Just a reminder: Tree stumps placed in the public right-of-way for pickup tomorrow during the Town’s bulk-waste collection will be rejected, as will lumber and other building supplies. Television sets are also verboten. You will find the list of acceptable items for roadside disposal on the Town website. Just look at the top of the home page.

The Southern Shores Planning and Code Enforcement Department will change radically soon, with the hiring of two new employees to replace longtime Permit Officer Dabni Shelton, who recently retired, and her husband, James “Buddy” Shelton, who has been serving the Town part-time as its building inspector for the past three years.

Mr. Shelton came to Southern Shores after retiring as Dare County’s building inspector and has said that he is willing to work for the Town until early February, according to Wes Haskett, Planning Director and Deputy Town Manager.

Mr. Shelton’s position will become full-time and be reorganized as Town building inspector and code enforcement officer.

Mr. Shelton is willing to step down earlier if someone else is hired and sufficiently familiarized with his position, Mr. Haskett advised the Town Council at its Oct. 6 meeting.

This week, the Town interviewed five applicants for the full-time permit officer job and plans to interview at least two more people next week, Mr. Haskett told The Beacon.

“We hope to fill the position in early November,” Mr. Haskett said in an email.

The Town intends to hire a new building inspector/code enforcement officer “no later than late November or early December” so he or she can “shadow Buddy” and learn the job, Mr. Haskett said last week.

“We will most likely begin interviews in a couple of weeks” for that job, he told The Beacon.   

We are delighted that the Town is expanding the Planning and Code Enforcement Department with the addition of a half-time code enforcement officer.

Enforcement of the Town zoning code, after permits have been issued, as well as other ordinances is now complaint-driven, and we are hopeful that the hiring of another person will relegate that practice to the past.

In particular, Town employees should be on the lookout for code violations during the construction process, so that they can be addressed and corrected by builders before projects are finished. Homeowners and other residents should not have to report possible violations for the Town to be vigilant.  

Also at last week’s Council meeting, Mr. Haskett announced that:

BEACH NOURISHMENT GRANT: The N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality has “tentatively approved” the Town for a beach nourishment grant from its Coastal Storm Damage Mitigation Fund, with no indication of how much money it will award. The grant amount still had not been disclosed as of yesterday, Mr. Haskett told The Beacon. 

Although the Town Council has yet to select and approve a 2022 beach nourishment “option” plan from among those recommended by its coastal engineering consultant, the Town’s NCDEQ grant application propounded upon option 4, which had a $14,755,600 price tag.

NCDEQ can award up to $2.5 million to a grant recipient. It has up to $11.5 million available for coastal storm mitigation grants. (See The Beacon, 4/21/20)

TOWN CODE REWRITE PROJECT: Town Attorney Ben Gallop has finally reviewed the zoning code of the Town Code update/revision drafted by Chad Meadows of CodeWright Planners, LLC, of Durham, and submitted his comments to Mr. Meadows.

Mr. Haskett plans to speak with Mr. Meadows today; Town Manager Cliff Ogburn, he said, may participate in the conversation.

The expectation is that Mr. Gallop’s comments will be incorporated into CodeWright’s revision and a “public hearing draft” will be sent to the Town Planning Board for its review, Mr. Haskett told the Town Council.

The Beacon’s understanding was that Mr. Gallop, who has had Mr. Meadows’s Town Code revision since January 2019, was to review the entire draft, not just the zoning code chapters. The Town Code is a compilation of legal regulations, and Mr. Meadows is not an attorney.

At a public forum on Jan. 31, 2019—one of a number that he held in an exhaustive process that began in September 2015—Mr. Meadows advised that Mr. Gallop would review the draft in February (2019) and that the Town Planning Board would consider it in March and April, with an eye toward recommending those chapters that Mr. Meadows said the Board is required by North Carolina law to recommend.

At that time The Beacon described CodeWright’s draft as big, bloated, and user-unfriendly. (See The Beacon, 2/1/19. See also The Beacon, “What Happened to CodeWright’s Revision of the Town Code?” 7/26/20; and The Beacon, “The Making of a Fiasco: CodeWright’s ‘Update’ of the Southern Shores Code of Ordinances,” 7/30/20.)

The news that, after 19 months of sitting on it, Mr. Gallop had finally reviewed the draft zoning code was delivered to the Town Council by Mr. Haskett, not Mr. Gallop. Not a single person on the Council asked the Town Attorney his opinion of what he read. Not one. And Mr. Gallop gave no report of his own.

Council members may already know, but we don’t.

Is there anything more important in Southern Shores than its Town Code of Ordinances? 


Speaking of the Planning Board, the position of vice chairperson, formerly held by Don Sowder, who resigned Aug. 1 from the Board after serving only one year of his three-year term, is still open, Mr. Haskett confirmed to The Beacon after we searched the Town website to learn of his replacement.

On Aug. 18, the Town Council appointed Board First Alternate Lynda Burek to serve out Mr. Sowder’s term. Since then, Planning Board Chairperson Andy Ward has not convened a meeting to hold an election.

A vacancy still exists for a volunteer to serve out the remainder of Ms. Burek’s term as first alternate, unless Second Alternate Robert McClendon is elevated to her spot. In that case, the second alternate’s position will be vacant. Both alternates’ terms run through June 30, 2021.

Mr. Haskett informed The Beacon yesterday that the Town has received only one application for the vacancy, so far. It is from Janis Collins.

The Beacon does not know Ms. Collins, but we certainly encourage more women to participate in Town government. The Planning Board plays a vital role in the development of Southern Shores.

If you are interested in applying for the Planning Board vacancy, you may submit an application to info@southernshores-nc.gov or to the Town Hall, 5375 N. Virginia Dare Trail, Southern Shores, NC 27949.

You will find an application form, as well as information about the Planning Board, which also serves as the Town Board of Adjustment, at: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/7-22-15-Board-Volunteer-Application.pdf.


And finally . . . you may be interested to know that . . .

