conclusion that “not to do anything makes us look very unresponsive to the community” was hardly a resounding show of support for residents. Residents don’t care about optics; they want action. They want you to fight for them.

ROADS AT “OVER-CAPACITY”

We believe that every Town Council member has a public duty to read the professional traffic engineers’ report on cut-through traffic, which the Town commissioned for $7500 and received in February 2021. The Council has never discussed the report at a public meeting.

During summer weekends, N.C. Hwy. 12 operates “over-capacity,” consultant J.M. Teague Engineering and Planning told us in a December 2020 Zoom session previewing the report.

According to J.M. Teague, the traffic is moving at “forced saturated flow,” so that traffic “cascades” on to alternating routes, such as the South Dogwood Trail-East Dogwood Trail-into-the-dunes cut-through route. In other words, the thoroughfare is maxed out.

And why is the thoroughfare maxed out? Because Duck, with its 25-mile-per-hour speed limit and 13 pedestrian crosswalks, causes a bottleneck that, Teague Engineering Technician Forrest Lundgren told us, “is the common denominator of all congestion that is formed in Southern Shores.”

Mayor Morey has announced the launch of a public-information campaign this summer that is designed to encourage northbound summertime vacationers to stay on U.S. Hwy. 158 and N.C. Hwy. 12 and off of Southern Shores’ residential cut-through roads.

As part of this effort, the Mayor said that the green lights at each traffic-controlled intersection on N.C. Hwy. 12 will last longer and the masses of northbound vacationers will see road signage and receive videos sent by rental property managers informing them that they’ll move faster if they stay on the thoroughfare.

The Mayor can try her wishful-thinking strategy, but the truth is northbound vacationers are stuck until Duck takes action to alleviate the bottleneck.

“… [W]e need to emphasize the messaging about the traffic lights on Duck Road,” the Mayor said at the May 3 meeting. “I really think that people need to know if they cut through, they’re going to get stuck, and that’s not what they want to do.”

We repeat: The thoroughfare is “over-capacity.”

Vacationers heading north are stuck on Duck Road or they’re stuck on the cut-through route. No matter where they are, stuck is stuck.

Trying to convince people to remain stuck in congestion on the thoroughfares when they can see a little light on South Dogwood Trail, or Juniper Trail, or Porpoise Run, is an exercise in futility. It is counter-intuitive. It’s also a denial of the depth and gravity of the problem.

We are reminded of the mayor of Amity Island from “Jaws” who told vacationers to go in the water because there were no sharks.   

Mr. Holland suggested “marketing” a tag line for the Mayor’s campaign, which Ms. Morey attributed to Ms. Sherlock, to wit: “Southern Shores is a community, not a cut-through.”

The problem with this tag line—besides the fact that people will ignore it—is that it informs those few people who haven’t caught on to the cut-through route yet that there is one!

CLOSING ROADS

If the Town’s goal is to prevent vacationers traveling to the northern beaches from cutting through on Southern Shores’ residential streets, then it has to block vehicles from accessing the roads through closure or diversion. Or it has to eliminate the bottleneck that causes the congestion. Plain and simple.

No one on the Town Council said a word about how the latter could be accomplished, or even if there have been talks between Southern Shores and Duck, but Duck is clearly impeding a state thoroughfare, and the N.C. Dept. of Transportation has allowed it to do so.

J.M. Teague gave some suggestions in its report about blocking vehicles, including installing permanent physical barriers on certain roads in Southern Shores and a northbound gate on South Dogwood Trail that would open for residents and others having local business in Southern Shores, but not for non-local travelers.

The Southern Shores Citizens’ Advisory Committee on Cut-Through Traffic also submitted a recommendation that would close South Dogwood Trail to non-local traffic.

The Town Council so far has refused to tackle actual prevention of cut-through traffic by closing roads, which the Town is authorized by North Carolina law to do.

Mr. Ogburn cites “legal advice” as the reason why the South Dogwood Trail gate idea is not explored thoroughly, but, as any good attorney will tell you, there is no clear-cut legal answer, just interpretations of the case law that exists, and public safety is a strong rationale for the Town to act.

(As we see it, the issue is whether the public has a fundamental right of intra-city travel that is 1) constitutionally protected; and 2) superior to the Town’s public-safety interest. There is no U.S. Supreme Court decision that is directly on-point.)  

