Manteo commissioners table wetland filling issue

Published 5:37 pm Monday, November 1, 2021

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The Manteo Board of Commissioners agenda for Wednesday, November 3, 2021 calls for considering a Land Use Plan amendment.

The item was initially presented for adoption at the Oct. 20 workshop. On a 5-0 vote, the commissioners tabled consideration until after the Nov. 2 municipal election.

At issue is whether Pirate’s Cove property owner Christopher Williams can fill less than a tenth of an acre of “upland” wetlands. The property address is 113 Ballast Point. The lot is bordered on one side by a house built in 2002 and on the other, a house built in 1996.

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Williams has obtained a Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA) permit, which allows construction of the house on pilings over Section 404 wetlands. On Oct. 21, Williams and his contractor purchased the town’s building permit, which was issued Oct. 5.

Coastal wetlands were delineated by the state’s Division of Coastal Management and the Section 404 wetlands by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The town’s 2007 Land Use Plan as currently written says that “no new development or filling should be allowed within upland wetlands.” That is now interpreted to prohibit Williams from filling less than a tenth of an acre of the Section 404 wetlands. The proposed amendment eliminates that prohibition.

The commissioners have optional actions: take no action, adopt one of two proposed amendments or adopt an amended version of one of those two proposed amendments.

At the Oct.20 hearing on the amendment, eight speakers appeared before the commissioners.

“Do a little more study,” pleaded Lucille Lamberto, who wanted to see upland wetlands throughout the town delineated.

Michael Egan based his amendment objection on water quality. In 2007, the water was polluted by rapid development, said Egan. He, too, argued for wetlands to be delineated “so we have a really good idea of what can be developed.”

John Robbins disagreed with the interpretation of the existing Land Use Plan but drafted an amendment to exclude Pirate’s Cove.

Town attorney Ben Gallop drafted resolutions 1 and 2 based on comments from the town’s Planning and Zoning Board. These resolutions apply to the entirety of Manteo.

Sharon Aldridge with the Pirate’s Cove Homeowners Association spoke in support of the amendment.

“I’m in favor of this amendment,” said Jim Tobin, owner of the Pirate’s Cove marina business.

Planning board chair Sherry Butcher Wickstrom told the commissioners that the resolutions before them “do not reflect intention of what [the] planning board says.” She also said “we are in the middle of a comprehensive plan process” which must be completed by July 1, 2022.

Malcolm Fearing warned of unintentional consequences.

The hearing was concluded.

Mayor Bobby Owens floated the idea to table the amendment until Nov. 3.

Commissioner Richie Burke moved to adopt Amendment 2; Mayor Pro Tem Betty Selby seconded the motion, which was defeated 3-2 with Burke and Selby voting for the amendment.

Commissioner Eddie Mann wanted clarification about how many lots were affected.

Planner Melissa Dickerson answered “it’s a tricky question to answer.”

The motion to table was adopted on a 5-0 vote.

The conversation was not over. The next item on the agenda was public comment.

Tobin said “I find it unusual that a permit for building a home is being denied because of future proposals. It should be approved or denied under the current rules.”

Robbins, with passion, also addressed the board again, as did property owner Williams.

The commissioners also adopted a budget amendment acknowledging American Rescue Plan Act funds totaling $464,022. The board will designate the uses for the funds at a future meeting.

Jason Borland was appointed board liaison of the comprehensive plan process.

During board comments, Owens suggested an advertising campaign to slow down drivers in coordination with town police and others. He also said the town should consider new bathrooms at Cartwright Park to replace the “dilapidated, old, musty” bathrooms. Selby supported this idea.