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A look back at 2018, part two

June
Continuing our look at 2018 events, June, the beginning of the summer vacation season, proved an ideal time for a Duck Town Park ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of a sidewalk and bike lane along the east side of Duck Road. Funded in part by the Dare County Tourism Board, this portion is the first of three phases within a comprehensive pedestrian plan for the town.

It also proved to be an ideal time for the College of The Albemarle staff to recognize graduates of its hospitality and tourism program through a community outreach initiative called COA Alumni Connect.

According to Timothy Sweeney, dean of the COA Dare Campus, the hospitality and tourism program started two years ago when research data showed the need for trained professionals in the industry. The first class had 16 students complete all stages, this past April a second class ended with seven graduates.

In Kitty Hawk, town council members agreed to allow additional lot coverage for properties in commercial and hotel zones when permeable pavement is used. The change allows for 12 percent additional lot coverage for a total physical areas of up to 72 percent coverage in commercial areas when approved permeable materials are used.

By design, permeable pavement allows stormwater to pass through the surface material and allows water to infiltrate into the soil as opposed to flowing across the surface to other areas. Other Dare County beach municipalities already allow some amount of additional lot coverage when incorporating approved permeable materials.

Making a repeat appearance before Kill Devil Hills commissioners, John DeLucia with Albemarle and Associates presented a modified site plan for construction of a 3,000 square foot restaurant at 1301 South Croatan Highway. Turned down earlier due to safety concerns, DeLucia was back with plans showing an Atlantic Street curb cut. With the driveway hurdle removed, the site plan was approved as presented with little discussion other than comments that everyone is interested in what the proposal by Golasa Holdings, LLC, will be.

Traffic was a major focus for Southern Shores officials during a one-time “no-left turn” experiment on Saturday June 23 and Sunday June 24.

During peak Saturday and Sunday weekends between Memorial Day and Labor Day, NC DOT traffic figures show between 45 and 50 thousand vehicles pass through the US158/NC12 choke point. About half of the vehicles headed north turn left from a four lane highway onto a smaller two lane road. In response to complaints from local residents unable to get out onto their own streets, a trial “no-left turn” event for eastbound traffic at the intersection of US Highway 158 and South Dogwood Trail was conducted.

According to statistics released from the event, there were roughly 11,000 to 12,000 vehicles each day between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. with overall numbers down slightly from 2017. At the end of the event, 25 total citations had been issued for making a left turn from US 158 onto South Dogwood Trail, a move that earned drivers a $210 traffic ticket.

Southern Shores Police Chief David M. Kole said while South Dogwood had a reduction, Trinitie Trail and other streets had more traffic. “All you’re doing is moving the problem from one place to another,” said Kole.

Also looking at collected data was the Kill Devil Hills Community Appearance Commission. According to chair Sue Kelly, information collected during a ban on plastic bags shows there was a clear decrease in plastic bag litter. In addition to looking at an ongoing campaign against the use of plastic bags, commission members also discussed a campaign against cigarette litter.

July

Discussion during a July Southern Shores Town Council meeting led to a brief loss of civility, although members were able to pave the way for a new fire station by establishing new parking and setback requirements for fire stations.

There was, however, less agreement on new lot coverage requirements.

While Mayor Pro Tem Chris Nason called the recommendations under consideration a common sense approach, councilman Gary McDonald said the majority of the community is against it and asked Nason, an architect, how much money he needed to make. Nason took offense and called for a retraction and asked that McDonald be censured, which is basically an official strong or vehement expression of disapproval. With only Nason and Jim Conners voting in favor of it, the motion to censure McDonald failed.

It was also not over, however, because in August the Southern Shores Town Council reversed itself and voted 3-1 to censure McDonald for the comments he made in July. Over the objections of McDonald and Fred Newberry, Mayor Bennett introduced a resolution to censure McDonald as a last minute addition to the night’s agenda saying he had not heard all that was said during the July meeting but after viewing the video and reading the transcript he was troubled by those comments and felt there needed to be more respect shown between Council members.

There was a delayed show of respect near the world-famous Lost Colony Theatre on Roanoke Island late in July when several public officials paid tribute to a key player in efforts by Sir Walter Raleigh to colonize the New World.

