Council delays action on non-conforming lots in Southern Shores

Published 3:00 pm Saturday, July 20, 2019

Before digging into the evening’s agenda, Southern Shores Town Council members at their July 9 meeting agreed to table a scheduled public hearing on new regulations for non-conforming lots.

Included with other adjustments to the evening’s agenda was a request by Mayor Pro Tem Chris Nason to delay action on ZTA-18-09 PB01 until December.

“I think there is a good deal more work that needs to be done on that,” explained Nason. “When we do this, we need to do it once and for all to help everybody we can.”

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The proposed code change within ZTA-18-09 PB01 was part of an ongoing effort to prohibit property owners from breaking up larger lots into smaller non-conforming lots and then selling them. The correct wording to meet that end, however, has proved to be elusive. At almost every presentation, people have appeared to say they will be blocked from selling or developing a lot. With each additional complaint, the proposal has been tweaked to broaden the number of exemptions.

When several people at the back of the room complained that they could not hear, councilman Gary McDonald then explained that the proposal scheduled for consideration was not going to fix the problems council wanted to fix and even as he entered the meeting room, people had approached him with concerns about the new ordinance.

“It’s not fair to exempt some people and not others,” added councilman Fred Newberry.

Not everyone was pleased with the delay.

Local attorney Starkey Sharp pointed out that his client had been working with town staff and the Planning Board on a solution to move forward with development of a non-conforming lot.

“We worked a long time to reach a stage where the Planning Board approved something that was workable per your instructions,” announced Sharp. “Now, because there are others that are not addressed, you have decided to table a proposal that would affect my client who has been through a long delay. I regret very much the action you took. The appropriate thing would have been to have the hearing and approve what was done by the Planning Board and continue to work to solve the bad ordinance you passed that did the 50-foot lot business. That’s the problem. This is wrong and it’s based on a bad ordinance.”

After approving an agenda without the ZTA-18-09 PB01 Public Hearing Council did hold Public Hearings on a set of strict regulations for special events, a South Dogwood Trail Walking Trail and a Capital Infrastructure Improvement Planning Committee Recommendation.

Although efforts to impose some type of control on large social events dates back beyond 2015, the lack of enforceability led town officials to table any action on it. Earlier this year, the ordinance was resurrected and sent to the Planning Board to resolve any conflicts. Now back on the table for consideration, Tuesday’s meeting offered an opportunity for public comments on the issue. Most speakers offered comments against the ordinance or at least voiced concerns that the wording was too ambiguous.

At the end of the public comments session Mayor Tom Bennett said he had 32 pages of possible actions for council, but as always the question is how to enforce an ordinance.

When asked what would be the impact if no action were taken, town manager Peter Rascoe advised that there would be little impact to the town since noise and illegal parking are the only two complaints about events that are received. He added that those two issues would continue to be investigated and acted on.

“I think we have a solution looking for a problem,” said Bennett. “I don’t see that we are battling a big fight here. I think we are manufacturing a paper to put more control on people and I don’t see any benefit for us to pursue this.”

In contrast, Newberry said he thought council was trying to be proactive and did not see any intent to penalize residents. Instead he felt that rather than regulating events making [Southern Shores] an unfriendly community, the proposed regulations would deal with the real issue of controlling noise, parking issues and rowdy parties.

With Nason and councilman Jim Conners joining Bennett in opposing any further action, and only McDonald and Newberry in favor of it, the issue died for lack of support.

Although there was considerable support for a paved walking path along South Dogwood Trail, the need for additional safety measures proved to be a common thread during public comments on it. During discussions it was pointed out that the trail could in fact be straighter, but with tree preservation was a driving force in the trail’s design there were a few extra turns that raised safety concerns with residents and council. At least 28 live and four dead trees are slated for removal.

In another split vote, Council approved seeking bids and a construction contract for the current design of a five foot wide concrete walking trail on the east side of South Dogwood Trail. The town manager was also directed to make adjustments to the trail design to resolve safety issues based on complaints from residents.

In this case, Newberry and McDonald each said they were opposed to the walking trail but not because they were against having a trial.

“I’m not opposed to a trail,” explained Newberry. “But I am opposed to taking a million dollars out of our emergency funds with hurricane season here. We don’t know what kind of expenses we will incur.”

During discussion on the trail, it was pointed out that construction money was coming from the town’s undesignated fund, not from designated emergency funds, and that staff would apply for any available grants to help pay for the trail.

Convinced it was better to move ahead with a trail than to wait, Bennett, Conners and Nason voted in favor of seeking bids and a contact with McDonald and Newberry voting nay.

In another construction issue, council shuffled the priority of streets submitted by the Capital Infrastructure Improvement Planning Committee before giving unanimous approval for improvements to:
1. East Dogwood from NC 12 east to Ocean Blvd.;
2. Hillcrest Drive from the Hickory Trial intersection to SSCA Tennis Courts.;
3. Sea Oats Trail from 11th Ave. north to NC12;
4. Dewberry Lane.

With little discussion, council also appointed Elizabeth Morey and Donald Sowder to regular Planning Board positions and named Anthony DiBernardo as an alternate Planning Board member.

A final council action for the night was to hold a closed session with the town attorney.



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