February 14, 2017

MEMO TO:        Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners

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

SUBJECT:       Draft 2017 Comprehensive Land Use Plan - (Summary & Suggested Motions)

The Board is scheduled to conduct a public hearing and consider preliminary approval of the 2017 Comprehensive Land Use Plan at the February 14 meeting.  As you know, a Board-appointed Steering Committee (chaired by Commissioner Normile), Town staff, a planning consultant, the Planning Board, and the Board of Commissioners have been working diligently on the development of the new plan for more than a year, and we are pleased to present the near-final product for preliminary Board approval.

A hard copy of the draft 2017 plan was distributed to the Steering Committee, the Planning Board, and the Board of Commissioners under separate cover in early January, prior to the special joint meeting of the Planning Board and the Board of Commissioners held on January 18.  The document is 139 pages long, and due to the fact that there were only a few changes and in the interest of preserving paper, I have not included a new copy in your February 14 meeting agenda packet.  I have, however, included the following:

The new plan used the current 2004 plan as the starting point, incorporates a great deal of data and background information about Emerald Isle, and summarizes the significant public input received over the past year+ (stakeholder interviews, Steering Committee input, online survey, special public input meeting).  All of this information was used to develop the Town’s official land use policies and goals for the future that are included in Section 5 of the 2017 plan.  As we’ve discussed, many of the policies and goals included in the 2017 plan are consistent with those in the current 2004 plan.  The most notable consistencies in the new 2017 plan are as follows:

  • the 2017 plan recognizes and places the community’s highest value on the “family friendly” image and “small-town” atmosphere, and the primarily residential nature of the community,
  • emphasizes the need to effectively balance private property rights, economic development, environmental protection, and community cohesiveness,
  • continues to place high value on public access to the beach and sound,
  • continues to support beach nourishment and inlet management efforts,
  • retains an emphasis on high quality community aesthetics,
  • maintains a commitment to current building heights (40 - 50 ft.),
  • continues to place emphasis on the redevelopment of the Village East and Village West areas, with maximum flexibility, including mixed-use opportunities, 
  • continues to place emphasis on the value and maintenance of excellent water quality in and surrounding Emerald Isle,
  • continues to support the development of a mid-island bridge on Bogue Banks to address traffic concerns,
  • several others.

Additionally, the new 2017 plan includes a few notable changes from the policies and goals included in the 2004 plan, as follows:

  • promotes the allowance of complementary residential use above commercial zoned properties, and the creation of a new “Commercial Village” zoning classification,
  • promotes the future development of limited centralized wastewater treatment systems to serve the Village East, Village West, and NC 58 Commercial Village areas only, with the remainder of the Town served by on-site systems,
  • includes more specific language promoting the development of a traditional, full-service marina facility,
  • includes specific language to support the continued existence of Bogue Inlet Pier, and also to promote the perpetual existence of an ocean fishing pier in Emerald Isle, and
  • promotes the development of a “meeting and events center” in Emerald Isle to promote economic development and accommodate larger public events.

The Board of Commissioners previously received a detailed presentation about the 2017 plan at the January 18 joint meeting, has had ample time to review the plan, and likely already has a good understanding of the plan.  Town staff will make a brief presentation about the plan at the February 14 meeting, primarily for the benefit of the audience in attendance.

As noted, a public hearing has been scheduled for the February 14 meeting.  After the public hearing, the Board should identify any additional desired changes to the 2017 plan and/or adopt a motion to preliminarily approve the 2017 Comprehensive Land Use Plan.  Upon preliminary approval by the Board of Commissioners, Town staff will formally submit the plan to the NC Division of Coastal Management for a formal review.  Depending on the result of their review, it may be necessary to make additional adjustments to the 2017 plan.  After the NC Division of Coastal Management has completed its review, we expect to schedule another public hearing and present the 2017 plan to the Board of Commissioners for formal, final approval later this spring.

The development of the 2017 plan has been a long, but very thoughtful process that I believe accurately represents the will of the people of Emerald Isle for the future.  We were fortunate to receive significant and meaningful public input in the development of this plan, and for that reason I am hopeful that the 2017 plan will serve the Town well as it continues to develop over the next 15+/- years.

We look forward to reviewing the 2017 Comprehensive Land Use Plan with the Board at the February 14 meeting.