Monday, August 27, 2007

NC DENR Ocean Outfall Project Meeting This Thursday

Representatives from the North Carolina Department of Environmental and Natural Resources, Coastal Studies Institute and the firm Moffatt & Nichol will be presenting information on the Ocean Outfall Project at a meeting this Thursday, August 30th at 1 pm, being held in the Jockey’s Ridge Park Auditorium. The group will discuss the overview and background of the project and also provide data from groundwater monitoring and water sampling that has taken place over the last few months

Election News – Register and Vote on the Same Day!

House Bill 91, that was ratified last month by the, has been precleared by the US Department of Justice. The bill, an act to provide for in-person registration and voting at one-stop voting sites, will be implemented during this fall’s elections. It basically gives two weeks and more time to register if one takes advantage of one-stop voting. Registration typically closes 30 days prior to an election and one stop voting is held the two weeks prior to the election. This allowance should assist with a heavy voter turnout for the vote on liquor by the drink in the Hatteras, Frisco, Buxton, Avon and Chicamacomico precincts. Proof of residency showing a person’s name and current address, such as a valid driver’s license, photo ID from a government agency, or other approved ID, is required as well as a complete, signed voter registration form.

Nags Head

Aug. 21 – The Nags Head Planning Board took the following action this past week:

Approved 4 to 2 (Susie Walters/Robert Edwards opposing) a site plan/conditional use permit for Gus Zinovis to have a detached single-family dwelling on the same parcel as Mulligan’s Restaurant. A public hearing is scheduled next week, September 5th at 9 am at the Board of Commissioners meeting.

Approved 4-2 (Robert Edwards, David Oaksmith opposing) to allow exercise studio, dance studio and martial arts studio to be permitted within the same principle building occupied by other principal permitted uses within the C-3 district. Commissioners had already approved the “use” as compatible; the board needed to approve the “permitting” of the use.

The Board heard from town resident Dave Masters who opposed the consideration of exempting dwellings with 5 bedrooms, less than 3,500 sq. ft on the west side of Hwy. 158 from the residential design standards. He felt that the design standards were formed after thousands of hours of work and should not be changed. He stated, “Do we want to see row after row of look-alike houses?” The exemption consideration was first brought up by Commissioner Wayne Gray to change the bedroom limit from four to five when triggering the requirement for architectural design standards in areas from the northern town limits to the Village at Nags Head. The Planning Board did not discuss any positive impacts of the change and voted unanimously to deny the amendment.

The Board unanimously approved a zoning text amendment to prohibit the use of pump and haul tank systems except as a temporary emergency measure while the existing sewage system is being repaired, not to exceed 14 days. A public hearing on the matter will be held next week - September 5th at 9 am during the Board of Commissioners meeting. Oceanfront home owners have requested the use of these systems because the required 50-foot separation between their septic drainfield and the high mean water mark cannot be met.

Currituck County Sidewalk Ordinance

Aug. 20 – The Currituck Board of Commissioners voted 4 to 1 (Janet Taylor opposing) in favor of a text amendment to the UDO to require sidewalks on both sides of streets in subdivisions greater than 20 lots. The former rule, in place since 2003, required sidewalks on one side of the street in subdivisions of 41 or more lots. Planner David Webb stated that the amendment supported goals in the County’s Land Use Plan to improve pedestrian/bike safety and mobility through development of “complete streets” which include sidewalks and a bike lane. He stated that since 2003, only two subdivisions have been approved with more than 41 lots; many more less than 41. Commissioner Janet Taylor voted against the amendment questioning the added cost and necessity of such an amendment. Sidewalks are required to be constructed prior to development. The Outer Banks Home Builders and Realtors Associations were represented and the following issues were raised: heavy trucks will have to cross over the sidewalks during construction, thus causing damage; swales are used for stormwater maintenance and there are no curbs or stormwater drains; who will be required to maintain the sidewalks; the added cost to especially small subdivisions will affect the cost of housing having an impact on affordability; many people like the rural charm and character of the County and do not want sidewalks, street lights, etc.; and the impervious surface of sidewalks adds to stormwater runoff.

