Saturday, October 27, 2007

Wind Turbines, Windmills, etc. Allowed in Commercial Zones

Oct. 24 - Timing is everything as they say! The Kill Devil Hills Board of Commissioners turned down Brewing Station’s request five years ago to install a wind turbine on their building after residents expressed concerns. Now with discussions taking place everywhere about renewable energy and “green” anything you can think of – the public came out in full support of an amendment to add wind turbines as a conditional use in the commercial zone. The hour-long public hearing was definitely one-sided in favor of allowing the Brewing Station to install a wind turbine. Commissioner Paul Buske applauded the Brewing Station owners for their forward-thinking and sticking with their plans. He shared some statistics with the standing-room only crowd at the Board of Commissioners meeting such as: the United States only makes up 5% of the world’s population but contributes 20% of the pollution; he added that one gallon of gas creates 20 gallons of greenhouse gas. The amendment passed 3 to 1 with Commissioner Finch opposing. Commissioner Peele did not attend the meeting.

The Board also approved amendments to the zoning ordinance on Nonconformities. The amendments will allow commercial nonconforming structures to make improvements to “better” their area of nonconformity without letting the structure fall into disrepair.

Commissioners approved a site plan for Captain George’s Restaurant which will be located on a 2.18 -acre lot located at the intersection of Baum St. and Croatan Hwy. The restaurant will be 10,098 sq. feet and seat 251 persons. Along with infiltration basins, portions of the parking area will constructed of permeable pavement to address stormwater runoff. Captain George’s Restaurant is a well-known seafood buffet eatery in Virginia Beach.

Southern Shores - Chicahauk Condemnation

Oct. 23 – The Town Council reversed its decision from early this year that allowed the Town to exercise its eminent domain powers on property in Chicahauk. The town condemned property owned by the Chicahauk Property Owners Association to use as a dredge spoil area for the planned Town canal dredging project. Cost, permitting issues and environmental impacts were stated as the reasons to rescind the decision. They may revisit needing to use the area at a later time.

New Duck Zoning Ordinance

o Defining “free and clear of obstruction” in structures in a V-zone: this in now described as a distance of two feet measured from the finished grade or average finished grade below the structure to the bottom of the lowest horizontal structural member of the lowest floor. Non-bearing solid breakaway walls, open lattice panels, and insect screening are not considered obstructions that will impede the free flow of floodwaters and may be allowed below the lowest floor of the structure. The two-foot free and clear requirement will not count towards the maximum height requirement of the structure.

o Addressing fill on irregular lots and defining the footprint of a dwelling – no more than 3-feet of fill may be added to a lot above the pre-disturbance ground elevation; the building footprint is defined as the plan view of the heated area of the dwelling unit. Pre-disturbance elevations will be taken at the four corners of the building footprint; if the footprint is irregular and has more than four sides, pre-disturbance elevations shall be taken using the four building corners closest to the four corners of the smallest square or rectangle that could be drawn to encompass the footprint. When fill/grading is not necessary to raise a house to base flood elevation, a maximum of 3 feet of rise in ground elevation from the lowest pre-disturbance ground elevation beneath the house as a leveling factor. Any amount above three feet that is not necessary to raise a dwelling to base flood elevation shall be counted toward the height of the dwelling.

o Defining height as the distance from the tallest roofline of a building to the top of the slab at the approximate center of the structure or to the finished grade where no slab is present.

Friday, October 26, 2007

New Program to Help Home Owners Avoid Foreclosure

From NAHB reportsa new program called “HOPE NOW” announced this week by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson will help American families avoid foreclosure and stay in their homes. The initiative brings together foreclosure prevention counselors, mortgage servicers and other mortgage market participants in an alliance to help home owners who are facing default. It will provide at-risk borrowers with information and resources that will allow them to keep their home by restructuring the terms of their mortgage or pursuing other options available to them.

NAHB has strongly encouraged and supported recent efforts of the mortgage industry to provide foreclosure prevention counseling and assistance to borrowers who have encountered mortgage difficulties. A hotline established to assist borrowers facing foreclosure has been publicized through NAHB’s web site and in communications to our state and local HBAs. NAHB will continue to publicize foreclosure prevention resources in communities throughout the country and work with HOPE NOW to help expand its outreach efforts.

Proposed Coastal Stormwater Rules! IMPORTANT

DENR/DWQ is receiving public comments until October 15th on proposed amendments to Coastal Stormwater Rules that would affect all land in twenty coastal counties. You should have already received talking points and a sample letter to send to Tom Reeder of NCDWQ at tom.reeder@ncmail.net and copy to Representative Tim Spear at tims@ncleg.net; Representative Bill Owens at billo@ncleg.net; and Senator Marc Basnight at marcb@ncleg.net. Below is more information regarding the rules and why they should be opposed that has not been previously published:

The proposed rules will do nothing to impact current stormwater run-off condition or have any effect on closed SA waters.
UNC - Coastal Studies Institute has at least 3 major reports that refute the proposed rules and CSI does not support the proposed rules.
The rules are being considered due to the closing of shellfishing waters. There are waters along the coast that are included in closed shellfishing water reports were never classified as shellfishing waters.
The majority of shellfishing waters were closed prior to 1988 and 1995, the relevant dates regarding the current stormwater rules.
According to other studies using Total Maximum Density Loading measurements, bacteria fecal coliform comes from wildlife and other animal waste and has nothing to do with development.
The application for a stormwater permit triggers the need for a CAMA permit. If the permitting threshold is lowered from one acre of land disturbance to 10,000 square feet of land disturbance, the delay and cost relative to permit acquisition and compliance will be tremendous.

