Memo-06-14-2016-Item16

June 14, 2016

MEMO TO:           Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners

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

SUBJECT:           Comments from Town Manager - Monthly Statistical Report

Special Board Meeting – June 24, 10 am

We have scheduled a special Board meeting for a general discussion about the Board’s “big” goals for Friday, June 24 at 10 am.  I am hopeful that this discussion will begin to develop Board consensus on which “big” goals to pursue in the future, and provide important direction to me.  The meeting will be held in the Town Administration Building Conference Room.

New Flood Insurance Rate Maps

The new flood insurance maps will be released to the public on June 30.  Josh Edmondson, Town Planner, will make a presentation to the Board at the July 12 regular meeting and will highlight the changes in Emerald Isle.  Overall, the new maps are very favorable for Emerald Isle property owners, however, we do expect some property owners to be negatively impacted, and want to offer as much information and assistance as possible to these property owners. 

There will likely be a formal appeals process in early 2017, and the Board of Commissioners will likely be asked to adopt the new maps in mid or late 2017, after which they will become the basis for flood insurance premiums and construction regulations. 

Non-Conforming Off-Premises Signs

Town staff will schedule a public hearing for the July 12 meeting, and will present a proposed ordinance amendment regarding off-premises non-conforming signs to the Board for consideration.  The proposed amendment will essentially “grandfather” the 9 existing off-premises, non-conforming signs in Emerald Isle in perpetuity.  The proposed amendment will also enable any such signs that were in place prior to January 1, 2006 to be re-installed (would allow Bogue Inlet Pier and Camp Ocean Forest signs to go back up). 

The intent behind the proposed amendment is to allow for structural repairs to existing signs so that the aesthetic appearance of the signs will be improved.  As currently written, the Town’s ordinances simply require the signs to be removed at such time that the sign structure is damaged more than 50%.  The result is that there is no incentive (actually, there is harm) for the owners to improve these signs, and these signs will likely remain in place for many years.  The Town’s ordinance has included this provision since at least 2000, and perhaps longer, and nearly all of the signs that were in place at that time are still in place today. 

Coyotes – Management Options

The Town continues to receive concerns from residents about the presence of coyotes in Emerald Isle.  In response to these concerns, I tasked Police Chief Waters with developing options for addressing the coyote issue.  A copy of his report is attached, along with two informational sheets about coyotes. (attachment 1, attachment 2).

As noted in Chief Waters’ report, there are essentially 3 options:  1) monitor and react to specific threats,  2) a controlled depredation hunt, or  3) a public trapping program.  Additionally, private property owners have the ability to contract with a private trapper to place traps on their private property during the months of December, January, and February.  To date, the Town’s position (and the other towns in our area) has been to simply monitor the coyote population.  If the Board would like to consider a hunting or trapping program, I will schedule this issue for Board discussion at the July or August Board meeting, and invite appropriate experts to address the Board.  If the Board does decide to move forward with a hunting or trapping program, I would recommend that it be scheduled for January / February 2017.  I believe the public safety risks associated with either approach are too great to attempt such activities prior to that time.  We will also need sufficient time to educate the public about any hunting (with rifles) or trapping activities (pose threats to children, pets, and other animals).

Please let me know your thoughts on this issue, and if you’d like me to schedule Board discussion for an upcoming meeting.

Nies v. Emerald Isle

The Nies’ attorney has already submitted briefs to the NC Supreme Court, and the Town’s briefs are due on July 27.  We have been working over the past few weeks to secure amicus briefs from other interested parties, and I expect that many will be filed by the July 27 deadline.

This case is critically important to the entire coast and entire State of North Carolina, as it will essentially answer the following questions:

  • Is the public entitled to use only the wet sand beach (below mean high water)  OR  is the public entitled to use the wet sand beach and the dry sand beach (up to the base of the dunes, as has been historical practice since time immemorial)?

and

  • Does an oceanfront property owner have the right to exclude the public (in whatever form of access they pursue – sunbathing, swimming, surfing, surf fishing, driving, playing, walking, etc.) from the dry sand beach in front of their home?

