forecast weather station weather station

It's Tuesday May 28, 2024

News From The Village Updated Almost Daily

May Town Board Meeting 2023
Sailcraft rezoning, dog bites, Airbnbs
May 8, 2023

ay’s Town Board meeting was standing room only. Forty-eight residents turned out, almost all to speak at the Public Hearing for the rezoning of a residential lot to a mixed use lot.

The rezoning decision was decided in the favor of the owners of Sailcraft Service – Mike and Jennifer Pawlikowski. Commissioner David White recused himself from the decision for personal reasons, citing that his wife had been threatened during the course of the rezoning proceedings.

A full quorum was present: town hall sign Commissioners David White, Charlie Overcash, Allen Price, Sandy Winfrey, Frank Roe, and Mayor Sally Belangia.

Town Manager Diane Miller, Deputy Finance Officer Tammy Cox, Officers Bill Wichrowski and Nic Blayney, and town attorney Scott Davis also attended.

Public Hearing to Rezone a Residential Lot to a Mixed Use Lot
A Brief History of the Issue
Jennifer and Mike Pawlikowski purchased Sailcraft Service five years ago in 2018. At that time, they discovered that one of the two lots they were purchasing – 1216 Lupton Drive – was zoned as a residential lot (R1) and not a mixed-use lot (MU). Alan Arnfast, the then owner of Sailcraft, sought to have the lot’s zone changed at a Town Board meeting so the Pawlikowskis could perform boat work in the lot.

The change was denied, but the use as a parking and storage lot was grandfathered in, contingent on the removal of a temporary structure on the land.

The Pawlikowskis have since sought to have the lot rezoned from a residential lot (the most restrictive zoning) into a mixed use lot (the least restrictive).

The Sailcraft Service properties and the Sailcraft Marina property: two separately owned businesses. The rezoning was only about the Sailcraft Service property (in blue). The bottom left outlined property had been residential. The travel lift, literally inches from the edge of the adjoining property line, has been in operation since the 1970s.

Rules for the Public Hearing
During a public hearing, speakers are usually given three minutes to speak. Mayor Sally Belangia allowed everyone up to five minutes to speak.

Before speakers went to the podium, Town Manager Diane Miller explained to Commissioners that the Planning Board had gone through the Table of Permissible Uses for an MU lot to show what activities, businesses, or structures would be allowed in that area – and whether they would require a permit. The Table shows the differences between what is allowed in an R1 lot – the most restrictive zone – and what is allowed in an MU – the least restrictive zone.

Miller then explained that the Planning Board recommended to grant the rezoning request, though the Board of Commissioners are not held to their decision.

Mayor Belangia opened the public hearing.The first to speak was SailCraft co-owner Jennifer Pawlikowski.

The Speakers
Sixteen speakers spoke in favor of the rezoning while two, who are residents in the neighborhood, said they had “mixed feelings” about the rezoning.

From left to right in the center: Mike and Jennifer Pawlikowsi with their lawyer Neil Whitford.

Jennifer Pawlikowski read aloud portions of Oriental’s Long Range Vision, approved in 2009. It referenced maintaining and expanding the maritime activities and services, both private and recreational, that drew people to Oriental. After reading a section referencing engendering “an atmosphere of welcome and support for entrepreneurs and business owners”, Pawlikowski said that she had never felt that.

“I wish it was differently because this was our dream and it’s really, really been a difficult five years,” said Pawlikowski. She ended with, “Mike and I would really like the personal attacks to stop because it’s just painful.”

Ceri Ann Lewis is the harbormaster of Oriental Harbor Marina by the Oriental Bridge. She spoke in favor of the rezoning. “I frequently have people coming into my marina looking for a place to get work on their boats done. In many cases, they can’t get a space … they have to go other places [outside of Oriental].” Lewis said also said the property is not a rezoning, but rather a correction of zoning given it had been used for boat work under prior owners.

Billy Creech is the owner of Ray’s Creekside Marina on Blackwell Point, outside of Oriental town limits. He has been sailing out of Oriental “since the late 60s.”

