11/6/19: TOWN COUNCIL ELECTION: NEAL, MOREY WIN RESOUNDINGLY; HOLLAND TAKES THIRD SEAT

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Town Council newcomers Matthew Neal and Elizabeth Morey won resounding victories in yesterday’s election of three Council seats, receiving nearly 900 votes each.

Former Town Councilman Leo Holland, with 625 votes, won the third seat.

Incumbent Councilman Fred Newberry placed fourth with 508 places. Thirty-four write-in votes were also cast.

Mr. Neal is a Southern Shores native and local builder, and Ms. Morey is a self-employed political consultant who has been a member of the Town Planning Board for eight years. She currently serves as Board chairperson.

The percentage of the total votes cast and the number of votes received by each candidate were as follows:

Neal: 30.39% (896 votes)

Morey: 30.023% (885 votes)

Holland: 21.20% (625 votes)

Newberry: 17.23% (508 votes)

Write-in: 1.15% (34 votes)

By now all of you probably know the election results. I was victimized by a computer crash and other IT problems last night–during and after an election party–and could not post the vote totals last night, as promised. I apologize. The results were available within minutes after the polls closed at 7:30 p.m.

According to the N.C. State Board of Elections, the voter turnout in Dare County was 26 percent. As soon as I know the turnout in Southern Shores, I will publish it.

The State Board did report that of Mr. Neal’s 896 votes, 637 were cast on Election Day; 255 were cast in one-stop “early” voting; and four arrived by mailed-in absentee ballots. The comparable figures for the other three candidates are as follows:

Morey: 885; 612 (Election Day); 269 (early); four (by mail);

Holland: 625; 434 (Election Day); 191 (early); zero (by mail);

Newberry: 508; 386 (Election Day); 116 (early); six (by mail);

Write-in: 34; 26 (Election Day); seven (early); one (by mail).

No candidates running in a contested Southern Shores Town Council election have ever polled numbers as high as Mr. Neal and Ms. Morey did. The vote totals for all of the candidates were unusually high.

I would guesstimate that the turnout, counting all methods of voting, was somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,050 to 1,100 people. When I obtained a count about 3:30 p.m. on Election Day, 617 people had voted on-site. That number, combined with the 304 people reported to have voted early, brought the turnout total to over 900. According to two of the candidates, voters trickled off in the late hours after the rains arrived.

Everyone on The Beacon advisory board and I congratulate the three winners and wish them well during their four-year terms, which start in December.

DON’T FORGET: The Town Council will meet today, 5:30 p.m., in the Pitts Center for its regularly scheduled monthly meeting. See The Beacon’s report on 11/4/19 for a preview of the agenda. 

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 11/6/19

 

 

11/4/19: TOWN COUNCIL MEETING WED.: OUTTEN & WOODARD TO ADDRESS BEACH NOURSHMENT; 2018-19 AUDIT, S. DOGWOOD TRAIL SIDEWALK CONTRACT, PUBLIC HEARING ON ZTA 19-02 ALSO ON AGENDA. Traffic Committee to Hold Public Forum Nov. 19

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The Beacon took this photograph of the calm before Hurricane Dorian at the popular East Dogwood Trail beach access. Dare County officials will speak to the Town Council at its Wednesday meeting about their experience with beach nourishment.

Dare County Manager and Attorney Bobby Outten and Dare County Board of Commissioners Chairman Bob Woodard will speak to the Town Council Wednesday about their first-hand experience with beach nourishment on the Dare beaches, as Council members again consider whether to commit Southern Shores to an estimated $14 to $16 million nourishment project that would occur in 2022.

The Town Council will meet for its regular monthly meeting Wednesday, 5:30 p.m., at the Pitts Center—the day after three Council members are elected to serve from 2019 to 2023. The new Council will take office in December.

Check with The Beacon for election returns on Tuesday night. The polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Mr. Outten and Mr. Woodard headline a top-heavy Town Council agenda that also features the presentation of the 2018-19 audit by Teresa Osborne of Dowdy and Osborne; consideration of the three bids submitted by contractors for the construction of the South Dogwood Trail sidewalk project; and a public hearing on Zoning Text Amendment 19-02, which proposes changes in the Town Code building height and fill requirements.

Because the contract bids are included, the packet for Wednesday’s meeting is voluminous. It does not include Ms. Osborne’s audit, however, which is being submitted to Council members in paper form only. You may access the meeting packet here:

https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/minutes-agendas-newsletters/Meeting-Packet_2019-11-06.pdf.

Here is the agenda: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/minutes-agendas-newsletters/Agendas_2019-11-06.pdf.

The invitation to Mr. Outten and Mr. Woodard to appear Wednesday for what has been described as an information session arose out of a discussion that the Town Council had at its October meeting. Councilman Gary McDonald, in particular, expressed an interest in knowing more about the process involved in a beach-nourishment project, including how the County determines which towns receive available county monies that are set aside from collected occupancy taxes in a beach nourishment fund.

The Town opened all contractors’ bids on the South Dogwood Trail sidewalk construction project Oct. 3. They include:

  • $623,839.35, from Hatchell Concrete, Inc., of Manteo, which is a family-owned business
  • $819,710.00, from RPC Contracting, Inc., a contractor that the Town has frequently hired for infrastructure projects
  • $975,862.80, from Belvin Built General Contracting, Inc., of Powells Point

A fourth bid, submitted by Barnhill Contracting Co., was disqualified because it was incomplete.

Earlier this year, the Council voted 3-2 to appropriate $1 million from the Town’s undesignated fund balance for the sidewalk project because the capital improvement budget has insufficient funds to pay for it. Town Engineer Joseph J. Anlauf estimated a base-bid range on the project of between $862,127.19 and $1,034,552.62, according to the Town’s bid documentation.

Regardless of which contractor the Town Council chooses for the job, it is expected that the Town will receive some funding from Dare County for the project—perhaps as much as 50 percent of the total cost. (The Beacon has not perused the contractors’ proposals.)

The Beacon covered the opening of the bids in a post 10/5/19. In that same post, we recalled some of the Town’s past municipal elections and wrote the following:

“The Town Council election The Beacon finds the most intriguing was a November 2009 face-off between George Kowalski and Brian McDonald, who was then the incumbent. Mr. Kowalski beat Mr. McDonald by two votes! Even more stunning: Mr. Kowalski was a write-in candidate.”

We asked a month ago if anyone could “fill in the blanks” on this election, and several people did contact The Beacon. What we were told is that Mr. McDonald was allegedly targeted for defeat because he aligned himself with controversial former Mayor Don Smith, and that Mr. Kowalski had the strong backing of the Southern Shores Volunteer Fire Dept., which has long been a player in municipal elections.

Mr. Kowalski’s write-in victory is all the more astonishing to us because it occurred in the era of one-stop, no-excuse absentee voting, now known simply as “early voting.” For a history of absentee voting in North Carolina, see https://canons.sog.unc.edu/early-voting-in-north-carolina/. Early voting has been available in North Carolina in all elections since 2001.

A write-in campaign would have to be extremely well-organized to get a jump on early voting, which started Oct. 16 for the Nov. 5 municipal elections.

ZTA 19-02: HEIGHT AND FILL

Local builder and Town Council candidate Matt Neal has referred often in his public comments before both the Council and the Planning Board to Southern Shores being “90 percent built out.” Many of the undeveloped lots that are left, Mr. Neal has said, are the dregs—our word—that is, irregular lots that often defy flatness or are bowl-like and are not easily built upon.

