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A look back at 2018, part one

Looking back at events in 2018, the new year was just four days old when a white blanket of snow about six inches thick brought life on the Outer Banks to a standstill.

The above-average snowfall came with sub-normal temperatures throughout the night and wind gusts of up to 77 mph in Kitty Hawk left roads frozen and traffic lights obscured or malfunctioning, which forced many area businesses, a number of government offices and all Dare schools to close. While Dominion Power workers responded to spot power outages, NCDOT workers were busy with efforts focused on clearing US 158 and NC12 north to Corolla and Hwy 345 into Wanchese.

Streets in Duck proved to be a hot topic when a Tuckahoe Homeowners Association request for town help with parking enforcement packed the Paul F. Keller Meeting Hall with speakers on both sides of the issue. Mayor Don Kingston said council had been put in a referee position, which has never happened in previous requests. After considerable discussion, Tuckahoe was added to the 21 subdivisions and 19 other streets already on its list for police enforcement.

In Kill Devil Hills, a new 70 lot subdivision on the west side of town at end of West First Street was given a vote of approval and the public beach access at Ocean Bay Boulevard was named in honor of former commissioner William “Bill” Pitt.

Making the rounds at area council meetings, Dare County public information officer Dorothy Hester and channel manager Bobby Dobbs advised that CurrentTV, previously known as GovEd TV, has a new name with the same commitment to quality programming. Dobbs left before the end of the year.

After months of discussion with owner James Rose, Nags Head officials took a step toward converting an existing multi-use structure into a dormitory-style multi-family and mixed development residence. The project involved transforming the former CDC building at 4301 South Croatan Highway.

Kitty Hawk was one of several communities concerned with updates to Dare County flood maps. According to Kitty Hawk planning and inspections director Rob Testerman, the updated maps show some areas known to flood now no longer in a flood zone. Testerman said he and other area planning directors were working together to mitigate the effects the new maps might have on local residents with a two part program of education and local standards to show that “low risk is not no risk.”

The new year also opened with the Trump Administration declaring that it wanted to make every inch of the Atlantic Coast from Key West to the Canadian border available for offshore drilling. The move sparked protests from the Outer Banks and other coastal areas that doing so, the administration would sacrifice our vibrant coastal tourism, commercial fishing and recreation economies.

Nags Head, as well as other towns, voiced unanimous opposition to drilling off the North Carolina coast. In an effort to provide added leverage, area officials gave unanimous support for an updated resolution in opposition to offshore oil and gas drilling. After reading a Nags Head resolution, Mayor Ben Cahoon commented that available information shows tourism related income today already meets or exceeds the projected income amounts from the oil and gas industry 20 years from now.

It was also mentioned that there remains a serious potential of environmental risks with no indication that any oil or gas revenue would flow into North Carolina, which prompted Nags Head commissioner Renée Cahoon to say “The cost of the Deepwater Horizon cleanup was $60 billion. That’s more than twice North Carolina’s annual budget. And drilling in the area proposed would require going down 37,000 feet in a harsh environment.”

As February got underway, several Kitty Hawk residents said they were distressed to learn that two Putter Lane lots were being rezoned. During a public hearing, planning director Rob Testerman explained that two town owned lots at 5117 and 5113 Putter Lane had been set aside for a possible second fire station or other town facility. The change would allow hospitals, medical centers and other related uses on the two lots. Later in the year those two lots were traded for four undeveloped lots owned by Putter Lane OBX, LLC, in the Kitty Hawk Beach Subdivision at 4907, 4911, 4915 and 4919 Putter Lane. According to Dare County tax appraisal values all were valued at $106,500 each. A conditional use permit was granted for 5113 and 5117 Putter Lane and construction started on an urgent care center to be operated by Outer Banks Hospital.

According to a 2016 community survey, medical care was identified as a critical need here. With the Sentara Albemarle Medical Center now closed, the zoning approval was seen as a step toward mitigating the impact of that medical center loss. The property adjacent to the north is already zoned MS-1, was vacant and the swap and rezoning opened the door for a medical center there.