The extreme cut-through traffic is more than a nuisance, it’s a very real public-safety hazard. We would hate to see a tragedy force the Town Council finally to take the tough action that it is incapable of even talking about now.  

Ann G. Sjoerdsma

©2022, Ann G. Sjoerdsma

5/13/22: KITTY HAWK DID NOT SUPPORT NO-LEFT-TURN THIS SUMMER; OPENING OF 7-ELEVEN HAS INCREASED HAZARDS AT INTERSECTION, KH TOWN MANAGER SAYS; BUT TOSS TOWN COUNCIL CITED CELL-PHONE DATA, NOT KH’S LACK OF SUPPORT, FOR REASON IT ABANDONED NLT.

Do you remember this RV on Wax Myrtle Trail last Memorial Day weekend?

The Town of Kitty Hawk declined to support the no-left-turn at U.S. Hwy. 158 and South Dogwood Trail this summer because of “safety concerns,” according to Town Manager Andy Stewart, who spoke with The Beacon yesterday.

“The Council never really was for doing [the turn prohibition] to begin with,” Mr. Stewart told The Beacon, and when the opening last year of the 7-Eleven at the intersection led to “additional traffic concerns,” he said, “We didn’t want to sign off on it this year.”

The left-turn lane on U.S. 158-east is in Kitty Hawk’s jurisdiction. Before the N.C. Dept. of Transportation will authorize closure of that lane on summer weekends—as it did for a June weekend experiment in 2018, for four weekends in 2020, and for 10 weekends in 2021—both Kitty Hawk and Southern Shores have to buy in.

Southern Shores Town Manager Cliff Ogburn cited jurisdictional issues and the lack of a three-party agreement at the April 26 public forum on his cut-through traffic mitigation plan and during the Town Council’s consideration of that plan at its May 3 meeting as reasons why the Town decided not to pursue a no-left-turn this summer, but he never actually said that Kitty Hawk had refused to cooperate. He was trying to be politic.

Mayor Elizabeth Morey and members of the Town Council declined to share this information with the public, as well. It’s a vital fact that they deliberately withheld.

Instead, Councilman Matt Neal cited at the May 3 meeting—without actually explaining—cell-phone data compiled by Streetlight, for the proposition that the no-left-turn had a “big psychological impact [on residents], but not a big physical impact,” a comment that elicited an immediate agreement from Mayor Morey and one that we thought was both condescending and dismissive.

Apparently they think that those of us who have observed the cut-through traffic all weekend long, all summer long, for years and experienced relief with the no-left-turn are just getting a placebo effect from the turn prohibition. Goodness knows the data upon which they rely couldn’t possibly be suspect or wrongly interpreted by them.

STREETLIGHT DATA

Streetlight is a “mobility analytics platform,” according to online sources, that professes to put “Big Data to work for transportation planning.” Big Data apparently include location records from smartphones and GPS and other navigation devices.

The Town hired Streetlight to analyze all summertime traffic within its boundaries by its origin (west from the Wright Memorial Bridge or south from Kitty Hawk, as well as state of origin) and destination for a three summers, 2019-21. A Dare County Tourism Bureau grant paid for its study.

Mr. Neal cited Streetlight’s calculations, which are based upon the “pinging” of smartphones in vehicles traveling across the Wright Memorial Bridge and then turning at South Dogwood Trail or going straight, for proof that the turn prohibition did not curtail the cut-through traffic.    

According to Mr. Neal, 18 percent of the vehicles arriving from the bridge that had active smartphones in them, which actually pinged at cell towers (as we understand the technology), turned left at South Dogwood Trail on summer weekends in 2019, when there was no turn prohibition in effect, and 18 percent cut through in 2021, when the no-left-turn was in effect.

This statistical conclusion has a facile appeal, but it actually lacks significance, in large part because you can’t make oranges into apples.

First of all, the percentage that Streetlight provides, as we learned from Mr. Ogburn, is an average of all of the cut-through traffic “pinging” on weekends from June through August in a given year. The data cannot be broken down by specific weekends, for example, by targeting only Saturdays and Sundays in July, which is the peak month.