The Board of Commissioners also passed an amendment (3-2) to the UDO to delete perk tests for minor subdivisions. Perk tests examine whether or not a lot/parcel is “buildable” and the planning department uses them to determine density, lot size and number of lots that may be developed. Commissioner Gene Gregory argued that some of these minor subdivision lots are used for pastures and should not have to incur the additional expense.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Monteray Shores Moratorium Update - Water

August 26, 2007

Many people attended a meeting yesterday at the Pine Island Fire Station to learn about plans for a new wastewater treatment plant that will service the Monteray Shores/Buck Island/Corolla Bay subdivisions. Representatives from Currituck County and Carolina Water presented information on the technical operations of the system and the timeline of the project. The overflowing crowd in attendance was very eager to hear when a state-imposed building moratorium would be lifted. As one attendee stated, “People have been waiting for six years to maximize their land. When is it going to happen?”

The Department of Environmental and Natural Resources permitted the project in March of this year. All property plats and deed will be recorded by the end of August and construction should start mid-September. Construction can only take place during the non-peak season. The plant will have a capacity of 520,000 gallons per day when completed and will be constructed in two phases. The first half of the plant is expected to be completed by December 23, 2008; the second half by April 20, 2009.



The total cost of the project is $9.5 million; Carolina Water will be paying 50% from the rate base and the real estate/development company, BD&A, will be paying the remaining 50%. The plant will also serve BD&A’s new subdivision, Corolla Bay; the partnership negates the need for a separate wastewater treatment plant to be built for Corolla Bay. Once DENR approves water capacity allocations, then Currituck County can issue building permits. Many were concerned that the Corolla Bay subdivision would receive allocations before lots in Monteray Shores. When asked if permits would be issued on a first come-first served basis, County Manager Dan Scanlon stated that since BD&A is paying for part of the system that there would be some allocations set aside for Corolla Bay. He stated, “The County is willing to sit down with Carolina Water and discuss allocations and if agreed upon, the County will honor and respect those allocations.” It was then clarified by Carolina Water representatives that "Corolla Bay is not going to take away any capacity that would be for Monteray Shores, Buck Island or anywhere else!"



As far as the state-imposed building moratorium: according to the timeline presented it will be at least (if everything goes as planned) another 16 to over 20 months before any construction permits will be issued in Monteray Shores.



Sorry the news is not better for those property owners but things are moving in the right direction!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Pending Sales Index Shows Market Improvement

The 5 percent gain in NAR's Pending Home Sales Index in June is the largest monthly increase in three years. This forward-looking indicator suggests that the market will stabilize in the months ahead. The June reading of 102.4 was 8.4 percent lower than a year ago. “It is too early to say if home sales have already passed bottom,” Lawrence Yun, NAR’s senior economist, said. “Still, major declines in home sales are likely to have occurred already and further declines, if any, are likely to be modest given the accumulating pent-up demand.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

NC DENR Ocean Outfall Project Meeting

Representatives from the North Carolina Department of Environmental and Natural Resources, Coastal Studies Institute and the firm Moffatt & Nichol will be presenting information on the Ocean Outfall Project at a meeting on August 30th at 1 pm, being held in the Jockey’s Ridge Park Auditorium. The group will discuss the overview and background of the project and also provide data from groundwater monitoring and water sampling that has taken place over the last few months.

Monteray Shores Moratorium Update

Carolina Water will be conducting a meeting on Thursday, August 23rd at 1:00 p.m. at the Pine Island Fire Station to give an update on their wastewater expansion project. The project has now been permitted by the Division of Water Quality. Property owners have been waiting for over two years for a state-imposed building moratorium to be lifted. The moratorium occurred when the Division of Water Quality determined that the current wastewater treatment facility had reached capacity.

The public is invited to attend the meeting; the Pine Island Fire Station is located on NC 12 in Corolla.

