May 9, 2017

MEMO TO:           Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners

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

SUBJECT:           Comments from Town Manager - Monthly Statistical Report

Nies File Petition with US Supreme Court

The Nies' attorneys, backed by the Pacific Legal Foundation, a California-based organization, have now petitioned the US Supreme Court to review the NC courts' ruling.  A copy of the petition is posted at .   The Town's attorneys will submit a response to this petition soon, and I will provide additional updates about this case as it evolves.

PARTF Grant Submitted for Surfside Realty Tract

This $500,000 grant application was submitted prior to the May 1 deadline, and will be considered by PARTF later this summer.  We expect to receive a decision no later than September, which is when we also expect to receive decisions from the Clean Water Management Trust Fund ($545,000) and MCAS Cherry Point ($1,500,000).  I remain optimistic that funding will be awarded for this strategic land acquisition. 

I have attached a copy of a conceptual plan for the proposed new park for your information.  The plan is VERY preliminary, but indicates my general idea of how a new nature park / active park might be arranged in the future.  As we discussed, if the Town can acquire the land later this year, I would expect to open it up for public use of nature trails sometime next year, and that the Town would undertake a public input process to determine specific active recreation facilities in the future.  I don’t anticipate any development of future active recreation facilities for at least a few years, if not longer. 

You will note that, according to the attached conceptual plan, no vehicle access is available to the site other than via the Community Center.  A total of 9.7 acres is reserved for future active park development near the southern boundary of the property in an attempt to provide ample separation from adjacent property owners and to orient the new active park facilities with the rest of the Town Government Complex. 

Senate Bill 126 – Sales Tax Distribution Changes – Approved by NC Senate

This bill, which is very harmful to Emerald Isle and Carteret County, has been approved by the NC Senate and is expected to be heard in the NC House in the coming weeks.  The original estimate put forth by the NC General Assembly indicated Emerald Isle would lose approximately $64,000.  Finance Director Laura Rotchford had estimated a total loss of approximately $83,000, and the FY 17-18 Recommended Budget takes that loss (and a little more) into account.  Unfortunately, on the day after Town staff completed the FY 17-18 Recommended Budget, the NC General Assembly released new estimates that show the loss for Emerald Isle could be as much as $159,000!

I have been discussing this issue with Representative McElraft for several weeks now, and she is aware of the potential for additional harm to Emerald Isle and Carteret County (all municipalities in the County are impacted to a similar degree).  I will be working closely with Representative McElraft and others on potential strategies to derail or amend S126 in the coming weeks.  If the Board concurs, I may also send a mass email newsletter to our ~ 7,200 subscribers urging them to contact their local NC House members to express opposition.

Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Campaign

EIPD is working with other area Police Departments on the implementation of a bicycle and pedestrian safety campaign, with particular emphasis on crosswalks.  The program will include public education and enforcement components, and will begin over Memorial Day weekend. 

Driveway Widths, Right of Way Parking Inventory

The Town’s ordinances limit residential driveway widths to 16 ft., and allow a maximum of 2 driveways per unit.  As you have likely noticed, there are some residential properties establishing additional residential parking spaces in the public street right of way (primarily on Ocean Drive).  Although some of these include attractive landscape features, they are not permitted under the Town’s ordinances and Town staff have received complaints.

Town Planner Josh Edmondson will be hosting an intern this summer, and we intend to task him with preparing an inventory of these features so that we can get a better handle on the magnitude of this issue.  Depending on the results of the inventory, we may begin working with property owners to have the parking areas modified or removed, or may recommend an ordinance amendment to the Board of Commissioners in the future.

Commercial Village Zoning District

Town Planner Josh Edmondson will soon begin work with the Planning Board on specific development regulations for the proposed “Commercial Village” zoning district.  This new district would encompass the current Business zoning district, and would allow the use of complementary residential uses on upper floors.  We hope to present formal ordinance amendments to the Board of Commissioners later this summer.

New EMS Board of Directors

The new EMS Board of Directors has been seated, and Dr. Gerald Albright has been selected as Chairman.  Jack Bunyan is the Vice-Chairman, Arlayne Calhoun is the Treasurer, and Angel Hamlin is the Secretary.  We look forward to working with the new EI EMS, Inc. Board in the future.

Osprey Ridge Pump Station Complete

SunLand Builders has essentially completed work on this project, and Artie Dunn, Public Works Director, and I are scheduled to test the new pump station this week.

Bogue Inlet Drive Improvements, Bike Path

This project is nearly complete, with the exception of decorative light installation, sod installation, and bollard installation.  We expect these features to be installed within the next week or two.

Street Resurfacing Complete

The last street segment, Louise Avenue (the entrance to the Western Ocean Regional Access) was resurfaced on April 27, and all work under the 2017 street resurfacing contract is now complete. 