We met with Mr. Ogburn earlier this week, and he shared with us Streetlight’s presentation, which should be accessible on the Town website for residents to examine—with a tutorial about how to use it. We daresay no one on the Town Council, except perhaps Mr. Neal, has independently examined it.

Second of all, we’re talking about 18 percent of an unknown total number of vehicles, which, by virtue of the method of Streetlight data collection, does not include ALL vehicles. It is not far-fetched to assume that some vehicles do not have active smartphones on board. We find this fact to be a fundamental shortcoming of Streetlight’s data collection methodology.  

But back to the whole numbers: Suppose we posit that 100,000 vehicles with pinging smartphones crossed the bridge in summer 2021, and 18 percent of them turned left on South Dogwood Trail and continued on the cut-through route (according to the pinging) to get to Duck Road. That would be 18,000 vehicles cutting through; and 82,000 vehicles being deterred.

Now suppose, in 2019, the total number of vehicles was only 50,000, so the numbers are, respectively, 9,000 and 41,000.

Isn’t the fact that twice as many vehicles were deterred or prevented from turning left significant? That’s twice the burden on local law enforcement.

Had there been no turn prohibition in 2021, how many of the vehicles that stayed straight and continued on to Ocean Boulevard would have taken the cut-through route? Streetlight can’t tell you that.   

Last year was a historically successful year in Outer Banks tourism—an unprecedented full-occupancy, sold-out season. The pandemic-frustrated masses descended on our town. The comparison year of 2019 was very different.

As many of you will recall, the northbound cut-through traffic last year was so bad on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend that it backed up South Dogwood Trail to the Wright Memorial Bridge.

It was so bad that desperate vacationers circled around Circle Drive, which (as advertised) is a circular road off of Hickory Trail east of Duck Road, looking for a shortcut to Corolla. (See The Beacon, 5/29/21.)

It was so bad that for the first time ever, former Mayor Tom Bennett, who served in office from 2013 to 2021, voted in favor of the no-left-turn, calling for an emergency jumpstart of the planned implementation of the turn prohibition from the weekend of June 26-27 to June 12-13.

(In 2015 Mayor Bennett unilaterally killed the no-left-turn strategy, which emerged as a consensus suggestion from a public workshop led by a paid mediator from Raleigh. It was held at the Kitty Hawk Elementary School in October 2014, and more than 100 residents attended. (We were there.) He then consistently voted against it, preferring to do nothing to address the cut-through traffic, until the vehicular hordes of last May demanded action.)

It also should go without saying that the no-left-turn is only as effective as its enforcement. Mr. Ogburn confirmed that the U.S. 158-South Dogwood Trail intersection was lightly monitored in 2021 by Southern Shores police, who issued only 32 citations for its violation all summer. That’s an average of 1.78 tickets issued per day that the turn prohibition was in effect.

If a zero-tolerance policy had been in effect, how many more motorists would have been prevented from cutting through?   

We note that, according to Streetlight’s data, 14 percent of the vehicles that crossed the Wright Memorial Bridge in summer 2020—the pandemic summer—turned left on South Dogwood Trail. That was a summer when the no-left-turn was in effect over four weekends: June 20-21, July 4-5, July 25-26, and Aug. 1-2. My recollection is police enforcement was more intense. But, once again, you have apples and oranges.

Finally, we must point out that Streetlight’s data are only as reliable as the methodology for their collection. We would like to be advised about that methodology beyond just smartphone “pinging.”

What’s the margin for error in the data? What changes have occurred in cellular technology from 2019 to 2020 to 2021, and how do they impact data collection? Are there any experts out there who know about, and can weigh in, independently, on Streetlight’s methodology?   

***

7-ELEVEN’S IMPACT

There is no question that the opening of the 7-Eleven has altered the playing field at the 158-South Dogwood Trail intersection. It has given northbound motorists a “work-around.”

According to Town Manager Andy Stewart, this work-around has caused “additional congestion in Kitty Hawk at Woods Road,” as vacationers avoid turning left off of U.S. 158 by cutting through the 7-Eleven parking lot and emerging at Woods Road in order to approach South Dogwood Trail straight-on.

Some vacationers, Mr. Stewart observed, “ride on Woods Road” until they can turn around, rather than turning left out of the 7-Eleven, posing a safety hazard on what is a cut-through route for southbound travelers, including locals. (Woods Road connects with Kitty Hawk Road, which connects with the U.S. Hwy. 158 bypass.)