As you know, Carteret County Superior Court and the NC Court of Appeals have previously ruled in the Town’s favor, and the ruling by the NC Court of Appeals is now the definitive law in North Carolina on this issue……until the NC Supreme Court issues its decision later this year or early next year.  The Town obviously contends that the public is entitled to use the entire beach --- wet sand and dry sand.  If we lose, however, and the public is only entitled to use the wet sand beach, it could completely turn NC law upside down and have devastating impacts on the tourism and real estate economies along the entire NC coast, in addition to depriving many individuals the opportunity to enjoy the beach for a variety of recreational pursuits.  Additionally, such a ruling may very well foster and perpetuate a perception all over the eastern US that “North Carolina’s beaches are private, so we can’t go there for vacation……..”

Brian Edes, the Town’s appointed attorney (by the NC League of Municipalities) and I continue to work hard on this issue with other interested parties.  To date, the issue has not received a great deal of attention, and I believe that’s because  1) the Town prevailed at the two lower courts, and  2) nothing changed.  I expect that this case will garner more State-wide media attention when oral arguments are heard by the NC Supreme Court, and the public begins to understand what is at stake in this case.

Senate Bill 846 Would Impact Sales Tax Revenues

Senator Harry Brown has introduced S846 (attached), which would change the “adjustment factor” for a portion the local option sales tax received by Carteret County, Emerald Isle, and all of the towns in Emerald Isle. 

The ½% (of the total 2%) of local sales tax that is distributed based on relative population in NC currently includes an adjustment factor that changes Carteret’s distribution from 1.0 to 1.14, and theoretically accounts for some of the seasonal population impacts that are not recognized in straight population factors.  Senator Brown’s S846 bill would eliminate the adjustment factors and tie future adjustments to the economic development tiers.  Because Carteret is a Tier 3 county, our factor would decrease to 0.90.  We estimate that the Town could lose approximately $74,000 annually beginning in FY 17-18 if this bill becomes law.  The total combined loss among the County and all 11 towns in the County is more than $1 million.

At this time, it has not advanced, and we remain hopeful that it will not.  We will continue to monitor this issue, particularly during NC General Assembly budget negotiations where it has the potential to be inserted as a special provision.  

Planning Underway for Emerald Isle Beach Music Festival

Town staff and volunteers have been meeting for the past month to produce the new Emerald Isle Beach Music Festival on Saturday, August 27 on the beach at the Western Ocean Regional Access. 

I have attached a copy of the detailed site plan for the event, which includes the construction of a new platform / stage on the dunes adjacent to the main walkway to the beach.  The new platform will serve as the stage for the Beach Music Festival, and will also be available in the future for EmeraldFest concerts and will also serve as a new ocean viewing area for visitors to the WORA.  The new platform will be approximately 500 sq. ft., less than 30 inches above grade, and will not have railings. The estimated cost of this improvement is approximately $5,000.  The site plan also includes a temporary sand path around the existing handicapped ramp in order to provide an alternate passage between the beach strand and the restroom / vendor area.  This sand path will be revegetated after the event, and should not compromise the integrity of the dunes in any significant manner.

All musical acts are now confirmed, and are well within our budget for the event.  Town staff and volunteers are also working on securing sponsors, lining up advertising, and preparing public safety plans for the event.  We are looking forward to a big event on August 27. 

EmeraldFest Begins June 16

The first EmeraldFest concert is scheduled for Thursday, June 16 at 6:30 pm at the Western Ocean Regional Access.  Pure T Mommicked will perform, and subsequent concerts will be held every Thursday for the following 9 weeks. 

Land Use Plan Survey Available Online

The Town’s survey is available online at www.emeraldisle-nc.org and www.planei.org, and has been advertised on the Town’s website, Facebook, and Twitter.  The survey will remain available for the public to complete until July 15. 

