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Fulcher's Plans Dominate Planning Meeting
An Open Roof, Dark Skies and Water @ July's Meeting
July 14, 2017

roof that opens had people talking at July ‘s Planning Board meeting on July 12. Items covered: drafting the Open Spaces ordinance, a Special Use Permit (SUP) for short-term rental, clarifying language for water service, crafting the Dark Skies ordinance, and public comments. That public discussion focused on Chris Fulcher’s boat wash and trawler maintenance building and the impact it could have on the harbor and town.

Public Comments on Fulcher’s Proposed Retractable Roof
town hall signThe design of the building has changed since the Town granted him an SUP last fall. According to the latest designs submitted to the Town, the building now shows a retractable roof instead of the original stationary roof.

Fulcher has been cited and fined by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for releasing contaminants into the air and harbor waters in the past. Sandblasting and other activities normally associated with boat yard work have been performed on trawlers at his dock, spreading sandblast dust and paint beyond his docks, in effect making the harbor part of his workspace. In one incident, the harbor along Hodges was coated red with paint chips.

Citizens on Wednesday expressed concern that similar violations could occur again if a retractable roof is allowed instead of the fixed roof he originally proposed when he sought the SUP from the Town last fall.

Carol Small was one of several town residents who spoke, “I’ve never known him [Fulcher] to be a steward of the environment or a steward of our town.“ Small asked, “What does Chris Fulcher do for our town that we have to continue giving him property, giving him this gigantic building?”

The roofless building itself has long been contentious. After being challenged on the height of his building Fulcher ceased construction over a decade ago, leaving the unfinished structure at the entrance to the harbor. And a previous Town Board 5 years ago gave Fulcher valuable harborfront property in an poorly-negotiated, uneven land swap.

And for a number of years, Fulcher has not paid property taxes to Pamlico County, the Town Of Oriental or the fire district for his fleet of boats despite using services – the local fire department has responded to at least one fire on a boat at his docks. Fulcher does not list Oriental as the port of call for his distinctively red painted trawlers and instead pays property tax for them in Carteret County.

“You know, he’s been chipping away at what he can and what he can’t do for the 35 years I’ve lived here.” Gary Ramsey told the Planning Board, “And he’ll take it in little pieces at a time so it doesn’t look like a big deal… we’re gonna have a full-fledged ship yard down there in the harbor, one little piece at a time. And who is gonna monitor that the roof is closed when it’s a hot day and everybody is dying in there and they just open the roof and start sandblasting.”

“I don’t think any of that is in the town’s best interest.” Ramsey said, “It’s certainly not a tourist attraction. The shrimp boats – they’re picturesque, they serve a purpose, they do employ people. It’s an established industry in this town.”

“I think to allow this just to continue creeping along and getting bigger and uglier with one little change after another, I think this is an opportunity to put a brake on this thing.”

Town Commissioner Charlie Overcash, who was attending the meeting, said that the purpose of the Planning Board, in creating new ordinances and revising outdated ones, was an attempt to rein Fulcher in. “If we hold his feet to the fire, that top will have to be closed… if he tries to do anything against what his parameters are, it will be reported.”

Carol Small asked if reporting violations would do any good. The Town of Oriental does not levy fines for violations of that nature. If Fulcher does again release contaminants into the water or air, it would be up to the state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources to investigate and fine him. The closest DENR office is in Little Washington, meaning investigators are at least an hour away.

Among other things, that delayed response time has affected evidence gathering. In the past, when evidence was collected, the chain of custody was questioned, reducing some complaints to hearsay. There are currently no ordinances in place to determine who in the town can collect and maintain evidence until proper authorities arrive. Town Manager Diane Miller is looking at adding “evidence collector and keeper” to the job description for a Town officer. But until then, there is no local authority in place to follow proper collection protocol.

For some, reporting an incident after it occurs serves no purpose as Fulcher has proven to be a repeat offender, based on complaints investigated and fines levied by the state.