The Kill Devil Hills Board of Commissioners

The Kill Devil Hills Board of Commissioners will hold several public hearings at their meeting on Wednesday. They include:

o Consideration of an amendment to zoning to add wind turbines as a conditional use in the commercial zone. A request by owners of the Brewing Station to amend the zoning ordinance to allow for a wind turbine on their building received unanimous approval from the Planning Board.

o Consideration of an amendment to define Shopping Center use, set parking requirements for such and add Shopping Center to permitted used in Commercial, Light Industrial One and Light Industrial Two Zones.

o Consideration of proposed amendments to zoning chapter on non-conformities, non-conforming structures.

Also at the meeting, Commissioners will be reviewing a site plan for Captain George’s Restaurant, a proposed 10,000+ sq.ft. restaurant to be located at 705 South Croatan Hwy. The property is currently a treed lot on the east side of bypass opposite the Quality Plus Gas Station. There have been two Captain George’s Restaurant locations in Virginia Beach for years and is a well-known seafood buffet eatery.

BE INFORMED AND VOTE NOW!

The League of Women Voters of Dare County will be sponsoring a candidate forum this week for the Town of Kitty Hawk on Tuesday, October 23 at the Town Hall from 7 to 9 p.m.

Forums already held in other towns are being aired on Charter Cable Channel 20 at 7 pm on the following dates:

o Duck – October 31, November 4th

o Kill Devil Hills – October 18th and 30th

o Southern Shores – October 23rd

o Nags Head – October 27th and November 3rd

o Kitty Hawk – October 25th and October 28th

o Manteo – Forums cancelled

One-stop voting is going on NOW thru November 3rd. This is the first year that you have the opportunity to not only vote early but to register and vote if you missed the registration deadline. In addition to the Manteo Board of Elections office, you can vote early at the Baum Center in KDH and the Fessenden Center in Buxton. You will not be able to register and vote on Election Day, November 6th. Registered voters in Hatteras, Frisco, Buxton, Avon and Chicamacomico will be eligible to vote on liquor by the drink.

Affordable Housing

The Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce and the Outer Banks Community Development Corporation sponsored the seminar, “Future Trends in Land and Living” held last week at the Hilton Garden Inn. CDC officials gave attendees an update on the 6-year progress of the organization which includes workforce housing under construction in KDH; a partnership with Dare County for workforce housing on Roanoke Island; and housing counseling services, etc. William Hettinger, the key speaker for the 2006 Living and Working in Paradise seminar, gave a brief overview of information and statistics shared at that event with regards to affordable housing. One of the most alarming statistics was the declining percentage of Dare County residents that are able to afford a median-priced home. In 1990 – 41% (3800) of residents could afford the median priced home; in 2000 – 48% (6100) of residents; and in 2005 only a small 4% (547) of residents could afford the median-priced home. The impact the increase in property values has on the economy include: challenge to attract workers; existing workers/residents “cash out” of housing and move to less expensive place; commute time and distance to work increases thus affecting turnover/absenteeism; wage costs increase; and service levels decline. This trend makes it difficult to grow existing businesses and attract new non-tourism businesses.

Anthony Flint, a futurist and journalist from the Lincoln Land Institute, followed Mr. Hettinger and talked about the current buzz in environmental awareness and the desire for economic diversity. “Regional land use planning is the way we’ve got to do business and we must approach together the issues of affordable housing, sustainability and economic growth,” he stated. In the past, housing and the workplace have been rigidly separated but people are beginning to shift from buying their “castle” in outlying sprawl areas to moving or relocating to a smaller dwelling closer to where they work. Mr. Flint discussed the need for compacted, mixed-use development projects to address the above issues and referenced projects in Atlanta, Charlotte and Tysons Corner that have attracted buyers in record numbers. He expressed the need for “recycling” land and older buildings by remembering to “Re-Develop First!” Another suggestion he made was to bundle together the agencies dealing with housing, transportation and the environment and have them coordinate their efforts. He concluded by challenging the crowd to work on a common message, “We Need Housing”, and to look at strategic ways to develop housing.

Coastal Stormwater Rules

DWQ officials met this past week with Senator Marc Basnight and local officials to discuss proposed amendments to coastal stormwater rules. The discussion centered on the uniqueness of Dare County – how it is so different from the other 19 coastal counties, as well as efforts on the local level to address stormwater runoff. Those in attendance were concerned that the coastal counties at the end of the watershed are being made to clean-up problems that exist further upstream. The group also shared with Tom Reeder and Coleen Sulins from DWQ that the proposed rules do nothing to address existing runoff from NC DOT, ocean outfalls and sewage treatment discharge pipes in Manteo.

Tom Reeder stated over 1200 public comments were received with about 60% in favor of the rules and 40% opposed to the rules. He stated over 500 form letters came from the North Carolina Coastal Federation. The majority of the objections stemmed from extending the 30’ buffer to 50’; reducing the permitting threshold from one acre to 10,000 sq. ft.; and removing wetlands from surface calculations.

The 3-hour discussion was very positive. Everyone in the group left with a better understanding of the impact of the proposed amendments. Possible solutions were even discussed on what can be done to address existing problems. DWQ officials said they would incorporate the group’s comments in a report to the Environmental Management Commission