The Land Use Plan Steering Committee will not meet in June, and their next meeting will be held on Wednesday, July 20.  We hope to hold a public “open house” to solicit additional public input on the plan sometime in August. 

18th Street Beach Access Walkway Complete

The new 18th Street beach access walkway is now complete, and has been well-received by residents in that area.

Beach Access Food Vendors

A few food vendors have dropped out of the program, and Jackie’s American Grille, Ben & Jerry’s, and Dairy Queen are the only remaining vendors operating during the summer.

New Small Storm Water Relay Pump – 6400 Block

Public Works will be installing this new system near the Sea Crest beach access walkway this month.  The new system will include a catch basin and small submersible pump, and will direct storm water through a 4 inch PVC pipe along the Sea Crest beach access easement to the dune field.  I am anxious to see how effective this new system will be at resolving ponding water concerns in this area.

New CPR Class

EIFD and EI EMS are now offering a new CPR class to the public, at a minimal cost ($5 for Emerald Isle residents and workers, $40 for others).  The first classes were held on May 23, and the next classes will be held on June 20.  Classes are held at both 9 am and 6 pm at the EMS Station.  After the June 20 class, there will be no summer classes, and they will resume again in the fall.  EIFD and EIEMS plan to offer the classes on the third Monday of each month at that time.  We will publicize the classes via the Town’s email newsletter, website, Facebook, Twitter, and the EI App.

Emerald Isle APP

As of June 2, nearly 1400 people had downloaded the new Emerald Isle APP, and most feedback received has been very positive thus far.  We will continue to promote the new APP via signs, the Town’s email newsletter, website, Facebook, and Twitter.

NC 58 Traffic Improvements Scored, To Be Prioritized This Summer

Preliminary project scores for the requested NC 58 traffic improvements were released, and the improvements at the 5 intersections (NC 58 / NC 24, and the 4 signalized intersections in Emerald Isle) scored reasonably well.  In order, from highest score to lowest, the Emerald Isle projects were:

  1. Bogue Inlet Drive intersection

  2. Coast Guard Road intersection

  3. Emerald Plantation intersection

  4. NC 24 / NC 58 intersection

  5. Mangrove Drive intersection

Additionally, the construction of additional turn lanes on NC 24 and NC 58 on the mainland side of the bridge are also on the list, and scored reasonably well (that project’s score would be 4th on list above).

The Carteret County Transportation Committee and the DownEast RPO will be assigning local priority points to the projects in June and July.  I am hopeful that the Town’s requested projects will be included among those groups’ priorities and that the scores will be enhanced to a point that the projects can be included in the NCDOT’s new Statewide Transportation Improvement Program. Mayor Barber serves on both of these committees, and I will also be attending these meetings.

Osprey Ridge Pump Station

Design work is underway, and we expect to solicit bids for the project in August.  I expect the Board to consider a construction contract at the September 13 meeting, and begin construction soon thereafter.

Cape Emerald Discharge Pipe

I expect to seek the required CAMA permit to replace the existing 15” discharge pipe with a 24” pipe in the coming weeks.  We will also seek quotes from local contractors to complete the work, and attempt to have this work completed prior to the typical rainy season this fall / winter. 

The Point Pedestrian Walkway

We plan to solicit quotes for the construction of this new walkway in July, and hopefully have it constructed and open to the public prior to the start of beach driving season on September 15.

New Wooden Walkways Over Wet Areas in EI Woods Park

There are two significant trails in EI Woods Park that are often flooded after prolonged periods of rainfall (directly adjacent to significant storm water features in EI Woods Park), and I am planning to have small wooden walkways constructed over these areas in order to  1) create a more functional trail in the park, and  2) more importantly, make it easier to monitor the Town’s storm water system in EI Woods Park after prolonged periods of rainfall.  The cost of this work is $7,200, and I expect work to begin later this month.    

