Letter to the Editor: Pickleballgate in Southern Shores and an ugly contest

Published 12:18 pm Wednesday, July 12, 2023

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To the Editor:

Hard to believe that June is over, summer’s officially here, and we Southern Shores dwellers have tuned our summer selves to the slow surge of weekend cars heading North. I’ve wondered how well the town’s move to alter traffic patterns on the Waze app was working.

Actually, and with no firm data to confirm it, I believe there has been improvement, but it seemed not so as I sat behind a mega-truck from Montana this past Saturday whose happy crew must have discovered the magic of this special band of sand.

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With two more months of the summer rush there’s been another “bump in the road” literally for the Southern Shores town folk with a push to place speed bumps on the main cut-through roads which was followed by this comment from a less than enthusiastic Southern Shores police chief: “the data we have doesn’t justify them (The Coastland Times)” and who later affirmed that Southern Shores cut-through residents should “employ common sense when out walking … (The Coastland Times).” I’m betting this didn’t endear the police chief to those same families who fear for their children lives when an out of state mega truck speeds by their house hoping to beat someone to the next major artery back onto 12.

But I tend to agree that speed bumps – and I have two grandkids on Wax Myrtle – like summer months will become more long term pain than prove useful, so add the completion of the mythical Currituck bridge as the best (hypothetical) solution. Although the mayor’s suggestion of “sidewalks” would certainly be a good compromise, but myself fitting clearly in the aging, older white, pickleball demographic that helps pay to pave the streets, I may not live long enough to walk on a sidewalk in front of our Wax Myrtle house.

But if I did make it that long, I could maybe walk or wheelchair over to the stealthily built “new” pickleball courts going up possibly in the middle of the night (rumor) in what has been described “as the only open space area left in Southern Shores.” These new courts will soon be filled with the shouts and shrieks of we seniors trying to conquer one last sport and will replace the happy cries from soccer games, pick-up ball games, and the occasional frisbee tossings.

I must have missed the paragraph in the Civic Association’s newsletter that said some of my dues were going to placate those who feel the need to lay concrete (or whatever material) on the only “open space left in Southern Shores”? Anyone remember the 1970 song from Joni Mitchell “They Paved Paradise and Put Up a Parking Lot (Big Yellow Taxi)?” Substitute pickleball court for parking lot …

While Southern Shores pickleballgate is pretty small potatoes and seemingly useful in its push by an older serving Civic Organization it’s a microcosm of the OBX credo to develop at any and all costs any “open space” left that lies untouched. When’s the last time any town or the county set aside parcels to not be developed or to become a park or a new open space and not a gas station (how many does the OBX need)? Sure, development is good for those whose life is building, selling and developing. And even though half the boards have “influencers” directly attached to the businesses of material growth, the towns need to include non-development as an action which includes preserving tracts of land, buying them and leaving them intact. Southern Shores actually did buy a house recently to be used, as stated by our mayor, for the needs of the town.

In fact if you happen to think that the lack of any attempt to slow growth is palpable but unstoppable then we should at least choose the ugliest among the glut of rebuilt mega homes, mini hotels and the infamous and seemingly illusive “cluster homes.” So let’s pretend we are conducting a small contest in which donations are accepted for the preservation of “open spaces” and nominate the “worst” recent project developed along our Dare County beachfront (for starters)? From my perspective the recent nicely written letter to the editor in The Coastland Times By Stephanie Estes citing the development at 707 and 709 Virginia Dare Road in KDH has to get my vote without a thought. As Ms. Estes very emphatically states this monstrosity “is a canyon of homes as tall as they are allowed to be built, as large as they are allowed to be built, as close together as zoning rules allow, from the toe of the dunes to nearly the shoulder of Rt. 12.” Read more at: thecoastlandtimes.com/2023/06/16/letter-to-the-editor-on-dunes-development-and-density/

The developers must have scoured the worst of the East Coast oceanside complexes and found this awful plan and convinced whomever they needed to convince that these “cottage courts” which shape-shifted into “cluster homes” did not look as ugly and cramped when erected as it did on paper? If you haven’t seen the development take a drive by and look at what is without a doubt the perfect example of what not to build along our beaches.

See if you can find an uglier monstrosity that can beat this claustrophobic “cluster home” development. If so I’m sure the developers would love to get your feedback, particularly if you could suggest how a few more square feet could be squeezed in.

And even more ironic while the mega rebuilds and continuous new builds are taking place, down the beach a ways the Rodanthians are watching their homes be overpowered by the sea, and adding insult to injury are being told to do something individually about it.

Out of control does not describe the current state of pickleball in Southern Shores, the definition of “cluster homes” in Dare County and the glaring example in Rodanthe of what could be the fate of those towns who cannot afford to refurbish their beaches every few years and continue to bash beach fronts with mega houses with enough space to stuff in as many folks who can pay the asking price.

“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique, and a swinging hot spot
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone?
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot …”

(Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi, 1970)

Russ Watkins
Southern Shores