Kitty Hawk becomes first town in Dare to adopt new flood prevention ordinance

Published 4:42 pm Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Kitty Hawk Town Council members gathered at Town Hall with Mayor Gary Perry on Monday night, March 2, to host a public hearing regarding the flood damage prevention ordinance and adoption of the new flood maps for Dare County.

Prior to the hearing, Kitty Hawk Police Chief Joel Johnson introduced the newest member of their police force: Officer William Cruden. Cruden is 20 years old and a graduate of Manteo High School. Johnson also recognized Officer Brent Vucinovic on his 20 years of service to the town.

The public hearing began with a brief summary of the ordinance by town planning director Rob Testerman, highlighting the major changes to the maps that will affect Kitty Hawk. Testerman addressed some concerns he had received from Jay Overton, representing the Outer Banks Home Builders Association.

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Overton expressed the need for clarification regarding the substantial improvements and substantial damage definition; the definition as established does not apply to “shaded X” and “X” zones. He also inquired about language being added pertaining to engineered square inches for flood vents.

“Right now on the elevation certificate, it requires you to have one square inch of vents for every square foot of floor area subject to flood,” Overton said. He felt this was a conservative approach. The certificate allows for an engineered opening, which in some cases, could be beneficial to property owners. Overton didn’t want anything left out in the ordinance, which is why he suggested language dealing with engineered square inches be added.

Overton felt more consideration needed to be given to building height. Due to the change in base flood elevation and moving the reference level higher, Overton was not sure how that would affect where building height is measured from.

Testerman said the zoning ordinance now allows for a height of 35 feet from average original grade. Average original grade is found by averaging the four corners of a structure.

Councilman David Hines agreed with Overton that building height needed to be reviewed. “Averaging the four corners is very concerning,” he started, “it was concerning before the maps came out and it’s more concerning now.” When asked by Perry if Hines would prefer waiting to adopt the maps, Hines’ response was, “I just want to make sure we can come back to it.”

Testerman said maximum building height is part of the zoning ordinance, not the flood prevention ordinance. If it was the desire of the board, Testerman said he could go back and work on changing the height for review by the planning board and then council at a later date.

Overton’s last concern dealt with the notion that “most people have been assuming that the June 19 date would be the date we would see the new flood revisions.” Perry said the town desperately needs to fix their bathhouse. After the ruling changed in 2006, the bathhouse in Kitty Hawk was required to be 2 feet higher than it is currently. It is also rotted out and in need of repairs.

“In order for our visitors to have a place to use . . . we need this new ordinance,” Perry said. Mayor Pro Tem Craig Garriss added, “It is important for public to know that if we were to adopt this tonight, we can always address this again.”

Councilwoman Lynne McClean and Garriss felt the 48-hour notice prior to inspections was too short for property owners that live out-of-state. Garriss made a motion to adopt the flood prevention ordinance with proposed revised amendments, including those suggested by Overton, and increased the notice for inspections to 72 hours prior. All council members were in favor of adoption and the motion carried unanimously.

Following the decision, town manager Andy Stewart announced that the town received a $90,000 grant to clean ditches and canals as a result of Hurricane Florence. The town is currently working with Dare County Soil and Water and hopes to keep the canals clean of debris to prevent future flooding.

The Kitty Hawk Planning Board will meet on March 12 at 6 p.m. at Town Hall. The next Town Council meeting is scheduled for April 6 at 6 p.m.

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