Here two years before the arrival of the group of colonists who later mysteriously disappeared and 35 years before Pilgrims landed in New England, Joachim Gans was a noted metallurgist born in Prague and one of the 108 men Raleigh sent to the New World in 1585. In a brief ceremony honoring Gans, U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic and part time Manteo resident Stephen B. King explained that the scientist was born to Jewish parents in Prague, which in 1585 was part of the Ottoman Empire. It declared its independence as Czechoslovakia in 1918 and is now the capitol of the Czech Republic. A highway historical marker honoring Gans will be placed along U.S. Highway 64 near the entrance to Fort Raleigh.

There was also considerable honor for the Dare County 8-and-Under All Star baseball team machine pitch division. After a rocky start, the team of Smith Belton, Nathan Clark, Carson Coltrain, Trevor Dobson, Barrett Eilert, Jeremiah Frazier, Hampton Gilreath, Landon Miller, Harley Scarborough, Gage Spencer, Waylon Ward and Jaulanis Williams finished their last 12 games 11-1, won the District 7 Regional Tournament and closed out the season July 29 with a state championship.

August

Rainwater was not the only August discussion topic, but it had everyone’s attention in Kitty Hawk after thunderstorms and heavy rain dropped more than 18 inches of water on area residents and flooding Kitty Hawk Estates with more than a foot of water on some roads.

While reading a prepared statement, Mayor Gary Perry explained that the removal of water in Kitty Hawk is limited by North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality guidelines to removing only enough water from roadways to allow emergency vehicles to pass. Perry went on to say that while current pumping restriction are more lenient than possible in past flooding events, the pumping system on Tateway has been problematic since installation and prevented pumping at that station during the current flooding event.

According to town manager Andy Stewart most of the 50 to 60 calls from the rain event were for help from property owners with water standing over septic systems. “Our goal is to clear the roadway,” said Stewart.

Two goals by the Currituck County High School varsity football team turned out to be enough to claim a 14-0 non-conference season opener over Manteo but the game had to be played at two locations on three different nights to defeat the visiting Redskins.

Originally scheduled for August 17 at Barco, an official time out halted play with four minutes left in the first quarter when it was discovered  a lightning strike left two light towers near the visiting team stands inoperable.

A 30 minute delay turned into a postponement with the remainder of the scoreless game set for Saturday night at Manteo High School. Playing the remainder of the first quarter and all of the second at Manteo, the Knights scored twice, the second touchdown with just 4 seconds left on the clock, for a 14-0 lead. A thunder storm complete with lightning during the halftime break caused another delay followed by yet a second postponement. Officials rescheduled the final 24 minutes of the game for Monday and moved it back to Currituck. Manteo maintained control of the ball during most of the game but a scoreless second half gave Currituck the win.

While the high school football season getting started, basketball was making headlines when Currituck County paid a private company owned by NC State Representative Bob Steinburg $50,000 to promote and market the county during a basketball tournament in Asheville.

According to Currituck County Board of Commissioners chairman Bobby Hanig, the county’s tourism department is required by law to spend a portion of its occupancy tax revenue on marketing and it was doing just that within state guidelines in a contract with Steinburg’s company.

County manager Daniel F. Scanlon II said the transaction was handled administratively because the amount involved was under the threshold that required Board approval. That policy was changed to now require full Board of Commissioners approval for any county contract with any elected official.

During the closing days of August, Kill Devil Hills town commissioner Brandi H. Rheubottom, in the third year of her second term as commissioner, announced she would be stepping down from her elected position soon, citing personal reasons that included a change of residency to Currituck County. Although her departure was expected to be sometime in October, it took the rest of 2018 to replace her.

After soliciting applications from interested candidates, the four remaining commissioners quickly narrowed a pool of eight qualified residents to only two: Colleen Almoney and Nelson V. “Skip” Jones Jr.

Deadlocked at two votes each during the November meeting, attempts to fill the vacant seat were delayed until the December meeting. With a near capacity crowd watching, Mayor Sheila Davies confirmed in December that there was no position change for board members from the previous meeting. While commissioners did not favor deciding by a coin toss, leaving the seat vacant was even less desirable.

“Leaving it to chance is not the desired way,” said commissioner John Windley. “But the choice is between two winners.”

