Manteo commissioners say ‘no’ to development

Published 3:13 pm Wednesday, February 22, 2023

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In Manteo, the town’s Board of Commissioners rejected a special use permit application for Salt Meadow Landing OBX, LLC, a proposed development on 4.04 acres of land off Russell Twiford Road.

The decision was unanimous on Feb. 8, 2023.

The project called for a mixed use development with residential above retail in five two-story buildings and retail and office uses in two more buildings. Such mixed use is only allowed with a special use permit and only in the B-3 Entrance District zone.

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This is a long-running agenda item for the town.

The staff met with Salt Meadow representatives in four meetings starting in December 2021.

The applicant, Sumit Gupta, applied for the special use permit June 21, 2022, through Quible & Associates. The town’s planning board approved the permit with recommendations July 12, 2022.

The board of commissioners is required to hold a quasi-judicial hearing for the issuance of a special use permit. The commissioners held three such hearings, three during regularly scheduled meetings on Aug. 3, Oct. 5 and Feb. 8. A special meeting was held Dec. 7, 2022.

At the Oct. 5 meeting, attorney Andrew Petesch appeared on behalf of 10 property owners in the Peninsula Subdivision, adjacent to the proposed development. After testimony, the board granted standing to the intervenors in the proceedings.

In these proceedings, appearing for the applicant were attorney E. Crouse Gray Jr.; Gupta, the applicant; Lyle Overcash with Kimberly-Horne and Associates, Inc.; and Dylan Tillett and Michael Strader from Quible.

Appearing for the intervenors were attorney Petesch; property owners from Peninsula Subdivision Vivian Shackleford, Jennifer Parser and John Anderson; and Johnnie Hennings with Accident Reconstruction Analysis, PLLC.

From the beginning, traffic and stormwater were major issues.

The subject property has access to Russell Twiford Road and US 64/264. The town’s planning board required a traffic study. Overcash provided one which was challenged by Hennings.

According to the plans, the egress and ingress from US 64/264 would be a right turn into the development and a right turn out. That limitation would push development traffic to Russell Twiford Road, the only way in or out for the Peninsula Subdivision.

The traffic study recommended restriping Russell Twiford Road at its intersection with US Hwy 64 that goes into Manteo or to the intersection with NC Hwy. 345 to Wanchese, also called the Midway Intersection.

Motorist safety was the primary concern hammered on by the intervenors through Hennings.

At the Aug. 3 meeting, commissioner Tod Clissold said about the Midway intersection, “it’s a bad situation. It’s an absolute mess.”

On stormwater, the plans meet the state’s minimum criteria and retain 1.02 inches of rainfall. Overage, however, would flow to a creek immediately east of the proposed development. The creek, deemed an environmentally sensitive area, flows directly into Shallowbag Bay.

On Feb. 8, 2023, the town’s commissioners convened to make a decision.

Commissioner Sherry Wickstrom started. She said the project “does not meet the town’s standards.” She charged the proposal was not in compliance with the town’s Land Use Plan. She pointed to the intent of the B-3 district that calls for a “smaller scale” and said the project does not comply with that intent. As to traffic, she said the developer did not offer solutions other than striping. She asked where is the green space? No tot lot is shown. Multimodal transportation was not present as no bike racks or sidewalks were shown.

Clissold had multiple concerns. He called the development “massive.” He wanted to keep the small town atmosphere. He cited stormwater as a “big concern.” The square footage is “a lot for four acres,” he said. As to the commercial uses, Clissold said “nothing is defined.”

His assessment: “too many unknowns.” He recommended denying the permit.

“I feel the same way,” said commissioner Betty Selby. To the developer, she said the rejection does not mean he can’t come back to the town.

Commissioner Eddie Mann made the motion to deny the permit and adopt the order prepared by intervenors’ attorney Petesch. Clissold seconded.

Commissioners voting for the motion were Mann, Clissold, Selby, Wickstrom and Stetson. Commissioner Darrell Collins was absent due to illness. Mayor Bobby Owens cannot vote.