memo-01-12-2016-13

January 12, 2016

MEMO TO:           Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners

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

SUBJECT:           2016 Comprehensive Plan / Land Use Plan Update

The Board of Commissioners is scheduled to consider two important actions to begin the process of updating the Town’s 2004 Land Use Plan at the January 12 meeting.

First, the Board will consider the award of a consulting services contract to Holland Consulting Planners, Wilmington, NC, in the amount of $29,000 to assist the Town in the development of the 2016 Comprehensive Plan / Land Use Plan Update over the next 12 months +/-.  Second, the Board will formally appoint individuals to serve on a diverse 13-member steering committee that will be tasked with guiding the development of the plan, including providing their input on future policies and goals, and overseeing and integrating a significant public input process.

At the end of the process, I am hopeful that the 2016 Comprehensive Plan / Land Use Plan Update will provide the Town with a clear consensus of our community’s future vision, with clear policies and goals that will guide future new development and investment in public infrastructure.  I believe the Town’s 2004 Land Use Plan has been an accurate statement of the community’s vision for Emerald Isle and has been a valuable tool over the past 12 years, and I expect the 2016 update to be just as valuable over the next decade or more.

2004 Land Use Plan

The Town has diligently relied on the 2004 Land Use Plan in all land use decisions over the past 12 years, and has also taken action on many initiatives identified in the 2004 plan.  The Town has also amended the 2004 plan several times over the past 12 years as needed to reflect changing conditions and/or changing priorities.  The Town is fortunate that the 2004 plan did not “just sit on the shelf”, and that is has been an actively used tool over the years.

I have attached excerpts from the 2004 plan that include the overall vision outlined in the plan, along with the policies and goals included in the plan.  Much of the Town’s success over the past 12 years can, in some way, be traced back to the community consensus that was concisely articulated in the 2004 plan.  The Town’s major achievements rooted in the 2004 plan include:

  • the development of a unified development ordinance to implement the goals and policies in the plan,
  • the elimination of the old Residential-Motel-Hotel (RMH) zoning district and the rezoning of approximately half of the Town from the RMH zoning to Residential-2 (R-2) zoning,
  • effective management of beach erosion and inlet migration threats through beach nourishment and channel realignment projects,
  • the construction of a significant bicycle path and sidewalk network,
  • the creation of an additional ocean access parking area and improvements to existing ocean access facilities, including significant handicapped ramps at WORA and EORA,
  • consistent enforcement of storm water management regulations,
  • construction of significant storm water management infrastructure along the Coast Guard Road corridor,
  • improvements to soundside access facilities,
  • construction of a new public boat launching facility,
  • creation of the Village East, Village West, and Marina Village zoning districts to encourage flexible and quality redevelopment in those areas,
  • ordinance amendments to promote the disclosure of noise impacts and accident potential zones in the Bogue Field flight pattern, and encouragement of noise attenuation construction techniques in these areas,
  • maintenance of low building height limits,
  • the preservation of commercially zoned areas in eastern Emerald Isle for future commercial development to serve that area,
  • attractive landscaping along the NC 58 corridor, and
  • most importantly, the preservation of Emerald Isle’s “small-town atmosphere”.

My general sense from our community is that the majority of the development policies and community goals outlined in the 2004 LUP remain valid in 2016, however, the 2016 update should strive to:

  • confirm (or refute) that the policies and goals outlined in the 2004 plan are still valid, and/or
  • amend the policies and goals in a way that is more consistent with current conditions in 2016 and the current sentiments of our community members, and/or
  • eliminate out-of-date or no longer valid policies and goals, and
  • identify new policies and goals to guide the Town’s development and investment in public infrastructure over the next decade or more.

I am excited for the Town to undertake this process, and look forward to significant public input in the development of the 2016 plan.

Resolution Authorizing Consulting Services Contract 

The attached resolution authorizes a contract with Holland Consulting Planners, Wilmington, NC, in the amount of $29,000 to guide the planning process, research and summarize important community data to aid in the development of policies and goals, coordinate the steering committee, secure meaningful public input, and prepare the written document for formal consideration by the Planning Board and the Board of Commissioners in late 2016 or early 2017.