Town attorney Casey C. Varnell had Almoney and Jones draw straws to determine who would make the call. Jones pulled the longest straw and called “heads,” which won the toss. He was be sworn into office at the January 14 meeting and will finish out Rheubottom’s term, which ends December 2019.

There was a capacity crowd at The Thomas A. Baum Senior Center in Kill Devil Hills when North Carolina Department of Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey held an August town hall meeting to answer questions about the state’s nationally recognized Seniors’ Health Insurance Information Program.

Causey, who also serves as the State Fire Marshal overseeing each of the state’s fire departments, visited the Douglas A. Remaley Fire Station 16 in Nags Head to congratulate firefighters there on a recent fire insurance rating improvement which decreased on a 10 point scale from 4 to 2 with the lower the score the better the rating.

The new rating put Nags Head among the top two percent of North Carolina fire districts.

September

Dumping a higher percentage of rainfall than normal an early September pass over the state by Hurricane Florence left much of eastern North Carolina flooded. After dodging the weather bullet here, many Outer Banks residents rallied to gather donations for relief to be sent to less fortunate communities like Swansboro and surrounding areas hit with more than 30 inches of water.

It was the rapid influx of water that prompted Kitty Hawk to implement a notification alert program for residents.

According to Mayor Gary Perry, during one of the recent weather events the water rose much faster and far worse than expected, catching a number of people by surprise. He said an alert system for resident might help get the word out quickly in trying times.

“With today’s technology, text messaging is one of the fastest ways there are to alert people to important events,” explained town manager Andy Stewart. To be included residents can text the message “Join townofkittyhawk” to 30890.

September also saw the passing of renowned artist Glenn Eure just short of his 87th birthday. As owner of Glenn Eure’s Ghost Fleet Gallery in Nags Head, he had been a familiar Outer Banks figure for many years.

Those familiar with sports at Manteo High School found it no surprise that two of its varsity team coaches, Sport Sawyer and Ralph Cleaver, were each named Albemarle Athletic Conference Coach of the Year for their respective end of season conference coach’s meeting. Sawyer, who just completed his first year at Manteo as head varsity football coach, ended the season 9-4 overall and 3-2 in the conference. Cleaver took his soccer team to the fourth round of the 1A state playoffs with an undefeated 12-0 conference record and finished 19-4-1 overall.

October

Nags Head commissioners pulled the plug on e-scooters in October when officials blocked ride-share programs within town limits. Promoted as the answer to short distance transportation issues, the self-service, battery operated motor vehicles can be located with a phone app, unlocked for $1 and used with per minute fees of several cents. With no established docking stations, users are free to leave the devices almost anywhere.

Already in larger North Carolina municipalities, Mayor Ben Cahoon said it appears scooters are mass dropped into an area, forcing community officials to figure out how to control them and what the rules need to be. Citing safety concerns, no enforceable rules on how or where they should be ridden and other issues, the board adopted an ordinance that defined powered scooters and then prohibited them.

After a brief delay caused by Hurricane Florence, Wright Brothers National Memorial held a grand reopening ceremony for its National Historic Landmark visitor center on Saturday, October 20. The 9,900-square-foot structure was designed by Ehrman Mitchell and Romaldo Giurgola, built as part of a “Mission 66” modernization and expansion program, and designated a National Historic Landmark in 2001. The tab for renovations ran between $5 and $6 million.

Making a return appearance was the 1903 Wright Flyer that made history on the nearby grounds.

November

Rejection was the theme for several organizations when the NC Legislature put six constitutional amendments on the November ballot.

While amendments are generally designed to help adapt to changing circumstances, the state Democratic Party, Democracy North Carolina, League of Women Voters, North Carolina ACLU, North Carolina NAACP, five former governors and six retired Supreme Court justices were against at least four – if not all – of the proposed amendments for being too vague, limiting other constitutional rights, being poorly-crafted or far too expensive  to local jurisdiction budgets for the benefits provided.

When the November election results were tabulated, only two proposed amendments limiting the governor’s power failed while four others were approved: additional rights for crime victims, an income-tax cap, protection for hunting and fishing, and a requirement for voters to show photo identification.

When the actual legislation with guidelines for providing photo IDs at the polls crossed Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk, he promptly vetoed it. Cooper said in a statement that it was “a solution in search of a problem” and “designed to suppress the rights of minority, poor and elderly voters.”