With an eye toward opening up the housing market, Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce president Karen S. Brown, chairman of the board Bob Peele and chair-elect and divisional vice chair of governmental affairs Pat Broom visited each town hall commissioners’ meeting to explain a number of details behind a community housing initiative.

During the meetings, Broom pointed out that a local survey revealed more than 75 percent of chamber membership claim housing is a major issue in hiring and retaining help. She then detailed incidents in which College of The Albemarle and Outer Banks Hospital were unable to fill jobs because the applicants selected could not find affordable housing here adding that Dare County has said there are positions it cannot fill.nEach town was invited to be an active part of the initiative.

Financial assistance for the 81st season of The Lost Colony was likely behind a property sale announced by Lost Colony CEO Bill Coleman in February. Reading a news release at a Dare County Tourism Board of Directors meeting, Coleman said a unique partnership has been established between the Roanoke Island Historical Association and The Conservation Fund.

According to Coleman, on February 2 the Roanoke Island Historical Association sold 20 acres of maritime forest along U.S. Highway 64 to The Conservation Fund, who will own the property until funding becomes available for a transfer to the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Coleman said support for the project came from the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund and other funding sources and that the sale will preserve the landscape around Fort Raleigh and support the future of The Lost Colony, America’s longest-running symphonic outdoor drama.

February also saw Kill Devil Hills Planning Board begin an overhaul of its land use plan with consultant T. Dale Holland of Holland Consulting Planners, Inc., out of Wilmington. Land use plans, in general, are a set of local policies, maps and future growth preferences that provide planning boards and town councils guidance when reviewing and making decisions on development and other land use related requests.

Aimed at land management, a February prescribed burn near Pirate’s Cove sent considerable smoke to surrounding areas. According to Dare County Forest Ranger John Van Riper, the burn was part of a community wildfire protection program performed with cooperation from the Pirate’s Cove Homeowners Association and executed with assistance from Dare Bombing Range N.C. Forest Service personnel and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Alligator River Station. The burn successfully covered an estimated 25 to 45 acres of the 135 acres scheduled for burning. Prescribed burns, sometimes called controlled burns, are recognized as an effective wild-land management tool to reduce dangerous accumulations of combustible fuels and lower the likelihood of uncontrolled fires.

About a month later, the first-ever prescribed burn at Jockey’s Ridge State Park took place and park officials deemed the exercise a success.

Representatives from the Southern Shores Volunteer Fire Department met with Southern Shores Town Council members and in what may have been a rare display of cooperation and agreement, council voted to have town manager Peter Rascoe represent the town on a committee charged with negotiating a new fire services contract and town participation in construction of a new fire station. SSVFD is a non-profit corporation contracting with the town to provide fire protection with the current contract set to expire June 30, 2019. Fire officials have also demonstrated the need for a new fire station. Currently, the Town of Southern Shores pays 80 percent of the fire department operating budget and Dare County provides the remainder.

With a touch of cooperation, innovation and creativity, a Manteo Middle School team of students Amelia Foti, Carlee Paramore, Evan Frank, Liam Ryan, Cole Walker, Davis Austin and Joe Roberts, coached by Jessica Foti, won first place honors at the Coastal Region Odyssey of the Mind Tournament Scores at Swansboro High School.

In an effort to avert a potential problem, protesters on chartered buses from Nags Head, Wilmington and Morehead City converged on the North Raleigh/Midtown Hilton Hotel in an effort to let Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management officials know that coastal residents do not want oil and gas exploration off the North Carolina coast.

Amid chants of “Don’t Drill Here” and “No Drill No Spill,” a room loaded with hundreds of people heard words of encouragement from an assortment of speakers, including Kill Devil Hills Mayor Sheila F. Davies, Dare County Board of Commissioners chair Robert Woodard, State House District 18 Rep. Deb Butler, as well as commercial fisherman Mark Hooper and Hatteras Island business owner Briggs McEwen.