The prohibition on the left turn “doesn’t benefit the Town of Kitty Hawk at all,” the Town Manager concluded. It just causes “extra problems.”

Mr. Stewart stressed, however, that Kitty Hawk has a good relationship with the Town of Southern Shores and wants to cooperate with Southern Shores in the future.

With the 7-Eleven work-around exacerbating intersection conditions, and with motorists flagrantly violating the left-turn prohibition, he characterized this traffic mitigation option as “an accident waiting to happen.”

***

We will continue our analysis of the Town Council’s response at its May 3 meeting to Mr. Ogburn’s proposed summer traffic mitigation plan in our next installment, which we will post tomorrow.

As of this writing, Mr. Ogburn is prepared to set up northbound-lane “Local Traffic Only” barriers, which the police have no authority to enforce, at seven locations along the South Dogwood Trail cut-through route and at Juniper Trail past the Food Lion entrance, on the June 4-5 weekend.

A ninth barrier may be installed on the northbound lane of Ocean Boulevard, at the Duck Road split, near the cell tower. The Town Council rejected Mr. Ogburn’s recommendation that Ocean Boulevard be closed in both directions at this location.

Mr. Ogburn has been given authority by the Town Council to purchase more “substantial” barriers than the ones erected at the same locations last summer, but it is questionable whether he will have the time to order them, receive them, and then have them up by June 4.

The only road that may be closed for some time on summer weekends is Hickory Trail at its intersection with East Dogwood Trail. We will write more about this option in our next installment.

Again, we urge all residents to view the 27-minute discussion about the traffic plan on May 3 by the Town Manager and the Town Council at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Tyu9o67ikU. It begins at the 45-minute mark and ends at the 1 hour-12-minute mark.

To be continued.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma

©2022, Ann G. Sjoerdsma

5/10/22: TOWN MANAGER RECOMMENDS $8.7 MILLION FY 2022-23 BUDGET WITH NO TAX INCREASES; PLUS REACTION TO THE TOWN COUNCIL’S REACTION TO CUT-THROUGH TRAFFIC MITIGATION. (New Recycling Day Starting in June)

Town Manager Cliff Ogburn last week filed a recommended fiscal year 2022-23 budget for Southern Shores of $8,706,138, which does not include an increase in general property or beach nourishment taxes.

Mr. Ogburn’s FY 2022-23 budget shows a shortfall between revenues and expenditures of $312,671, which he proposes to make up by appropriating that amount from the Town’s Unassigned Fund Balance, not by raising taxes.

Although the Town’s Unassigned or “Undesignated” Fund Balance (UFB) is designed to be used for emergency expenses and capital projects, not for annual operating expenses, it has been tapped repeatedly to balance the budget. Last year the Town transferred $1,270,519 from the UFB to the budget, $750,000 of it to be used for beach nourishment debt.

The last accounting of the UFB occurred in 2021 and showed a balance of $5.189 million.

The FY 2022-23 budget is the second largest budget ever proposed by a Southern Shores Town Manager and the largest budget ever recommended for general fund operating expenses. The overall increase in operating fund expenses since the FY 21-22 budget is 7 percent. (The FY 2021-22 budget bottom line was $115,152 higher.)

Proposed operating expenses for all of the Town’s departments, except Public Works, have increased since last fiscal year, as follows:

The FY 2022-23 expenses that Mr. Ogburn recommends for the Administration Department have increased 10 percent; the Planning and Code Enforcement Dept.’s expenses have increased 28 percent; and the Streets, Bridges, and Canals budget has increased 11 percent.

Expenses of the other Town departments (all of which are listed below) have increased by from 3 to 5 percent, except Public Works, whose expenses have declined by 1 percent.  (See p. 9 of the proposed budget.)  

The projected expenses in the next fiscal year are:

*Administration Dept.: $1,204,812 (Salaries and benefits account for $634,087, operating costs for the remaining $570,725.)

*Planning and Code Enforcement Dept.: $416,977 (Salaries and benefits account for $315,827, operating costs for $101,150.)

*Police Dept.: $2,095.491 (Salaries and benefits account for $1,612,092, operating costs for the remaining $483,399.)