Marsh Cove Road Street Request?

Residents in the Marsh Cove subdivision are considering asking the Town to assume public ownership and maintenance of Marsh Cove Road, and this request may be presented to the Board at a future meeting.  Public Works Director Artie Dunn and I have reviewed the road condition, and don’t have any objection to Marsh Cove Road being added to the Town’s street network.  The road is in generally good condition, and resurfacing is likely still many years away.

Bogue Inlet Dredging

The US Army Corps of Engineers has completed recent dredging work, and we are still awaiting the relocation of the aids to navigation.  I have attached a late-April survey that shows the recent work near The Point and the ocean bar.  The survey for the remainder of the connector channel (toward Cedar Point) has not yet been posted on the USACE website. 

New Financial Auditors

Williams, Smith, Scarborough, and Gray LLP recently informed the Town that they are no longer performing municipal audits, and will not be able to complete the Town’s June 30, 2017 audit.  Finance Director Laura Rotchford is currently soliciting proposals from other firms, and we plan to present a contract recommendation to the Board at the June 13 meeting.  We may ask the Audit Committee to convene in late May or early June to review proposals. 

Archers Creek West Stream Restoration Project Grant Awarded

The Town was recently notified that we’ve been awarded a $25,000 grant from the NC Division of Water Resources for this project, which would remove vegetative and other debris from the segment of Archers Creek that flows west from Old Ferry Road to Forest Hills Mobile Home Park and Bogue Sound.  As you may recall, the neighborhoods along this segment of the creek are partnering with the Town on this project, and agreed to contribute a portion of the $25,000 local match.  The grant award includes a condition that no stumps or roots be removed, and I need to learn more and discuss this condition with the neighborhoods before seeking the Board’s acceptance of the grant funds.  If the Town proceeds, I would expect this work to occur sometime this coming winter.

Sound Drive Pavement Repairs

There are a few significant “dips” in the asphalt on Sound Drive near the marina, and Public Works is working to repair those areas sometime before Memorial Day weekend.

Lifeguard Services Begin May 24

The Fire Department has filled all summer lifeguard positions, and will conduct in-house training on May 13 – 14 and May 20 – 21.  The first day of lifeguard services will be Wednesday, May 24.  On the busiest days, a total of 5 lifeguards will be on the beach – 1 fixed lifeguard at the Eastern Ocean Regional Access, 1 fixed lifeguard at the Western Ocean Regional Access, 2 roving lifeguards on all-terrain vehicles, and 1 roving supervisor on an all-terrain vehicle.

Save Our Dunes Initiative Volunteers Planting at WORA

A group of volunteers, led by resident Carla Stevens, will be planting beach grasses on the dunes near the new Beach Music Festival stage this week.  We appreciate their efforts to better stabilize and improve the appearance of the dunes.

Recent Beach Erosion

We have received concerns from oceanfront owners in the Ocean Reef condominium complex in recent weeks about beach erosion. Winter storms have decreased the width of the flat, dry sand beach in that area, however, we believe that most of the sand has simply shifted slightly seaward in the profile, and should be just offshore in the trough.  We expect the summer wind and waves to push this sand back up on shore in the coming months.  We will be monitoring this area, and also look forward to seeing the results of a new beach profile survey planned for June. 

Publix Groundbreaking Expected Soon

Town Planner Josh Edmondson recently met with engineers and grading contractors on site to review plans and Town requirements.  SunLand Builders is performing site work for the Publix store, and we expect work to begin very soon.  Crew Drive will remain open throughout construction.  Planned road improvements to Crew Drive, Emerald Landing Drive, and the NC 58 roundabout construction are not expected to begin until after the summer season.

Beach Access Walkway Replacements

The Town’s contractor has completed the replacement walkways at Sea Crest and Georgia Street, and is now working on the Hubert Street walkway.  We hope to have this walkway complete and open to the public no later than Memorial Day weekend.

House Bill 900 – Additional Municipal Revenue Options

This bill has been introduced by Representative Ross and Representative Saine, and would provide a mechanism for a new municipal sales tax, room tax, and prepared meals tax, if approved by the voters in a referendum.  I am not sure of the prognosis for this bill, but it’s encouraging, and may provide the Board with alternative revenue sources in the future.  A copy of the bill is attached.

School Calendar Bills

Two bills, H375 and H389 have been passed by the NC House and may soon be considered by the NC Senate.  H375 essentially allows any school system to set its school start date to match the local community college, but not earlier than August 15.  H389 establishes a pilot program whereby 20 school systems would be permitted to begin the school year as early as August 10, with corresponding studies on the impact of this change on student achievement.  NC Senate Committees have not yet taken any action on these bills, and Senate President Pro-Tem Phil Berger has been quoted that he does not see the need for a change in the school calendar law.  Thus, we remain hopeful that neither bill will ultimately be approved by the NC Senate. 