Things were much more quiet when Dare County Superintendent of Schools Dr. John D. Farrelly hosted a series of community visioning forums. According to Farrelly, there were 20 similar public meetings to build a shared vision for Dare County Schools.

When the doors opened at the Kern Pitts Center in Southern Shores for a March 6 Town Council meeting, a near capacity crowd was there to hear results of a town-wide beach profile study and view plans for a new fire station.

Ken Willson with APTIM Coastal Planning and Engineering of NC, Inc. spent close to an hour reviewing the data collected in the beach profile study, which will help provide a comparison baseline for any future studies and help determine what, if any, shoreline changes have taken place. Having that information would enable council to identify possible trends and make both short-term and long-term plans for managing the sand on the oceanfront.

A second presentation by Ken Newell with Stewart-Cooper-Newell Architects covered a number of details for the proposed 14,376 square foot Southern Shores Volunteer Fire Department fire station across from Kitty Hawk Elementary School at the corner of South Dogwood Trail and Pintail Trail. According to the information presented, financing for the project will be through a construction loan by the fire department with the new building offered as collateral. Fire Chief Ed Limbacher estimated that the $5.4 million loan at 4 percent for 25 years would run about $26,000 monthly for an annual $316,800 expense.

Golf carts dominated the March 7 Duck Town Council meeting. After discussions about golf cart safety during previous council meetings and at its February retreat, council was prepared to review proposed ordinances spelling out minimum requirements for safety equipment, age limits for operation and a number of other operational guidelines for public and private streets in Duck.

According to Town Manager Christopher Layton the intent was to establish regulations for cart uses throughout Duck with an ordinance similar to state law. A closer look, however, revealed the town could not impose some of the intended restrictions. “We thought we had authority that we do not,” said Layton. “After digging deeper, we found that the town has no authority to regulate golf carts on private streets.” Council then agreed on a set of guidelines prohibiting the use of golf carts on NC 12.

A July 2017 power outage at the other end of NC 12 received a different agreement.

According to the civil complaint in United States District Court, during work on Herbert C. Bonner Bridge replacement over Oregon Inlet between Bodie Island and Hatteras Island PCL Construction workers cut an underwater power transmission cables supplying power to Hatteras and Ocracoke islands. A massive outage for Hatteras and Ocracoke islands was followed by the evacuation of both islands. A settlement in the case allowed businesses, residents, vacation rental owners and even some tourists to recover monetary damages suffered.

While thousands of protesters were gathering in Washington, D.C. and at other “March for Our Lives” locations all across the country, a group of 200 to 300 people of all ages assembled at Dowdy Park in Nags Head to make their voices heard.
Several First Flight and Manteo high school students spoke in favor of limiting gun ownership, closing gun show loopholes, passing laws that will prevent students from being killed and limiting the influence of the National Rifle Association.

Money raised by First Flight Elementary School led Principal Drew Sawyer and Assistant Principal Dr. Jodie Mitchum to each kiss a pig. During an afternoon assembly, Sawyer made a ceremonial announcement that the school had exceeded its Jump Rope For Heart goal of $15,000. The reward for exceeding the goal would be the smooch with a pig.

At the April Southern Shores Town Council meeting it was confirmed that a trial “No Left Turn” at the US 158 and Dogwood Trail intersection was still being planned. The turn restriction would be an effort to limit cut-through traffic on Dogwood during the peak summer months with a target date for implementation on June 23-24.

Mayor Tom Bennett expressed concerns that there might be unintentional consequences and that Kitty Hawk, who has jurisdiction over the intersection, has advised it would not be involved.

Peter Rascoe explained that the one-time project would include placing and removing barrels to block turn lanes at a cost of $6,000. NCDOT will not adjust the light schedule and there will be a no tolerance policy for anyone making a turn there. “If you make a left turn you will get a ticket,” Rascoe added.

During his comments on the trial program, Police Chief David Kole advised that he did not have enough staff or overtime money for more than one weekend.

Nags Head Board of Commissioners at their April meeting approved a retail structure site plan and improvements for Dowdy Park.

