Letter to the Editor: Who knew that new would take on a new meaning in 2024

Published 8:33 am Monday, January 29, 2024

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To the Editor:

Can you believe we’ll soon be done with January 2024 before you can say “good riddance.” At least that’s what some Chicago friends are telling me as they send their temp-for-the-day screen shots that say -10 (without wind). Try breathing that air a while, it’s like a cold version of a sauna … But I’m sure we all have various views of the emerging 2024 and the special treat of an election poised to cause anyone with less than half a brain to make a completely insane decision.

Enough on that, but more on the strange behaviors already happening here on this wonderful stretch of beach we call home. First and perhaps a fair enough topic to set the stage for tangled debate is Nags Head’s decision to not allow a drive-thru Starbucks in the Outlets Mall. One COULD start the discussion with … “Is another Starbucks needed in Dare County?” Given that Starbucks has created over 80,000 latte heavens worldwide, not to mention the six plus GREAT coffee shops in the area, we’d be wrong if we thought this question would go to any decision other than YES. So should we be able to drive through or have to park and get out and actually walk to the proposed Starbucks store? Mayor Cahoon voted yes to driving thru. It’s a more practical approach to drive thru while doing your emails than to have to get out and park, and it seems like, arguably, a good place for another Starbucks given some of the other precedents. But he is countered by another council member who wants to “protect the character of Nags Head as a relaxed, family-oriented beach town.” Sure, not having a drive through Starbucks in an already sprawling “outlet center” will go a long way to protecting the special character of the town. And our visitors should have to walk to get their lattes while they’re coming to the mall to get flip-flops to walk softly in this “relaxed family oriented beach town.”

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Moving to the North we have to look at the recent discussion featured in a Duck CA article concerning the definition of “redevelopment.” Not unlike some of the current Congressional debates in RDU and DC, it’s a microcosmic debate of an issue that James Cofield rightly points out “calls into play a whole set of standards and conditions that I do not think Duck is ready for…,” and that it is “better to leave things the way they are.” That could be a good slogan for the upcoming 2024 election cycle since a similar question comes into play as those opposed to a “redevelop…, (in Duck’s case) the property at 1248 Duck Road” believe this action “was not redevelopment, it is new development.” Given the fervor with which the NC Congress has “newly developed” rules, boundaries, and prior town laws (remember the affordable housing mystery) Mr. Cofield’s comment is well said.

Here’s one better. In a recent article (Emergency coastal rules draw little notice during hearings in CoastalReview.org) we see how laws can quickly evaporate (my take). This interesting use of “new and renew” is another tactic often used by the current state powers to change the landscape without much being said. And in this case it directly affects the “family oriented town” of Nags Head. Like Mr. Cofield’s affirmation that it’s “better to leave things the way they are” this situation complicates a no brain choice with a squabble and interpretation of what “new” means. In this case 30 rules for coastal environmental protections are being reclassified as new since some laws have been dropped and others augmented. This directly affects the Town of Nags Head because as Mayor Cahoon stated perceptively in the meeting: “Among those rules is one that designates Jockey’s Ridge State Park as an area of environmental concern, or AEC, and dictates that sand blown from Jockey’s Ridge onto neighboring properties must be returned to the park …” The article points out that “AECs are areas of natural importance that the division designates to protect from uncontrolled development.” As “challenging” as the “return (of sand) to the Park may sound, the key points are that Jockey’s Ridge had fallen under an AEC (areas of natural importance) and an area the division designates to protect from uncontrolled development.” That may or may not continue to be the case (again my take).

Those who are avidly concerned about keeping Nags Head “quaint and historic” should thank Mayor Cahoon since he was “one of the few people who commented during the series of hearings, (and) emphasized the importance of the rule (for) preserving the park.” And personally I would like to see Mayor Cahoon drive through a new Starbucks at the Outlet Mall and then, amply caffeinated, and with proper city support, measure the sand blown from Jockey’s Ridge into neighbor’s yards, which would mean the State’s seeming attempt to make current laws “new” and therefore capable of being changed were not successful and that Jockey’s Ridge would continue be protected as an Area of Environmental Concern. If not, envision a drive-thru Starbucks off to the left of the “tallest natural sand dune” in the eastern U.S.

As 2024 progresses, and we are taunted with making these tricky versions of “new” as a grounds for change, we might want to adhere to Mr. Cofield’s assertion that “it’s better to leave things the way they are.”

Russ Watkins
Southern Shores