Lieutenant James Helms recognized for service as Kitty Hawk interim police chief, council hears from concerned residents

Published 5:24 pm Sunday, August 27, 2023

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At the Kitty Hawk Town Council meeting on August 7, Lieutenant James Helms was recognized for his service as interim police chief from February to August of this year. Helms assumed the role upon the retirement of former Kitty Hawk Police Chief Joel Johnson.

“You were the natural choice to assume this role,” said town manager Melody Clopton during the evening’s meeting. Helms began serving the Town of Kitty Hawk not long after Clopton, and has “adopted numerous roles and many titles” over the years. Clopton said, “You willingly stepped in and committed to doing your best. In process, you progressed in your own leadership journey … I have personally come to appreciate your openness, your kindness, your willingness to communicate … and your sense of humor.”

Kitty Hawk welcomed their new police chief, Michael Palkovics, at their last council meeting. Helms was “instrumental” in coordinating a smooth transition for Palkovics as he assumed his new role. “Jimmy has really stepped up and been a great partner,” the new police chief shared. “It’s been a pleasure getting to know him and the rest of the team.” Helms was awarded a certificate of appreciation from the town for his time as interim police chief.

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The Kitty Hawk Police Department and Fire Department were each awarded $3,500 during the presentation portion of the meeting by Dare County commissioner Steve House from the OBX Jeep Invasion event that occurred in May. The town council also heard from OBX Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition vice chairman Jim Gould, who shared that the coalition is seeking volunteers to help promote safety all across the Outer Banks.

The council heard from eight citizens during the public comment portion of the meeting. Several Kitty Hawk residents, including Susan Walters and Thomas Buttke, were present to express concerns regarding flooding effects on Ivy Lane in Kitty Hawk Landing.

Walters spoke on behalf of 15 homeowners on Ivy Lane who have seen severe changes in flooding on their street over the past 12-16 months after two lots installed bulkheads on their properties. Buttke shared photos of water coming onto his property after several sustained wind events, something that he said hadn’t happened prior to the bulkhead installation. “The water is coming in and has no place to go,” he said.

Walters shared that the homeowners sought advice from local engineer Andy Deel in regard to the flooding issues, who recommended implementing roadside culverts to direct the water to the end of the existing cul-de-sac, sending the water into marsh land. Engineer and Kitty Hawk Landing resident John DeLucia and public works director William Midgett had met with the residents as well to discuss solutions.

“We hope to continue with the dialogue as we seek Kitty Hawk’s help to remediate this growing problem that has been plaguing us for the last 12 to 16 months,” said Walters. Mayor Craig Garriss shared with Walters that council is aware of the situation, and conversations regarding the matter are ongoing.

Following public comment, the council entered into a public hearing to discuss text amendments regarding four different topics: language for temporary uses, outdoor markets, outdoor event ordinances and commercial yard sales.

The council unanimously approved the amendment regarding temporary uses, revising language to identify staff, instead of town council, as having the authority to approve yearly temporary uses, such as Christmas tree sales at certain business establishments. This had already been common practice within town hall. Additionally, the council approved the proposed amendment regarding commercial yard sales. The amendment states that there can be no more than four commercial yard sale events per a 12-month period, 10 percent of required parking can be used for merchandise sales, commercial yard sales cannot be longer than seven consecutive days, and they must be approved by the planning department prior to the held event.

As for the other two topics of conversation, the council agreed that changes to the text amendments regarding outdoor markets and outdoor events should be given a second look. “I have talked with police and fire about the public safety concerns that didn’t come up during our group committee discussions,” said director of planning and inspection Rob Testerman in the opening public hearing dialogue. Such concerns included securing canopy tents, parking and traffic circulation, limiting hours of operation, etc.

“There [are] some questions that Rob’s brought up that I’d appreciate being addressed,” commented Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Pruitt. He motioned to send both text amendments back to the planning board for further consideration.

Lastly, the council set two public hearings for their September 5 meeting: one will address proposed amendments for redefining how to calculate minimum lot size, and the other will address the town’s Land Use Plan update. The meeting will take place at town hall at 6 p.m. For more information, visit