Letter to the Editor: What’s going on? (Or are you as confused as I am?)

Published 11:00 am Monday, April 29, 2024

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To the Editor:

Yes, this is another rant on the affordable housing fiasco in the OBX, with slight detours to the drive thru Starbucks conjured by developers on the right side of Jockey’s Ridge (oceanside). I’m no major researcher or connected to many local wires, but I do receive and enjoy reading The Coastland Times and I receive most local updates from this still paper publication. But I got confused by the comments made in the CT and in the competitor down the beach a ways (Va. Pilot) from comments quoted in both regarding these topics.

In the CT article “Housing is a big issue …,” the close-to-opening line was confusing. It states “Drawing multiple rounds of applause was the demand to sever ties with Coastal Affordable Housing LLC and send the $35 million back to the State of North Carolina.” Hmmmmm, I thought getting 35 million from the state was a blessing but turns out it’s become something like blood money because this guy (last name is a good cognac) allegedly weighted the odds by plotting to stack the legislature’s deck with a proposal that ended up “stripping Dare’s municipalities of powers to regulate affordable housing projects,” says Ms. Michelle Hall. “Send the funds back to the state …,” she goes further to affirm.

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So Mr. “last name a good cognac” is supposedly controlling some of the back parlor games that go on up the counties all the way to RDU and somehow helped spawn the “shot gun wedding” and “bad agreement baby” … that’s “a disaster. It’s time for a Divorce.” (Aida Havel, Salvo). So we give the money back because all this ill will got generated, nefarious deeds allegedly took place, duplicity was rampant. And it’s just a bad blend of overwrought politicians and crafty business owners and a stunned public who think the 35 million tainted, and now want to “Send it back …”??

But let’s cruise on over to the forming idea for a new drive thru Starbucks off Jockey’s Ridge. You want your usual latte? This little detour is as crazy as it gets, and while copious, well written and inclusive, Corinne Saunders’ Virginian Pilot article is filled with the perplexing inconsistencies of this “New Rules” project now said to be needed regarding Jockey’s Ridge. A quick read of Ms. Saunders’ article explained that Jockey’s Ridge was originally ruled an “area of environmental concern, or AEC …” which had a bunch of protective laws connected to it, and then something happened that allowed another state appointed body to “return the rules.” The new Rules Review Commission “(struck) 30 of the protective rules …,” not sure why? This caused the original committee (the Coastal Resources Commission) to provide new temporary rules which were again struck down and now Jockey’s Ridge is in a limbo protected state until new permanent rules are decided by the “Rules Review Commission.” New rules are forming but not ready, a waiting period is in effect, etc. Confused? Me too.

But the mystery surrounding this “Rules Revision” need is as seamy it seems to me as the conspiracy theory with affordable housing. The Rules Revision plan should die a slow death but it has just enough notice from the building world that should make everyone nervous. And, ironically, there were 482 number in support of keeping the same rules/protected status sent in to the state and only 48 opposed, but those opposed won the Rules Revision Committees approval … the rules were changed, which makes you wonder how much weight do you think those soon-to-be Starbucks shareholder opposed votes weigh? And it is odd that there was mention of nine months before a final or real set of rules would be in place. Hard to figure what that means, but it does align perfectly with the 2024 election and could be the state is banking on that. Better jump up and down a little more if you don’t want this “Rules Revision” to haunt our beautiful sand dune.

Whatever the paths, giving back $35 million to the state and changing the rules for the special habitat of Jockey’s Ridge is a damn shame. The reasons may or may not be good, but you do not give back money, nor just arbitrarily change “the Rules.” Unless of course you have something to gain.

I look forward to learning how the $35 million will be given back to the state and based on the seemingly popular approval there should be a “ceremony” to celebrate the presentation of the $35 million back to STATE funds. Wasn’t this now-failed project four years in duration? All this work wasted and yet commissioner Bob Woodard feels empowered to be quoted in the CT saying “Unfortunately this is not the time and place for Dare County to approve essential and workforce housing. It is clearly NIMBY (not in my backyard).”

Mr. Woodard goes further to weakly affirm “he would keep the housing Task Force in place to see if they can come up with something.” Note the use of “they,” sounds like Mr. Woodward has moved on; wasn’t he the head of the Task Force or was that another weary member? If this task force continues in its current format after this “cut and run” they’re just dog paddling in the surf. Get an outside facilitator. Mayors, truly band together; make Bob Woodard and “team” consultative to the process but not final authority. Take it out of the hands of the county and develop it yourselves using a central core of ideas to generate actual movement. Tap into the people with the creative ideas we need to support comfortable housing that can fit in with each of the local habitats of the towns in our area. Tents have been mentioned and nothing would bring national attention more quickly than a small enclave of temporary housing in tents for school teachers, emergency personnel, hospital team workers, etc. Do not give up the 35 million and certainly don’t give up on the immediate need for affordable housing, nor on keeping Jockey’s Ridge out of the hands of developers who have dollars instead of a monument to a unique sand dune in their heads.

Russ Watkins
Southern Shores