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Jetty Permit in Limbo, Oriental Closer to Jurisdiction Over Local Waters
Town Board Meeting April 2021
April 8, 2021

pril’s Monthly Town Hall meeting ran long, covering several last minute additions. The permit for a jetty at Whittaker Point is in contention, a local bill to allow Oriental jurisdiction over its waters moves to the NC House of Representatives, and commissioners hear about (and question) a proposal that would bring rentable electric scooters to town.

No Early Voting for 2021 Municipal Elections
The Town of Oriental pays the Pamlico Count Board of Elections to hold their municipal elections – elections for the Mayor and Town Commissioners.

town hall sign Municipal elections are every two years, costing the town approximately $4,500. Around $2,500 of that goes to early voting held at Station 19 Fire Department on Straight Road. In previous meetings, Commissioners weighed the cost of keeping early elections when so few early votes were cast.

For example, during the 2017 municipal elections, just 76 of the 340 total votes cast for mayor were early votes. In the 2019 municipal elections, there were 202 total votes cast for mayor, and only 35 were early votes.

Commissioners voted unanimously opt out of early voting in the 2021 municipal elections. This resolution applies to municipal elections in 2021 only.

Whittaker Point Restoration Project jetty permit in limbo
The Whittaker Point Restoration project is 99% complete unless a major modification permit is approved by the NC Department of Environmental Quality (also called a CAMA permit).

The permit requests wings be added to the wave attenuators – helping to keep the water from eroding the land inside the granite sill – and that a jetty be added to the point to keep waves from breaking around the point and eroding newly installed oyster beds on the inside of the point.

Two departments objected to the project: the Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) and the NC Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC). In a zoom meeting with representatives from the departments, Town Manager Diane Miller said, “the representative from DMF wanted us to produce a study that said that microscopic larvae can move through a 2.5 foot gap. There isn’t one of those. I shouldn’t have to produce that, and they weren’t giving in on those grounds.”

Miller said she called the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) about the objections. DEQ held a meeting with the objecting departments. DEQ will deliver a verdict on the issue by the end of the week of April 12.

Several of the Whittaker Point Restoration project grants that would fund the jetty extension end May 31, 2021.

Whittaker Creek Yacht Harbor permit approved
Monday before the monthly April meeting, Town Hall received a poorly photocopied permit application from the Department of Environmental Quality approving the addition of 50’ of granite riprap to the shore of Knute Bysheim’s property, Whittaker Creek Yacht Harbor.

The diagram from the permit application. The full permit application is available in the links at the end of the article.

The hand-drawn diagram shows the proposed riprap along the shore under and on either side of a dock. However the diagram is vague, giving no distinguishing features other than the names of property owners on either side of the Bysheim property and a notation of “existing pier” along a straight line. It also shows where North lies, and the name of Whittaker Creek.

There are three docks extending from Whittaker Creek Yacht Harbor. TownDock.net spoke with Bysheim by phone to find out which one was in the diagram. Bysheim said he’d applied for a minor permit to install riprap along the bulkhead at the entrance to the east docks, and that it had already been installed.

Whittaker Creek Yacht Harbor is outlined in blue. The permit does not note which dock the riprap would go under.
Commissioners oppose ‘Increase Housing Opportunities’ bill
SB 349/HB 401 also called Increase Housing Opportunities, is opposed by town commissioners.

Town Manager Diane Miller said she received an alert from the NC League of Municipalities about the bill. She summarized the alert saying, “It centralizes control over zoning so that you can’t say ‘in this zone you can only do x, y, and z.’ And it forces you to allow multi-unit housing in all zones.”

Oriental has 5 zones listed in the Growth Management Ordinance (GMO): R1, R2, R3, MU, and MU-1. The first three are residential areas, ranging from low density (R1) to medium density (R3). MU and MU-1 are mixed use areas.

The bill itself allows for ‘middle housing’ defined as duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes and townhomes to be built in zones for single-family dwellings, redefining the term ‘single-family dwelling’ to include all types of ‘middle housing’.

Among other items, the bill restricts local governments in how they can regulate or charge fees for certain newly constructed dwellings, demands that permit applications that substantially comply with local regulations and ordinances (instead of fully) be accepted and processed, and keeps local governments from downzoning (reducing housing and development density in an area by zone reassignment) any property attached to public water or sewer.

“We just spent a ton of time going through our GMO correcting particular areas, setting up and including what could and could not be placed into it. We did at least a dozen meetings over a two year period and this blows that all out of the water for us,” said Commissioner David White.

A resolution from Pineville, NC opposing the legislation was included with the NC League of Municipalities alert. Town Commissioners unanimously voted to adopt a resolution opposing the ‘Increase Housing Opportunities’ bill and forward it to NC legislative bodies.

Local bill for Oriental’s waterways makes it past the NC Senate
The town of Oriental, along with New Bern, Bridgeton, and Trent River are represented in Senate Bill 279, allowing municipalities to “make, adopt, and enforce ordinances for the navigable waters within its municipal limits.”

A local bill for Oriental and nearby towns looks to grant towns jurisdiction over local waters. Full bill available in the links at the end of the article.

If adopted, the bill would allow Oriental (and the other named towns and cities) to create no-wake zones, regulate anchoring and mooring of vessels in waters around Oriental, and create and enforce ordinances to deal with abandoned and derelict vessels among other actions.