Potential Partnership To Provide Staff Assistance for Emerald Isle Business Association

I plan to pursue this issue with more vigor in the coming weeks.  Mayor Barber and I met with EI Business Association leaders on May 9 to discuss the possibility of creating a paid staff position for the EIBA, ideally in partnership with the Tourism Development Authority, and there is strong interest among the EIBA. 

Ideally, the new position would work out of the new Welcome Center, and would serve both the TDA and the EIBA (funded by both entities).  I am hopeful that such a new position would better promote EI to our visitors and potential visitors, help with existing special events (i.e., St. Patrick’s Festival, Christmas Parade, etc.), help with new events (i.e., new “EI Beach Music Festival”, etc.), organize special shopping experiences among Emerald Isle businesses (i.e., Christmas shopping deals throughout the entire Town), and better galvanize the brick-and-mortar businesses in Emerald Isle. 

Municipal Service Districts Legislation Approved by General Assembly

The NC General Assembly approved Session Law 2016-8 (attached) on June 1.  The new law makes several changes to the statutes that govern municipal service districts.  (The Town’s “Primary Benefit District” consisting of all oceanfront and inlet-front property owners that is used to finance a portion of beach nourishment costs is a municipal service district.)  Fortunately, none of the changes appear to be harmful to Emerald Isle’s municipal service district.

Dumpster Service Contract Expires December 31

The Town contracts with Waste Industries for dumpster service at Town facilities and at the residential condominium complexes, and the amount of the contract is approximately $80,000 annually.  This contract will expire on December 31, 2016, and Waste Industries has informally approached the Town about a contract extension.  I am considering some minor adjustments to the dumpster service and will seek competitive bids for this service later this summer and fall.  I hope to present a contract recommendation to the Board no later than the October 11 meeting.

Unified Development Ordinance / USMP Program

As noted previously, I hope to begin work on a comprehensive review and simplification of the Town’s Unified Development Ordinance in the coming months.  The current UDO can be confusing for Town staff, development professionals, real estate professionals, and the public, and my goal is to create a much simpler, shorter, more user-friendly, understandable document. 

I also hope to complete a thorough evaluation of the Town’s storm water management ordinance, and potentially withdraw from the State’s Universal Storm Water Management Program.  At one time, it was very advantageous for the Town to participate in the USMP program, however, subsequent changes to State storm water regulations have caused us to question the value of the USMP program to the Town.

New Signs Identify Public Access Locations for Kayakers and Stand-Up Paddleboarders

With the increasing popularity of kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding in Bogue Sound, we have installed new, large, triangular signs visible from the water at that Town's public access locations on Bogue Sound.  These signs are intended to make it easier to identify the public access locations from the water.  

The new signs are installed on Town piers located at Park Street (near Eastern Ocean Regional Access, 2700 block - sign "27"), the Emerald Isle Public Boating Access Area (6800 block, sign "68"), the Bluewater Drive pier (7000 block, sign "70"), Cedar Street Park (7700 block, sign "77"), and Emerald Isle Woods Park (9400 block, two piers - signs "94" and "94A").    

Railings Around Deck Seating Areas

The NC Building Code now requires a 36-inch high railing to be in place around all fixed, integrated  seating areas on decks and walkways (must be 36 inches higher than the seating surface).  A picture of a new seating area with the higher railing is attached.  Town staff have researched this issue, and have learned that this higher railing is not required if the seating area is not fixed and is not integrated into the railing.  As such, we will be advising property owners and contractors of this option if they are concerned with the appearance of the higher railings, which create a caged, jail type feel.    

Satellite Merchants Ordinance

Sometime this fall, we plan to review the Town’s satellite merchants (i.e,. mobile and temporary vendors) ordinance to determine the need for any amendments.  We may present recommendations to the Board this fall or winter to have any new requirements in place for the 2017 summer season.

Islander Drive Area

The owners of the abandoned go-kart track and batting cage properties have removed much of the abandoned debris from these properties, and the area looks somewhat better than it has in recent years.  It is still unsightly, however, and I continue to investigate strategies to affect improvements in this area.