The Town solicited proposals from planning consulting firms in October and November, and received 5 proposals from the following firms:

  • CIII Associates, Wilmington, NC,
  • Community Planning Partners, Richmond, VA,
  • Holland Consulting Planners, Wilmington, NC,
  • N-Focus Planning & Design, Kannapolis, NC, and
  • Vital Clarity, Asheville, NC.

An ad-hoc committee consisting of Mayor Pro-Tem Floyd Messer, Planning Board Chairman Ken Sullivan, Town Planner Josh Edmondson, and I reviewed the proposals and interviewed 2 firms in December:  Holland Consulting Planners and Vital Clarity.  The ad-hoc committee considered the 2 firms’ experience, approach, and overall capabilities, and recommends that the Town contract with Holland Consulting Planners.

I have attached a copy of Holland Consulting Planners’ proposal for your information, along with a copy of the Town’s Request for Qualifications.  Holland Consulting Planners has significant planning experience in North Carolina, including the coastal area, and has developed numerous plans in accordance with CAMA guidelines over the past nearly 30 years.  They are a full-service firm with comprehensive planning, mapping, and public participation capabilities.

I have attached a 1-page summary of Holland’s suggested public participation process, which includes 6 meetings of the steering committee, an electronic survey, two larger public input meetings, and interviews with key stakeholders in the community.  Additionally, Holland plans to implement a dedicated, interactive project website that will allow our residents, property owners, and businesses to track the project online and offer additional input.  The ad-hoc committee views the dedicated, interactive project website as a key tool in the upcoming planning process.

The FY 15-16 Planning and Inspections budget includes sufficient funds for the Town’s contract with Holland Consulting Planners.

Landin Holland, Senior Planner for Holland Consulting Planners, and a key member of the project team, will attend the Board’s January 12 meeting.

Appointment of Steering Committee

The Board will formally appoint 13 members to a steering committee that will be tasked with guiding the development of the plan, including providing their input on future policies and goals, and overseeing and integrating a significant public input process.

The Board should note that the suggested composition of the steering committee is similar to the recommendation provided to the Board in November, however, there have been a few adjustments based on community input, Board input, and Holland Consulting Planners’ input.  As such, the Board is asked to appoint a diverse group of individuals to represent the following perspectives:

  • 1 member of the Board of Commissioners
  • 1 member of the Planning Board,
  • 2 retail / restaurant business owners (fishing, gift shops, food establishments, etc.),
  • 1 tourism-oriented business owner (adventures, equipment rentals, etc.),
  • 1 real estate agent / developer / contractor,
  • 1 vacation rental company owner / manager,
  • 1 campground / RV park / mobile home park owner / manager,
  • 2 second home owners, and
  • 3 permanent residents.

The Board should note that nearly all of the individuals appointed for the various “slots” should be Emerald Isle residents, however, it is perfectly acceptable to appoint an individual who owns a business in Emerald Isle but is not a permanent resident if the Board identifies someone from the business community with a helpful perspective.  In addition to the categories identified above, the Board may find value in appointing a healthy mix of male and female, young and old, and native North Carolinians and individuals originally from other states.

We have tentatively scheduled the first steering committee meeting for Thursday, February 10 at 4 pm in the Town Board Meeting Room.  The steering committee and Holland will determine the schedule for future meetings, but generally speaking we anticipate that the committee will meet 6 times over the course of the next 12 months, in addition to attending the two significant public input events during that time.  Each steering committee meeting is expected to last for approximately 90 minutes +/-.

I expect that the DRAFT plan will be reviewed by the steering committee and the community in late 2016, followed by formal review and approval by the Planning Board and Board of Commissioners in late 2016 or early 2017.

CAMA Land Use Planning Requirements

Although the primary goal of the 2016 Comprehensive Plan / Land Use Plan Update is to serve as a valuable tool to guide future development and public infrastructure investment, the 2016 plan will also be structured to meet CAMA land use planning requirements.  Several positive changes have recently been incorporated in the CAMA land use planning program, and Emerald Isle will be among the first municipalities to develop its plan under the new guidelines.

I look forward to discussing the 2016 Comprehensive Plan / Land Use Plan Update with the Board at the January 12 meeting.