It is largely for this reason that the Planning Board decided to research and discuss “potential amendments to the Town’s current building height and fill requirements,” as Interim Town Manager/Planning Director Wes Haskett explains in an Oct. 29, 2019 staff report to the Town Council that is included in Wednesday’s meeting packet.

Zoning Text Amendment 19-02 comes out of the Board’s research and discussions. The ZTA leaves intact the Town’s 35-foot building height restriction—which applies to all uses except for country clubs, churches, and school facilities—but changes the means by which it is calculated so as to help owners of low-lying properties and to simplify and clarify requirements. The ZTA also defines what material may be used as lot fill, among other Code refinements.

Currently, the Town Code addresses building height and the use of fill for elevation in the RS-1 single-family residential district, where most of us live, according to the property’s flood zone. Proposed ZTA 19-02 eliminates these provisions, which are in 36-202(d)(7), replacing them with the following language:

“Maximum building height shall be 35 feet, measured from the average of the existing, undisturbed grade at the building corners. If the average of the existing, undisturbed grade at the corners of the building is less than 8 feet above mean sea level, the maximum building height may be measured from up to 8 feet above mean sea level.”

The current Code regulation uses seven feet MSL as a standard and speaks of the use of fill or the redistribution of fill for bolstering elevation. ZTA 19-02 deals with fill separately in Code sec. 36-171(1). It also adds to the Code zoning definitions, in sec. 36-57, the following definition for “fill material”:

“. . . material that is of substantially similar composition to the soils present on the lot being filled and shall not include debris, organic material, or be finished with soils or materials that will adversely affect the absorption of precipitation. Materials for landscaping shall not be included in this definition.”

Currently, the Town Code specifies top-plate height restrictions in all of the other zoned residential districts, which include RS-8 multifamily; RS-10 (high-density); and R-1 low density, and in the commercial district. Proposed ZTA 19-02 eliminates the top-plate and lowest-corner requirements from all of these districts, replacing them with the maximum building height calculation language quoted above—except for country clubs, churches, and schools, where the building height, but not its calculation, differs.

The maximum building height for principal buildings that make up country clubs and churches is 65 feet. For school facilities, the maximum height is 55 feet.

ZTA 19-02 also contains a height exemption—from the 35-foot building maximum—for “decorative cupolas” and “ornamental watch towers” atop banks that have street frontage on U.S. Hwy. 158, but are not in the Martin’s Point area.

This exemption is expressly designed to address the existing cupola at TowneBank’s branch building at 1 Juniper Trail, which the Town previously granted an exception, according to Mr. Haskett.

Section 6(b)(1) of ZTA 19-02 would allow banks fronting on Hwy. 158 in Southern Shores to have cupolas or water towers extending up to 15 feet above their rooflines, which must peak at 35 feet.

TowneBank abuts an RS-1 single-family residential district. The other banks in Southern Shores along Hwy. 158—Wells Fargo and First National Bank—are exclusively in the Town’s commercial district.

After Planning Board first alternate Tony DiBernardo, who was serving in place of absent regular Board member Ed Lawler, raised an objection to this exemption at the Board’s Oct. 21 meeting, the Board voted unanimously to recommend ZTA 19-02 without section 6(b)(1).

See The Beacon’s report 10/29/19 for background. You may access the ZTA here: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/10-18-19-ZTA-19-02-Building-Height-FIll-1.pdf.

The Beacon missed an earlier Planning Board meeting during which ZTA 19-02 was discussed, and the topic of retaining walls came up. The topic came up again at the Board’s October meeting, and the Board decided to consider amending the current retaining wall regulation, Town Code sec. 36-97, to address walls constructed for the exclusive purpose of retaining fill material above naturally occurring grades.

Town Code sec. 36-97, provides that “within or abutting any residential district,” a retaining wall “shall” not exceed six feet in height.

The Board will begin its discussion of retaining walls at its Nov. 18 meeting.

PUBLIC FORUM ON TRAFFIC . . . The Exploratory Committee to Address Cut-Through Traffic will hold a public forum on Tues., Nov. 19, at 5:30 p.m., in the Pitts Center. Town Councilman Fred Newberry is the Town Council’s sponsor of this committee, and homeowner Tommy Karole is the committee chairperson.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 11/4/19

10/29/19: THE BEACON ENDORSES MATT NEAL, FRED NEWBERRY FOR TOWN COUNCIL: Both Have Upcoming Events Open to the Public; Plus A LOT More Town Business

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The Southern Shores Beacon endorses Matt Neal, co-owner of Neal Contracting LLC, and Town Councilman Fred Newberry for election to the Town Council on Nov. 5. We believe both are outstanding candidates who will lead the town forward, decisively and intelligently, and with equanimity and fairness.

Both Mr. Neal and Mr. Newberry care deeply about the town and the people who live here and will work together to serve both well.

MATTHEW NEAL, 36, is a Southern Shores native—third generation, he says—who has shown in numerous public comments before the Southern Shores Planning Board and the Town Council that he is committed to environmental and historic preservation and smart growth. In fact, he played a critical role in formulating the new Town ordinance that limits overnight occupancy and septic capacity in vacation cottages to 14 persons.

Mr. Neal is very familiar with the letter and application of the Town zoning code: Had the Planning Board and Council listened to him, The Beacon believes the nonconforming lots imbroglio, which has yet to be fully resolved, may not have occurred. Even now he can offer a solution that will protect both the Town and those property owners who did not benefit from the Council’s recently enacted zoning amendment.

Mr. Neal and his wife and business partner, Rachel Neal, and two small children live in a modernized flat top on Wax Myrtle Trail.

We have been very impressed with Mr. Neal’s wealth of knowledge about zoning, stormwater problems, and other development issues of concern to Southern Shores property owners, and with his quick thinking. He is well-informed and prepared to address any matter that comes before the Town Council with thoughtfulness and practical reason. He also has leadership skills.

In truth, Mr. Neal, who has been the president of the Outer Banks Home Builders Assn. for the past two years, had to win us over. We were skeptical about having an active builder on the Town Council, especially one who has participated in the OBHBA’s legislative lobbying efforts. But Mr. Neal’s devotion to his hometown, his knowledge of seemingly every inch of Southern Shores, and his balanced viewpoints have convinced us that he would be a tremendous asset on the Council.

As Mr. Neal said at the Oct. 7 candidate forum, he has “a lot to offer.”

His term as OBHBA president expires in December.

Mr. Neal’s campaign is hosting a candidate meet-and-greet tomorrow night (Oct. 30) from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Duck Woods Country Club. You do not need an invitation to attend, but Mr. Neal asks that you RSVP at matt@electmattneal.com, so that the club will have an accurate guest count for the drinks and light refreshments being served.

COUNCILMAN FRED NEWBERRY, 71, who was first elected in 2015, has made and is making inroads on the Town Council in terms of dealing with the cut-through traffic, which is a top priority of residents, and of planning and budgeting for the town’s future. Mr. Newberry is seeking to ensure that all necessary projects–especially infrastructure projects–get done without the need to raise real-estate taxes.

We believe that Councilman Newberry, whose campaign slogan is “I work for you,” should be returned to office so that he may continue his progressive efforts.

Mr. Newberry is very much of a democrat—with a small “d”—not an autocrat. He is committed to giving the public, his constituents, a strong voice in the Town Council’s decision-making.