During a site plan review for construction of a Sherwin Williams retail structure at 6813 South Croatan Highway, deputy planning director Kelly Wyatt explained that the one-story, 6,000 square foot structure will go on a vacant lot zoned C-2 as are other nearby properties.

Also approved as presented were plans to add restroom facilities, sport courts, wooden decking, concrete sidewalks and a garden area at Dowdy Park.

Working together, officials from the Town of Southern Shores and North Carolina Department of Transportation collaborated on a stormwater management project that has virtually eliminated a persistent flooding problem there. Not the only area that floods, it was no doubt among the worst.

Kitty Hawk Town Council said yes to limited beach bulldozing at its April regular session meeting. According to town documents, the Hilton Garden Inn wanted to bring in additional sand to restructure the ocean front dune damaged by multiple recent storms. Because bulldozing and pushing sand by any mechanical means is prohibited, a waiver by Town Council was required for the work needed on the dune separating the ocean and the hotel. Town manager Andy Stewart estimated the sand would equal about 37 dump truck loads depending on the size of the trucks.

After two April 16 drug overdoses within hours of each other at the same Wanchese address, one resulting in a death, Dare County Sheriff J.D. “Doug” Doughtie said it was time to reach out to the community with an opportunity to express any concerns and a chance to address any issues affecting the quality of life in the community similar to an October 2013 meeting.

During a gathering in the Wanchese Community Center on Old School House Road, Doughtie stood in front of a small crowd to assure residents that help is available.

Doughtie advised the group that there was no specific agenda and introduced a number of people in the room representing a wide range of resources available to provide some type of support, including representatives from Trillium Health Resources, a specialty health care manager for individuals with substance use, mental illness and intellectual/developmental disabilities in eastern North Carolina.

According to one representative, in an emergency Trillium will dispatch a specially trained Mobile Crisis Team member to a location and provide transportation to a crisis center. Jails and hospitals are the only places to which the Mobile Crisis Team does not respond.

Stopping erosion activities was the focus for Kitty Hawk Town Council members in April when they heard about shore line stabilization programs and agreed it was time to take action.

Actions at the May 2 Nags Head Board of Commissioners meeting included a new bathhouse ribbon cutting ceremony. Taking a break from the morning’s indoor session, the board recessed briefly and reconvened at the Bonnett Street Beach Access for a dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony.

Following an extensive renovation that included a complete overhaul for the Bonnett Street Access and Bathhouse at 2919 South Virginia Dare Trail, commissioners and several town employees cut a ribbon as an official opening ceremony for the new structure.

In Duck, council members took action during the May meeting to amend town code to allow the dissemination of religious messages and materials.

According to Layton, certain aspects of the town’s regulations for peddlers and vendors are likely to be unconstitutional based on relevant U.S. Supreme Court decisions. Layton said the town’s limitations on peddling and vending activities can be applied to commercial speech and activities but cannot be applied in the same manner to limit the distribution of religious or other materials protected under the First Amendment.

Considered as a simple revision, an additional exemption for persons who distribute or disseminate religious information by written or spoken word was suggested and with little other discussion the change was approved.

Kill Devil Hills commissioners amended the town’s workforce housing regulations by deleting a density bonus for multi-family housing during the board’s May 14 regular session meeting. After a previous look at several options, the board decided the best regulatory relief for unit owners who might want to convert their workforce housing units to market rate units would be to remove any associated density bonus entirely.

For the fourth consecutive year, hurricane activity began prior to the official June 1 start of the season, with Tropical Storm Alberto forming on May 25. Alberto made landfall in northern Florida and traveled as far north as the Great Lakes as a tropical depression.

The appearance of subtropical storm Alberto in the Gulf of Mexico during Memorial Day weekend was reminder that the current hurricane season was already upon us.

Officially running from Friday, June 1, through the end of November, the Atlantic coast hurricane season dates cover the period each year when most tropical cyclones form in the Atlantic basin. In reality they can form, and do form, at any time of the year. On average there are 12 named storms during any given hurricane season with six of them becoming full blown hurricanes.

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