Duck live streams council meeting, covers several topics

Published 8:44 am Saturday, April 11, 2020

Overcoming minor technical difficulties, the April 1 Duck Town Council meeting took place as scheduled.

With members inside the Paul F. Keller Meeting Hall and connected by remote video link, Duck council reviewed current COVID-19 conditions, reappointed two planning board members, set a public hearing date for an ordinance amendment and heard separate reports on town parking and dune walkovers.

Sitting in seats with the appropriate social distance between them, Mayor Don Kingston and commissioners Monica Thibodeau, Rob Mooney and Sandy Whitman sat in a nearly empty meeting room, while commissioner Nancy Caviness and town attorney Robert B. Hobbs Jr. elected to undertake remote participation.

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“It seemed like the prudent thing to do,” said Caviness. “This [COVID-19] is serious stuff and it complied with the social distancing and stay-at-home orders.”

Caviness went on to say that while it is new technology for some people, it’s an easy decision for others like herself that have used video conferencing for some time.

Although an average of about 21 people were able to dial in for Duck’s first live stream attempt, Wednesday’s meeting some pitfalls.

“We shot for the moon,” said public information Christian Legner. “We used two different platforms and it was complicated.”

A live stream test earlier in the day indicated everything was in order. At meeting time, however, visiting the posted internet web link returned a message “Video unavailable – This video is private.”

Legner redirected everyone to a new link that worked, only the get a number of complaints that there was no audio.

Those that could successfully get in on the video link heard Kingston open the meeting a few minutes later than scheduled, followed by Planning Department intern Savannah Newbern reading close to a half dozen public comments submitted by email prior to the meeting. Most email submissions were positive and supported travel restrictions and associated social distancing, but one writer expressed extreme dissatisfaction with the current travel restrictions, saying it was not fair, not lawful and any travel plans should be his choice and not made by the county.

Digging into the evening’s agenda, the consent agenda was approved with minutes from February’s two-day annual retreat, a resolution declaring April as Child Abuse Prevention Month and increased support of families which will help prevent child abuse and strengthen the community, approved a coronavirus related paid sick leave policy for employees, a policy for electronic participation in Town Council meetings during a declared state of emergency, a budget amendment that corrects a January posting error, appropriates $4,301 for police vehicle repairs and maintenance, appropriates a $10,000 Government Education and Access Channel grant for meeting hall sound improvements, appropriates a $21,848 FEMA grant for Hurricane Dorian related cleanup and transfers $38,500 for professional services and fees associated with a contract with VHB for  permitting, design and construction oversight of the sill and living shoreline projects.

Due to current COVID-19 conditions, two previously scheduled public hearings – a special exception request to allow grading of a residential lot at 113 Bayberry Drive and ordinance updates to Chapter 150 for flood damage prevention – were rescheduled for the May 6 meeting.

Council did, with little discussion, reappoint Tim McKeithan and Randy Morton to three-year Planning Board terms that expire May 1, 2023, and voted to schedule a Public Hearing for May 6 on changes to the definition of building height in flood zones.

According to community development director Joe Heard, the amendment will change the measure point for structures in order to avoid penalizing homeowners who raise their homes to comply with flood prevention regulations. Instead of measuring from the top of the bottom floor, the home would be measured from the bottom, a difference of about 12 to 18 inches.

A little later in the meeting, Newbern was on hand to present her analysis of available commercial parking places in town. The study of 33 businesses from Aqua Restaurant to Sunset Grille estimates a total of 1,325 available parking spaces. Current parking guidelines call for a total of 1,548.

After a brief discussion on the results, council requested staff look at other businesses not included in the study and provide the additional data before taking a position on what Planning Board action is deemed necessary.

In her review, CAMA local permit officer Sandy Cross advised she makes regular inspections and that there are about 100 dune walkovers in the beach nourishment area with the layout of the land changing daily. She said there are escarpments that hinder walkability along dunes, but since the town restricted structures on the east side of the dune, the damage is minor compared to what happened before Isabel. Dune walkovers are permitted to extend down to the toe of the eastern side of the dune but may only be constructed of beach access matting.

With only a small handful of known complaints, council elected to hold off on taking any repair action.

Near the end of the meeting, town manager Christopher Layton advised that the budget preparation is going well, but the numbers could be impacted by the virus. Without knowing how long restrictions will be in place, he recommended the budget presentation be postponed. The public hearing can still be in June.

A motion by Whitman to move the budget presentation to the May mid-month meeting passed without opposition. Duck has until the end of June to approve a budget.

The next Duck Town Council meeting is at 7 p.m. May 6.

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