Right now, Fulcher’s latest proposal and layout for the sandblasting/painting facility – the one with the retractable roof — has gone to CAMA (Coastal Area Management Act) for review. That would trigger several different agencies to look into the design and use of the property. If CAMA determines the application is complete, CAMA will put an ad in the local paper asking for public comment for a period of 30 days. Planning Board Chairman Eric Dammeyer encouraged the public to call or write in to CAMA at this time with their concerns.

Town Manager Miller stated that CAMA wants public comments on the project. “They will run an ad in the local newspaper that asks for your input as the local community.. You are absolutely welcome, because they don’t have the burden of proof in their rules that we do…they do not require evidence, they want your response. And your response being, he’s never followed the rules before. He does this, this and this. He’s been fined x number of times. And we are concerned about x, y, and z. That’s straight where that goes – to CAMA.”

Dammeyer encouraged residents to continue to show up at town meetings and voice their opinions and concerns there as well. Dammeyer said, “Laws are made by those who show up.”

New Ordinances Under Consideration: Dark Skies and Open Spaces
The Planning Board is researching options to include a Dark Skies ordinance for the town. Complaints from citizens say that some lights in the town, residential and commercial, are too bright. The light is shining into neighboring windows and blocking out the stars at night. A Dark Skies ordinance would determine how to position lights to get maximum efficiency while also saving on energy costs. Town Manager Miller provided the Board with several examples of Dark Sky Ordinances to review before the next meeting.

The Planning Board is also considering crafting an Open Spaces Ordinance. This ordinance would ensure that future land developments set aside land for public use. Currently, there is no direct route from Dolphin Point to the Village unless traveling by Highway 55. By ordering that land be set aside for use by residents of the town, the Planning Board can ensure that future developments include access to all parts of Oriental.

Having this kind of ordinance in place could also help the Town when applying for grant money for projects like the proposed bike path.

SUP for Short-Term Rental On SeaHorse Landing Rd
Mr. Dutton has restored the carriage house and large residential house on two plots of land at the end of Seahorse Landing Rd. He has asked for a short-term SUP for these homes. He has been advised that his applications are incomplete, and is resubmitting them. The Planning Board will discuss the SUP applications at their August meeting. Gary Ramsay said that Mr. Dutton had brought the dilapidated properties back to a functioning state and should be allowed to obtain the SUPs. Official public comment on the property will be taken at the August Planning Board meeting. The public is invited to offer comment at that time.

Water Service for Future Developments
Current ordinance states new developments cannot tap into the Town’s water service without petitioning to annex into Oriental. However, the ordinance also states the Town can deny water service to developments that are within the Town limits, if those developments create a drain on resources to current customers.

The question at July’s meeting was one of interpretation: Does the GMO (Growth Management Ordinance) allow for developers to annex into the town without tapping into the Town’s water supply? Town Manager Miller’s interpretation is that the GMO, as it is now, does allow for this. She asked the Board if this is also their interpretation. After discussion, Chairman Dammeyer said the current GMO does not have anything stating that the Town is required to give water to annexed developments. He also noted that this is a hypothetical situation and that it has not yet arisen with any current or future developments, should they wish to have well or county water instead of water from the Town water plant.

Update to CAMA notice
TownDock.net spoke with CAMA on July 14th about Fulcher’s application. To our surprise and the surprise of Town Hall, CAMA had posted the notice the The Pamlico News on June 21st, 2017.

The ad request stated comments mailed to CAMA prior to July 15th would be considered in making the permit decision. The ad that ran in The Pamlico News did not include ‘15th’.

CAMA Notice
Highlight and red arrow added by TownDock.net.

Town Manager Diane Miller says the town (as the adjacent property owner) hasn’t received notice from CAMA of completion of the application. Miller stated the Town would fight “tooth and nail” if they were not allowed the proper notification and response time.

She has contacted CAMA, notifying them of the misprint. Town Manager Miller is calling CAMA to report the misprint as well as lodge a complaint re not receiving notification. Miller says the July 15th deadline will not be valid as CAMA has not actually provided legal notice yet.

Here is the ad request from CAMA (with the July 15 date).

Related Information

CAMA contact in Little Washington: 252-946-6481

Relevant Articles:

Posted Friday July 14, 2017 by Allison DeWeese

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