*All Southern Shores police officers are now wearing body-worn cameras “in the field,” as Police Chief David Kole reported at the Council’s meeting last week, saying that they are “happy and proud” to have the new equipment; and

*”Finally, we’re in there,” Fire Chief Ed Limbacher said about the SSVFD’s occupancy of the new fire station on South Dogwood Trail, which took about nine months longer to complete than was initially projected.

Chief Limbacher said an open house will not be held at the new station because of the COVID-19 threat, but he plans to do a virtual walk-through for the public to access online.  

The station “turned out phenomenal,” the Chief said.

“It’s very expensive,” he acknowledged, “but it’s a 100-year building” that has “no maintenance.”

Chief Limbacher described himself as feeling “two feet taller” and said, “Everybody is happy.”

PLEASE NOTE: The Beacon will return to the subject of beach nourishment easements at a later date. The Town Council voted unanimously last week to give Town Manager Cliff Ogburn authority to proceed with trying to procure voluntary and irrevocable perpetual easements from oceanfront property owners.

The Council also unanimously approved, with some modifications, a draft perpetual easement prepared by the Town Attorney, which he said was a compilation of language taken from easements applied in other Dare County towns, as well as in Atlantic Beach, Emerald Isle, and Topsail Beach.

The Beacon has no use for kitchen-sink legal documents. Southern Shores is not Nags Head, Atlantic Beach, Emerald Isle, or any other North Carolina coastal town.

See The Beacon, 10/2/20, for background.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 10/15/20


A line of vehicles backs up this summer on Sea Oats Trail from the traffic light at the road’s intersection with the Duck Road thoroughfare. In January, the Town expects to receive from its traffic engineer consultant recommendations for how it may mitigate this congestion.

Representatives from J.M. Teague Engineering and Planning, whom the Town has hired to analyze its traffic problems and propose solutions, were in Southern Shores last Friday for the one site visit that Town Manager Cliff Ogburn announced at the Town Council’s Oct. 6 meeting the Waynesville, N.C. consultant would be conducting.

J.M. Teague, which was one of four companies to submit a study proposal to the Town, has 90 business days in which to “complete the project,” Mr. Ogburn said last week.

That means that the contractor will be filing its report and recommendations, consisting of “various mitigations and best practices,” he said, sometime in January.    

Friday’s site visit, according to the Town’s Oct. 9 newsletter, was spent “gathering geometric data, taking current turning movement percentages, and conducting observations of the current vehicular volumes and movement that can be translated into seasonal numbers.”

In other words, they apparently cannot begin to do what they have been asked to do for $7500—which is to analyze the “[traffic] data collected by the police,” as Mr. Ogburn explained—without feeding their own new data into the “specialized” computer software that actually performs the analysis.

“They are taking measurements and gathering detailed information of all things associated with travel in our town including logging every traffic sign and traffic signal box,” the Town newsletter continues.

“They basically want to bring our town back to their office to help them with their modeling efforts and to determine the best recommendations that will best discourage use of the alternate residential routes and have the least impact on residents along the alternate routes.”

We do not intend to be facetious or skeptical in our tone in this article. We recognize this study as a necessary step toward obtaining any relief from the cut-through traffic that has plagued homeowners on Southern Shores’ residential streets for more than 10 years—traffic that was exacerbated this summer by an unprecedented number of vacationers fleeing COVID-19 for the Outer Banks.

We do have cause to be skeptical, however. Grass-roots efforts in the past—including the results from a Town-financed public mediation in 2014—have been ignored by a majority of the Town Council, including three members who are currently serving.

It has only been with the formation of the Citizens’ Committee to Address Cut-Through Traffic, which is chaired by East Dogwood Trail homeowner Tommy Karole, and the election of Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Morey and Councilman Matt Neal that the Town Council, by a 4-1 vote, got behind no-left-turn weekends this summer.

Mayor Tom Bennett, the sole dissenter, opposed every attempt made since his 2013 election to ameliorate the traffic on the South Dogwood Trail “short-cut” until the fateful weekend this June when desperately gridlocked vacationers resorted to Circle Drive as a cut-through route.

Circle Drive is as advertised. It is a road only Sisyphus would take to get to Corolla.

Ms. Morey and Mr. Neal serve as Council liaisons/advisers to the citizens’ committee, which has not met during the COVID-19 crisis.

Mr. Karole told The Beacon that he has been in touch with Mr. Ogburn about the traffic study and will remain in the loop. He also said that our new town manager “is a pleasure to work with,” which is a compliment that we are not accustomed to hearing about the person permanently occupying that Town office.

We concur with Mr. Karole’s assessment. Our gain is Nags Head’s loss.

(We refer you to Mr. Ogburn’s message in last Friday’s newsletter in which he expresses an interest in meeting Southern Shores residents when it is safe to do so and invites people to call or email him with their “questions, concerns, comments, or suggestions.”

(“Southern Shores is a beautiful place,” he writes, “and we want to make sure you are proud to live here.”)

Mr. Ogburn selected J.M. Teague Engineering for this project because of the “professional services” it offers, he explained at the Council meeting.

Among those services, he said, are “remote sensing,” “traffic impact analysis,” “traffic control plans,” and “event operations and logistics.”

The company will run all of the data through “models” using that specialized software and will propose “multiple mitigation measures,” the Town Manager said.

The engineers’ report, he added, “will include where the measures will be placed,” as well as “conceptual drawings, implementation guidance, and a rough cost estimate.”

We eagerly await the consultant’s conclusions.

Next Council Meeting to Consider Long-Range Budgetary Planning, At Last

Mr. Ogburn also has taken steps toward accomplishing in a mere four months something that former Councilmen Fred Newberry and Gary McDonald tried for four years to get his predecessor, Peter Rascoe, to do: He is engaging in long-range planning of the Town’s budget and capital-improvement projects.

The Town Manager would like to “start the process of capital improvement planning,” he said at last week’s meeting, “maybe a five-year start of a strategic plan that puts all of our assets and resources in one place that you can start to see the needs going out five years and beyond.”

