Nags Head discusses pedestrian safety

Published 12:50 pm Tuesday, April 25, 2023

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Nags Head commissioners held two brief April meetings focusing on public safety and recreational activities.

During public comment, Bob Muller opened with the statement, “My name is Bob Muller … and I’m still alive …  and all of you are still alive, but not because there aren’t people who are trying to kill us. I’m still alive for a really simple reason—like Chicken Little I don’t cross the road, at least not without waiting two seconds before I drive out into a traffic light.”

Muller said the town has a red-light-running problem.

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Mayor Ben Cahoon, who rides his bike to work regularly, said he sees people running red lights every day. “The crosswalk signals don’t work half the time, and so you wait until traffic is stopping before pulling into an intersection on a bicycle. I hope you’re doing that in your car but you sure do it on a bicycle,” he said.

Commissioners discussed the possibility of adding red light cameras to stoplights. However, North Carolina General Statues require that all revenue from red light cameras go to the Board of Education.

“There’s no way to recoup costs for red light cameras,” town attorney John Leidy said, but the town may still wish to pursue them because it will improve public safety.

Similarly, Police Chief Perry Hale explained current regulations on pedestrian crosswalks. The law states that vehicles must yield at designated crosswalk to anyone showing an intent to cross the street, or who is actively trying to cross the street.

Cyclists are not considered pedestrians unless they have dismounted and are walking their bikes across the road.

Commissioners discussed ways to improve pedestrian safety, including increasing the lights at crosswalks, making sure trash cans are free from crosswalk visibility, and working to educate the public—both drivers and pedestrians—about laws and crosswalk safety.

Hale said that since 2018, there have been 13 crashes involving pedestrians, and only one of those was at a crosswalk. A driver was at fault in five of the crashes, and pedestrians were at fault from darting into the roadway or crossing outside of a designated crosswalk in the remaining eight accidents.

He stated that the police department is planning a crosswalk campaign, which will be announced through Facebook, to bring awareness to crosswalks throughout town.

Also during public comment, Mark Welch requested that the town offer sand volleyball courts. “We have 100 miles of beach, and we have one public volleyball court,” Welch said, and expressed concern particularly for young people who have no place to play if they do not make the public school teams.

Commissioners agreed to check out options, possibly near Jennette’s Pier.

In new business, the town approved a revision to the town code adding a 300-gallon receptacle to the list of approved trash containers. These will be available for sale for businesses to replace the four-yard dumpsters, and some large homes that currently use four or more rolling carts.

Next, Fire Chief Randy Wells received approval for a contract with iParametrics out of Georgia to update the Emergency Operations Plan (EOP). The town received a $75,000 grant for this project. Nags Head has previously focused on weather-related events, but the current EOP will be expanded to include all hazards, manmade or natural, and offer resources such as playbooks, task lists, job aids and real world guidance in the event of emergencies.

A public hearing was scheduled to consider an amendment to the Unified Development Ordinance to clarify or add definitions of habitable building area, habitable living space and finished space.

“I don’t understand these changes well enough, but it appears to me that anybody who has a sheetrock garage in Nags Head is now counted as habitable space,” said local business owner John Harris during public comment. “To me, that would have a widespread impact on existing homeowners in Nags Head. So I think the impact of this amendment change needs to be studied more and how it impacts our existing property owners, and maybe come up with a better text amendment.”

Planning director Kelly Wyatt said that though the amendments were approved by the planning board, her staff has since recognized some additional changes that may need to be made before adoption.

Commissioners agreed to table the item until the May meeting.

The April 5 meeting agenda mentioned a closed session to consider “acquisition of property located at 100 E. Hollowell Street,” which is the 4.7-acre property that Woda Cooper had previously considered for affordable housing. Town manager Andy Garman said that the town did not have an update on the possible purchase of this property, but expects to have more information in May or June.

The April 19 meeting was brief, with commissioners unanimously agreeing to move forward with the process of demolishing the structure at 10211 E Seagull Drive, which has been deemed hazardous and dangerous.