Memo-03-08-2016-Item15

March 8, 2016

MEMO TO:           Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners

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

SUBJECT:           Comments from Town Manager - Monthly Statistical Report

25th Annual Emerald Isle St. Patrick’s Festival – This Friday and Saturday!

We are looking forward to a great festival this weekend, and Town staff will be working hard all week to be ready for a big crowd.  I am thankful for the hard work by all involved, especially Alesia Sanderson, Parks and Recreation Director, and Sarah Cutillo, Recreation Program Supervisor. 

Comprehensive Plan / Land Use Plan Steering Committee Meeting – Wed, March 16 – 3 pm

The committee’s second meeting will be held on March 16 at 3 pm.  The meeting will be held in the Town Board Meeting Room, and the public is welcome to attend. 

The Committee is expected to approve the questions for an online survey at their meeting on March 16.  The survey will then be posted at www.emeraldisle-nc.org and www.planei.org , on the Town’s Facebook page and Twitter feed, and a special email will be sent to the 6800+ email newsletter subscribers.  I am optimistic that we will generate a very high survey participation rate, and I look forward to significant community input.

New CRC Rule To Take Effect in April, Effectively Restores Conforming Status to Ocean Reef Condominiums

A new CRC rule is scheduled to be effective on April 1 that will remove the 2,500 sq. ft. limit on development in areas with a static line exception (eastern Emerald Isle).  This change will essentially restore conforming status to Ocean Reef condominium buildings that previously could only be reconstructed up to 2,500 sq. ft. (the existing buildings are approximately 4,400 sq. ft.).  As long as the first line of natural, stable vegetation remains at least 60 feet seaward, these condominium units will again be considered conforming. 

The rule change also provides benefits to any existing oceanfront homes between the Indian Beach town line and the Ocean Drive “dog-leg” that are greater than 2,500 sq. ft. (there are only a handful of such existing homes).  The rule change is also helpful to some Pier Pointe condominium buildings by allowing them to be reconstructed up to 5,000 sq. ft.  (rather than 2,500 sq. ft.).  The existing buildings in Pier Pointe are approximately 6,600 sq. ft.  A separate rule-making initiative being considered by the CRC has just begun, and may ultimately provide even greater benefits for Pier Pointe in the next year or so.  

A new rule establishing a “development line” will also become effective on April 1, and this rule would allow a local government, with State approval, to establish what is essentially “a line in the sand” beyond which no oceanfront development could occur.  In Emerald Isle, I would imagine the Town proposing this line just slightly seaward of the existing row of oceanfront homes in eastern Emerald Isle.  Development would still be required to meet a 60 ft. setback from the first line of stable, natural vegetation, so the end result is likely not any different than the Town’s static line exception (particularly with the elimination of the 2,500 sq. ft. limit), however, it may be easier to administer in the future and perhaps less complicated for our oceanfront property owners.  Town staff will be exploring the pros / cons of implementing a “development line” in the coming weeks.

Town Board Meeting Room Flooring, Painting Work

The contractor has returned to address a few problem areas, and has also replaced the vinyl baseboard with new wooden baseboards.  Although the stained concrete did not turn out as perfectly as I had hoped, I believe it looks good and is much better than the old carpet in the room.  The removal of the office, restoration of natural light, and fresh, lighter paint makes a big difference, and I am pleased overall. 

7405 Archers Creek Court

SunLand Builders is scheduled to begin demolition on March 16.  In the meantime, the property has been sold, and the new owner has begun efforts to clean up the property.  Our understanding is that they intend to have the structure completely stripped and prepped for a major renovation within the next week.  IF they can get the property completely cleaned up by March 15, we will NOT proceed with the demolition as planned and will allow the home to be renovated, which will certainly by a good outcome for all parties concerned.

NC Parks and Recreation Trust Fund Grant Applications Due on May 2

The NCPARTF grant program provides grants up to $500,000 for eligible parks and recreation projects and improvements, and requires a 50% local match.  The Town received significant NCPARTF grant funding for the land acquisition for the Emerald Isle Public Boating Access Area and the construction of Emerald Isle Woods Park.  Please let me know if there are any projects that you would like us to consider submitting an application for on May 2, or in future years.