Mr. Newberry and his wife, Debbie Newberry, live on North Dogwood Trail and own a modest rental house on Ocean Boulevard.

Councilman Newberry has made reducing the cut-through traffic a primary goal of his campaign. He currently is sponsoring a citizens’ committee to study the problem and to recommend solutions that “work for everyone,” he said. Mr. Newberry expects the committee’s conclusions to be presented to the new Town Council in December.

Councilman Newberry spearheaded with Councilman Gary McDonald, who decided not to run for re-election, the no-left-turn (NLT) weekend trial that was held in June 2018 and was largely viewed as a success by Southern Shores residents, even those who live on Duck Road.

Both councilmen considered the NLT trial an opportunity for an assessment of the effects that the restriction would have on traffic cutting through on residential streets in town, including in Chicahauk, over one June weekend, not as a “one-and-done” experiment.

Councilman Newberry also has come out in favor of a case-by-case approach to doing beach nourishment in Southern Shores, as was done in 2017 when the beach in front of Pelican Watch, next to the Kitty Hawk Pier, was re-nourished.

The Committee to Elect Fred Newberry is holding a candidate meet-and-greet on Sunday, Nov. 3, from noon to 3 p.m., at 148 Ocean Blvd., which is just north of the cell tower on the beach road. The event is open to the public. Drinks and light refreshments will be served.

THIRD COUNCIL SEAT: The Beacon is aware, of course, that voters will be electing three people to the Town Council on Nov. 5, and that candidates Leo Holland, 78, and Elizabeth Morey, 60, also are vying for a seat. Mr. Holland served on the Town Council from 2013-17 and elected not to run for re-election two years ago. Ms. Morey has served on the Planning Board for eight years and has been its chairperson since January. She has only recently started attending Town Council meetings.

Ms. Morey is an effective communicator and dedicated public servant whom The Beacon likes, but currently cannot support.

Mr. Holland is a nice man who has not displayed the independent-mindedness and preparation that The Beacon considers essential to its candidate endorsements.

For more on both candidates, see The Beacon’s reports on 10/11/19 and 10/13/19 about the Oct. 7 candidate forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Dare County. You may watch a video of the event here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_N6ukMB8l1Y&t=4814s.)

WRITE-IN CANDIDATE: Earlier The Beacon reported hearing rumors that a grass-roots write-in campaign had formed. Although some voters have urged a write-in vote to re-elect Councilman Gary McDonald, who initially filed for re-election, but then withdrew, Mr. McDonald has informed The Beacon that he personally has not launched a campaign. When we asked if he would serve if he were to be elected by write-in, Mr. McDonald said he would.

ELECTION DAY: The polls will be open at the Kern Pitts Center on Nov. 5, from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. 

EARLY VOTING continues today through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Kill Devil Hills Town Hall and the Dare County Administration Building in Manteo.

The four Southern Shores Town Council candidates’ names appear on the ballot in alphabetical order. You will find a sample ballot here: https://www.darenc.com/home/showdocument?id=5809

TOWN PLANNING BOARD AND TOWN COUNCIL BUSINESS

Planning Board Unanimously Approves Amended ZTA on Lot Fill, Building Height, Rejecting Bank Cupola Exemption; Will Look at Retaining Walls 

As expected, the Town Planning Board unanimously approved on Oct. 21 proposed Zoning Text Amendment 19-02, which changes the means by which the 35-foot maximum building height is calculated and defines what material may be used as lot fill—among other Town Code refinements—but only after recommending that a section of the ZTA concerning banks fronting on U.S. Hwy. 158 be stricken.

The proposed height-calculation change reflects a recognition that many of the remaining undeveloped lots in town are irregular in topography.

Planning Board First Alternate Tony DiBernardo, serving in place of absent regular Board member Ed Lawler, objected to a height exemption in ZTA 19-02 for “decorative cupolas” and “ornamental watch towers” atop banks that have street frontage on U.S. Hwy. 158, but are not in the Martin’s Point area.

John Finelli represents the extraterritorial jurisdiction, aka ETJ, of Martin’s Point, on the Planning Board. Over the summer Mr. Finelli submitted to the Board written comments about changes to the Town’s building height and lot fill requirements that its members were discussing. His comments included a recommendation that banks not be given special treatment.

See Finelli comments at https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Height-and-Fill_Finelli-comments.pdf.

Section 6(b)(1) of ZTA 19-02 would allow banks fronting on Hwy. 158 in Southern Shores to have cupolas or water towers extending up to 15 feet above their rooflines, which must peak at 35 feet. This provision is expressly designed to accommodate the existing cupola at TowneBank’s branch building at 1 Juniper Trail.

TowneBank abuts an RS-1 single-family residential district. The other banks in Southern Shores along Hwy. 158—Wells Fargo and First National Bank—are exclusively in the Town’s commercial district.

After first inquiring whether TowneBank’s cupola could be “grandfathered in,” rather than accorded a Code exemption that would apply to all banks fronting on Hwy. 158, Mr. DiBernardo stated that he could see no reason why a bank should be permitted to exceed the 35-foot height limit.

“There’s no function to [the height extension] other than decorative,” he said. “I don’t understand the purpose to it.”

Interim Town Manager and Planning Director Wes Haskett replied that the purpose was “purely aesthetic” and said that he would speak with the Town Attorney if “you want to explore grandfathering.” The Board indicated it did.

“Do we want more banks with cupolas or do we not?” asked Board Chairperson Elizabeth Morey.

Envisioning a cupola atop each of the other two banks in Southern Shores that currently front on Hwy. 158 and atop other future banks that may be built in the commercial area, Planning Board members made it clear that they do not.

The Beacon missed an earlier Planning Board meeting during which ZTA 19-02 was discussed, and the topic of retaining walls came up. In his written comments, Mr. Finelli recommended that retaining walls constructed “for the exclusive purpose of retaining fill material above naturally occurring grades” be limited to two feet in height.

Southern Shores homeowner Doug Boulter sparked a renewal of the Board’s discussion about retaining walls when he addressed them in his public comments. He said he thought a 30-inch retaining wall “in the setback area” was “more than reasonable.” Mr. Finelli also prefers a 30-inch wall, according to his comments.

The current retaining wall regulation, Town Code sec. 36-97, provides that “within or abutting any residential district,” a retaining wall “shall” not exceed six feet in height.

“I know what the back lot of a six-foot retaining wall looks like,” said Planning Board Vice-Chairperson Andy Ward, “and it’s not pretty.”

The Board agreed to “revisit” the subject of retaining walls, starting at its Nov. 18 meeting. Town Council candidate Matt Neal suggested to the Board that the subject merited many meetings because of the possibility of causing “unintended consequences” if a proposed amendment to sec. 36-97 is not carefully considered and drafted.

THE TOWN COUNCIL MEETS NOV. 6, 5:30 P.M., IN PITTS CENTER    

The Town Council will hold a public hearing on ZTA 19-02 at its Nov. 6 meeting, which features several important items on the agenda, including a presentation of the annual Town audit, possible selection of a contractor for the South Dogwood Trail sidewalk project, and a discussion about the beach nourishment process with Dare County Manager Bobby Outten and Dare County Board of Commissioners Chairman Bob Woodward.

The Beacon will preview the meeting in more detail in a blog over the weekend or next Monday. Newly elected Town Council representatives will not be sworn in until Dec. 3.

