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Town Board Meeting February 2020
New events, GMO addition, Whittaker Creek projects updated
February 11, 2020

ebruary’s Town Board meeting had several residents in attendance and covered a lot of ground. The Board approved a Special Use Permit and new ordinance, set public hearings for March’s meeting, received updates on the Whittaker Creek Dredging and Restoration projects, and more.

New Event Coming to Town
During public comments, Keith Smith presented on behalf of Watertribe, a small sailboat/kayaking adventure group who wish to use Oriental as their base of operations for an event in June. Their big ask? To use the soccer field parking lot behind Fire Station 19 to park their vehicles for a week.

Commissioner Charlie Overcash supported the event, saying “this event is a win-win for town” – while the adventurers are off sailing/paddling in the sound for a week, their significant others will spend time in the shops, hotels, and restaurants in town.

The Board approved the use of the soccer field parking lot for the June event.

town hall sign

February Public Hearings
Bacon/New Village Brewery SUP: New Village Brewery owners Frank and Lili Bacon requested a Special Use Permit (SUP) to replace, reconstruct, and raise an existing shed/garage at their business on Broad Street. The current structure is non-conforming with current Growth Management Ordinance (GMO) standards, but cannot be brought into compliance without moving it into the parking lot and reducing parking space.

The proposed new structure will be the same as the current one, but raised out of the flood plain and with a new, conforming roof. A concern was raised (after a Planning Board meeting about the SUP) that the new pitch would create excess water runoff to a piece of land between the shed/garage and the neighbors.

As the reconstruction is subject to rules in section 194 on Repair, Maintenance and Reconstruction, the Board was able to add other “reasonable and appropriate conditions” to the SUP. They approved the SUP with the stipulation that gutters be installed on the new roof directing runoff away from the neighboring property.

Solar Ordinance Added to GMO: The Planning Board has been working on a Solar Ordinance since October of last year. Commissioner David White said there were several residents in attendance for earlier meetings, but after most questions had been answered by the December meeting, public attendance had fallen off.

Language for the ordinance was pulled from an NC School of Government template, as well as the Pamlico County Ordinance, according to Town Manager Diane Miller.

Grace Evans expressed concern about notifying the military of the installation. Miller replied that notification to the military (and other aviation authorities) within 5 miles of the SES (Solar Energy System) is a legal requirement. The ordinance requires notification, not permission.

Evans also took issue with stipulations in the Decommission & Abandonment section requiring funds to be held in escrow prior to building an SES, against future abandonment and dismantling of the system. Evans said the restrictions were onerous if she had to put up money to build solar at her home.

“The point is not to restrict residential solar,” said Commissioner White.

Commissioner Dianne Simmons agreed with Evans that the Decommission & Abandonment section was unclear. Miller said the words ‘Level 2 SES only’ could be added to that section for clarification. (Level 1 SES refers to residential solar energy systems (SES) and Level 2 refers to large scale systems like solar farms.)

The ordinance regulates where SES may be situated (not in front of a residence), setbacks, wind rating (140 mph), height limitations (16 ft if ground mounted), and town permitting requirements.

After the addition of the ‘Level 2 SES only’ to the Decommission & Abandonment section, the ordinance was approved unanimously.

Request for Future Public Hearings
At the next Town Board Meeting on March 3, there will public hearings for the following:
New Hardware Store SUP – Village Hardware is seeking to build a hardware store in the lot adjacent to the one they currently rent at 804 Broad Street.

Dental office SUP – Roger Cordes seeks a permit, similar in nature to the one for New Village Brewery, to raise the Cordes’ dental office, at 403 Hodges Street, out of the flood plain.

The Board Approves both public hearings for March 3. The SUPs will go before the Planning Board at their monthly meeting on February 19.

Whittaker Creek Dredging Permit Delayed
As of January’s meeting, the dredging of Whittaker Creek was waiting on a permit from CAMA for the spoil site. The permit never came in.

“Two weeks ago they said you have your permit and I said ‘No, that’s Whittaker Point, I’m asking for Whittaker Creek.’ They said they would call back,” Miller told the Board of Commissioners. “The whole process was dropped.”

Dredging is seasonal, due to fisheries and nurseries, and ends on March 31. “The fastest solution is to amend the major permit from Whittaker Point Restoration to include the dredging permit,” Miller said. “It’s a 30 day review and we can still make the dredging moratorium.”

CAMA has agreed to combine the permits and as soon as it is in hand, says Miller. King Dredging won the bid to clear the Sea Harbour spoil site for the Whittaker Creek dredge. The bid for dredging Whittaker Creek channel has not been awarded.

Whittaker Point Restoration Gets Rerouted Rock
The restoration project for Whittaker Creek has hit a snag. Months ago, an additional $600,000 worth of granite was added to the project to shore up the inside and outside of the point, with the assumption that a barge would be the most cost effective delivery route.

By Barge During a recent pre-bid conference for the project (bidders must attend a conference for projects of this size and scope), Town Manager Miller said it was determined using barges would add an additional $600,000 to the project cost, and knock out several of the bidders.

Grant funds currently total over $1.5 million dollars. The fund may cover the cost of a barge delivery, Miller said, but may not leave enough money for items like a second coastal planting along the point in spring, to make certain the sediments are intact. The project cost has already increased because of the addition of the granite.

By Land Miller raised a second option to the Board: truck in the granite to a staging area near Whittaker Point. Residents have offered two lots nearby for this use (the lots would be returned to their current state by contractors after the point was restored).

If trucked in, contractors will drive White Farm Rd to Maritime Drive, which is already in bad repair. “The road [Maritime Drive] will not be damaged,” Miller said, “it will be destroyed.” As state road maintenance ends at White Farm Road, the town will be responsible for repairing Maritime Drive after restoration is completed.

