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New Shallowbag Bay Sewer Pump Station passes Manteo Planning Board

By majority vote, the Town of Manteo Planning and Zoning Board, at its April 13 regular session, approved plans for a new Shallowbag Bay Sewer Pump Station.

According to town manager James Ayers, the pumping station currently in use at the Manteo waterfront was originally constructed in the 1940s and is nearing its end of life.

“We are going to put up a nice, modern station,” explained Ayers. “The new one will be flood resistant and have its own generator, so in case of any power outages, the pump station will still work.”

Ayers went on to say that some of the equipment is not very pretty and it needs to be elevated to avoid being flooded. He advised that building a structure around it will protect the equipment from the environment as well as prevent anyone from being on the equipment and getting hurt. He described the building plans as resembling an older looking structure similar to the nearby maritime museum.

The $1,128,793 project will have $1,106,660 funded by the State of North Carolina with $500,000 through loan forgiveness or grant and the remaining $606,660 at zero percent interest for 20 years.

“It’s a big project for us from an infrastructure standpoint,” Ayers added. “It is something that we absolutely have to do and it’s pretty cool that we are getting a station for about half price.”

During a review for the proposed design, board Chair Sherry Wickstrom advised that the town’s Preservation and Architectural Review Committee had looked at it earlier this month and was in agreement that Manteo does, in fact, need a newer and better pump system. She added, however, that the PARC felt the structure was a little too tall and recommended a cupola be removed to help it fit into the downtown environment.

Town planner Melissa Dickerson advised that the overall size of the building was driven by the equipment, with the structure and its doors engineered to the minimum size needed to get pumps in and out. Total height of the structure with the cupola in place will be 29 feet 3 inches at the top pitch. Without the cupola, it would be roughly 25 feet, well below the 36 foot height limit.

When asked for board comments, Hal Goodman said he disagreed with the PARC and felt the cupola added to the look of the building.

“I think it adds something to the appeal of the structure,” said Goodman. “If you take it off it will just look like a barn and the other two structures there have features on the roof very similar to it. And the building meets the height restriction with the cupola on it.”

Board members Nicole Northrup and Fields Scarborough agreed with Goodman and a motion to approve construction plans as presented passed 3-1.

While casting the lone nay vote, Wickstrom said she is part of the PARC and agreed with that committee’s recommendation to eliminate the cupola. Board member Jamie Daniels was not at the meeting to vote.

According to Ayers, the old existing station will be properly decommissioned, taken out of service, and the area landscaped. The new site will be near the existing weather tower not far from the foot of the lighthouse pier. He added that placing it near but not among the existing trees in that area helps maintain most of the scenic views.

“We want to be sensitive to architectural and environmental concerns,” he offered. “Tonight was more about getting the permits. Not just the state permits, but we also want to make sure we follow all our own local processes just like anybody else has to.”

Once all permits and approvals are in place, the Shallowbag Bay Sewer Pump Station project could go out for bids in May for a construction contract in November and be completed by August 2022.

Earlier in the evening, during public comments, Malcolm Fearing offered the board a brief look at plans MKF Realty Corporation has to develop a 1.6 acre section of land on Bowsertown Road.

Fearing said there have been several incorrect rumors floating around about the project and he would like to clear things up.

“This is not a presentation for any action,” explained Fearing. “I think we are all acutely aware of the issues we have for housing. I’ve been dealing with this issue for 38 years, trying to bring housing for our community.”

Fearing went on to say his plans for Bowsertown call for one commercial structure with residences upstairs and seven other lots each with a principal two-bedroom house at the front and a smaller one-bedroom accessory dwelling unit structure at the rear of the property.

Fearing said according to realtor.com, the median sale price for a home in Manteo is $375,000. A 30 year loan with 20 percent down and 3.13 interest would require a $1,303 monthly payment before factoring in taxes and insurance.

“Who has $70,000 sitting in the bank for a 20 percent down payment?” he asked. “With smaller homes you can keep the rents lower, and that’s what we are talking about. We are not talking about a project that is for sale. We’re talking about a subdivision that will be for rent.”

Presenting a series of slides with a subdivision plat and photos of existing Manteo commercial and residential structures similar to what he plans to construct, Fearing said they are illustrations of what he believes are market available homes. Small homes.

“Housing is critical at all levels,” Fearing continued. “The lack of essential housing is a problem that limits the ability of employers to attract and retain employees. It’s critical for all income levels, and both professionals and non-professionals. I believe this will meet your zoning ordinances. Our attempt is to come forward and ask for no favors. We want to present to you a plan that exactly meets your ordinances and code exactly.”

Fearing concluded by saying it will be a project for year-round rental housing aimed at meeting increased housing needs in Manteo and that he would be willing to talk about any questions on the project later.

Other business for the evening included approval of the March meeting minutes and a brief discussion on setting guidelines for fill material.

Board members agreed that the issue does need further talk and that stormwater runoff issues will increase without some type of control.

Board members asked Dickerson to put together some information for additional discussion at the May 11 meeting.

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