You may access the meeting agenda here: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/minutes-agendas-newsletters/Agendas_2019-11-06.pdf.

AND FINALLY . . . NOV. 15 IS BULK TRASH PICKUP DAY: For dos and don’ts, see https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/?s=bulk+waste+collection.

CORRECTION, THIS JUST IN . . . SSCA President Rod McCaughey has called a special general membership meeting on Nov. 21, 7 p.m., at the Pitts Center, for the purpose of finalizing the votes on the 2020 SSCA budget and the proposed changes to the bylaws. Both of these items were tabled at the SSCA’s Oct. 14 general membership meeting.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 10/29/19

10/20/19: PROPERTY INSURANCE: TOP N.C. INSURANCE OFFICIAL TO SPEAK TUESDAY ABOUT COVERAGE, FLOODS, ETC., AT FREE EVENT: First Flight High School, 6-7:30 p.m.; and More News

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Flooding last year during Hurricane Florence caused quite a bit of damage to soundside properties, taking out piers, docks, and walkways.

Dr. Michelle Flynn Osborne, Chief Deputy Commissioner of the N.C. Dept. of Insurance, will speak at a “community conversation” about property insurance Tuesday, 6-7:30 p.m., at First Flight High School Auditorium in Kill Devil Hills. The free event is sponsored by Dare County and the Outer Banks Assn. of REALTORS®.

Dr. Osborne’s topics will include types of coverage, limitations, and the importance of flood insurance, according to the sponsors.

You may access Dr. Osborne’s biography here: https://www.ncdoi.com/Leadership_-_Dr._Michelle_Osborne.aspx. She has both masters and doctoral degrees in business administration.

To get to First Flight High School, turn right off of U.S. Hwy. 158 at the Colington Road intersection, just south of the Wright Brothers Memorial; then turn left on Veterans Drive after you’ve passed the KDH government complex. You can’t miss the auditorium.

(Note: The first game of the World Series starts Tuesday at 8:08 p.m., so you can attend Dr. Osborne’s conversation and still catch the early innings. Go, Nats!)

***

PLANNING BOARD MEETS TOMORROW, 5:30 P.M., PITTS CENTER: The Town Planning Board will vote on ZTA 19-02, an amendment to the Town Code that attempts to fill gaps in regulations concerning building height and lot fill. See https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/10-9-19-ZTA-19-02-Building-Height-FIll.pdf.

The Planning Board has spent considerable time thinking about, researching, and drafting the proposed changes on height and fill, which are designed to help both property owners and the builders they hire, as well as neighboring property owners, and will likely approve ZTA 19-02 unanimously. The Beacon will cover the changes in detail when the amendment comes before the Town Council Nov. 6 for a vote.

The Planning Board also will entertain public comments at tomorrow’s meeting.

***

LIBRARY SURVEY ONLINE: The Southern Shores Exploratory Committee for Potential Branch Library has posted a short survey about the potential library’s use by residents at the top of the Town of Southern Shores website: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/. The committee will meet next on Nov. 1, 2 p.m., in an upstairs room of the Pitts Center.

***

ELECTION DAY AND THE TOWN COUNCIL: Because the general Election Day is always the first Tuesday in November, and the Town Council usually meets on the first Tuesday of the month, the November Town Council meeting will be held on Wed., Nov. 6, instead.

Voting for the Southern Shores municipal election will take place Tuesday, Nov. 5, in the Pitts Center from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. The Town Council meeting the next day will begin at 5:30 p.m. The newly elected Council members will be sworn into office at the Town Council’s Dec. 3 meeting.

POLL WORKERS NEEDED: The Dare County Board of Elections is accepting applications for poll workers. According to the BOE’s website, poll workers receive some compensation and must be able to work from 5:30 a.m. until at least 8:30 p.m. To apply for a position, go to https://www.darenc.com/departments/elections/about/poll-workers.

COUNCIL CANDIDATE WRITE-IN CAMPAIGN?: The Beacon has heard some rumors about a late write-in campaign for a fifth candidate for the three Southern Shores Town Council seats that are being contested in the election. If you are having trouble deciding to whom you should give your third vote, you may wish to delay voting for a few days. The Beacon will confirm or deny these rumors as soon as possible.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 10/20/19

 

10/17/19: COUNCIL CANDIDATES ON STORMWATER RUNOFF . . . AND WHO OWNS THE PONDS IN SOUTHERN SHORES? GOOD QUESTION! (Town Planning Board Meets Monday)

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Pictured above is a view of Circle Pond from the bridge along the pathway that leads from/to Circle Drive to/from  Ocean Boulevard. The pathway and bridge are two of the quaint tucked-away features of Southern Shores.

At the Oct. 7 Town Council candidate forum, Southern Shores Civic Assn. president, Rod McCaughey, asked a comprehensive question about water—water, “as in,” he said:

  • “stormwater runoff on our streets”
  • “the health of our canals and Currituck Sound”
  • “the health of the Southern Shores ponds”

“Do you see [water problems] as a serious issue?” Mr. McCaughey asked. “If yes, what should be done?”

All of the candidates expressed concern about water problems: Town Councilman Fred Newberry said they are of “critical importance.” But only Matt Neal, who, as a builder, has to consider stormwater runoff in his construction projects, offered possible solutions based on firsthand knowledge.

Mr. Neal joined the other three candidates, who also include Elizabeth Morey and Leo Holland, in suggesting that the N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality could assist the Town in dealing with water quality in the Currituck Sound. He suggested making an “active request” for help. (No one mentioned the canals, per se.) Mr. Neal then addressed what he called “direct-impact” problems: flooding from the ponds and stormwater.

According to Mr. Neal, both Dare and Currituck counties are employing “groundwater lowering devices,” including “collection pipes or cisterns or pumps” to lower the water level in ponds.

Before a storm, he explained, the counties will “actively pump these [water] systems down and drain the ponds and provide collection holding pens within those ponds,” to prevent flooding.

This is an “achievable thing” for Southern Shores, Mr. Neal said. It’s a question of paying the money and making the commitment.

As for stormwater runoff, he said, the problem is “the streets can’t handle it.”

He spoke of “design parameters” to manage stormwater that builders must adhere to in constructing residential and commercial development. In the case of residences, he said, the design parameter is 1 1/2 inches of stormwater; for commercial buildings, it’s 4 inches.

“Nobody has a design parameter for 10 inches of rainfall,” he observed.

But, he said, the Town could target a different design parameter and apply an engineering solution to the stormwater that runs off driveways into the streets. He characterized both the pond flooding and the runoff as “low-hanging fruit” that the Town could “go after.”

Mr. Neal also shared a “model” that Kitty Hawk uses for its “bowl-like areas” where stormwater collects and flooding occurs: “Kitty Hawk pumps as soon as the storm has left,” he said. It acts “immediately.”

The new Council will have an opportunity to decide whether controlling pond flooding and stormwater runoff are priority issues for the Town and to take action.

WHO OWNS THE PONDS?

After the forum, The Beacon spoke with Mr. McCaughey in order to clarify a point that we have long wondered about: Who owns the ponds in Southern Shores?

It turns out that’s a tricky question to answer: The answer largely turns on whether the pond is natural or man-made.

Mr. McCaughey shared a legal opinion that he obtained about the ownership of the J-shaped Circle Pond, which is bounded by privately owned single-family homes and SSCA-owned common area fronting on Duck Road, Periwinkle Place, Ocean Boulevard, Hickory Trail, and Circle Drive.