Emerald Isle Marathon, Half-Marathon, & 5K – Saturday, April 9

As of March 4, a total of 910 runners have registered for the 3 races.  As of February 23, 2015, there were a total of 1106 runners registered, so we are closing the gap, and still hope to get close to or match last year’s total of nearly 1600 runners.

Beach Access Walkway Replacements

Work continues on the Nina Street and Bryan Street walkways, and we expect Barnacle Construction to complete these walkways by the end of March.

The 18th Street walkway is partially demolished, and we have asked the contractor, B&P Services, to finish demolition, clean up the area, and then delay work on this walkway until after the new elevated walkway for Senator Jean Preston Memorial Playground is completed.

Regional Access Food Vendor Program

The February 29 deadline has passed, and we have received applications from the following food establishments:    Shark’s Den, Dairy Queen, Sweet Spot, Ben & Jerry’s, Circle Pizza, Kathryn’s Bistro, Jackie’s American Grill, Flipperz, and Emerald Isle Wine Market.  Town staff will meet with the 9 food establishments later in March and attempt to have all parties agree on a fair and balanced service schedule for the summer.  With a total of 4 slots available per day (1 meal vendor and 1 dessert vendor at each of the 2 regional access facilities), I am optimistic that we can come up with a schedule that everyone will be pleased with. 

Nies v. Emerald Isle

The next filing by the NC Supreme Court is scheduled for March 18, and we may then learn whether or not the NC Supreme Court will hear the Nies v. Emerald Isle case.  As you know, the Town prevailed at both NC Superior Court (summary judgment) and the NC Court of Appeals (unanimous 3-0 ruling).

As discussed previously, this case has significant consequences for all NC beach communities, as it essentially involves the public’s right to use the flat, dry-sand beach between the base of the dunes and the water.  The Nies have argued that the public trust beach area does not include the flat, dry-sand beach area, while the Town contends that NCGS 77-20 includes this area in the delineation of the public trust beach area. 

Potential Partnership To Provide Staff Assistance for Emerald Isle Business Association

I am planning to organize a meeting with EI Business Association leaders and TDA officials in the next few weeks to explore partnership opportunities that would ultimately result in greater promotion of Emerald Isle businesses by the EIBA and the TDA.  I am hopeful that the end product will be paid staff assistance for the EIBA that will be able to 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. 

New Fall Music and Food Festival – The “Emerald Isle Beach Music Festival” Version 2.0?

I plan to schedule a meeting later in March with Town staff, the Emerald Isle Business Association, the operators of “Flavor Fest”, and the operators of the former “Emerald Isle Beach Music Festival” to discuss the possibility of a new event to be held each year in mid or late September. 

Village West Meeting

I continue to devote significant time toward potential strategies to clean up the Islander Drive area, promote redevelopment, and move toward the realization of the Village West vision in this area.  I am planning to organize a meeting with key players in the next few weeks to explore various strategies.

“Downtown” Lighting

Carteret Craven Electric Cooperative’s workers have been pulled off of our lighting project for other jobs in recent weeks, but we expect them to complete the remaining light installations in Emerald Isle within the next week.  The entire south side (along the bike path) has been installed, along with a portion of the north side (along the sidewalk).  I am very pleased with the new lights, and I am hopeful that they will improve safety, make people more comfortable in the “downtown” area at night, and that they represent one more incremental step toward improving aesthetics and the creation of a more defined “downtown” area in Emerald Isle.

New Wayfinding Signs

I am currently working on the specific sign locations and destinations to be included on each sign, and expect to place the sign order later in March.  My goal is to have the new signs installed by April.

Off-Premises Non-Conforming Signs

We will be presenting draft ordinance language to the Planning Board at their March 21 meeting that would essentially “grandfather” the handful of off-premises, non-conforming signs in Emerald Isle in perpetuity.  The draft ordinance would also enable any such signs that were in place prior to January 1, 2005 to be re-installed (would allow Bogue Inlet Pier and Camp Ocean Forest signs to go back up).  The intent behind this ordinance is to allow for structural repairs to existing signs so that the aesthetic appearance of the signs will be improved.  This ordinance may appear on the Board’s April 12 meeting agenda. 

Allow Golf Cart Rental / Sales Activities in EI?