The overland option would cost approximately $300,000, however grant funds cannot be used to repair the roads. When applying for grants, the original restoration plans did not state road repair as part of the project scope.

Other Funds Miller said there are other ways for the town to cover the cost; Oriental has $143,916 in the Powell Fund, a state fund designated for municipality infrastructure needs, and there is an expected FEMA reimbursement of approximately $263,000 from Hurricane Florence.

In the aftermath of the hurricane, Oriental used town equipment and personnel to do much of the cleanup work, allowing town labor, purchased materials, plus wear and tear on town equipment to be logged as part of the FEMA recovery & reimbursement process.

Road Repairs Already Needed Commissioner White said “We need to start figuring out what we are going to do with roads, not only on that one, but other roads in town.”

Commissioner Overcash said, “We’re committed to the project, and the lesser of the two evils is to save a much money as we can. I say go ahead with the road repair as we damage it.”

Commissioner Simmons added, “I think it’s a bonus if we get the road fixed, too, out there, because it is in bad shape.”

Commissioners unanimously agreed to have the granite trucked into the point, with the town covering the cost from the Powell Fund and estimated FEMA reimbursements. South Water Street in the village, a road with broken asphalt that floods when it rains, would also be repaired at the same time, Miller said.

The active restoration bid was extended by one week to accommodate this decision. After bids come in contractors have 150 days, from the signing of the contract, to begin. The only allowable delays, said Miller, are for weather and availability of the granite. “There’s already two quarries starting to mine for us,” she added.

In addition to repairing the road, “this is an opportunity to extend the road some and get some kind of an asphalt surface available for bicyclists and walkers,” Miller said. “It’s an additional way to look for more funding.”

That decision does not have to come now, she said, but it was an idea floated at the Parks and Recreation meeting.

New Flood Insurance Rates Based on Decade Old Flood Data
The Pamlico County Planning Board met January 28 to review proposed changes – from the State and from the Town of Oriental – to the Pamlico Flood Prevention Ordinance. New, preliminary flood maps used for the determination of the floodplain do not contain water level data from Hurricanes Irene or Florence. (Both of those events flooded the town with 9.5 and 9.6 feet of water respectively.)

Of particular concern to Oriental, changes to the Flood Prevention Ordinance will result in nearly 300 buildings being lifted out of the flood plain, Town Manager Miller said, when the new, preliminary maps take effect and lower the base flood elevation.

“Right now, [base flood elevation] is at 9 feet,” Miller explained, “and when it goes down to 7 feet, the county is talking about going to 7 feet plus 4 which will keep us building at the right place.”

There is no way for Oriental or Pamlico County to disagree with the current map data, Miller said. “We have to agree to these preliminary maps that we all know are wrong or nobody can get [flood] insurance.”

Miller has asked the county to preserve the current flood maps on the county’s GIS (Geographic Information System), before the preliminary maps (showing the revised flood levels) are adopted and current maps are lost. “The county is looking for a way to capture that information,” she said, for use as a reference for new builds in the former flood plain.

Ongoing Items:
Flooding at Broad Street and Hodges Street: Manager Miller met with other municipalities in January and learned about a potential above ground solution – bioretention rain gardens – to keep water from flooding the intersection. She forwarded the information to Commissioner Martin Barrow who is working with NC DOT to find a solution.

Commissioner Barrow said that prior to the rain garden information, NC DOT was unable to determine if there were any outfalls or pipes in the area – the only available reference was a hand drawn map form 1975. “Anything that may have been there succumbed when the condos at the bridge were built.

• Duke Energy Light Poles on Broad Street: Duke Energy has said the light poles on Broad Street damaged during Hurricane Florence (and unable to conduct electricity to power the Christmas Lights) cannot be worked on by private electricians. Decades ago, poles without lights were wired for seasonal decorations. Duke Energy now requires a streetlight for every pole that has an outlet, meaning 26 poles on Broad St would have to be converted. Commissioners did not agree with the idea, stating there would be too much light and the cost was not acceptable. Solar lights were floated, but denied; the Town has to get permission to put anything on Duke Energy poles and solar is not allowed. Commissioners will look into other options including putting the decorations on telephone poles and getting outlets added to poles with existing streetlight (there are 10).

How Are We Doing: The Town of Oriental website has a new feature: a button that allows residents to email the town manager, mayor, and all commissioners with any concerns. It’s located on the upper right hand corner of their website. Additionally, if residents wish to be added to the Town’s Alert List, they can do so by emailing water@townoforiental.com with Alert List in the subject line.

Parks and Recreation Board: The Parks and Rec Board is looking for more members. Applications can be found on the town website under Online Forms, Volunteer Board Vacancy Questionnaire.

Town Manager Annual Evaluation: At the March 3 meeting, the Board of Commissioners will go into a closed session to evaluate the performance of the Town Manager.

Police Report
Both Oriental officers were absent from the meeting. Manager Miller said they were “otherwise involved” and could not attend.

Dates to Know
The next Town Board Meeting will be Tuesday, March 3 at 7p.
The next Planning Board Meeting is Wednesday, February 19 at 3p.
The Annual Town Board Retreat is Friday, March 6 at 8a.

Related Information

• Town Board Meeting February Agenda
January Minutes
Bacon/New Village Brewery SUP
Solar Ordinance
Upcoming SUP Requests
Pamlico Flood Prevention Ordinance
• Tractor Grant Application
Tree of Names and Lights Letter to Ocracoke
• Police Report
Manager’s Report
Auxiliary Boards’ Minutes

Posted Tuesday February 11, 2020 by Allison DeWeese

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