According to this opinion, the Kitty Hawk Land Co.—which developed Southern Shores—conveyed to the SSCA in 1978 the “man-made lagoons, canals or waterways” that then existed within the boundaries of the Southern Shores Community.” (This conveyance explicitly excepted the Chicahauk subdivision.)

Were ponds included in this conveyance? Is a pond a lagoon?

Certainly common sense and dictionary meanings would lead you to believe that a pond is not a lagoon. You also could argue that if the KHLC had wanted to give the SSCA title to all then-existing man-made ponds, it could have so specified.

One thing is certain: The SSCA does not own any “naturally occurring” ponds, which, according to the SSCA’s attorney, Circle Pond is.

In October 2016, the combination of weeks of precipitation, water-saturated ground, and rains from Hurricane Matthew led to Circle Pond’s overflow. It was not the only pond that flooded, and rendered roadways impassable for weeks, but it did more damage than pond flooding elsewhere.

So who owns Circle Pond?

If the KHLC has not deeded it to the Town, and the SSCA’s attorney didn’t find that it had, the KHLC still does. This would seem to be the case with all naturally occurring ponds in Southern Shores.

What about the man-made ponds?

In 2005, the SSCA sold to the Town “all of the existing man-made lagoons, canals or waterways within the boundaries of the Town of Southern Shores as described in deed recorded in Book 31, Page 445, Dare County Registry,” except those in Chicahauk, which the 1978 deed excluded, and those lying on the boundaries of the lands of the Duck Woods Country Club. This conveyance covered substantively all of the same property that was covered in the 1978 conveyance.

The 2005 deed also excepted any “ponds or waterways” that are on SSCA-owned property—even though a pond, presumably, is not a lagoon, and the inclusion of ponds in the exception language wasn’t necessary.

It appears that if the SSCA owns the land around a man-made pond, it also owns the pond.

Generally speaking, therefore, the SSCA owns the man-made ponds in Southern Shores; but there is one noteworthy exception: Ginguite Pond, which sits behind single-family homes situated on Ginguite Trail and in the Mallard Cove community.

According to a 2017 written opinion provided to former Town Manager Peter Rascoe by an attorney representing the Town, Ginguite Pond, a/k/a Mallard Cove Pond, a/k/a Duck Woods Pond, which is man-made, is owned by the Kitty Hawk Land Co., not the SSCA or the Town.

In addition to the 1978 and 2005 deeds, attorney M.H. Hood Ellis of Hornthal, Riley, Ellis & Maland cited as support for his opinion 1) correspondence sent by former KHLC president Mickey Hayes to the Town in 2004 and 2006 reflecting his belief that the KHLC owns the pond, and 2) an “overflow device” that the KHLC “engineered, permitted and installed [at the pond] . . . at a cost of over $50,000.”

It appears to The Beacon that the Town Council should be talking with both the Kitty Hawk Land Co. and the SSCA about pond overflow.

PLANNING BOARD MEETS MONDAY, 5:30 P.M.: The Planning Board will vote on ZTA 19-02, an amendment to the Town Code that seeks to fill gaps in regulations concerning building height and lot fill. See https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/10-9-19-ZTA-19-02-Building-Height-FIll.pdf. The Board meets at 5:30 p.m. in the Pitts Center.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 10/17/19

 

 

10/13/19: TOWN COUNCIL CANDIDATES FORUM ANALYSIS: AS THE BEACON SEES IT, PART TWO (Open Dialogue and Working Together)

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If you disagree with a majority viewpoint on the Town Council, are you being “divisive” when you express your contrary opinion, which is also the opinion of some of your constituents? Are you being “uncivil” when you persist in advocating your position and challenge the majority’s perspective?

Suppose you’re in the Council majority and you work and communicate only with your like-minded colleagues before a meeting, in preparation of a motion on an important policy, are you being divisive? Later, are you being uncivil when you insist upon calling the vote on your prepared motion before the excluded minority-view members of the Council have had time to discuss it?

The question of “divisiveness” and “incivility” among Town Council members came up at the League of Women Voters of Dare County’s candidate forum last Monday, when audience member Lorelei Costa unfortunately described these states as “hallmarks” of “Southern Shores politics” in prefacing a question about Council relations.

What Ms. Costa, who is executive director of the Outer Banks Community Foundation, actually asked of the four candidates for the three open seats on the Town Council was: “How would you work together positively with your fellow [Council members], even those with whom you sometimes disagree?”

(You may view a You Tube videotape of the forum here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_N6ukMB8l1Y&t=4814s.)

WORKING TOGETHER

Ms. Costa’s question proved to be a nice springboard for candidates Elizabeth Morey, an eight-year member of the Town Planning Board who has been its chairperson since January, and Matt Neal, a local builder who has advised both the Planning Board and the Town Council on zoning issues.

Mr. Neal called “working together” the “key” to the “new Council” and said he didn’t think any of the four candidates would “get into the baring the teeth that we might have become accustomed to.”

Ms. Morey suggested that the Council use the model of cooperative communication that she uses with her fellow Planning Board members: “I call my [colleagues] on the phone regularly and have conversations with them,” she said.

[The Beacon notes that Ms. Morey’s predecessor, the late Glenn Wyder, used such a model, but informed sources have told us that Sam Williams, who was Board chairperson for nine years, didn’t.]

Incumbent Town Councilman Fred Newberry, who has never raised his voice or behaved discourteously in a Council meeting—not that we’ve witnessed in attending the majority of the meetings during the past four years—took to heart Ms. Costa’s apparent allegations of divisiveness and incivility.

“A lot of times we have meetings, and we disagree,” he said, “[but] disagreement to me is not incivility. I think it’s everyone’s right to speak for themselves—freedom of speech—[and to] speak for the people in the community. . . . [T]hey’re bringing their skills and their experience to make good points, although they not always be the popular points.”

Earlier in the forum, Councilman Newberry, who has been in the minority on “a lot of 3-2 votes,” he said, made the point that he often asks questions of majority Town Council members to which he knows the answers, just so the answers will be on the public record.

The majority bloc of Mayor Tom Bennett and Councilmen Jim Conners and Christopher Nason is known to confer behind the scenes, without including Mr. Newberry and Councilman Gary McDonald.

“Just because I didn’t vote with the majority doesn’t mean I’ve been uncivil,” Mr. Newberry said. “It means I’m trying to present a different perspective. I’m coming up with facts that haven’t been discussed before. I think it’s critical that we have that open dialogue.”

Mr. Neal empathized with Mr. Newberry’s position, saying: “It’s tough to have it all out on major issues over a four-hour period in the evening [at a Council meeting], and it’s tough to be in a voting minority sometimes and to feel like the constituents you’re hearing from aren’t being represented.”

He also echoed Ms. Morey’s comments about communication. “Talking to Council members, individually, especially on hot-topic issues before the board meeting, is going to be critical,” Mr. Neal said.

Pursuant to State open-meeting laws, two Council members may talk to each other about Town business without their conversation having to be public, but not three. If three public officials are conferring simultaneously, then there must be an “open” (public) meeting. Email is a murkier area of the law.

Ms. Morey advocated one-on-one phone conversations among Council members that would include all of them.

“It’s not hard” to work together, she said. “You just need to start talking with each other. You need to not make it personal.”