Kitty Hawk Parking Surfaces

Aug. 16 - The Planning Board met last week and learned about the many different materials that can be utilized for parking surfaces in the beach residential district. There were a couple of presenters that discussed the effectiveness, cost and installation of semi-pervious/pervious pavers/materials, from turf stone to geoweb. It was noted that not all materials were the same, with some surfaces requiring more maintenance and upkeep than others. Porous concrete, for example, is derived from a specialized concrete process, costs twice as much as regular concrete and should only be used in flat areas, since small particles can clog the surface “holes”, thus reducing its effectiveness. The surface requires cleaning and brushing after a period of time. Although the board did not take any action on the issue, they agreed to define and research further what constituted a good/correct application of the products, to decide which materials would work best in the beach residential area, to specify smaller cell “web” materials be utilized; and to define what would be used for the borders of such products. The Board will be reviewing the issue again at their September meeting. Board member Tina Tice stated that the reason for the discussion was to create equity for all citizens in the Town, since properties in other districts can currently use pea gravel, crush and run, and materials other than asphalt or concrete for parking surfaces.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Currituck New Fire Ratings

Good news – the NC Department of Insurance Office of the State Fire Marshal has recently completed inspections of Currituck County Volunteer Fire Departments. The inspections have resulted in lower ratings in several districts which could transfer to savings in insurance cost for homeowners. A new “7” rating will be effective November 1, 2007 for homes within five road miles of a fire station and within 1,000 feet of fire hydrant in the Lower Currituck and Moyock Fire Districts; down from a 9E rating. A “6” rating will be effective November 1, 2007 for structures within five road miles of a fire station and within 1,000 feet of a fire hydrant in the Crawford Township Fire District. The Corolla Fire District will move to a district wide rating of “6” effective December 1, 2007; the rating is currently a 6/9S. The new ratings are being forwarded to Insurance Services Office, Inc. which reports them to the various insurance companies. Check with your agent to see if your policy is affected by the new ratings!

Kill Devil Hills - Bermuda Bay

At tonight’s meeting, the Board of Commissioners will be holding two public hearings: a request from Bermuda Bay to decrease building separation from 30 feet to 24 feet; and a request to add language to the exceptions for decks in the Ocean Impact Residential Zone for those permitted by the NC Division of Coastal Management. Shoreline protection is also on the agenda with a discussion on replenishing the beach under Section 206 of the Water Resources Development Act of 1992 and the town’s contact with beach nourishment lobbying group - Marlowe and Company

Kitty Hawk Boundaries, Signs, Parking Spaces

Aug. 6 – Town Council held five public hearings and took the following action:
Extended the northern boundary of its extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) within the Currituck Sound to align with the northern boundary of the recently annexed property owned by the State of NC. The area extends one mile west of the high-water mark at the Town’s boundary along the Currituck Sound.

Zoned the area above like other ETJ areas.

Allowed the temporary sales of lawn and garden supplies to be permitted administratively on an annual basis ( Wal-Mart Garden Center).

Eliminated the 10” by 20” parking space standard as stated in the “Parking Space” definition and agreed that the standard of 9”6” x 18” as found in “Off-Street Parking and Loading” was more appropriate.

Deferred action on a text amendment to eliminate a provision in the subdivision ordinance allowing roadways as narrow as sixteen feet.

The Board also agreed with a recommendation from Councilwoman Emilie Klutz to return to the way public hearings were handled in the past. Council will no longer hold a public hearing and vote on the matter at the same meeting. Public hearings held in a particular month will be voted on the following month in an effort to give Council members more time to review the issues.
Council also approved a text amendment to establish a 30-day time limit for submission of an appeal of any administrative order, determination, or decision to the Board of Adjustment.