Mr. McDonald and Mr. Newberry—especially Mr. Newberry—tried repeatedly to task Mr. Rascoe with five-year planning and beyond, but each time one or both Councilmen brought it up, the three-person majority shot down the suggestion as one that was not appropriate for a town manager.

We distinctly remember current Councilman Leo Holland, who previously served from 2013-17, saying that such planning was the job of the Town Council, not the Town Manager. Mayor Bennett, Councilman Jim Conners, and former Councilman Chris Nason agreed with this posture. (At the time Mr. Holland said this, Mayor Bennett and Mr. Nason supported him. Mr. Conners was not on the Council.)

Utter nonsense, of course. That a rigid three-person majority repeatedly rejected a smart message about the Town’s welfare because of the messengers who bore it, or, because of ignorance about what a town manager does (just look up the N.C. statute), was and remains a disgrace.

Next Tuesday, Oct. 20, at 9 a.m., Mr. Ogburn will lead the Town Council into the future at a budget-focused workshop meeting.  

See the workshop agenda at https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/minutes-agendas-newsletters/Agendas_2020-10-20.pdf.

Besides long-range planning, the other agenda items include:

  1. “A review of excess revenue from FY 2019-2020”

Accountant/auditor Teresa Osborne reported last week that the Town has a FY 2019-20 revenues-over-expenses excess of $660,975, largely due to a grant received for the South Dogwood Trail sidewalk; departmental expenses coming in lower than anticipated; and an increase in ad valorem taxes collected.

  1. “Consideration of expenditures removed from last FY and Current FY due to COVID-19-related concerns”

The Town “weathered COVID impacts better than anticipated,” Mr. Ogburn said, as did all of the Outer Banks, and the Council may elect to authorize expenses that it previously eliminated from the budget.

Ms. Osborne said the Town ended the 2019-20 fiscal year “in strong financial condition,” with no “traditional debts,” although it will have to start planning for future liabilities, including employee pensions and retirees’ health benefits.

You may access her annual audit report here: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/audit-reports/southern-shores-2020-financial-statements/.

The Beacon plans to write more about the audit when we can.

As we reported last week, the Town’s unassigned fund balance contained $5,995,546 as of July 30, 2020. This is an increase of $1,822,225 over the balance in the fund as of July 30, 2019, according to Ms. Osborne. A working-capital balance of $1.75 million must be maintained in the fund for emergency purposes.

The Oct. 20 meeting will be live-streamed on the Town of Southern Shores’ YouTube feed, so that you may view it in real time, although you cannot comment remotely unless you view it on Zoom. See https://www.youtube.com/user/TownofSouthernShores.

With the live-streaming of Council meetings, Mr. Ogburn brings Southern Shores into the present to join all of the other Dare County beach towns that have offered this advantage for some time.

UPDATE at 5:10 p.m.: While The Beacon cranked out material today to catch you up with some of the local goings-on, Mr. Ogburn posted a 56-page document consisting of a memorandum to the Mayor and Town Council about “Long Range Capital Budget Planning,” and many supporting documents. We will read Mr. Ogburn’s work product before next Tuesday’s meeting and provide you with a summary.

See the meeting packet at https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/minutes-agendas-newsletters/Meeting-Packet_2020-10-20.pdf.

We finally have a real town manager in Town Hall.

Upcoming Events

Don’t forget: Fri., Oct. 16 is bulk-waste collection day. See The Beacon, 9/26/20 for the dos and don’ts of the roadside disposal. (Rejected material will be branded with an “X.”)

This Saturday, Oct. 17, the 12th annual Throwdown Surf Classic will be held at the Chicahauk Trail beach access at 9 a.m.

Usually held in September, the Throwdown Surf Classic is sponsored by the Throwdown Youth Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, for the benefit of the Outer Banks Relief Foundation, which assists local families in need.

And Finally . . . A Classy Apology

The Zoom feed of the Oct. 6 Town Council meeting, as you will recall, was attacked by a white supremacist Zoombombing, complete with swastika, menacing threats, and other sudden bizarre visuals. See The Beacon, 10/6/20, for the details.

When we resumed watching the Zoom conference, Ms. Osborne was speaking, and we reported that we “heard no one on the Town Council or on the Town staff address the hacking, but they may have.”

In fact, we missed an apology that Mr. Ogburn made for the Zoombombing to everyone watching on the public platform. He then said of this form of hacking: “I’ve read about it. I’ve never seen it. I don’t ever want to see it again.”

We cannot think of more fitting words.

No one on the Town Council said anything to the watching public.

(Next up: We continue our delayed effort to inform you about last week’s Town Council meeting. Thanks for your patience.)

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 10/14/20


The Duck Road split is a popular place for the display of political signs, as this photo illustrates. There are 34 national, state, and local offices included on the N.C. ballot for the general election.

Early voting in Dare County for the Nov. 3 general election begins tomorrow at 8 a.m. at three locations and runs through Oct. 31, with COVID-19 safeguards in place at each site.

The closest early voting site for Southern Shores voters is the commissioners’ meeting room at Kill Devil Hills Town Hall, 102 Town Hall Drive, in KDH.

The other two Dare early voting sites are the Dare County Administration Building, 954 Marshall C. Collins Drive, in Manteo, and the Cape Hatteras Secondary School auditorium, 48576 N.C. Hwy. 12, in Buxton

The three sites will be open weekdays, from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays, Oct. 17 and 24, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sat., Oct. 31, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

You can anticipate long lines at the voting sites if for no other reason than that the two-sided paper ballot—which lists candidates for national, state, and local offices, including eight N.C. appellate judgeships—will take time for voters to complete.

Each voter will be given a single-use pen to mark the ovals next to his or her choices on the ballot. 

See a sample ballot here: https://www.darenc.com/home/showdocument?id=7999.

By our count, there are 34 offices at stake, only five of which have candidates running unopposed.

COVID-19 safeguards being implemented onsite also will consume time, but are necessary for both voters’ and community safety.

Like the State of North Carolina, Dare County has been experiencing an uptick in COVID-19 cases. (See the next section, below.)