*Streets, Bridges, and Canals: $2,281, 164 (This sum includes $1 million for the first year of a 10-year Capital Improvement Plan that is designed to maintain street pavement; and $1,202,939 for payment of the beach nourishment debt. The Public Works Dept. administers this budget.)

*Public Works Dept.: $619,896 (Salaries and benefits account for $435,035 and operating expenses for $184,861.)

*Sanitation Services: $879,555 (These expenses cover solid waste disposal, a landfill tipping fee (of $250,000!), and recycling, limb and branch, and large item collections.

*Fire Contracted Service: $1,004,243 (The SSVFD is a non-profit corporation. The Town pays SSVFD $665,223 for contracted fire protection and $314,020 for the construction debt on its new fire station. The Town agreed to pay a debt of $5,419,223 over 25 years at 3.71 percent interest. This is the third year of the loan.)

*Ocean Rescue Contracted Service: $184,000

*Capital Reserve Fund transfer for canals: $20,000

LAND USE PLAN UPDATE: We are pleased to see that the Town Manager has recommended spending $80,000, itemized in the Planning and Code Enforcement Dept. budget, to update the current Land Use Plan, which was adopted in 2012, but is based on 2005 data. The N.C. Coastal Resources Commission declined to certify the plan when the then-Town Manager submitted it because of inadequacies, which were not quickly addressed, hence the time gap between data collection and certification.

Had a post-election reconstituted three-person majority on a previous Town Council not reversed itself in 2018 on a budgetary appropriation for an updated LUP, this essential process/plan would already have been done—at half the cost.   

Today’s Southern Shores is radically different from the Southern Shores of 2005, which did not have cut-through traffic, Airbnb rentals, houses on 50-foot-wide lots, “minihotels,” and a beach nourishment project. According to Mr. Ogburn’s budget report, the year-round population of Southern Shores in 2000 was 2,201; in 2020, it was 3,054.

The Town Council will meet at 9 a.m. next Tuesday, May 17, in the SSVFD fire station on South Dogwood Trail for a budget workshop. A public hearing on the budget will be held during the Council’s June 7 regular meeting. Under state law, the Town Council must approve a FY 2022-23 budget by June 30.

You may access the recommended budget at: https://www.dropbox.com/s/5w8yu0ummia1851/TM%20BUDGET%20FY%2022-23%2020220503111047373.pdf?dl=0

TRAFFIC MITIGATION THIS SUMMER

We are still reeling from watching the Town Council’s 27-minute consideration of Mr. Ogburn’s traffic mitigation plan at last Tuesday’s meeting. We were unable to attend the meeting, so we had to catch up belatedly by videotape—and then we had to take a few days to cool off and some more time to do research.

(For background on the plan, see The Beacon, 4/27/22 and 4/29/22.)

You would be forgiven if, after viewing the 27-minute segment, which begins at the 45-minute mark of the meeting videotape, you concluded that none of the five Town Council members—four elected and one appointed—actually lives in Southern Shores. Certainly, none seemed very interested or enthusiastic about helping residents plagued by cut-through traffic.

Chicahauk homeowner Mark Batenic, who was appointed in January to complete Mayor Elizabeth Morey’s unexpired term on the Town Council, actually asked: “What happens if we do nothing?”

As of this writing, Mr. Ogburn has authority to do what he did last summer with “closing” residential roads in the dunes to “local traffic only” in a northbound direction, using the same type of barrier (see photo at top) that he used a year ago. He also may decide to close both lanes of Hickory Trail on Saturdays at its intersection with East Dogwood Trail. Councilwoman Paula Sherlock discouraged the Friday-afternoon-to-Monday-morning closure of Hickory that Mr. Ogburn proposed.

The Town Council easily dismissed closing outlets from Sea Oats Trail, Eleventh Avenue, Hillcrest Drive, and Hickory Trail on to Duck Road–in what members were calling “cul de sacs”–and rejected the closure of Ocean Boulevard at the cell tower/Duck Road split.

No other cut-through traffic prevention measures on the roads are being contemplated, just public relations and marketing designed to persuade vacationers traveling to the northern beaches to stay on U.S. 158 and N.C. Hwy. 12.

We will expound upon our analysis later in the week in an editorial concerning the Council’s comments and actions at its meeting. We had to do some homework first.