The week before Christmas, Republican lawmakers overrode the Democrat Governor’s veto – in the Senate on Tuesday and the House on Wednesday – adding North Carolina to the handful of states requiring a photo ID in order to vote.

A 2016 attempt by North Carolina to create a voter ID law was ruled unconstitutional and this one appears to be headed to court as well. Within minutes after the state House cast its 72-40 vote to override the veto, a court challenge was filed.

Taking on all challengers, the Currituck County varsity volleyball team earned a 2A NCHSAA state champions when it defeated West Davidson 3-0 in Reynolds Coliseum at NC State University in Raleigh November 3. Finishing 10-0 in conference play, the Knights produced a 22-6 overall record for the season on the way to their first ever 2A state volleyball championship. For her championship game efforts, Currituck County senior Kamryn Johnson was named the most valuable player.

The same day Currituck won its volleyball championship in Raleigh, First Flight’s Zach Hughes was sprinting to an individual first place 5,000 meter state cross country championship in Kernersville. His home stretch kick allowed Hughes to step across the finish line with a time of 16:00.79, just one step ahead of North Lincoln’s Jason Thomson, in second place at 16:01.27. Team scoring results, however, were reversed, as North Lincoln finished first with 36 points and First Flight was second with 74.

While there were no official points, everyone was a winner at the 35th annual North Carolina Lions Visually Impaired Persons Fishing Tournament. In addition to attracting 496 visually impaired persons as participants, along with almost an equal number of sighted guests and helpers, NC VIP Fishing Tournament executive director Gwen White said the three-day event had 1,000 volunteers.

Held annually the week after Columbus Day, Dare County plays host for the VIP tournament. It’s also the largest service project of its kind in the world with the help of Lions from Columbia, Kill Devil Hills, lower Currituck, Manteo, Nags Head and Plymouth guiding participants through a weekend of fishing, education, recreation and personal growth opportunities they will never forget.

When the November election returns put Ervin Bateman on the Dare County Board of Commissioners, it created a vacancy on the Kitty Hawk Town Council. Following the lead of its municipal neighbor Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk asked for applications from residents interested in serving out Bateman’s unexpired term

Unlike its southern neighbor, however, Kitty Hawk Council was able to fill its vacant seat with a 4-0 vote on the first ballot when Tina Tice was nominated and then elected to the position on the first ballot. Tice will be sworn in at the January meeting and serve out the remainder of Bateman’s term ending December 2019.

Also changing seats after the November election were Currituck County Board of Commissioners chairman Bobby Hanig,  elected to represent N.C. House District 6, which covers Dare, Hyde, Washington and part of Beaufort County, and Steinburg, who will represent the First District of the North Carolina in the State Senate.

Hanig said his farewells to the Currituck Board in December and Bob White was elected to replace Hanig as Chairman.

Faced with at least half a dozen speakers against changing the town’s regulations for tents, umbrellas and cabanas on the beach, Nags Head officials decided they needed more discussion before changing its beach equipment regulations.

Setting up a committee with members from the rental industry, town staff and two commissioners helped smooth out the differences and on a 4-1 vote an ordinance defining beach equipment and the hours for its use was approved. It also requires vendors to register their business with the town and obtain a permit to place tents and umbrellas out on the beach and establishes a buffer between where equipment is placed and any public accesses or lifeguard stand. The town already requires that all tents and umbrellas be removed from the beach before dark.

About half of the Duck Town Council’s November meeting was spent discussing proposed limitations on residential house sizes. Back in September, a proposed hybrid approach was considered that allowed property owners to build a sizable structure under typical development standards with an option to construct an even larger residence subject to greater development standards.

Electing not to vote on the changes, council asked the Planning Board to look at regulations establishing maximum size standards for single-family residences based on lot sizes and maximum septic tank capacity. Planning Board members favored a tiered system with maximum septic capacities for single-family residences.

That set up a two hour discussion within the December Town Council meeting where town officials wrestled over a 7,000 sq. ft. or 9,000 sq. ft. cap on structures. Some council members considered 7,000 too restrictive and arbitrary for larger lots. A position echoed by area residents during public comments.

The end result was to pass a stop-gap measure with an added tier to allow structures up to 7,000 sq. ft. Although it passed on a slim 3-2 vote, council did ask the Planning Board to come back with additional guidelines to accommodate larger lots.