“In the early days there weren’t many rules and regulations, so businesses had to find their own way,” said Creech. “Because of the way that things have been done, we take it for granted that we can continue [conducting business that way]. And then they get the door shut on them. It’s not right.”

He added that the Pawlikowskis had done much to elevate the environmental standards at the boat yard.

Gregory Bohmert of Clancy’s Marina speaks about zoning in his area.

Gregory Bohmert owns Clancy’s Marina on Midyette St. He’s been in town for nearly 30 years.

“The zoning, to my appearance, has been motivated by fear. Fear of what’s going to happen next.” Bohmert said “this is all about the activities that are going on, they’ve been going on for the thirty years I’ve been here. And now we’re gonna turn around and say you can’t do it?”

Bohmert said the zoning request should be granted.

Breena Litzenberger is the co-owner of Inner Banks Sails and Canvas. She and her husband have owned the business for two years. She also read from Oriental’s Long Range Vision, and said that she and her husband had received support for their business from locals and “was really excited to know… it was written [into] the official documents in planning and supporting our town.”

Litzenberger listed figures suggesting the recreational boating industry is growing, and expansion is necessary. Litzenberger asked Commissioners to grant the rezoning request.

Laurie Sampson is a long time resident (since 2010) who worked for Sailcraft under the previous owner, for a period of 8 months.

She spoke in favor of rezoning, saying she had worked on her own boat, on the lot in question, under a temporary structure left after the construction of another vessel.

“I had my boat hauled out to be repainted, and it was placed in that building … for about five months.” Sampson said there were others using the cover of the tent to work on small projects. During that time, she said that electrical and mechanical work was also performed on her boat while under the tent on the lot.

Eric Huber works for Sailcraft Services. He spoke in favor of the rezoning.

Eric Huber works for Sailcraft Service. He has recently purchased his mother’s home on Mildred Rd.

“We all moved here because this place is cool… There’s not a lot of places that have sailboats, farms, art, festivals all in one little area, and yet it still feels like a small town.” Oriental is based off boating and tourism, said Huber, “if there isn’t good and plentiful services that cater to that, it’s possible that this town will slowly dwindle away like many of the towns in the Pamlico Area.”

“I think we should work together so we have a safe, fun, and unique town that remains a destination, instead of a quick stop on the way to another town.”

Neil Whitford is the attorney for Sailcraft Service and the Pawlikowskis.

Whitford contends, as he has in past presentations to the board, that the R1 lot has been in use as a boat yard, and not just for storage and parking. Whitford also explained that a Special Use Permit (SUP) would be required to conduct any boat related work in the lot. Commissioners can place restrictions on the SUP in relation to the activities that occur on the lot.

“Mayor and Commissioners, the ability to add conditions to the Special Use Permit under section 216 [of the Growth Management Ordinance] will add significant control over the activities [that happen] on this lot.” Whitford said approving the zoning request does not “open the door for new uses in the neighborhood” and amendments to zoning are expected, “and must be considered on a case by case basis.”

He also said the lot, though zoned R1, had never had a home on it nor was it ever used for that purpose.

Neil Whitford hands a packet of papers to each Commissioner before speaking.

Roger Huth has been an Oriental property owner since 1971, and is now a permanent resident.

Huth said Sailcraft is not trying to build another boat yard in the community, but use property adjacent to their yard in the manner that it has been used for around 30 years. “This hasn’t been enforced in thirty years. I don’t really understand why it’s enforceable now.” Huth also said that it doesn’t impede on the neighborhood. “No one is putting a Walmart there … they’re asking to do the same thing they’ve always done there.”

Butch Rasmussen is an Oriental resident. He told Commissioners he’d worked in the marine industry for 25 years, throughout the Chesapeake and down to Florida.

“We are losing a lot of boatyards to what is referred to as ‘upland development’, which just increases the need for what we have here in Oriental. We don’t want to go backwards on that, because it’s not going to help us as a boating community in general.” Rasmussen said the zoning change would “not create additional noise. That noise exists there now. It exists across the creek and across the street in that yard [Zimmerman Marine].”