Six-foot social distancing will be enforced at each voting site, and poll workers, attired in personal protective equipment and working behind protective Lucite barriers, will frequently clean surfaces and voting equipment.

Neither the State nor the County, thus far, is requiring voters to wear protective facial coverings, but both are encouraging their use.

Hand sanitizer and free masks for voters who do not bring their own and would like to wear one will be provided at the voting sites.

In a press conference yesterday, Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services, said that “local officials, looking at their own [COVID-19] data . . . [can] think about what else they can do” at their voting sites “to try to slow the spread of this virus.”

The polls on Election Day, Nov. 3, will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. with the same COVID-19 safeguards in effect.

PLEASE NOTE: Southern Shores voters will be voting at the Kitty Hawk Elementary School for the first time, not at the Kern Pitts Center next to Town Hall. The Beacon will remind you of this polling place change again.


North Carolina’s COVID-19 trends have worsened this month, with hospitalizations since Oct. 6 topping 1,000, and daily cases reaching levels not seen since a peak in July.

The new case reports on Oct. 9 and Oct. 10, for example, totaled 2,034 and 2,321, respectively.

The positivity rate, on a daily basis, has ranged in October between 5 and 8 percent.

“This worsening of our trends is concerning,” Dr. Cohen said at yesterday’s briefing, “and we need to do all we can to turn those trends around. We do not want to have to go backwards.”

These increases have occurred since Governor Roy Cooper reduced restrictions Oct. 2 on amusement parks, movie theaters, and other indoor and outdoor venues—including outdoor bars—allowing them to operate at limited capacity and with other precautions, such as social distancing, in effect.

But Dr. Cohen said yesterday that no particular setting, such as a bar or restaurant, is responsible for the increased cases and hospitalizations and for the virus’s spread.

Instead, she referred, as she did two weeks ago, to people “letting down their guard” and not taking the obvious measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

“Where before I could pinpoint maybe a certain thing here or there,” Dr. Cohen said, “what we’re seeing now is this virus is everywhere. There’s no single place, no single age, no single location, which means we have to make sure we’re being vigilant across the board.”

The Secretary did note, however, as she and the Governor have at many other briefings, that indoor activities, including indoor restaurant dining, are considered more high-risk for the virus’s spread than outdoor activities. Outdoors, the airborne particles emitted in the breath of infected people disperse more readily.

(You also may have heard that the ultraviolet radiation of the sun kills the virus, but it is only the UVC type of radiation, which has the shortest wavelength and the highest energy, that can act as a disinfectant, according to scientific reports. Nearly all of the UV radiation that reaches Earth is type UVA; most UVB and all of UVC are absorbed by the ozone lawyer, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

“We want to encourage restaurants to do the right thing so we don’t have to roll backwards,” said Lynn Minges, director of the N.C. Restaurant and Lodging Assn.

“We’d encourage customers who’ve been exposed to COVID-19 not to come into restaurants, for everyone to wear face coverings and practice social distancing. If we don’t, I’m concerned we may see a regression.”

As of yesterday, according to the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services’ dashboard, 1,103 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, and 3,816 people had died.

Out of 3,437,598 COVID-19 diagnostic tests done, 234,481 (or 6.8 percent) have been positive.

[UPDATE: The NCDHHS dashboard today displays two new figures: 1. newly reported cases, so you no longer have to subtract yesterday’s reported cases from today’s cases to figure out the 24-hour increase; and 2. the daily percent positive, so you no longer have to divide today’s new-case total by the number of tests performed, which you can only derive by subtracting today’s total tests from yesterday’s total tests. But we like math and do not trust other people’s calculations, so we will continue to do our own subtraction and division. Today, for example, we find the daily positive rate to be 8.6 percent, not 6.6 percent, as the NCDHHS reports.]

Locally, the DCDHHS dashboard reported yesterday that a total of 599 people have tested positive for COVID-19, 327 Dare County residents and 272 nonresidents.

Dr. Sheila Davies said in her Tuesday COVID-19 update that there are 19 active cases, including one person who has been hospitalized for weeks with “complications” associated with the virus.

Dr. Davies’s analysis yesterday continued to show that direct contact with infected family members or other close contacts is the predominant means by which COVID-19 is being acquired in Dare County.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 10/14/20    


Dare County reported six more COVID-19 positive test results today, bringing the two-day case total to 14. (See The Beacon post earlier today.)

Five of the new cases are young Dare County residents: two females age 17 or younger and two women and one man, between the ages of 25 and 49. All are in home isolation.

The sixth reported case is a non-resident man, ages 25-49, who has transferred to his home county for isolation.

The total number of COVID-19 positive cases in Dare County is now 582, 317 locals and 265 nonresidents.

We believe the increase in the daily COVID-19 case count in Dare County is cause for alarm and wish the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services would enlighten us as to how testing is done locally and whether those who test positive are practicing the infection-control measures we all know—or not.

Exactly where—in what settings and circumstances—does DCDHHS believe the virus is spreading? Such information would serve the interest of public health far better than a daily case count.  

COVID-19 may not be fatal to more than 0.5 to 1.0 percent of the people infected with SARS-CoV2—according to the World Health Organization—but death is not the only risk of a COVID-19 infection.

COVID-19 symptoms can persist for months, even among people who had mild versions of the disease, according to the Mayo Clinic. The virus can damage the lungs, heart, and brain in anyone infected with it, posing the threat of long-term health problems.

See Mayo Clinic, “COVID-19 (coronavirus): Long-Term Effects,” at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/coronavirus-long-term-effects/art-20490351

COVID-19 does not yet have a sufficient track record for physicians to know what all of the long-term consequences of an infection may be.

Most people who have COVID-19 “recover quickly,” the Mayo Clinic says, “But the potentially long-lasting problems from COVID-19 make it even more important to reduce the spread of the disease by following precautions such as wearing masks, avoiding crowds and keeping hands clean.”