Southern Shores
Aug. 7 – The Southern Shores Planning Board and the Town’s Vegetation Committee held a joint meeting to discuss a draft vegetation ordinance that was presented several months ago. At that time, the ordinance was not well received and viewed as too restrictive. The group then discussed components of the Town of Duck’s recently approved vegetation ordinance. Duck now requires tree removal permits for trees over 14” in diameter at breast height and also mandates that 15% of lot coverage after the footprint of structure be vegetative/tree coverage. Duck’s ordinance also limits what plants/trees will be counted towards the 15% vegetative coverage. The Planning Board decided to review Duck’s ordinance and forward any comments to the Vegetation Committee. The Committee will then use those comments to draft another ordinance.

Kill Devil Hills
Aug. 7 – There were only three items on the KDH Planning Board meeting agenda and all items warranted lengthy discussion between board members and staff.
The first item on the agenda was a review of a proposed zoning amendment to allow nonconforming structures/sites to make improvements, including additions, remodels, and changes of use, without coming up to full compliance. Owners of properties which are non-conforming due to town code/regulations will be able to use a “point system” devised by planning staff to make improvements to their property that would “lessen” the nonconformity. Board members reviewed a three-page Nonconformities Worksheet that site plan preparers would use to calculate existing nonconformities and indicate proposed improvements to those nonconformities. Based upon total points, the site must meet certain levels as well as address some area of nonconformity in order to affect a change of use, repair/reconstruction, addition or remodel. It was noted that any addition to living space would require that parking be compliant. The Board tabled the proposal until their September meeting.
The Board then discussed alternatives for funding workforce housing that included down payment assistance programs and the use of “linkage fees” or other impact fees paid by businesses and commercial development. Assistant Planning Director Meredith Guns explained that the fees could be administered through the Outer Banks Community Development Corporation. The Board moved to forward the presented packet of articles and implementation strategies from other areas to the Board of Commissioners for review. The Planning Board also recommended that the Board of Commissioners, if in agreement with the alternative financing concept, direct the planning staff to investigate a feasibility study to look at the various alternatives for workforce housing funding assistance and how effective a program would be for the town.
The Board tabled any recommendations on pump and haul wastewater treatment systems after recognizing that Kill Devil Hills does not have the same issues as Nags Head, which just recently imposed a moratorium on the systems.

Bonner Bridge Safety

The tragedy of a bridge collapse in Minneapolis has been on the minds of everyone this past week and has drawn attention to a bridge closer to home – the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet. The Bridge is 44 years old and has been given a rating of “2” out of “100” with regards to sufficiency; “0” being the worst. NC DOT has maintained that the bridge is inspected every two years and is safe. A merger team was formed in 1992, consisting of 13 federal and state governmental agencies, to work on the replacement of the bridge. With the process taking so long, Dare Commissioner Allen Burrus expressed outrage during last month’s Commissioners meeting regarding the postponement of a meeting with the Bridge merger team. The meeting is now scheduled to be held on August 15th. The Board of Commissioners has requested a meeting with Governor Mike Easley to make the replacement of the Bridge a priority. For more information about efforts to replace the bridge and how you can help, go to www.replacethebridgenow.com.

4 Wheel Drive Area Roads

The Currituck Board of Commissioners held a retreat last week and improvements to roads in the Carova and Swan Beach area were a topic of discussion. The Board talked about the creation of a service district to allow for the grading and compacting of the sandy, dirt roads in the area. Although the roads would not be paved, the hardened surfaces would provide for better traffic flow and provide an alternative to driving on the crowded beach road. Discussions over the past year have centered on improvements to Sandfiddler Rd; Commissioner Ernie Bowden requested that Sandpiper Rd. be added to a service district. Residents in the area have historically been opposed to a service district and even Commissioners squelched the idea back in January of this year. The County has had an agreement with NC DOT for some time to make improvements and then be reimbursed for the cost. Funding for the improvements and maintenance over and above reimbursement would come from occupancy tax collections. A public hearing on the matter is expected to be held in September.

Duck Parking and Pear Pod Repair Areas

Aug. 1 - The Town Council scheduled public hearings for September 5th on two zoning ordinance amendments:

Residential parking and drive aisle standards – This amendment would allow stacking of required parking spaces outside the 12 foot drive aisle; driveway curb cuts would be limited to 20 feet in width at the right-of-way; drive aisles and parking could be no more than 75 % of lot width; and parking spaces could only be constructed of gravel, porous pavers, or other similar semi-permeable materials, unless there is a topographical issue.

