Manteo commissioners vote down land use plan amendment, cover multiple other topics

Published 10:00 am Tuesday, November 16, 2021

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At a Nov. 3, 2021 meeting, Manteo commissioners finished with the request for a land use plan amendment, heard a good audit report, granted employees a mid-year bonus, reviewed a speeding crackdown plan and heard about all the events lined up for holiday celebrations.

As background on the land use item, a Pirate’s Cove landowner requested an amendment to the town’s 2007 land use plan, which prohibits filling “upland” wetlands, which are similar to 404 wetlands delineated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. As such, if a Coastal Area Management Act filling permit was filed, the permit would be denied by the state’s Division of Coastal Management because the permit was not consistent with the town’s land use plan.

The property owner asked for an amendment to the land use plan to permit filling in Pirate’s Cove. At this meeting, John Robbins spoke on behalf of the property owner, stating that no “upland” wetlands were on the site and that the amendment is a way out of a “grave mistake.”

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The town’s planning board considered the request and changed the language to include all of the town, said town attorney Ben Gallop.

The Nov. 3 agenda item continued a discussion from the board’s mid-October meeting, where numerous people spoke about the controversy.

Mayor Bobby Owens pushed to resolve the issue. “We can’t keep dragging it out,” said the mayor.

Commissioner Richie Burke made a motion to first adopt Amendment 2 but making it applicable only to Pirate’s Cove. Gallop suggested Amendment 1 with a variation for including only the Pirate’s Cove subdivision, to which Burke agreed. Mayor Pro Tem Betty Selby seconded the motion. The motion failed with Burke and Selby voting in favor and commissioners Jason Borland, Darrell Collins and Eddie Mann opposing.

“The motion dies,” said Owens, who under Manteo rules does not have a vote.

In the consent agenda, the commissioners approved a $350 mid-year bonus, consistent with prior year levels.

In his memorandum to the board, town manager James Ayers gave the following assessment: “the staff as a whole has worked together to provide excellent service both in regular operations as well as emergency conditions. This assessment is consistent across all departments as each organizational unit has achieved reliable service delivery during the fiscal year for which this award is considered.”

Regarding the 2020-21 fiscal year audit, Borland said “it’s clear. It’s good. We’re in good shape.”

Austin Eubanks with the accounting firm of Thompson, Price, Scott, Adams & Co., PA, of Wilmington, delivered the verbal audit report, which will be available to the public when accepted by the state’s Local Government Commission.

Eubanks reported the audit was free of material error with no insufficiencies and no internal control issues.

At June 30, 2021, the town had a fund balance of $4.7 million, presenting 102.8% of the funds needed to pay a year’s worth of town expenditures.

Eubanks told the board “you are very good stewards.”

Manteo Police Lt. Brad Eilert presented the department’s speeding plan as requested at the mid-October meeting.

Citizen complaints kick-started the program. A radar trailer which collects speeding data will be set up. Those statistics will be studied. Increased and/or saturation patrols are possible.

The department has identified these speeding hotspots: Fernando, Ananias Dare Street and Ananias Dare Street Extended, Uppowoc Avenue Extended, Devon St., U.S. 64 in school zones and U.S.64 at Midway intersection. Unless motorists are driving at an excessive speed, a warning will be issued. Speeding tickets result drivers paying court costs and earning points on licenses.

The commissioners agreed to add a full-time public works employee and a part-time person in planning. The public works staffing level addresses additional work due to new projects underway to be completed this fiscal year or continuing work like expanding the Town Common. The planning department has an increased workload with more applications and permits and supervision of special projects. The staff memo says no additional funding will be needed for these positions this fiscal year. For next fiscal year, the revenue projections support continuing the positions.

The town administration will begin negotiations with a retail business Shut the Barn Door about leasing open space in the Magnolia Pavilion.

During commissioner comments, Collins thanked Ayers for his service.

He said that it was time to move forward with selecting a new town manager with the process previously used. He suggested asking Shannon Twiddy to work with Ayers and so she will be up to speed to serve as acting manager. Ayers is set to leave Dec. 17, 2021.

Owens argued that the board will totally change on Dec. 1 and that the decision should be left to the new board.

The vote died with Collins and Burke voting yes and Selby, Mann and Borland voting no.

The next Manteo Board of Commissioners meeting is set for Nov. 17, 2021 at 5 p.m.