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Kitty Hawk addresses restaurant crisis, looks into temporary alleviations

On Monday, May 4, the Kitty Hawk Town Council gathered at Town Hall for their regular monthly meeting. Mayor Gary Perry added one new item to the agenda, which turned out to be the main topic of discussion that night.

Daniel Lewis, owner of Coastal Provisions Oyster Bar & Wine Bar Café, and Chris Vlahos, owner of Barefoot Bernie’s Tropical Bar & Grill, submitted letters to be read during public comment.

They both voiced concerns about current restrictions on outdoor dining and the mobile vending ordinance due to the pending limited occupancy in business establishments to prevent spread of COVID-19.

Lewis asked the town to look into making exceptions for food truck, kiosk and cart use within personal operational premises. Vlahos suggested relaxing the restrictions on outdoor dining to offset a loss in revenue from limited indoor seating.

Both requests would most likely involve changes to text amendments or conditional use permits. With the known timeline of usual requests such as these to process, Lewis asked if there was a way for the town to expedite the process and perhaps waive fees, given the circumstances.

While Perry noted that this request was in an area council “would not normally tread” due to parking and zoning issues, he agreed that something needed to be done. Turning to town attorney Casey Varnell, Perry asked if these requests were feasible.

“Fortunately, I do believe we can help these people,” Varnell said. Nothing can be done until the governor’s orders are lifted for non-essentials to resume business. However, once that point comes, Varnell said the town can issue a declaration that “prohibits and/or restricts offices, businesses or other places to which people may travel or congregate” due to the emergency management act that is in place.

In other words, a municipality has the authority to issue a restriction on how restaurants can operate in such a way that alleviates current statues requirements. This does not have to match the county’s restrictions as long as the restrictions are not “loosened.”

Sunset provisions would be put in place on these temporary adjustments to the ordinance, and by law the measures taken would expire once the declaration itself expires.

Perry noted: “Most of time we mirror the county, but this sort of thing might be different.” Council members Jeff Pruitt, Lynne McClean, David Hines and Mayor Pro Tem Craig Garris were all in agreement.

“I think we need to get these people back up and working any way we can,” Pruitt said. With that, Perry made a motion giving direction to the town planner and Varnell to work with restaurants in town to see what they need moving forward.

Perry then asked to have that information brought back to council to make a determination of how to proceed and decide the rewording of current declarations. Due to the time crunch and the likelihood that restaurants will be able to open to half capacity towards the end of May, Perry said he was willing to call a special meeting to address the issue.

Other orders of business included revisiting the Kitty Hawk trail connector project and an update on the Kitty Hawk bathhouse project.

Town manager Andy Stewart explained that in 2018, Perry and Pruitt along with the council at that time had supported a project connecting Kitty Hawk park to Birch Ln. Trail. This “highly underutilized trail” currently has restricted access and no identified parking lots.

Dare County had granted their support to the project back in May of 2018 and the Dare County Tourism Board awarded Kitty Hawk a $47,000 grant for the project.

Although the grant that Kitty Hawk had applied for at that time to fund the project was unsuccessful, Stewart said the town is going to resubmit an application to the NC Recreational Trails program once again and hope that this time, they are successful and can complete the project.

Perry said this project is “really needed” and “the right thing to do.”

As for the bathhouse, upgrades are in full swing. The plumbing is now completed, as well as a new roof, siding and composite decking.

Stewart said crews are about to finish installing flooring and then will move onto the installation of toilets and sinks. Additional space as also been construction for ocean rescue when inclement weather hits the coast throughout the summer.

Stewart reported that the bathhouse will be completed on or before June 8.

The council will meet again on May 11 for their budget workshop at 9 a.m. For more information, visit www.kittyhawknc.gov.

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