In the meantime, we urge you to view the 27 minutes at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Tyu9o67ikU.

NEW RECYCLING DAY STARTING IN JUNE

The Town recycling pick-up day will become Friday, starting June 3. The last Wednesday pickup will be May 25.

Friday trash collection will start June 3 and continue until Labor Day weekend. There will be no change in the Monday trash pickup.

MAY 17 PRIMARY ELECTION

The polls for the May 17 primary election will be open from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. Southern Shores voters will vote in the Pitts Center, not the Kitty Hawk Elementary School.

Early voting continues this week, from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. through Friday, and then Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Kill Devil Hills Town Hall  

(For background, see The Beacon, 5/2/22.)

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 5/10/22

5/2/22: REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES DOMINATE MAY 17 PRIMARY; EARLY VOTING IS ON-GOING; ‘UNAFFILIATED’ SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATES NEED SIGNATURES TO GET ON NOV. BALLOT.  

Marie Russell of Kitty Hawk needs the signatures of 1,200-plus Dare voters on petitions to appear on the November ballot as an Unaffiliated candidate for the Dare County Board of Education. Ms. Russell seeks to represent the BOE’s District 3, which includes Southern Shores.

Except for candidate selections for the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, the May 17 primary is a Republican affair in Dare County. Many of the winning Republican Party primary candidates for local offices will not have Democratic opposition in November.

“One-stop” early voting for the primary began last Thursday and runs through 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 14, with next weekend excepted. The closest voting site for registered voters who reside in Southern Shores is Kill Devil Hills Town Hall.

For election information, including the hours of operation for all early-voting polling sites, see https://www.darenc.com/departments/elections/election-information.

Here’s how the primary election shapes up:

Registered Democrats in Dare County—and “Unaffiliated” voters who choose to vote in the Democratic primary—have only two choices on their ballot: They can vote for one person among the 11 candidates running for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Senator Richard Burr, who is retiring; and choose between two candidates running for the U.S. House, District 3, for the seat now held by Republican Dr. Greg Murphy.

See the Democratic Party Primary Sample Ballot here: https://www.darenc.com/home/showpublisheddocument/10825/637838236119270000

In contrast, registered Republicans in Dare have a choice of 14 candidates for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate; five candidates for the Republication nomination for the U.S. House, District 3, including the incumbent Dr. Murphy, as well as choices in other statewide and local primary races.

Republicans will decide who represents Dare County in the N.C. House of Representatives and the N.C. Senate. There are no Democratic challengers.

As a result of the legislative redistricting—a legal challenge to which delayed the primary from March to May—Dare County has been split into two newly drawn districts for the N.C. House of Representatives. The dividing line goes through Kill Devil Hills, such that voters who live north of the line are in N.C. House District 1, and voters who live south of the line are in N.C. House District 79. All Dare County voters are in a newly drawn Senate District 1.

Republican incumbent Ed Goodwin of Edenton, who represents voters in the currently drawn District 1, is running unopposed for the new House District 1 seat, which represents northern Dare. Republican incumbent Keith Kidwell, who represents voters in the currently drawn District 79 (Beauford and Craven counties) is running against Ed Hege of New Bern for the new House District 79 seat, which represents southern Dare.

Republican Bobby Hanig, who currently represents all of Dare County in what is now District 6 of the N.C. House, is vying for Senate District 3, which includes Currituck County, but not Dare. Mr. Hanig has no primary election opposition, but he will face a Democratic challenger in November.  

As if these changes were not confusing enough, the redistricting has resulted in two Republican incumbents competing against each other for the newly drawn N.C. Senate District 1 seat. State Senator Norman Sanderson of Minnesott Beach, who currently serves the second Senate district, which includes Carteret, Craven, and Pamlico counties, and State Senator Bob Steinburg of Edenton, who currently serves in District 1, which includes Dare and Currituck, among other counties, will face off in the primary. The winner will have no Democratic opposition in November.

Republicans also will vote upon a N.C. Supreme Court associate justice position; two N.C. Court of Appeals judgeships (the Court of Appeals is the intermediate appellate court; 15 judges sit on it); and one N.C. district court judgeship (District 1, which includes Dare), which is currently held by Jennifer Bland.