Lot sizes were covered in two different Southern Shores Town Council meetings held the same day. On  November 7, town officials agreed on a direction for single-family dwelling regulations, approved plans for a new fire station along with its funding and voted to approve a new fire services contract with the Southern Shores Volunteer Fire Department.

After fielding calls of alarm from local property owners that a 12 bedroom home may be erected on an Ocean Boulevard lot, council held a special 10 a.m. meeting to discuss and consider all available options, if any, to further limit occupancy of single-family dwellings in Southern Shores and determine what action to take.

During that special morning meeting, council directed town staff and the town Planning Board to develop a zoning amendment that would create an overlay district with stricter building heights, setbacks, buffers and lot coverage regulations based on structure size for properties east of and along the west side of NC 12.

Later in the day, during its 5:30 p.m. regular session meeting, a conditional use permit application to build a new 14,376 square foot Southern Shores Volunteer Fire Department fire station at 15 South Dogwood Trail was given a green light. A.R. Chesson Construction Co. of Elizabeth City was named the general contractor and United Financial in Asheville was named to carry the $5,409,223 construction debt plus a required $10,000 regulatory inspections fee at an initial interest rate of 3.71 percent over a 25 year term.

According to town manager Peter Rascoe, impact on the town’s annual budget starting with the 2019-20 budget and running through at least nine fiscal years would be an additional $333,551.96 annual expense if paid quarterly or $334,484.78 if paid in two semi-annual payments.

Also approved was a new 10-year contract between the town and SSVFD for fire services within the town to take effect July 1, 2019.

December

In December, Steinburg was back in the news when, after defending a legislative aide charged with embezzlement throughout the year, he announced December 10 that he had fired Diana Nicole London after she was sentenced on a charge of misdemeanor larceny for taking $2,511 from Pigman’s Bar-B-Que in Kill Devil Hills sometime in 2017 between February and December.

Insisting the charges were politically motivated, Steinburg said when contacted by phone that London worked for him as a legislative aide from February 1, 2018, until about 5 p.m. December 10. Outside her state duties, London was also hired to work on Steinburg’s state Senate campaign and social media programs. Kill Devil Hills police records show the initial report that opened the case was filed on October 15, 2017, prior to her working for Steinburg.

Steinburg’s persistence in claiming the prosecution against London was political led district attorney for the First Judicial District Andrew Womble to release a 27 minute audio clip in which London confessed to stealing from Pigman’s Bar-B-Que co-owners Richard Bruce and Thera Palmer.

According to Dare County assistant district attorney Jennifer Karpowicz Bland, who handled the case, London had access to the Pigman’s credit card accounts and used them to pay for her personal company expenses, for her personal expenses and Pigman’s-related web design work. There were also other charges to the Pigman’s account.

Bland said also that officers with the Kill Devil Hills Police Department began their investigation prior to London working for Steinburg, that Steinburg was never part of the case and his name was not mentioned during her discussions about the case. The opportunity to plea to a misdemeanor was exchange for paying back the money.

 

During the 115th anniversary of the first heavier-than-air, controlled, powered flight by Wilbur and Orville Wright, Katherine G. Johnson, a former mathematician with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, was inducted into  the Paul E. Garber First Flight Society Shrine.

Each year, one or more persons with significant ties to aviation history are inducted into the First Flight Shrine and keynote speaker Dr. David E. Bowles, director of the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., said Johnson, who turned 100 this past August, had exceptional technical skills for calculating and verifying trajectories that took the first Americans to space and to the moon.

As the year drew to a close, 30 young shoppers were paired with Dare County first responders from more than a dozen different government agencies for the annual Sgt. Earl Murray Children’s Christmas Event and provided a $100 shopping spree to buy Christmas gifts for family members and themselves. The idea for a shopping spree came from the Murray family as a way to keep the special affection Nags Head Police Sergeant Dulan Earl Murray Jr. had for the Christmas season alive. Murray died in a May 2009 accident while responding to a burglary in progress call.

The tail end of 2018 also saw the retirement of two Nags Head chiefs take place. Within a month of each other, Police Chief Kevin Brinkley, with 28 years of service, and Fire Chief Kevin Zorc, with 34 years of service, closed out their careers with the town.

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A look back at 2018, part one

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