Duck project squeaks past Planning Board

Published 7:31 pm Saturday, August 20, 2022

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Duck Planning Board members, at their August 10 regular session meeting, gave a special use permit request a split 3-2 vote of approval.

After plans to redevelop the former Resort Realty property at 1248 Duck Road failed to gain Town Council approval in May, Bissell Professional Group was back with a scaled-down site plan on behalf of property owner The Promenade at Duck LLC.

Providing an introduction and background to the request, planning consultant Donna Creef explained that an existing structure on the property built in 1985 is slated to be demolished and replaced with three commercial structures. The redevelopment will feature retail space, a 42-seat restaurant and second floor residential uses in two of the structures. Plans before the board now call for two-story structures instead of three story and apartments that are now two-bedroom instead of three bedroom. The changes reduced the required parking for the site. An exception to parking requirements is not part of this request and the current application only asks for a rear yard setback reduction, which is an exception allowed in Section 156.065.

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The 0.69 acre site is zoned Village Commercial with NC 12 to the east, Currituck Sound to the west, Duck Waterfront Shops to the south and to the north is Duck Ridge Shores Civic League property used for sound access by Duck Ridge Subdivision property owners and residents. Across NC 12 to the east is a residential area.

Town documents show that building A will include 1,082 sf of first floor retail space and a two-bedroom accessory dwelling unit on the second floor. Building B will include 998 square feet of first floor retail space and a two-bedroom accessory dwelling unit on the second floor. Building C will be the restaurant with an 1,855 sq.ft. first floor and 874 sq.ft. second floor area.

Creef said also that proposed plans meet general construction limits and are consistent with businesses already in Duck. If approved, the site plan will go to Town Council for review and deliberation. If approved by council, there will be additional reviews for lighting, construction plans and other detailed work on building specifics. Currently there have been approved reviews by the town engineer, fire, police, water and environmental health departments.

CAMA has also given a stamp of approval and NCDOT is looking at a driveway permit request, but is reluctant to issue one prior to a site plan approval from Duck.

When the floor was opened for public comments, William Allen “Bill” Gray and about a half dozen other Duck Ridge Shores residents spent considerable time detailing their concerns with the project.

Although some were in favor of something being done at the site, multiple concerns were voiced that this project lacked safety, would contribute to traffic congestion,  does not meet town requirements and that a fence was needed on the north property line to keep people off Duck Ridge Shores Civic League property once it is developed.

The only speaker actually favoring the project was nearby resident Ron Forlano, but even he said the project needs more work to gain approval.

“It just needs to be tweaked,” he explained. “We need to get rid of this eyesore that’s been there for the last year. Right now we’re looking at a vacant building. These people have made valid concerns, but I have hope and faith in our staff, and I have a tremendous amount of faith in this Planning Board. It’s going to give us tax money in the form of sales tax, building permit money, and it’s going to be a benefit to the town.”

During his comments on the project, David Klebitz, civil engineer with Bissell, advised that many of the issues voiced by council members at the May meeting have been addressed. A vehicle turnaround and the proposed plan is for 47.3 percent lot coverage, down from the current 56 percent and considerably less than the 60 percent allowed. The only need is for a rear yard setback of 10 feet instead of the traditional 20. The existing building is only five feet from the rear property line.

In response to a concern raised by board member Tim McKeithan that a roof overhang might be more than allowed, Klebitz advised that the current plan was not intended as a final drawing and more of a conceptual development plan to get overall project approval. He added that any specific requirements for roof eve compliance would be addressed when reviewed by a building inspector.

Also speaking for the applicant, attorney E. Crouse Gray Jr. assured the board that any overhang excess was not intended and the change would be made.

Other board member concerns included traffic flow, traffic congestion, delivery truck access and a need for a turn lane. During discussion on the application, it was mentioned that a turn lane is possible, but that would be a town expense. It was also noted that while traffic is a serious issue for the town, each new applicant should not be held responsible for solving the traffic problem.

There was also a brief debate over the term redevelopment, with some public speakers claiming that tearing down a building and adding another is not redevelopment but instead new development.

Although attorney Gray pointed out the term redevelopment is not defined in the ordinance, and that the dictionary says means to develop again or differently, Planning Board chair James Cofield insisted without any specific references that this project is not a redevelopment as defined in N.C. statute and in Duck.

As the two hour hearing came to a close, a motion to approve was made with several conditions including a fence be constructed on the north property line adjacent to Duck Ridge Shores Civic League property, a proposed walkway on the north and west portion of the property be included and roof overhangs be limited per Town of Duck ordinance section 156.051.

The vote to approve included McKeithan, Marc Murray and Randy Morton saying that they agree it is a conceptual plan to move forward and that parking and traffic is an issue and always will be. The two nay votes were from Cofield and Joe Blakaitis, who felt the project puts public safety at risk, does not comply with Duck’s land use plan and has too many things hanging.

The narrow vote to recommend approval sends the project to Duck Town Council for a final consideration.

Other Planning Board business for the night included approving minutes from its July 13 meeting and scheduling a special 7:30 a.m. Friday, August 19 meeting for board members to go out onto the beach to look at various dune walkovers.

The next regular Planning Board meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, September 14.