Peat pod repair areas – This amendment would remove peat pod repair areas from lot coverage calculations.

Shelia Davies, Substance Abuse Project Manager for Dare County Health Department, gave Town Council members an overview of the Dare County Substance Abuse Pilot Program. Shelia reported on some alarming drug and alcohol statistics from 2005. She stressed that although perceived somewhat as a tourist-related problem, over 60% of the arrests due to drugs and alcohol were Dare County residents. She added that the issue is community-wide with 40% of fatal car accidents attributed to drug/alcohol use and 33% of drowning deaths due to the same. These statistics are much higher that state averages. She reported that the County’s program is focusing on public education/prevention information, a 24-hour, hotline service, school based counseling and a detox center within the County.

Nags Head Septic Changes

Aug. 1 - The Board of Commissioners adopted an ordinance imposing a one-month moratorium on the location and use of pump and haul wastewater systems within the Town. Pump and haul systems rely on a tank to hold wastewater until pumped and disposed of off-site in an approved treatment system. There are eleven residential properties that are currently considering these systems. The Town is concerned about the effects of erosion on the exposed tanks and the potential negative impact to water quality. The moratorium gives the Town the time to review ordinances to determine an amendment to the code to prevent the impact of pump and haul systems and to process any land use ordinance amendments necessary.
Commissioner Gray received support this time around from fellow Commissioners to send a proposal to the Planning Board regarding architectural requirements for houses on the west side of US 158. The new proposal would exempt detached single-family dwellings and two-family dwellings with five bedrooms on the west side of US 158 from the residential design standards. Although a couple of Commissioners still did not agree with the proposal, the motion passed to have the Planning Board review the proposal and report back with recommendation.
A few other items were discussed during the meeting:
o Spear gun fishing – the Town had received complaints about people fishing with spear guns near the Nags Head Pier. Town Attorney Ike McRee told Commissioners that they could not regulate “boat” fishing, but did have the authority to regulate swimming. Commissioner could include a ban on the use of spear guns by swimmers in their swimming regulations.
o Scavenging at the Town’s dump site – hopefully, this is not a sign of the times but there has been enough activity to warrant a policy statement from the Board of Commissioners. Due to liability issues, the town does not permit “scavenging” at their dump site. Once an individual leaves an item at the site or places an item in a container, it cannot be removed by another individual.
o Parking at Sugar Creek Restaurant – The Board agreed to have “No Parking” signs posted in the right-of-way at US 158 /US 64/264 at Sugar Creek Restaurant. Cars have been parked along the highway thus creating a potential safety hazard for pedestrians and motorists.
o In other restaurant news, it was noted that Basnight’s Lone Cedar Restaurant is on track to be open by the end of the month.

Duck Parking Requirements

Nags Head Septic & 5 Bedroom Restrictions

At this week’s Board of Commissioners meeting three public hearings will be held:

Consideration of a moratorium to prohibit the installation and use of pump and haul septic systems for any type of development in the Town of Nags Head.
Consideration of a site plan/conditional use application for Mighty Wind United Methodist Church to construct a 13,080 square foot complex at 4222 S. Croatan Hwy.
Consideration of text amendment to add “Exercise, Dance and Martial Arts Studio” as a permitted use in the C-3 Commercial District.


Also at the meeting, Commissioner Gray will once again be discussing a proposal regarding architectural requirements for houses on the west side of US 158. He has modified wording from a proposal that the Board voted down at their July 11th meeting. The new proposal would exempt detached single-family dwellings and two-family dwellings with five bedrooms on the west side of US 158 from the northern corporate town limits to the northern zoning district boundary of the Village at Nags Head from the residential design standards. If the Board agrees with the proposal, then the process would begin to amend the zoning ordinance by referring the item to the Planning Board for recommendations followed by a public hearing by the Board of Commissioners.