New Beach Swing at the Western Ocean Regional Access

The new beach swing installed near the base of the dunes at the Western Ocean Regional Access is getting a lot of use, and we’ve had a few inquiries from property owners interested in sponsoring a beach swing at other accesses.  However, we were recently informed by NC Division of Coastal Management staff that we will either need to remove the swing, modify it to be “moveable” (install skids?), or seek a variance from the NC Coastal Resources Commission.  Town staff are still evaluating these options, and NC DCM staff will not require the Town to remove the WORA beach swing until we decide on the best course of action.

Draft EIS for Beach Nourishment “Master Plan” to Be Released

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the "Master Plan" for future beach nourishment activities in our area has finally been released, and is available for public review at . The deadline for public comment is May 29, 2017. 

The Draft EIS outlines planned future beach nourishment activities for all of Bogue Banks, including Emerald Isle, and also outlines future management efforts in Bogue Inlet.  The Draft EIS covers a 50-year planning period, and will be followed by a Final EIS later this year or early next year.  The Final EIS should then enable the issuance of a 50-year Federal and State permit authorization for future beach nourishment and inlet management activities in Emerald Isle.

Citizen Recognition Program Being Developed

Town staff are currently reviewing a potential “citizen recognition” program, and we may present a recommendation to the Board of Commissioners at the June meeting.  The program would outline the criteria and selection process for the presentation of awards or special recognition to individuals who have made a significant contribution or performed a specific heroic act in Emerald Isle. 

Emerald Isle Beach Music Festival Funding Request

We submitted a funding request to the TDA Board of Directors for $35,000 for the 2017 Emerald Isle Beach Music Festival (BMF) on March 31, but have not yet received a decision.  I am hopeful that the Town will receive a funding decision later in May or June.  The 2017 BMF will again be held on the beach at the Western Ocean Regional Access – on Saturday, September 30.

Western Ocean Regional Access Stage Expansion

In an effort to improve the stage for performers, a Town contractor will be adding an additional 200 sq. ft. to the stage at the Western Ocean Regional Access.  We hope to have this expansion completed before the EmeraldFest concert series begins on June 15, and may have some of the EmeraldFest performers use the new stage.    

Comprehensive Land Use Plan

Town Planner Josh Edmondson and the Town’s consultant are currently working with NC Division of Coastal Management staff to address comments and provide clarifications regarding the Town’s 2017 Comprehensive Land Use Plan.  We hope to resolve these concerns and present a final version of the plan for formal Board approval at the June meeting.

NC 58 Traffic Improvements Funding Request

I continue to work with Representative Pat McElraft and Senator Sanderson to hopefully secure State funding for the installation of 5 pedestrian crosswalks along NC 58 ($75,000) and NC 58 / Bogue Inlet Drive intersection improvements ($350,000).  

Potential Closure of Old Ferry Road Between Mangrove Drive and NC 58 (Behind CVS)

I have not yet received feedback from one of the three property owners affected by a potential closure of this street segment.  I remain hopeful that all three will support this closure, and if so I will present a Resolution of Intent to the Board at a future meeting.

Cape Emerald Discharge Pipe Replacement

At this point, it does not appear likely that we will be able to install a larger pipe, and may be forced to replace the existing 15 inch pipe with a new 15 inch pipe.  Regardless of the pipe size, it will need to be replaced at some point in the near future due to deterioration.  The FY 16-17 budget includes a total of $32,500 for this work.   

New Small Storm Water Relay Pump - Bogue Court

Public Works has finally made some progress on this project, and has installed a new drop inlet on Bogue Court.  Remaining work includes the installation of the discharge line out to the dunes, and the installation of the new small pump in the catch basin.  I am hopeful that this project will be completed before Memorial Day. 

Town Survey

I have not yet had an opportunity to devote time to this effort, but still hope to devise a customer satisfaction survey to be offered online early this summer. 

Emerald Isle Video / Commercial

Brad Styron, a local photographer / videographer, is still working on the planned Emerald Isle video / commercial, and we hope to “debut” it just before Memorial Day weekend.  The new video / commercial will include footage of all the great things about Emerald Isle and will be available on the Town’s website and social media platforms.  I also hope to eventually create a 30-second version that could potentially air on television as a commercial.

Condominium Deck Program

Town Planner Josh Edmonson continues to work with condominium complex representatives and management companies on this program, and we hope to resolve the outstanding concerns and implement the program later this spring or summer.

Unified Development Ordinance Simplification

Josh Edmondson and I will be working on a significantly simplified UDO to present to the Planning Board and Board of Commissioners in the coming months.  My goal is to eliminate all unnecessary regulations and confusing language, and create a simple, reader-friendly ordinance that achieves the Town’s most important development policy goals.