THE BEACON, 10/8/20


Dare County reported yesterday a spike of eight new positive test results for COVID-19, after reporting none on Tuesday. Five of the eight new cases are nonresidents, four of whom are in the 50-64 age group and are isolating in Dare County.

These four over-50 nonresidents are three men and one woman. The other COVID-19 positive nonresident is a man, ages 25 to 49, who has transferred to his home county for isolation.

The last time the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services reported as many as eight new COVID-19 cases in one day was Sept. 28. Since then, the single-day case count has averaged about four (3.88).

Last Friday DCDHHS Director Dr. Sheila Davies reported that the positivity rate—which is the percentage of new positive cases among the total tests performed in a week—increased locally last week to 5.15 percent, which is the highest rate since the week of July 20.

The Beacon does not regard this COVID-19 “metric” in Dare County as significant because many of the people who test positive locally are infected outside of the area and “bring the virus” with them.

Also, testing in the county is largely dependent on the initiative of the subjects tested. The DCDHHS is not systematically testing the local citizenry.

The three Dare County residents who tested positive recently for COVID-19 are a woman, age 50-64, whose report was relayed to the DCDHHS late by the State of North Carolina; and two women, one ages 18-24 and the other ages 25-49. The former has recovered, and the other two are in home isolation.

The single-day total on Sept. 28 also included a late case report from the State about a resident who had tested positive and since recovered.

The total COVID-19 positive cases in Dare County is now 576, 312 local residents and 264 nonresidents.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 10/8/20

10/6/20: COUNCIL ZOOM MEETING HACKED (“BOMBED”) BY SWASTIKA IMAGE, RACIST MESSAGE. Full Meeting Held After Zoom Feed Shut Down, Then Resumed.

Town Manager Cliff Ogburn also said during his report that he and Police Chief David Kole take the removal of political signs from people’s yards very seriously. Mr. Ogburn encouraged Town residents to report the thefts to Dare Central, which may be reached at 473-3444.

A large Nazi swastika appeared on the Zoom videoconference of the Southern Shores Town Council meeting this evening in a sudden “Zoombombing” attack shortly after accountant Teresa Osborne said she would give “highlights” of the Town’s fiscal year 2019-20 audit.

Within seconds, the menacing voice of a male cyberattacker or hacker could be heard saying, “Shut up, niggers,” and another threat that included the word “bitch.”

One of six participants on Zoom, I was so astonished by the bombing takeover that I did not catch the wording of the other racist intimidation, which stopped Ms. Osborne cold. The voice was scratchy, as if it were traveling by radio waves from a distance.

The Zoombombing happened so suddenly and unexpectedly that it was hard to take in.

The name Jussten Davis appeared in the participants’ row at the top of the Zoom conference screen, as did another name that I had no time to write down and cannot recall.

In a fast display of images, the photograph of a young black man, either in his teens or early 20s, emerged on the screen, with the name Jussten Davis under it. The youth was wearing a T-shirt with a message that played off of the “Black Lives Matter” protest movement.  

The capital letters F and U also filled the screen, one at a time, flashing as if a word was being spelled, but the remaining two letters never appeared. Just the shorthand F-U.

The hacking takeover lasted about a minute, if that, before Town staff closed the Zoom meeting.

When I rejoined the meeting, Ms. Osborne was almost finished with her brief presentation. I heard no one on the Town Council or on the Town staff address the Zoombombing, but they may have. By text, Town Manager Cliff Ogburn described the intimidation as “awful.”

“I’m sorry it happened,” he said.

White supremacists today use the Nazi swastika as a symbol of race-based hatred, as well as anti-Semitism, but I never thought I would see it associated with a Southern Shores Town Council meeting, even tangentially.

The Council went on to hold a full, information-packed meeting, during which Mr. Ogburn gave his strongest Town Manager’s report to date—albeit without being on camera.

The camera remained mostly fixed on the five members of the Council, who resumed the dais for this meeting—after months of sitting informally at tables in the area formerly occupied by the audience. They sat at least six feet apart from each other and wore face coverings. Town staff sat socially distanced elsewhere near the walls of the meeting room.

The meeting also was live-streamed on You Tube, Mr. Ogburn announced. All future Council meetings will be live-streamed, he said, so people can watch them in real time, but not be able to comment as they can on Zoom.

“I’m really excited about that moving forward,” he said. I agree it is a major improvement. 

After less than four months, Mr. Ogburn is clearly in command of his job. Among the newsworthy announcements he made in a thorough and efficient manner was one about the hiring of J.M. Teague Engineering and Planning, of Waynesville, N.C., to conduct the Town’s traffic study.

Waynesville is 30 miles southwest of Asheville, near the N.C.-Tennessee border.

According to Mr. Ogburn, the study project will take 90 business days to complete.

I will give more details about the traffic project and write a longer report about the business of tonight’s meeting as soon as I can.

Ms. Osborne pronounced the Town in “strong financial condition,” but I am reluctant to quote figures until after I have reviewed the meeting video and/or her 55-page audit report.

[UPDATE 10/7/20: The Town’s unassigned fund balance is $5,995,546 as of June 30, 2020, according to the Dowdy & Osborne audit.]

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 10/6/20; article revised 10/8/20 to update the tech-speak


Four Dare County residents in the higher-risk age group of 65-and-over are among the 10 locals who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the first six days of October, according to the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services. They are two women and two men.

During the same time, seven nonresidents have tested positive for COVID-19 while in Dare County, the DCDHHS dashboard reports.

All 17 people are in home isolation. No one has been hospitalized.  

Since a spike of eight COVID-19 cases reported by DCDHHS on Sept. 28, daily case counts locally have averaged four. No cases were reported on Sunday, and so far, none has been reported today.

As of 1 p.m. today, a total of 568 COVID-19-positive cases have been reported since March by the DCDHHS, 309 Dare County residents and 259 nonresidents. Seventeen cases among residents are currently active, including one person who remains hospitalized outside of the area, according to the dashboard.