There are “always going to be disagreements” about issues, said candidate Leo Holland, who served on the Town Council from 2013-17, “[but] sometimes it can get personal and that’s where things go astray and uncivil liberty comes up.”

Emails, he observed, “can get pretty vicious,” and people can get “upset.”

Mr. Holland, too, advocated picking up the phone and talking to people.

“I’ve always been a proponent of trying to work with whoever I’m with,” he explained. “You don’t always have to agree, but you know at the end of the day that you can shake hands and still be friends and not ignore each other.”

While the Beacon supports “working together,” we don’t believe that all Town Council members necessarily can be friends with each other, nor should friendship be an objective. Opinions can be sought and respected among elected officials without personal relationships being forged.

We agree with Ms. Morey, who said: “Good decisions are going to come about from leaders who are in communication with each other.” Leaders. Not friends.

We believe that disagreements are inevitable. We don’t live in Mayberry, and we don’t have an amiable, fair, and wise sheriff looking after us and providing leadership. When our Town Council makes decisions, they are bound to cost us many more tax dollars than what the Mayberry folk would pay for a Founders Day statute in Town Square.

While we all agree that we live in a naturally beautiful place, a protected coastal area, one resident’s vision of the Southern Shores he or she loves may not be the vision that another resident has. There are people who roll their eyes when tree preservation is mentioned and others who roll their eyes when they see how many lots in the maritime woods have been clear-cut. Our population is not of one mind.

Growth and development are hot-button issues everywhere in this nation. Change may be inevitable, but not all change is desired by all people.

That we live in tolerance of one another’s opinions, and that some of us, in striving for consensus, accept results that don’t thrill us, is to our credit. We need leaders on the Town Council who believe in the open dialogue that Councilman Newberry espoused and who seek out and respect other people’s viewpoints, rather than simply propounding their own personal agendas. The Town Council oversees a government, not a social club.

AGREEMENT AMONG ALL

 The candidates expressed unanimity on the following issues:

HIRING THE NEW TOWN MANAGER: All four office-seekers agreed that the hiring process for the new town manager, which the current Town Council has left to its successor Council, should be open and should be handled by a recruiter/consultant who, as Mr. Newberry said, will “bring the best talent that we can find to fill this position.”

Councilman Newberry spoke of advertising the job locally, regionally, and perhaps even nationally.

Mr. Neal agreed with Mr. Newberry, saying that the Town needs to “see who’s out there.” He also noted that the interim town manager, Wes Haskett, “should be given a shot,” if he’s interested.

Ms. Morey envisioned a consultant receiving and reviewing 75 to 100 applications. She described the town manager as the “face” of Southern Shores and called the position “critical.” Mr. Holland described the job as “challenging” and called filling it a Town priority.

MAINTAINING LOW-DENSITY HOUSING: In response to a question about creating “essential housing” for seasonal workers—affordable apartments, for example—all four candidates said they would not increase the density of development in Southern Shores. Mr. Newberry cited the vision statement in the Town’s land-use plan for the community’s commitment and desire for low-density housing.

Said Mr. Holland: “I don’t believe we need to have more houses here. As a municipality, we need to work with the county” to develop areas outside of Southern Shores. Mr. Neal suggested that the Town take “leadership” and work with the county on finding “locations in other areas,” where the zoning would be appropriate.

Ms. Morey brought up Southern Shores firefighters and police officers who can’t afford to live in town, especially those who are young.

“There are high-density areas [in Town] now,” she noted, that could be used to house either seasonal residents or Town personnel. “We’d have to partner with the community,” she said, to create multiple-unit housing in those areas.

PRESERVING THE TOWN’S ‘AMBIANCE’: Everyone agreed that Southern Shores’ unique ambiance and sense of community should be preserved.

“It’s a beautiful place to live,” said Mr. Neal, who grew up in Southern Shores and describes himself as “third generation.”

Mr. Newberry likes “the small-time atmosphere” in town, but “at the same time,” he said, “we want to be progressive and get modern conveniences.”

Mr. Holland expressed an interest in enhancing the town’s “friendliness,” saying, “We’ve got to talk with each other.”

Perhaps Ms. Morey summed up the feelings of all when she said: “We love this place, and we want it to thrive.”

THE BEACON will return with one more article related to last week’s candidate forum. We would like to address separately a very important issue raised in a question posed by Southern Shores Civic Assn. president Rod McCaughey: that of water, and the problems associated with it, especially stormwater runoff.

After the forum, we spoke in more detail with Mr. McCaughey about the ponds in Town, in particular, about their ownership. What Mr. McCaughey told us may surprise you.

REMEMBER: EARLY VOTING STARTS WEDNESDAY, and runs through Nov. 1, at the Kill Devil Hills Town Hall and at the Dare County Administration Building in Manteo. Weekday hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Here’s the schedule: https://www.darenc.com/Home/Components/Calendar/Event/49615/357.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 10/13/19

 

 

10/11/19: TOWN COUNCIL CANDIDATES FORUM ANALYSIS: AS THE BEACON SEES IT, PART ONE (It Pays To Do Homework And To Know Facts)

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Planning Board Chairperson Elizabeth Morey  is one of four Town Council candidates who participated in a public forum Monday, sponsored by the local League of Women Voters.

About 140 people jammed into the Pitts Center Monday night for a Town Council candidate forum that played out as an affable, low-key affair among the four contenders—who elected not to accentuate their differences or to share many ideas.

The two-hour question-and-answer session, mediated by its sponsor, the League of Women Voters of Dare County, produced no break-out sound bites or rallying moments, although intermittent applause occurred.

The questions, chosen by the League from audience submissions, covered beach nourishment, the cut-through traffic, the Town’s land-use plan and its effectiveness, stormwater problems, the hiring of a new town manager, the candidates’ visions for Southern Shores’ future, the South Dogwood Trail sidewalk, Internet service in town, and more.

(You may view the forum videotape here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCN61Jac3lSen1L6m_560w7w.)

A question about the “deer problem” allowed the candidates either to profess their affection or respect for the wildlife, or to tell them to “scram,” as former Town Councilman Leo Holland did in recommending a product called Deer Scram.

Both Mr. Holland, a Chicahauk homeowner, and Matt Neal, a Southern Shores native and local builder (Neal Contracting Co.), warned of coyotes overtaking the town’s deer population. Mr. Neal also offered his 3-year-old daughter as an alternative to “Scram.”

Current Town Planning Board chairperson, Elizabeth Morey, took a gentler approach: “We live in nature. We live in their back yard,” she said. The deer are here to stay.

“I kinda like them,” incumbent Town Councilman Fred Newberry noted.

OVERVIEW OF CANDIDATE MESSAGES

The Beacon perceived no dominant personality among the candidates, although Mr. Neal impressed with his broad knowledge of the Town’s zoning code, the Southern Shores shoreline, options for stormwater management, and even information technology. We think he dropped the ball on cut-through traffic, however.

The 36-year-old Mr. Neal, who is currently serving as the president of the Outer Banks Home Builders Assn. (OBHBA), described himself as a research “nut” who does not form hasty opinions. Although he represented himself as a cooperative, open-minded problem solver, he didn’t take that approach in dealing with the traffic question, which is of concern to numerous residents. Mr. Neal lives on Wax Myrtle Trail

Questioned by a homeowner about possible conflicts of interest that he would have serving as both a Town Council member and the OBHBA president, Mr. Neal replied that he thought the roles would be more complementary than conflicting. He cited OBHBA’s critical input in the drafting of the Town’s new occupancy ordinance, which limits vacation cottages to 14 overnight occupants. Nonetheless, he said he would resign his OBHBA presidency, if he were elected.