Chris Daniels owns the Silos Restaurant in Oriental. He has been in town for 24 years, and has owned two restaurants and a sailing school.

“It is hard to make a living in this town as a business and we need to give these guys the opportunity to continue their lifestyle. I support them as a business owner in town.” Daniels said he had seen the town grow and wanted to continue to see it grow in a positive manner.

EJ Mitchell owns five lots on Lupton Rd, including the wooded lots on the corner of Lupton Rd and Tosto Circle – originally bought by her parents. Mitchell opposes the expansion citing an increase in noise and pollution, decreased property values, increased traffic, and the potential for a future commercial business to set up there if Sailcraft is sold and is no longer a boatyard.

“I have to say I have mixed feelings about this,” she said. “In the forty years that we’ve lived on Lupton, we’ve seen an increase in traffic as the marina has grown.” [Editor’s note: Sailcraft Marina is a different business than Sailcraft Service, though they are adjacent and Sailcraft service rents space from Sailcraft Marina. Sailcraft Service is a boatyard – not a marina.]

EJ Mitchell has property across from SailCraft Service and has been opposed to the change in zoning.

Mitchell asked Commissioners how parking would be addressed with the SUP, as well as access to that lot. Mitchell said people park in the right-of-way near Sailcraft and it has caused flattening of the area.

She added there had been “an increase in traffic of large trucks and trailered trucks that have been pulling boats and equipment in and out of the road.” She also spoke of her concerns for the future of the lot. “If some day the Pawlikowskis decide to retire or move on, and the property is sold, what if the new owner decides just to buy the two lots and it’s not attached to the marina … then any kind of business could be put up into that particular rezoned lot.”

Terri Halpern is a former prosecutor and current Oriental resident. Her husband erected a temporary building on the R1 lot to construct his boat, under the tenure of former owner Alan Arnfast. Halpern stated her concern “is for the appearance of impropriety.”

“I am very concerned about the decision and the vote today, because if anyone on this Board has that vested personal, financial interest …. you need to recuse yourself.”

Martin Barrow was previously on the Planning Board when rezoning was first brought up. He voted against it at that time.

Barrow said after they had made the decision, he’d gone looking through the history of the property – including minutes from previous Town Board meetings. Barrow felt that the vote wasn’t done properly then, and encouraged the Pawlikowskis to find people who had work done on their boats, in that yard, to produce pictures showing it, as well as letters of support to for their claim.

“If you work on a boat on one side of a property line, and you move it five feet over, I don’t see a lot of change. So I would recommend that you support this rezoning and let these people get to work.”

Helen Lee Jones has been a resident of Oriental for 50 years. She has lived on Lupton Rd since August of 1973.

Jones said she also had mixed feelings about the rezoning. Especially since the neighborhood extends beyond the 150 foot radius required by law to be notified. She said the whole of the neighborhood should have been notified.

Jones also spoke directly to the Pawlikowskis. “I have very, very mixed feelings. You have been there five years and this is the first time I’ve ever seen the two of you and looked at you in the face,” she said. “I want you to know you’re welcome to our town.”

She added, “you have to come right on up the road, and stop and say ‘hello, I’m buying a new business here.’ And I think you will find that Oriental is a very welcoming place. You come here with that attitude, and I believe you’ll get it right back.”

Helen Lee Jones has lived in Oriental since the 70s. She advised the Pawlikowskis to be more neighborly.

Though not on the list to speak, Beth Frazer, George Midyette, and Meredith Bailey all stood in the audience and spoke in favor of the change.

Mayor Sally Belangia then closed the Public Hearing.

Recusal and Threats
Town Attorney Scott Davis explained a recusal should happen if there were a direct financial interest by any Board member in the outcome of the decision, or if a member did not believe they could address the issue fairly.

Commissioner David White spoke. He is an adjacent property owner across Whittaker Creek, within 150 feet of Sailcraft. “I am going to recuse myself from the voting,” White told the crowd, saying it had nothing to do with being an adjacent property owner.

“During this process my wife was threatened that if she spoke at a meeting, her reputation was going to be trashed, she was going to be banned from River Dunes.” Commissioner White continued, saying his wife did a lot of charity work in the area including raising money for several local non-profit organizations, and working with River Dunes and other businesses in Oriental to help with those charitable efforts.