The breakdown in ages of the 568 cases is as follows:

17 and under: 71 (12.5 percent)

18 to 24: 131 (23 percent)

25 to 49: 189 (33 percent)

50 to 64: 111 (19.5 percent)

65 and older: 66 (12 percent)

At the Governor’s COVID-19 briefing last Wednesday, NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen offered a characterization of the “risk of viral spread” that we believe is worth repeating.

According to Dr. Cohen, the State’s contact tracing reveals that the risk of viral spread is greatest:

  1. Among extended family members and close friends who “let down their guard” when they are together;
  2. In congregate living settings where people are “living in close quarters”;
  3. In large gatherings, such as in restaurants, religious settings, and college campuses.

When Dr. Sheila Davies, director of the DCDHHS, does her Tuesday and Friday updates on COVID-19 cases locally, her analyses of viral transmission often show #1 above occurring.  


Teresa Osborne, CPA, of the Nags Head accounting firm of Dowdy & Osborne will present the results of her fiscal year 2019-20 audit of the Town of Southern Shores at today’s Town Council meeting, which convenes at 5:30 p.m. in the Pitts Center.

Ms. Osborne’s presentation will occur within minutes of the start of the meeting, before reports by Town staff. We encourage all Southern Shores property owners to tune in to hear what she says.

(See The Beacon, 10/2/20, for a preview of the Town Council meeting agenda, which will include a discussion of proposed beach-nourishment easements.)

The public may attend the meeting in-person, subject to facial-masking and social-distancing, or join via Zoom.

The Zoom ID for the Town Council meeting is 932 9270 1434; the passcode is 242462. You also may listen to the meeting on the telephone by dialing (646) 558-8656, and then entering the meeting ID and passcode, followed by the # key.

A PERSONAL NOTE: In The Beacon’s 10/2/20 post, I promised to update the Dare County COVID-19 “scene” on Saturday. Because of a sudden change in my family circumstances, I was unable to follow through on that promise. For the same reason, I may have difficulty reporting quickly on today’s Town Council meeting. I will post an article as soon as I can. Thank you.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 10/6/20 


Homeowners on Seventh Avenue have complained to the Town Council about the width of their beach.

The Town Council will consider Tuesday a resolution authorizing Town staff to obtain permanent “beach nourishment easements” voluntarily from Southern Shores oceanfront property owners and a budget amendment authorizing the payment of $32,100 in legal fees to accomplish this acquisition, according to meeting packet materials posted on the Town website.

A draft of the proposed easement prepared by Town Manager Cliff Ogburn and Town Attorney Ben Gallop supports the Town essentially seeking a condemnation of oceanfront property by voluntary consent from affected owners for the purpose of doing whatever it wants in the interest of “erosion control and storm damage reduction.”

You may access the meeting packet, which contains the draft easement, here: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/minutes-agendas-newsletters/Meeting-Packet_2020-10-06.pdf

The Council will meet Tuesday, Oct. 6, at 5:30 p.m. in the Pitts Center. The public may attend the meeting in person, subject to facial-masking and social-distancing, or join via Zoom. (See below.) The agenda, which The Beacon previewed earlier, is the first page of the meeting packet.

Mr. Ogburn and Mr. Gallop propose to procure perpetual, irrevocable, nonexclusive, and assignable grants from oceanfront property owners of “ambulatory easements” and “right-of-ways” in advance of an estimated $16 million 2022 beach nourishment project  that the Town Council has only said it will “pursue.”

Under North Carolina law, oceanfront property owners own the dry sand area of the beach, but their ownership is subject to the public’s right of access. The beach is said to be held in trust by the State for the public’s enjoyment. It is the dry sand area to which the beach-nourishment easements would apply.

At no time has the Council selected a nourishment project “option” from among those recommended to it by the Town’s coastal engineering consultant, Coastal Protection Engineering of North Carolina, Inc., formerly known as APTIM. It has only voted to “pursue” beach nourishment.   

Despite this omission, the Council on July 21 unanimously gave Mr. Ogburn the go-ahead to try to obtain easements voluntarily from oceanfront owners for its project, giving no instructions on the language or reach of the easements.

As is customary with this Town Council, it signed off to staff, with the expectation that the Town Attorney would provide legal advice and guidance.

We were surprised to read that the draft easement being floated is for a perpetual and irrevocable grant of legal rights to the Town, not for a 10-year easement, like Nags Head initially used with many oceanfront property owners for its 2011 nourishment.

Mr. Ogburn, who started his job in Southern Shores in June, served as Nags Head town manager for 11 years, including during its two beach nourishment projects, the first of which was in 2011.

Southern Shores does not have, nor has it ever had, the beach-erosion problems that plague Nags Head.

Pursuant to the draft, any such easements that Southern Shores property owners agree to will run with the title of their properties “in perpetuity.”

If property owners refuse to voluntarily grant the Town the rights it seeks, the Town cannot yet acquire these rights by “quick-take” action—despite the Council’s unanimous approval of this method of acquisition this summer—because the N.C. General Assembly has not yet extended to Southern Shores this power of accelerated eminent domain. (See N.C. General Statutes sec. 40A-3(b1); and The Beacon, 7/20/20 and 7/27/20.)

The Town would have to use the process of standard, not accelerated, eminent domain in order to seize control over such property, and Mr. Gallop’s firm, Hornthal, Riley, Ellis & Maland, LLP, which prepared the estimated legal budget for the acquisitions, would then be padding the bill it charges Southern Shores taxpayers.   

The firm’s $32,100 budget is based on easement acquisitions from the owners of 162 Southern Shores parcels, according to the meeting packet. Full disclosure: Thanks to our parents, my siblings and I own three of them, two of which are undeveloped, vacant lots.


The draft easement prepared by Mr. Ogburn and Mr. Gallop defines the easement area in several ways. We believe that all of them require a lawyer’s interpretation to assist a property owner in understanding precisely what he or she would be relinquishing—without promise of any compensation—if he/she grants an easement.

Generally speaking, the easement area sought by the Town is that “portion of property” located between:

  1. “the mean high water mark of the Atlantic Ocean, and
  2. “the landward toe or the Frontal Dune or Primary Dune.”