Town Councilman Newberry, 71, said he would like to be “progressive and guide the town into the future while maintaining [its] ambiance.” He stressed careful planning and budgeting and “input” from the public about the issues the Council has to decide—so that “tax dollars are spent wisely.” He came out in his opening statement as being against “mini-hotels.”

Throughout his tenure, Mr. Newberry, who lives on North Dogwood Trail, has emphasized public involvement and public opinion in Town government decisions. He and Town Councilman Gary McDonald are responsible for there being two public-comment periods during Council meetings and for meeting packets being available to the public online.

Councilman Newberry also opposed the elimination of the Town’s standing committees on planning, finance, and public safety—a move proposed by Mayor Tom Bennett and supported by then-Councilman Holland and Councilman Christopher Nason. (The Mayor did not have to sit on every committee.)

Elizabeth Morey, 60, an eight-year Town Planning Board member who has been chairperson since January, stressed “collegiality and a sense of common purpose.” She said she would “seek to build consensus” and not have a “predetermined” agenda.

“I’m good at listening,” Ms. Morey said, characterizing herself as an “independent thinker.”

The Ginguite Trail homeowner also called herself “passionate about protecting and enhancing this unique place that we live in.”

Mr. Holland, 78, who has been active in the Southern Shores Civic Assn. and served on the Council from 2013-17, spoke of seeking a return to office because citizens “deserve good government,” as well as a Council whose “members seek to work together for the common good of the Town.”

But he offered no examples of when the current Town Council members, who definitely don’t agree with each other, often voting 3-2 on issues, didn’t put the “common good” first. (The Beacon will take up a question about civility on the Town Council in Part Two of our forum analysis.)

Mr. Holland cited “civility, common sense, and practicality” as hallmarks of his governing philosophy. He lives on Spindrift Trail.

PROFFERED IDEAS: DEALING WITH TRAFFIC, SUING THE STATE

The Beacon thought style largely trumped substance Monday night, as specific proposals were hard to come by. One exception was Councilman Newberry’s commitment to tackling seasonal cut-through traffic.

Saying it is “inexcusable” that the Council has not “addressed [the problem] properly,” Mr. Newberry declined to try to explain why the Mayor Bennett-led majority has failed to act during his four-year term (December 2015-November 2019).

“I don’t know,” he said simply.

The traffic problem arose in a question posed by Eleventh Avenue homeowner Greg Pensabene, who directed it to Mr. Holland and Mr. Newberry as “incumbents.” Mr. Holland’s “re-elect” signs that have been posted throughout town have led some people, especially newcomers, to believe that he is a Council incumbent.

Mr. Holland actually was on the Town Council that ignored the results of the paid-facilitator-led October 2014 public workshop on cut-through traffic, attended by upward of 150 people. After considering numerous options, including temporary speed humps and increased stop signs, workshop attendees reached a consensus in support of preventing a left turn on to South Dogwood Trail from U.S. Hwy. 158 on summertime weekends.

First to respond to Mr. Pensabene’s question, Mr. Holland stumbled, confusingly stating, “We tried the left-turn program. That is in the Kitty Hawk municipality, and you got the NC DOT [N.C. Dept. of Transportation] you have to live with and work with. We can do certain things within the town, but we also get some Pell grants that have an impact on that as well.”

N.C. DOT exercised its jurisdiction over U.S. Hwy. 158 to enable last year’s no-left-turn weekend trial, which Mr. Newberry and Councilman Gary McDonald spearheaded, and the Town didn’t have to ask twice. DOT, which sent two representatives to a Town Council meeting months ahead of the weekend trial, at which time it was discussed, was very accommodating. The Kitty Hawk police were not involved.

The Town receives an annual roads grant—known as the Powell grant, not Pell, which is a federal education grant—from the State, but, as Mr. Newberry observed, its amount is “not that significant.” In recent years, it has been $119,000.

“I wish I had an answer” to the cut-through traffic, Mr. Holland concluded, suggesting that maybe the Town should “look into employing a traffic engineer.”

Noting that last year’s no-left-turn weekend trial was “very successful”—despite “numbers” from the police department about traffic volume—Mr. Newberry said, “People have been complaining and speaking up for many years. This is nothing new. There are options. There are things that we can do”

Rather than mention any options, however—which was disappointing to The Beacon—Mr. Newberry cited his sponsorship of a Town Council-sanctioned citizens’ traffic committee, which he said Monday is expected to provide recommendations to the new Council in December.

Given an opportunity to comment, as well, Mr. Neal took a naysaying approach to cut-through traffic reduction, much to The Beacon’s surprise. Prefacing his remarks by saying he “spoke at length with the Police Chief about this last week,” he first dismissed the idea of having “[no] through-traffic signs,” which would be “difficult to enforce,” and then said that the “next step mechanically would be to gate the town, and we would have pass codes and key cards.”

There has never been a groundswell of public support for no through-traffic signs.

We believe Mr. Neal took a giant leap from installing roadside signs to gating the Town 24/7, 365 days a year—another idea that no one has seriously endorsed—and he needs to talk to people other than the Police Chief and those who have similar views in doing his research. He sounded very close-minded when he quoted exorbitant cost figures for year-round gating, which he presumably obtained from Chief Kole and which we remember as being prepared by former Town Manager Peter Rascoe. (Mr. Neal said he would supply The Beacon with documentation.)

Mayor Bennett is on the record as being opposed to impeding the flow of northbound tourist traffic on the cut-through route. He first stated his opposition in a Jan. 23, 2015 “Word from the Mayor” in the Town newsletter. See www.icontact-archive.com/vbh4RGfk5zTd6P1EhGEnwxgUIb2y1Z9h.

The only gating that has ever realistically been discussed by the public—for example, at the October 2014 workshop—has been gating during the heavy summertime weekends. If year-round gating is the direction in which Mr. Newberry’s committee is headed, it will encounter resistance.

Mr. Neal also suggested taking a “nuanced” approach to the traffic, but he didn’t elaborate  on what that might be.

Ms. Morey’s comments on cut-through traffic struck The Beacon as those of someone who is sympathetic to Town residents, but coming late to the issue. For example, she suggested staggering rental check-in days to alleviate congestion. Rental companies on the Outer Banks already stagger check-ins on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and have for many years. Check-ins on other days—Ms. Morey mentioned Thursday—strike The Beacon as a tough sell.

***

The Beacon applauds Ms. Morey, however, on raising what we thought was the biggest idea of the forum: that of suing the State of North Carolina, in particular, its legislature, for usurping municipal power. Her idea came up in the context of a question about the Town’s land-use plan.

“The folks in Raleigh seem to think that they know better what’s good for us than what we know,” she said, and have diminished the ability of municipalities to “play the role that they should play,” which she described as chiefly to “manage density” and to “protect public health and safety.” She mentioned, in particular, the legislature’s decision to deprive the Town of its ability to restrict the number of bedrooms in a house.

“I say we take it [the legislature] to court. We’ll win, in my opinion,” Ms. Morey said, stating her belief that the Town would be on “solid ground.”

“I would welcome a lawsuit,” she confidently concluded.

While The Beacon would have liked Ms. Morey to elaborate on the specifics of her reasoning—Has she spoken with an attorney? Why does she think the Town has a case and that it would win?—we nonetheless applaud her bold outside-of-the-box stance.