The Town’s zoning ordinance does not currently allow golf cart rentals and sales to operate in Emerald Isle.  Josh Edmondson, Town Planner, will present a potential ordinance amendment to the Planning Board at its March 21 meeting to allow such operations in the future.  We expect to include certain limitations on the minimum rental period, the maximum number of rental vehicles, and the maximum number of vehicles displayed outside.  This ordinance may appear on the Board’s April 12 meeting agenda.

Roundabouts – Next Steps?

The Carteret County Transportation Committee is scheduled to meet in April and May to discuss area transportation priorities for the next Statewide Transportation Plan to be released by NCDOT in December.  In order to accurately convey the Town’s position to the Carteret County Transportation Committee, I am planning to schedule additional Board discussion and consideration of a formal resolution regarding proposed roundabouts and other potential traffic improvements on either the Board’s April 12 or May 10 meeting agenda.

Water Tank Maintenance Work Progressing

The contractor hired by Bogue Banks Water Corporation to re-paint the water tank appears to be making good progress, and we are hopeful that all work will be complete later this month.  Police, Fire, and EMS are anxious to have emergency communications equipment re-installed on the water tank as the tourism season begins, and we are also anxious to remove the temporary tower from the NC 58 right of way. 

I have asked Fire Chief Bill Walker to research alternatives to having to remove our emergency communications equipment every time the water tanks are painted.  One option is to add a stand alone mono-pole tower, however, I am more interested in potential additional equipment that could be installed on the water tanks so that future maintenance activities could “work around” the emergency communications equipment and not require its removal.  In addition to significant cost to remove and re-install the emergency communications equipment each time, the reliability of emergency communications is compromised.  I am hopeful that we can identify a more cost-effective alternative in the future.

Osprey Ridge Storm Water Pump Design

Barring some unforeseen budget difficulties, I expect to be able to include sufficient funding in the FY 16-17 budget for the construction of a new storm water pump to serve the Osprey Ridge neighborhood.  My goal is to have the Town in a position to award a construction contract in July or August (after the new fiscal year begins on July 1).  Assuming the design cost is manageable, I may ask the Board to approve a design contract for this project at the April 12 meeting.

Cape Emerald Storm Water Pipe Replacement

I am planning to submit a CAMA grant application for the replacement of the existing storm water outfall pipe from Cape Emerald ponds to Bogue Sound in the coming weeks, and will request approval to install a 24 inch pipe.  As discussed during the Board’s February 19 budget planning workshop meeting, this project is not as high of a priority as other budget items for FY 16-17.  It is likely that this work will not occur until FY 17-18, however, I would like to secure the appropriate permit sometime this summer.

Save The Dunes Project Delayed Until Early May

The Save The Dunes project team (led by volunteers Carla Stevens and Kevin Geraghty) will be installing new dune plants near The Point vehicle ramp this spring.  They initially hoped to do the planting in mid-April, however, they have now pushed work back until early May.  The Town will be purchasing the dune plants, and the volunteers will install the plants. 

Master Beach Nourishment Plan

As you know, the Carteret County Beach Commission / Shore Protection Office, on behalf of the municipalities on Bogue Banks, including Emerald Isle, has been working on a 50-year plan / permitting mechanism for future beach nourishment activities.  This effort began in early 2010, and when ultimately approved it should provide a “blanket permit” for all future beach nourishment activities in Emerald Isle and the periodic realignment of the main ebb channel in Bogue Inlet.  The County’s consultants, working with the Corps of Engineers, expect to release a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for this project later this spring or summer, and this will be an important milestone.  I am hopeful that the Final EIS and official permit will be issued sometime in early or mid-2017.    

Bogue Inlet Navigation Dredging Permit

As you know, the Town has been working with local governments adjacent to 4 other shallow-draft inlets in NC to have new navigation dredging permits issued to the local governments. This effort was undertaken by the State on behalf of the local governments in anticipation of potential future Federal abdication of dredging responsibility for these important channels.  This process is expected to culminate in the next few months with the issuance of a permit to the Town of Emerald Isle for future navigation dredging in Bogue Inlet connecting channel and across the ocean bar.  The permit will constrain the Town to the currently permitted channel dimensions (6 – 8 ft. deep), however, it should allow the placement of sand on the beach in the future (this sand has historically been “sidecast” to the side of the dredge in the inlet, and not placed on the beach). 