“Frontal dune” is further defined in the document as “the first mound of sand located landward of the Ocean Beach [which is also elaborately defined] having sufficient vegetation, height, continuity and configuration to offer protective value.”

“Primary Dune” is “the first mound of sand located landward of the Ocean Beach having an elevation equal to the mean flood level (in a storm having a one percent chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year) for the area plus six feet. The primary dune extends landward to the lowest elevation in the depression behind that same mound of sand (commonly referred to as the dune toe).”

In the absence of a “discernible”—a word the document repeatedly misspells as discernable—Frontal Dune or Primary Dune, according to the draft, the area shall be the area located between:

  • “the mean high water mark of the Atlantic Ocean, and
  • “the waterward edge of any Permanent Structure located on the property as of the date of this Easement.”

We will not trouble you with the lengthy definition of “Permanent Structure,” but we will note that it does not include an “Improved Dune Walkover Access,” which an owner would be free to build, subject to the usual Town permitting process.

Further, in the absence of a discernible “Frontal Dune or Primary Dune or a Permanent Structure,” the easement area shall be the property located between:

  • “the mean high water mark of the Atlantic Ocean, and
  • “a northern and/or southern extension of the western boundary of the easement area for the property or properties adjoining the Property on the north and/or south whose comparable easement areas have been established using either the Frontal Dune of Primary Dune or a Permanent Structure located on such adjoining property (the “Easement Area”).

The draft easement also requires an oceanfront property owner to grant the Town a “nonexclusive pedestrian only access easement across any portion of the property for the purpose of permitting Town’s inspection and, if necessary, observation, maintenance and repair of the Town’s work and activities within the Easement Area.” (How often might “inspection, observation, maintenance and repair” occur and now intrusive may these actions be? There is no way to know.)

What the draft easement says the Town, its successors and assigns, and other federal, state, and county government bodies, agencies, and departments may do on such oceanfront property, once it has procured the requisite easements, is broad, extensive, and in some of the legal language, ill-defined and potentially invasive. And we quote:

“Town may use the Easement Area to evaluate, survey, inspect, construct, preserve, patrol, protect, operate, maintain, repair, rehabilitate, and replace a public Ocean Beach, a dune system, and other erosion control and storm damage reduction measures, including the right to:

(d) “move, store and remove equipment and supplies” [store? for how long?]

(e) “erect and remove temporary structures” [how temporary?]

(f) “perform any other work necessary and incident to the construction, periodic renourishment and maintenance of the Project” [any other work?]

(j) “trim, cut, fell, and remove from said land all trees, underbrush, debris, obstructions, and any other vegetation, structures and obstacles within the boundaries of the Easement Area.” [why?]

Many oceanfront property owners rent their properties. What exactly are they potentially subjecting their renters to if they give the Town a permanent ambulatory easement and a right-of-way in front of their vacation rental homes? Those who live on the oceanfront have to ask the same about what they potentially may be subjected to without legal recourse.

At the July Council meeting, Mr. Gallop observed that “There’s a chance that you don’t need easements to do beach nourishment” because this area is “subject to public trust and usage rights.” This may be so, but there is no definitive N.C. high-court ruling to this effect.

Mr. Gallop also said then that an easement obtained by condemnation—either quick-take or otherwise—“probably would be even more limited than what you would ask for voluntarily.”

Easements obtained by quick-take eminent domain are “very, very narrowed easements,” said the Town Attorney, and “voluntary easements are more broad.”

It seems both reasonable and obvious to ask, as we did preemptively in a 7/27/20 blog: Why would an oceanfront property owner who is opposed to:

  1. beach nourishment; and/or
  2. to giving the Town perpetual, irrevocable, nonexclusive, and assignable easements so that the Town, “its representatives, agents, employees, consultants, surveyors, contractors, permittees, assignees and invitees” can access his/her property at will to “survey, inspect,. . . protect . . . rehabilitate, and replace a public Ocean Beach, a dune system, and other “erosion control and storm damage reduction measures,”
  3. voluntarily grant these legal rights if a court will order narrower easements and award “just compensation”?

There are a lot of verbs being done by a lot of nouns in this draft document. As the co-owner of oceanfront property, I am not thrilled and will be eager to hear from elected officials if they have anything to say about it.

Call me grossly naïve, unrealistic, and too trusting, but couldn’t the Town have just asked for my permission to access the area on my property between the mean high-water mark and the dunes during the beach nourishment construction period without permanently subordinating my property interests?

I wonder how many of the owners of the 160 parcels—none of which is commercial— would have said no.

The Zoom Meeting ID for the Town Council’s meeting is 932 9270 1434; the passcode is 242462. You also may listen to the meeting on the telephone by dialing (646) 558-8656, and then entering the meeting ID and passcode, followed by the # key.

PLEASE NOTE: The Beacon will update the local COVID-19 scene, which continues to wax, not wane, tomorrow. Already today, the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services has reported six new COVID-19 cases, including a Dare County woman who is age 65 or older. Four of the six cases are nonresidents.

In her update Wednesday, Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services, singled out northeastern North Carolina as an area in the state where the number of COVID-19 cases is increasing.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 10/2/20  


North Carolina will move “cautiously forward” at 5 p.m. Friday into Phase 3 of its reopening, Governor Roy Cooper announced at a coronavirus briefing this afternoon in which he outlined the easing of restrictions for large and small outdoor venues, indoor movie theaters, and outdoor bars and amusement parks.

Under this first stage of Phase 3, which will expire at 5 p.m. on Oct. 23, indoor mass gatherings will remain limited to 25 people, and outdoor mass gatherings not associated with a venue will continue to be capped at 50 people.

The State’s “mask mandate,” which requires everyone age 5 and older to wear a facial covering under circumstances that pose a risk of COVID-19, also will continue. The Governor further urged elderly or otherwise at-risk individuals to stay “safer at home.”

Characterizing the state’s coronavirus metrics, such as the number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations reported daily, as “mostly stable, but fragile,” Governor Cooper said, “We’re cautiously encouraged about where we are in this pandemic.”

