Nags Head continues discussion on improving pedestrian safety

Published 9:48 am Tuesday, November 16, 2021

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Nags Head commissioners discussed pedestrian safety at length at the all-day commissioners meeting November 3.

Public works director Eric Claussen said that the request for lighted, pushbutton signs at Seachase Drive and S. Virginia Dare Trail has been submitted to NCDOT and is in progress.

Claussen then requested input from the board regarding the speed reduction in the Village –whether to reduce the speed now or to wait until a speed study can be conducted on the road (during peak travel times). Said the agenda summary, “National statistics show that as speed limits are lowered, the probability of a pedestrian being fatally struck by a vehicle is greatly reduced. For example, according to the Institute of Transportation Engineers, if a vehicle is traveling at 30 mph the likelihood of the that crash resulting in a fatality is 40% vs that same pedestrian being struck by a vehicle traveling at 20 mph is 10%.”

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Commissioner Renee Cahoon made a motion to decrease the speed from 25 to 20 on Seachase Dr. and to conduct a speed study to determine what further actions may be necessary.

There were several items of old business that were discussed. The sidewalk extension project along E. Bonnett St. and W. Barnes St. will open to bids from contractors on November 9. Once awarded, the contractor will have until March 2, 2022 to complete the project. If funding is approved, an additional sidewalk segment along and W. Seachase Dr. will be added. The tourism department recently approved a grant for $37,898 for the sidewalk projects.

The conversation moved on to the use of motorized vehicles on the multi-use path. As personal motorized recreation (e-bikes, scooters, skateboards, Onewheels) is becoming more popular, commissioners are faced with the decisions of how – or if – to regulate its use. The town manager asked the board if they want to maintain a strict ordinance or go silent on the issue.

And the issue, plainly, is the electric bikes, which go faster and are potentially more dangerous than other types of electric recreation discussed. The difficulty comes in how to enforce regulations in different parts of town. Said mayor Ben Cahoon, “I think we need to have some flexibility in neighborhoods. The multi-use path is the one that gets me. If someone is using a motorized vehicle it’s hard to stop. Anything more than 10-12 mph there’s a lot of hazards . . . I’d like to create safe condition so a kid can ride a motorized skateboard safely down the sidewalk.”

The board discussed the possibility of installing stop signs on the multi-use path or allowing stricter regulations on the beach road than on the bypass.

In other items, Jan Mielke was introduced as the new human resources officer, followed by recognition of two employees: facilities maintenance crew leader Steven Saunders for 20 years of service to the town and deputy town clerk Michelle Gray for 25 years. Senior environmental planner Kate Jones was also recognized for receiving her license as landscape architect.

Next, department heads each gave a speech for their nominations for the Earl Murray Jr. 2021 Employee of the Year. The following people were nominated: Brittany Phillips, water billing specialist; Matthew Swain, fire department captain; Steve Szymanski, building inspector; Trey Lipscomb, senior police officer; and Conner Twiddy, facilities maintenance technician. Each individual received a certificate for their exemplary work for the town. At the end of the meeting, commissioners entered into a closed session to determine the winner, but the results have not been announced as of press date.

There were two public hearings for text amendments. The first request was submitted by Steve Pauls of FarmDog Surf School to add “Beach Recreation Equipment Rentals & Sales” as a permitted use within the C-4, Arts and Culture Zoning District. Pauls seeks to offer beach chairs and equipment, particularly for weekly visitors to the beach who often purchase equipment and then throw it away at the end of their visit. “It’s a really wonderful business opportunity and a good business service for our beach,” he said. The amendment was approved.

The second text amendment to the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) would allow temporary accommodations for outdoor dining through a temporary use permit. Outdoor dining is currently allowable through the declared state of emergency. For increased simplicity, the town approved the amendment, which allows restaurants to request a permit for outdoor seating for 180 days and up to 210 days. The maximum allowable seating will remain the same.

Following the public hearings, commissioners then heard via Zoom from project manager Holly Miller with Tetra Tech and in person from advisory committee member Bob Muller on the status of the Decentralized Wastewater Management Plan. Miller discussed framework, community perceptions, current initiative, strengths and weaknesses of the plan. Muller said that “wastewater is an existential threat to the town if not managed” and shared the goals of the plan, including looking at every tank within a five year period; improving pump out rebate to half the cost, increasing septic loan amounts and educating the year round residents and visitors about how to properly care for a septic system, like not flushing wipes down the toilet or disposing of grease down the kitchen sink.

Commissioner Webb Fuller asked if garbage disposals, which are notoriously bad for septic tanks, are permitted. There are, and discussion ensued about how or if changes should be made to create healthier septic systems. Ideas included setting up displays or offering information at community events like farmer’s markets and working with property management association to get the word out to weekly visitors.

Next, interim planning director Kelly Wyatt presented a site plan consideration at 3620 S. Old Nags Head Woods Road for the removal of 16 trees with a caliper of 16-inches or greater as required within the SED-80 Special Environmental District. The owners wish to build a home on the 2.78 acre property. Because it was determined that there was not a better or more suitable site for the home on the property, the request was granted to remove the trees.

In new business, town manager Andy Garman reported the results of the beach nourishment bids. The three bids were considered were from Manson Construction ($18,395,225), Weeks Marine ($12,185,480) and Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company ($11,874,838), which included the dredging, beach fill, trawling, tilling and dune grass planting.

Next, commissioners heard good news in the annual beach condition survey report from Moffat & Nichol. Project manager Brian Joyner said that a lower amount of wave activity this year has led to less erosion. “Overall it was a pretty good year for holding sand,” he said, though the southern part of the town experienced the greatest amount of loss. “The beach is in really good condition, especially compared to last year,” Joyner said.

Moving on to project updates from the town manager, town engineer David Ryan presented the “One Water” framework, a holistic approach to viewing water. This framework “develops a mindset that all water has value,” Ryan said. One Water would seek to develop smart practices that enhance the town’s ability to use water as a resource by serving as a connection in the relationship between water supply and consumption, on-site wastewater, stormwater, groundwater and surface water.

“It looks at water in an interconnected way. Ways to implement the One Water framework include recycling water via cistern capture and reuse; conserving water via installation of high efficiency fixtures; reusing wastewater for irrigation purposes; and creating bioretention systems.”

The meeting concluded with words of appreciation for commissioner Webb Fuller, who is departing the board. He will be replaced by Bob Sanders.