The new permit should not impact any dredging activities in the near future, as the Corps of Engineers is expected to continue dredging activities for at least the foreseeable future.  However, the permit will be advantageous if / when the Corps no longer operates its sidecast dredge fleet in the future, and may also be advantageous to the Town in the future if a relatively small volume of sand is necessary for a nearby beach nourishment project (i.e., at The Point).

Save The Dunes  - Beach Commission / Shore Protection Office Presentation

Commissioner Normile has suggested a joint presentation by the Save The Dunes group and the Carteret County Shore Protection Office.  Please let me know if this is something you’d like to pursue, and if you’d like to schedule this as an item on an upcoming Board meeting agenda, as a pre-meeting event, or as a stand-alone event.

New Flood Insurance Rate Maps – Delayed Until June 30

We recently were notified that the new flood maps have been delayed again, and are now scheduled to be released on June 30.  Town Planner Josh Edmondson will make a presentation to the Board and the public at the earliest meeting after the maps are released to highlight the map changes that will impact Emerald Isle property owners.  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 be an opportunity for formal appeals after the maps are released to the public.

New Sidewalk Stub near Speedway Gas Station

I have asked Public Works to install a new, short sidewalk stub from the existing sidewalk on the northeast corner of the Coast Guard Road / Emerald Drive intersection to the Speedway driveway.  As part of this work, I’ve also asked them to install drainage features that will hopefully enable chronic ponding water to flow under the sidewalk and into the existing ditch along NC 58.  I am hopeful that this work will be complete in the next month or so. 

Recent Surplus Auction Results

The Town received a total of $2,525 from the recent online auction of a 2005 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck and other minor items.

New Police Vehicles

The Police Department’s new Dodge 4 x 4 pickup truck and new Dodge Charger are currently being outfitted with communications and electronics equipment, and should be in service within the next few weeks.

Bicycle Path Pavement Markings

Public Works has completed the repainting of all bicycle path markings in the central area of Emerald Isle.  I appreciate their efforts to have the Town looking as good as possible as the tourism season approaches. 

Storm Water Relay Pump to Be Installed in Sea Crest (6400 Block)

I have asked Public Works to make the Sea Crest neighborhood (6400 block of Ocean Drive) the first location for a new storm water relay pump, and to attempt to install this new system in the next couple of months.  As discussed at the Board’s February 19 budget planning workshop, we intend to install a catch basin with a small electric pump and discharge storm water via a 3” or 4” PVC pipe in the nearby dune field.  The new PVC pipe will follow the existing beach access walkway easement.  I am anxious to gauge the effectiveness of this approach, and I hope it will greatly reduce the frequency and duration of standing water on Ocean Drive in this area. 

12th Street Infiltration Basin Expansion

Public Works has significantly expanded the existing storm water infiltration basin near the 12th Street beach access, and we are hopeful that it will reduce the frequency and duration of standing water on Ocean Drive in this area.  As discussed at the February 19 budget planning workshop, we are also hoping to install a small fixed pump in this area during FY 16-17 with discharge into the nearby dune field. 

Deck Safety Program

The vacation rental companies continue to implement the new deck inspection program, and there is a considerable amount of deck repair and replacement work underway in Emerald Isle in preparation for the 2016 season.  Due to the complexity of dealing with multiple condominium owners associations and management companies, and many other pressing issues in the past few months, we have STILL not yet had an opportunity to establish a similar program for condominium complexes.  With the tourism season fast approaching, this project will likely have to wait until after the 2016 tourism season. 

Unified Development Ordinance

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 more user-friendly, understandable document.

The Emerald Isle “App”

Rhonda Ferebee, Town Clerk, and I continue to work with Bar-Z, an app development firm, on this project.  The end product will be a smartphone “app” that can be used by our residents and visitors to learn about the Town, request Town services, report problems, identify local businesses, and more.  We are very pleased with the graphics and functionality thus far, and hope to unveil the new app no later than May.

Emerald Isle Logo T-Shirts ON SALE Now

T-shirts with the new Town logo (including Nice Matters!) are currently on sale at the Town Administration Building.  The 100% cotton beefy-Ts are available for $15 each.  Thus far, we have sold approximately 40 shirts.