Most of the metrics, said Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services, are “level, but still high.”

The Governor also remarked upon “warning signs that the disease could spike again here and across the country,” especially during the colder months, and said he was taking “the next steps meticulously and responsibly,” in accordance with his “dimmer switch approach.”

The Governor started by reiterating the announcement he made last week—in order to give colleges and universities and professional sports teams time to prepare—that large outdoor venues with seating to accommodate more than 10,000 spectators may open Friday at 7 percent occupancy.

Under the new executive order, small outdoor venues, such as arenas or amphitheaters, he said, may open at 30 percent outdoor capacity or for up to 100 guests, whichever number is less; and movie theaters and conference centers may open indoors at 30 percent capacity or for up to 100 seated guests, whichever number is less.

The Governor’s order further authorizes outdoor amusement parks to open at 30 percent capacity, but keeps indoor amusement centers closed. (The executive order is not yet available online for The Beacon to review.)

Bars that serve patrons outdoors may open at 30 percent of their outdoor capacity or for up to 100 guests, whichever is less, and must observe the alcohol-sale-for-in-person-consumption curfew of 11 p.m., which has been extended.  

A question by a reporter of Dr. Cohen about how a bar that does not currently have an outdoor capacity should limit the number of guests it serves at one time clarified that they should limit capacity to seven people per 1,000 square feet of space.

Dr. Cohen did not explain exactly how her department came up with the seven people-per-1,000-square-feet calculation, which is in the restrictions—called “complicated” by the reporter—that the State imposes on bars in the new executive order.

Indeed, all of the businesses that are opening at limited capacity are required to adhere to State safety protocols to ensure that social distancing and other public-health precautions are observed.

Outdoor events and activities are considered safer than indoor events and activities, both the Governor and the Secretary said, but not if participants cluster together, mingle closely with people who are not in their own household or “bubble,” or otherwise violate basic COVID-19 safety rules.

“We need to double-down on our work to slow the spread of this virus to keep on the right track,” said Dr. Cohen, who noted that COVID-19 cases nationwide have increased in the Midwest and the South and in the Northeast and Sandhills areas of North Carolina.

The Secretary recommended that every person do three things to thwart COVID-19:

  1. Observe the “three Ws”
  2. Download the “slow covid” exposure detection app (See The Beacon, 9/29/20 and https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/slowcovidnc)
  3. Get a flu shot

“Being safe means being smart and making sure others around you are doing the same,” said Governor Cooper, who added that one of the State’s challenges is “just getting every person to do his or her part.”

If every person were to take “personal responsibility” and be “careful and cautious,” he said, “we could move faster to ease restrictions and stop the spread [of COVID-19].”

Asked by a reporter about the possible expiration of the statewide mask mandate, the Governor said it will remain “important until we have a vaccine or a cure to protect the population.”    

Addressing results of contact tracing, Dr. Cohen said that the “risk of viral spread” is greatest:

  1. Among extended family members and close friends who “let down their guard” when they are together [Note: This has certainly been the case in Dare County];
  2. In congregate living settings where people are “living in close quarters”; and
  3. In large gatherings, such as in restaurants, religious settings, and college dormitories.

Today’s NCDHHS dashboard records 210,632 positive cases of COVID-19, among 3,029,942 completed tests; 956 hospitalizations; and 3,532 deaths. The positivity rate is hovering around 6 percent, according to Dr. Cohen.

[UPDATE: At 5 p.m. today, the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services reported four new COVID-19 cases, all of them Dare County residents. They are a man and a woman, between ages 50 and 64; a woman between ages 25 and 49; and a girl age 17 or younger. The four are in home isolation.]

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 9/30/20


Dare County reported six new COVID-19 cases today—three locals and three nonresidents—for an unusually high two-day total in September of 14 new cases.

In her update today about the 18 new COVID-19-positive cases reported since last Friday, Dr. Sheila Davies remarked upon the two-day uptick and said that four of the latest cases are people age 18 or younger.

“While more and more people are beginning to re-engage in activities with others,” the director of the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services said, “we can expect to see cases increase.”

Dr. Davies urged people to continue to “follow the 3Ws to help reduce the spread of COVID-19”: wear a cloth face covering; wait six feet apart; and wash your hands often.

Dr. Davies also described a new COVID-19 exposure tracking app that the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services has made available.

Downloaded to a smartphone, the app can alert a person to when he or she has been in close contact with a laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19. For more information about the exposure tracking app, see https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/slowcovidnc. (For the app to work, people have to be willing to self-report a positive COVID-19 test result.)

The NCDHHS is strongly encouraging parents to have their children participate in lower and moderate COVID-19 risk activities on Halloween, instead of traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating, which involves crowd gathering, close contact, and touching.

The Department has adapted Halloween guidance issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and issued recommendations for fun alternate activities at https://files.nc.gov/covid/documents/guidance/NCDHHS-Interim-Guidance-for-Halloween.pdf.

Anyone for a virtual Halloween costume contest?

Today’s six new cases, according to the DCDHHS dashboard, are:

Two female residents, age 17 or younger, who are isolating at home;

One male resident, ages 18-24, who also is isolating at home;

One male nonresident, ages 18-24; and two female nonresidents, one ages 25-49, and the other ages 50-64, all of whom are isolating in Dare County.

Direct contact continues to be the predominant means by which people acquire the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to Dr. Davies’s update.

Four of the newly diagnosed Dare County residents are “close contacts” of a resident whose positive COVID-19 test result was reported on the dashboard last Friday.

Similarly, three members of the same non-resident family acquired the virus by direct contact with a person who tested positive outside of Dare County.

There currently are 15 active cases among residents in Dare County, and one resident continues to be hospitalized with complications of COVID-19.

Since March, 547 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Dare County, 295 residents and 252 nonresidents. Three residents have died, and a fourth resident who was hospitalized with COVID-19 has died from what was said to be a non-COVID-19 cause.

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 9/29/20