Judge Bland, who was appointed by Governor Roy Cooper when she was a registered Democrat, switched her party affiliation weeks after taking office. She has two Republican Party opponents: B.J. McAvoy and Jeff Moreland. The primary victor will not face opposition in November.

All of the winning primary candidates for the appellate judgeships will have opposition in the general election.  

Republicans will choose between two candidates for the office of at large commissioner on the Dare County Board of Commissioners. Incumbent At Large Commissioner Ervin Bateman, who previously ran as a Democrat and switched parties last year, is running against Republican Mike Burrus. The winner of their race will face Democrat Heather Euler in November.

Republicans will determine the successor of retiring District 1 District Attorney Andrew Womble, choosing between two candidates, Jeff Cruden and Kim Pellini, each of whom currently serves in the DA’s Office. Mr. Womble is running for Dare County Superior Court against incumbent Judge Eula Reid, a Democrat, in November.

See the Republican Party Primary Sample Ballot that includes N.C. House District 1 here: https://www.darenc.com/home/showpublisheddocument/10829/637840632309870000

See the Republican Party Primary Sample Ballot that includes N.C. House District 79 here: https://www.darenc.com/home/showpublisheddocument/10827/637840631925500000

For biographical material about candidates, consult The League of Women Voters’ Vote 411 guide at https://www.vote411.org.

‘UNAFFILIATED’ CANDIDATES FOR DARE SCHOOL BOARD NEED 1200+ VOTERS’ SIGNATURES TO GET NAMES ON NOV. BALLOT

Although not a factor in the May 17 primary, three seats on the seven-member Dare County Board of Education (BOE) are up for election this year, and a Republican has filed for each one. None of these candidates is facing Democratic opposition, but there are two Dare County women who are trying to get on the November ballot as Unaffiliated candidates for two of the open seats.

They are Marie Russell, of Kitty Hawk, who is vying for the BOE’s District 3 seat, which includes Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, and Duck; and Jessica Fearns, of Colington, who is seeking the District 2 seat, which includes Kill Devil Hills, Colington, and Nags Head.

To qualify to have their names appear on the general election ballot, Ms. Russell and Ms. Fearns each must obtain the signatures of 4.0 percent of Dare County’s registered voters on petitions and submit them to the county Board of Elections for validation by noon on May 17.

This percentage computes to about 1,200 ink signatures for each candidate.

Dare County Board of Education elections became partisan in 2018 as the result of legislation ratified by the two houses of the N.C. General Assembly. Because the bill effecting the change was “local”—meaning that it applied to fewer than 15 counties in the state—it did not go to Governor Roy Cooper, who likely would have vetoed it. The bill became law upon ratification.

In order for Unaffiliated candidates to have their names on the ballot in a partisan election, N.C. law requires them to secure nomination by petition. (See N.C. General Statutes sec. 163-122(a)(3).)

If successful, Ms. Russell, who is a substitute teacher and businessperson with three children in the Dare schools, would face Republican Matt Brauer. Ms. Fearns, who is a substitute teacher and real estate agent with one child in the local schools, would face Republican Ron Payne.  (For more information about both candidates, see The Outer Banks Voice, 4/16/22, “Dare Ed Hopefuls Battle for the Ballot,” and the candidates’ Facebook pages at https://www.facebook.com/MarieforBOE and https://www.facebook.com/jessicafearnsforBOE.)

Margaret Lawler of Southern Shores currently serves as BOE District 3 representative, and Joe Tauber of Kill Devil Hills holds the District 2 seat. Both chose not to seek re-election.

The Beacon supports choice and competition in elections. If you would like to sign the petitions of either candidate or both, you may write to us at ssbeaconeditor@gmail.com and request that someone contact you. Please include your name, address, and mobile phone number.

Your signature on a petition signifies only that you support including the candidate’s name on the November ballot. It is not a vote.

Ms. Russell and Ms. Fearns also will be appearing with their petitions at the following venues in the next week:

Wed., May 4: 7:45 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. at Ashley’s Espresso Parlour, 100 E. Helga St., KDH (at the corner of Helga and U.S. 158).

Wed., May 4: 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Starbucks in the Southern Shores Marketplace.

Sat., May 7: noon to 2 p.m. at the 2022 Artrageous Kids Arts Festival at Dowdy Park in Nags Head. The candidates will be walking around the park.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 5/2/22