“Somebody made a comment that personal attacks are not a part of this, that they shouldn’t be a part of this and I agree with that,” said White. “We have afforded the Sailcraft applicants a fair and open process throughout this whole thing. Threats are not a part of this.”

Commissioner David White explains his reason for recusing himself.

With the guidance from town attorney Scott Davis, Commissioner Charlie Overcash made a motion to excuse Commissioner White from voting. Commissioner Frank Roe seconded the motion.

Discussion and Voting
Commissioner Sandy Winfrey, who rarely speaks at meetings, asked if Commissioners could have further time to look over the Special Use Permit (SUP) submitted by Sailcraft’s attorney. Town Manager Diane Miller explained the SUP could not be considered with the rezoning request. By statute, the two have to be considered separately, the SUP after the rezoning request if it is granted.

Commissioner Frank Roe voiced support for the Pawlikowskis, but condemned threats made to anyone. Roe said he was going to let the work and decision of the Planning Board guide him, voting in favor of the rezoning request.

Commissioner Charlie Overcash said he had come in “not really supporting this” but he’d “heard a lot of positives.” Ultimately, Overcash said it appeared that the town wanted the rezoning request, “so I’m going to go for it.”

Commissioner Alan Price voted for it, saying he was pleased to have it done with.

The vote passed with all Commissioners in favor of the rezoning except the recused Commissioner White.

The audience cheered at the decision, and the room was vacated of most of the public, leaving about seven people in the audience.

A Public Hearing for the Special Use Permit for the newly rezoned property was set for the June 6 meeting. The Planning Board will hear and discuss the SUP at their meeting on May 17 at 3p at Town Hall.

Public Comments on April Dog Attack
In April, Belinda Barrow was walking her small dog when an unattended, large, off-leash dog ran towards her. It attempted to grab her dog, which she had picked up and held in the air. Barrow suffered several scrapes to her body and bites to her hands. Her dog was also bitten in the attack.

Several people heard Barrow call for help and rushed to her aid. The dog ran off, then attempted to go after another leashed dog being walked on a nearby road. The unleashed dog’s owner came and retrieved it, preventing further injury. Barrow and her dog were taken to get medical treatment for their injuries.

Martin Barrow, former Oriental Commissioner and husband to Belinda Barrow, described the attack on his wife, and the cost it has incurred – both financially and mentally. He publicly thanked the people who came to her rescue: Eric Kindle, Randolph Wadsworth, and Andrew and Elisa Rustworth.

Martin Barrow asks the public to use the Animal Complaint Forms for nuisance animals.

Animal Complaint Forms and a Warning for Visitors
“I’m not,” said Barrow, “nor is Belinda, asking for an ordinance or for the Town to do anything. But I do have two suggestions. One is to encourage citizens to file an animal complaint form when they have an issue with an animal in town.” (Form included in the links at the end of the article.)

Barrow read from the dog park registration form citizens must sign when using the park. He made a second suggestion, using the language from that form: “Given that the town recognizes that off-leash animals pose a danger, perhaps a disclaimer on the town’s website that ‘dogs are pack animals and, when off-leash, even the best trained dogs will act instinctively. It must be recognized it’s impossible for the Town of Oriental to guarantee absolute safety’ while on public streets or public places.”

Barrow ended, saying inaction would lead to another such incident, and that “Oriental can do better than this.”

Any Recourse for Owners?
Debbie Slook also spoke about the attack, asking what she could do as a citizen walking her dogs, if she were attacked. Slook has two large, “highly reactive dogs. They will bite if engaged.” She asked what her rights were if she were approached by a ‘vicious dog.’

“Am I allowed to shoot a dog if I feel that I am threatened?” Commissioners do not have to respond to public comments in the moment, and none did. However, after the meeting, Commissioner Charlie Overcash approached Slook and was overheard speaking with her about her question.