Oriental’s Harbor Waterfronts Committee has been working on this problem for several years. To be able to create and enforce any laws, the town first must gain jurisdiction of the surrounding waters.

Senator Norm Sanderson sponsored the bill in the Senate. It is now in the NC House of Representatives.

Oriental allotted $250k through the American Rescue Plan Act
$125k of the funds are immediately available, though Town Manager Miller said “immediately is a relative term here.” The funds are to be used for investments in Town infrastructure as determined by federal requirements including lost water and sewer revenue due to the pandemic. There is a possibility it may also be used for road repair.

Board members discussed using some of the funds to buy expensive equipment for Oriental’s water plant that the town would have difficulty affording otherwise. There was also talk of using the funds to repair the damaged culverts on Neuse Drive beside Minuscule Beach (also called John Bond Beach).

Guidance on fund use is not yet available on the US Treasury Website, said Manager Miller.

Roads added to map determining Powell Funds
A street assessment survey (rating the condition of Oriental’s roads) completed in October found that Madison Ave, off White Farm Road, had been left of the Powell Bill Map. Deeded to the town in 2007, the mistake was never caught.

A corrected map with the addition and other minor correction will be submitted to NC Department of Transportation. The Powell Map is used to determine town funding provided by the Powell Bill. Municipalities receive state funds to help maintain, repair, and construct roads that are not part of the state highway system.

Oriental’s Powell Map with the new (old) additions. A higher resolution version is available in the links at the end of the article.
Stand-up Scooters proposed for Oriental
Bird Scooters, a company providing electric stand-up scooters for rent, provided Oriental with a proposal to deploy the scooters in town for residential and tourist use.

Electric scooters have been in use in larger cities with at least one company noted for deploying them without local government approval. According to the News & Observer, Bird Scooters were deployed in Raleigh without coordinating with local government. Some citizens praised them, others thought they created a nuisance by being left in pedestrian walkways. By 2019, Bird made the decision to leave Raleigh, citing onerous regulations imposed by Raleigh City Council.

a black, two-wheel, stand-up scooter

The proposal received by Town Manager Miller and presented to Commissioners outlined how the scooters were to be deployed and when, and where they could be parked. It also says Bird Scooters finds and works with a local Fleet Manager to deploy and collect the scooters every day and the vehicles can be restricted to geographical zones, alerting program managers when they go out of bounds. The town will make .15 cents per ride and will have to sign a year-long lease agreement, but can terminate the contract in the first 30 days. The Town is also indemnified against liability unless there is ‘negligence or willful misconduct’, “like known, existing potholes,” said Manager Miller.

Commissioner Charlie Overcash wanted to read up more on the proposal and company. Commissioner Martin Barrow said he wanted to see reports from towns of similar size who have used the company. Commissioner David White asked that the town attorney have a look at the agreement provided by Bird.

Commissioners will take up the issue again at a future meeting.

“The audit was good news.”
The audit of the 2019-2020 fiscal year (ending June 30, 2020) shows that the town had $923,133 in the General Fund and restricted reserves of $439, 989.

The General Fund amount “is the best fiscal position we’ve been in in a very long time,” said Town Manager Miller. “Hurricane Florence cost $792k, so we would be able to handle that again.”

Restricted reserves are funds used for specific expenses. For example, Powell Bill funds can only be used for road maintenance, repair, and construction; they cannot be used to buy equipment for Police or the water plant.

Police Report
Officer Nic Blayney gave April’s report.

Domestic disturbance Calls Many of the domestic disturbance calls in March were related to the same residence. Officer Blayney said both he and Officer Wichrowski had visited the home and were working to get resources together for the family. “We’re fighting the battle, but we’re winning on that one.”

sick raccoon bowed over streetCanine Distemper Reports of sick raccoons, foxes, and other mammals have been occurring in town limits. The animals are showing signs of canine distemper, not rabies. Both Animal Control and Oriental’s Officers have been responding to the calls, dispatching and collecting the animals for testing.

Tests have all come back positive for canine distemper and negative for rabies. Town Hall says there have been at least 8 calls in the last few weeks.

Boat fire near Midyette Late one evening, Officer Blayney responded to a vehicle fire near Midyette Street. “It looked like a cooler in the middle of a boat was on fire.” He used a fire extinguisher to put out the flames, but it reignited and he realized then it was the console.

Extinguisher depleted, Blayney said he pulled the gas canister off the boat and disconnected the battery cables. A bystander threw him a 5 gallon bucket to help with the flames when Station 19 Fire Department arrived to take care of the fire. The boat was saved.

Dates to Know
The next Town Board Meeting will be Tuesday, May 4 at 7p. The next Budget Meeting will be Wednesday, April 14 at 8a.

Related Information
• April Agenda
• March Meeting Minutes
• 2021 Municipal Election Resolution
Budget Amendment
American Rescue Plan Act Stimulus Explanation
ARPA – Local Government Authority
• Bird Scooter Proposal
Draft of 2019-2020 Fiscal Year Audit
Powell Bill Map Adjustments
• Powell Bill Resolution
Police Report
• Manager’s Report
Auxiliary Board Minutes
Whittaker Creek Yacht Harbor/Bysheim Permit
Zoning Legislation Alert & Pineville Resolution
• Increase Housing Opportunities Bill – Zoning Legislation
Local Bill – Regulate Local Navigable Waters

Posted Thursday April 8, 2021 by Allison DeWeese

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