March 13, 2018

MEMO TO:        Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners

FROM:             Frank A. Rush, Jr., Town Manager

SUBJECT:       Ordinance Amending Chapter 6 – Development Standards – of the Unified Development Ordinance Regarding Driveway Standards - (Summary & Suggested Motions)

The Board of Commissioners is scheduled to consider the attached amendment to the Town’s Unified Development Ordinance regarding driveway standards.  The attached ordinance amendment amends the maximum driveway width of 16 feet to also accommodate driveway “flares” (curved areas on each edge of the driveway that make it easier to enter and exit the driveway), clarify that existing wider driveways and delineated private parking areas in the right of way are grandfathered and new such features are not permitted, and remove a redundant reference in the UDO.

The attached memo from Josh Edmondson, Town Planner, includes an explanation of this issue.  The Board should note that this amendment is presented in response to a driveway and right of way parking inventory completed last summer by a Town intern working with the Town Planner.  Last spring, Town staff were approached by a landscaping contractor who expressed concerns about his company advising property owners that they could not construct delineated private parking areas in the street right of way, in accordance with Town regulations, however, other landscape contractors would then later accept the job and construct the private parking in the street right of way - which ultimately resulted in lost business for the initial contractor for adhering to the Town regulation.  In response to this concern, because Town staff did not know how prevalent this issue is in our community, the Town intern was tasked with an inventory of these situations.  The Town intern identified nearly 2,800 driveway width violations, with approximately 1,100 solely associated with slightly wider “flares”.  The other nearly 1,700 violations were wider driveways that occupy more than 16 feet of width, and many are likely intended for additional private parking in the street right of way.  The Town intern also identified 193 locations with delineated private parking areas in the street right of way. 

The Town Planner discussed these issues with the Planning Board in recent months, and the Planning Board’s guidance was essentially to draft an ordinance amendment that would allow driveway “flares” to be wider than 16 feet and also essentially “grandfather” the existing wider driveways and private parking areas in the street right of way - but not allow new areas to be constructed in the future.  This direction is reflected in the attached ordinance amendment, and was unanimously recommended by the Planning Board at its February meeting.

The Board should note that most residential lots in Emerald Isle are 75 feet wide, and the Town’s ordinance has long allowed up to 2 driveways that are each 16 feet wide.  Theoretically, this results in 32 feet of the 75 feet comprised of asphalt, concrete, or gravel.  The proposed amendment would allow 6 feet of “flares” (3 feet on each side) for each driveway, which would essentially allow 44 feet of the 75 feet to be driveway material.  I was not employed by the Town when the current 16 ft. wide, 2 driveway limit was adopted, however, I suspect it was motivated by aesthetic, safety, and clutter concerns along Town streets.  As noted in Josh Edmondson’s memo, the attached ordinance amendment would bring approximately 1,100 of the existing driveways that are technically too wide into compliance, and this is likely not a big concern for anyone in our community.

With regard to the wider driveway areas and private parking areas in the street right of way, it is important to note that this issue often occurs at vacation rental units.  These wider driveways / private parking areas exceed 16 feet in width, and are thus in violation of the Town’s driveway width ordinance.  The Board should note, however, that many of the vacation rental units, which are vital to the Town’s economy, often require overflow parking and these additional areas are extremely helpful.  In some cases, the private parking areas are attractive and orderly, and in other cases they are not.  Regardless of appearance, these areas sometimes result in safety and clutter concerns along Ocean Drive.  It’s also important to note that almost all of Ocean Drive is a No Parking Zone, and, in addition to the driveway ordinance violation, an argument is often made that the private parking areas are also in violation of No Parking Zones.  The Town does not enforce No Parking violations in these private parking areas, in recognition of the importance of these private parking areas to the vacation rental unit owners. 

It is important to note that the vast majority of these wider driveways / private parking areas have been in place for many, many years, and were either constructed prior to the Town’s driveway standard ordinance or were installed illegally and not flagged by Town staff or neighbors.  All new construction routinely meets the 16 ft. wide driveway requirement, as Town staff are heavily involved in the construction process.  For existing homes, these features are sometimes added after the home is complete and it is difficult to enforce these requirements, particularly with limited Town staff.

Due to the historical prevalence of these features, it is prudent to create the “grandfather” clause and focus on future construction, as recommended by the Planning Board.  If the Board believes this approach is not the best course of action, the Board may wish to task Town staff with the development of specific standards for private parking areas in the street right of way to specifically allow these features, but promote more orderly and attractive features.

Josh Edmondson and I look forward to discussing this issue with the Board at the March 13 meeting.