Town attorney Scott Davis reads over his notes.
Airbnbs Everywhere
Senate Bill 667 is moving through the NC General Assembly and would keep local municipalities from regulating Short Term Rentals (STRs) like Airbnb. It short, it would allow an indefinite number of them in any residential neighborhood or mixed use zone.

As of now, STRs are not allowed in R1 zones and a Special Use Permit must be obtained to have one in R2 and R3 zones, and a Land Use Permit must be granted in MU and MU-1 zones. Oriental has around 20 Airbnbs, not all of which are in residential zones. This law would keep the town from regulating how many Short Term Rentals are in town limits, where they are, or keep them to be ended – as can happen with a Special Use Permit.

Commissioner Frank Roe spoke with Representative Kidwell about the bill recently. “Kidwell is oblivious to all of this,” said Roe. “He asked for input from the Town.” In addition to not having permanent residents who consistently contribute to the local economy, particularly in winter when there are few if any tourists, “it puts a burden on little towns because we don’t have the staff to [track] it.”

Short Term Rentals are required to pay a heads-in-bed tax that contributes to the Tourism and Parks & Recreation Boards. Airbnb and other short term rental companies will only give the Town a print out of how much was earned on a monthly basis. It does not provide or breakdown information for the Town to track the tax – like which properties are renting and how often – and Town Staff have to manually track this information.

In 2019, the Town investigated GovOS, an online daily rental service tracker. However, at $9,000 per year, it was deemed too expensive.

The Town will send a letter to Representative Kidwell outlining their objections and the harm the legislation will cause to small towns.

Commissioners listen to one of the more humorous speakers.
One-time Donation to the Pamlico County Library
The Pamlico County Library is attempting to construct a new building to house their collection. Branch Manager Sydney Phibbons sent a letter to the Board asking for a donation of $1 per person annually. Those funds would be used for “operational expenses,” and to help the Library, and the non-profit organization Friends of the Pamlico Library, seek grant funds for the new building.

In 2021, a request from the library – for a donation of $5,000 – was denied.

Commissioner Overcash explained that at the time of the last request, there was a reluctance to set a precedent of donating to a non-profit. However, since the library would receive the money – and it is a government entity, and not a non-profit like The Friends of the Library – Overcash was comfortable making the donation.

He stipulated it should not be annually, as requested, but only for this year.

Commissioners voted unanimously to donate $896 dollars to the Pamlico Count Library for 2023.

Expansion of Military Training Areas in Pamlico County
The Town of Oriental and Pamlico County have been made aware of a request from the Federal Aviation Administration to create two new zones for Military Operation Areas (MOAs) around Pamlico County. They are asking for zones expanding west.

Town Manager Miller said “ it doesn’t technically impact us, but it will. All the fun you heard Cherry Point having this weekend, you’ll hear more of that. We are normally impacted with training areas along the water.” Miller was referring to the bombing ranges at Piney Island and further out in Pamlico Sound. Smoke can occasionally be seen coming from the area and sometimes blasts can be heard as well.

The FAA are taking public comments on the new MOAs until June 6, 2023.

Email them at 9-ESA-OSG-Public-notice@faa.gov or by postal mail at:
FAA Eastern Service Center
Operations Support Group (AJV-E23)
Military Liaison Officer
1701 Columbia Avenue
College Park, GA 30337

Dates to Know
The next Town Board Meeting will be Tuesday, June 6 at 8a. The next Budget Meetings will be Wednesday, May 10 at 8a, Monday, May 15 at 9a, and Friday, May 19 at 8:30a. Town Hall will be closed July 3rd in order to upload the 2023-24 fiscal year books. The July Town Board Meeting has been moved to Tuesday July 11, 2023 to avoid the July 4 holiday.

Related Information
May Agenda
April Meeting Minutes
Sailcraft Rezoning Request
Sailcraft Special Use Permit Request
Parks & Recreation Board Appointment Request
State Legislation moving through the General Assembly that could affect Oriental
Pamlico-Craven Regional Library Request
Extended Airspace Training Area for MCAS Cherry Point
Manager’s Report
Auxiliary Board Reports
Animal Complaint Form

Posted Monday May 8, 2023 by Allison DeWeese

Share this page:

back to top