We were less taken with her casual response to a question about the South Dogwood Trail sidewalk, which was simply: “I look forward to walking on the trail as soon as it’s completed . . . with my dog.”

Contractor bids on the sidewalk construction were opened Oct. 4—both Mr. Neal and Mr. Holland misstated the amount of the low bid, which was $623,839.35—and the lame-duck Town Council is expected to choose at its Nov. 6 meeting from among the three bidders. (See The Beacon, 10/5/19)

More important than the cost, we believe, is the considerable design work that the Town Engineer has left for the contractor to figure out—with oversight delegated by the Council to the “Town Manager.” Interim Town Manager Wes Haskett was not the town manager when the Council granted this authority.

With no mention made by the candidates of remaining sidewalk design issues, The Beacon is left wondering who, besides Mr. Newberry, has reviewed the engineer’s plans. We wish the candidates had told us if they have.

PRIORITIES AND BEACH NOURISHMENT

The first question posed by a Southern Shores homeowner at the forum asked the candidates to list what they believe are the top three “priorities” of Southern Shores residents? Residents, not candidates. Only Mr. Neal directly answered the question.

The other three office-seekers provided their own top-three issues—which the League had asked them about in its questionnaire—which are not necessarily, and indeed, are not in some cases, residents’ priorities. The candidates’ questionnaires are available through www.vote411.org. Mr. Neal’s responses are not yet online.

First to answer, Mr. Newberry elaborated upon his campaign’s issues: 1) better money management and planning; 2) the cut-through traffic; and 3) public input in governmental decision-making. (Mr. Newberry was later asked by a homeowner if he would continue to advocate for a five-year Town plan, with budgeting, as he has the past four years, and he said he would.)

Ms. Morey replied: 1) “protection and enhancement of the place we live in”; 2) “better communications between Town Council members”; and 3) “improved communications between the Council and the people who live here.” (Ms. Morey distinguished between a resident priority, which No. 1 represents, and her own priorities, in Nos. 2 and 3. In her forum remarks, she emphasized communication, but she never explained why she thought communication now was lacking.)

Mr. Holland said: 1) the traffic; 2) beach nourishment; and 3) hiring of the town manager. (He cited all three as “Town” priorities.)

Mr. Neal replied: 1) development, in particular, large houses, small lots, and stormwater runoff; 2) traffic; and 3) road improvements and beach management, which have raised cost concerns among residents.

These are the priorities, he said, “that most of you all are telling me when I knock on your door.”

(If you were to list your top three priorities, what would they be, and how closely do they match up with those expressed by the candidates?)

Non-answers also occurred to the second question, which Geri Sullivan, a candidate for Town Council in 2017, asked. Her inquiry was:

“Our town is considering approving a $14 million beach nourishment project, even though several experts from Duck [Research] Pier have questioned the data on which it was proposed. Where do you stand on beach nourishment and how do you think the Town should proceed?”

In their responses, only Mr. Neal and Mr. Newberry took serious note of Ms. Sullivan’s reference to the Field Research Facility oceanographers who questioned the “limited data” of the coastal engineering consultant’s (APTIM’s) most recent beach surveys at the Council’s Sept. 17 planning session.

Calling beach nourishment a “tough issue for me personally,” because he likes the coarse sand, the steep slope, and the natural contour of the Southern Shores beaches, Mr. Neal stated that there are “legitimate questions” about the methodology that APTIM used. He said he would like outside expertise in deciding how “best to interpret the knowledge that comes from APTIM.”

He said the Duck oceanographers, whom he knows personally, view beach nourishment as a “proactive choice” for the Town, but they question the methodology that led to APTIM’s conclusions. (In an interview that The Beacon had with two of them after the Town’s planning session, they scoffed at APTIM’s erosion rate, which is driving its recommendations.)

After the Ash Wednesday storm, which pounded the Outer Banks from March 6-8, 1962, and “knocked out the first flat tops,” Mr. Neal explained, then-unincorporated Southern Shores “created” a new artificial beach.

“We decided to hold our shoreline in 1963 when we built the dune,” Mr. Neal said. “We created that beach. . . . We’ve already impacted [the beach]”

Commenting that he has watched the beach “retreat and come back” at 176 Ocean Blvd., which is the site of a vintage flat top that happens to be next to my family’s 1970s-era cottage, Mr. Neal said, “We have already held our beach with our dune system.”

Despite giving a history lesson illustrating the smarts of the Town’s yesteryear elders, Mr. Neal concluded his wide-ranging remarks by observing that his primary issue with beach nourishment is its cost, not its need.

Mr. Newberry agreed with Mr. Neal’s comments and expressed a desire for “more data and more information,” including from the Duck Research Pier scientists, as well as more public input. “We can’t let emotion override clear reasoning,” he said.

Mr. Newberry said he prefers to view the beach on a “case-by-case basis,” inasmuch as the 3.7-mile-long shoreline differs from one “profile” point to another. The beach in front of Pelican Watch, next to the Kitty Hawk Pier, for example, has eroded much more than other areas. (It was destroyed in 1962.) In 2017, the Pelican Watch beach was renourished for more than $1 million, according to Mr. Newberry.

The Council, he said, informally calculated that the Town would have to pay $1.3 million annually just in interest on a five-year debt to finance a $14-million-plus project.

“We are the people who have to pay for it,” the Councilman said, asking “how are we going to finance it?” and “where is the money coming from?”

Although he mentioned tax increases, Mr. Newberry did not address municipal service districts (MSDs), nor did any of the other candidates. (See The Beacon, 10/2/19, for information about special-obligation bonds and MSDs.)

Calling himself a “proponent” of beach nourishment, Mr. Holland made no mention of the consultant’s data, saying only that we need to ask ourselves two questions: 1) “Is the beach an asset or a liability?” and 2) “Why do tourists come here?”

The Beacon does not consider these rhetorical questions dispositive of a decision on what Mr. Newberry stated will likely be a $16 million-plus project, which anyone who reads APTIM reports can recognize as being based on engineering, not science.

“We need to figure out how we can fund it,” Mr. Holland simply concluded, expressing no opinion on the financing models that have been discussed.

Although she characterized beach nourishment as a “complicated” issue, and made cogent observations about the westward migration of the Outer Banks, the rise in sea level, and the worsening nature of storms, Ms. Morey said she doesn’t view the beach nourishment question in terms of science. Rather, she asks: “What would happen if we don’t do beach nourishment?” and “Does it make sense to not do it at all?”

She cited the Town’s “window of opportunity” to do the project in 2022 with money from Dare County and with the cooperation of the other beach towns that are doing their five-year maintenance then. The next project, she observed, would not be until 2027.

Inasmuch as one obvious answer to Ms. Morey’s first question is “nothing” and another obvious answer is “we may be in an improved situation,” The Beacon was disappointed with her analysis.

“Does it make sense to not do it at all?” Yes, it just might. Before approving beach nourishment, Town Council members should find out.

We would have preferred that Ms. Morey analyze the data that we have now to analyze, including data available through the Duck Research Pier, talk to experts to obtain other opinions, and either challenge or substantiate her own view of inevitability. Once the Town buys into beach nourishment, it’s in a maintenance plan forever.

The Beacon will return on Sunday or Monday with Part Two of our forum analysis, which we promise will be much shorter. Early voting starts next Wednesday.

 Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 10/11/19