September 13, 2016

MEMO TO:           Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners

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

SUBJECT:           Comments from Town Manager - Monthly Statistical Report

Joint Meeting with Planning Board?

Josh Edmondson, Town Planner, will be organizing another training session for the Planning Board on September 27 to better educate the new members about the various provisions in the Unified Development Ordinance. 

I think it would be helpful to also have the Board of Commissioners attend this meeting, and then spend some time in general discussion with the Planning Board so that the Planning Board can better understand the Board of Commissioners’ philosophy and goals for regulating new development in Emerald Isle in the future.  Please let me know your thoughts on this idea.  If you would like to pursue this idea, we will advertise the special joint meeting accordingly.

FY 15-16 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report

Laura Rotchford, Finance Director, and the Town’s auditors are working on the annual audit and financial statements.  We expect to have Williams, Scarborough, Smith, & Gray present the audit report to the Board and the public at the October 11 meeting.

Bogue Inlet Drive Bicycle Path

We have ordered a survey of the entire Bogue Inlet Drive right of way between NC 58 and Bogue Inlet Pier, and should have the survey completed by mid-September.  Alesia Sanderson, Parks and Recreation Director, Ken Stone, Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee Chair, and I will then review the survey and determine the preferred design for the new bicycle path.  I expect to include a review of this project on the Board’s October 11 meeting agenda.

Discussion – Coyote Management Options

We have rescheduled a discussion of coyote management options for the Board’s October 11 meeting agenda.  We expect to have Evin Stanford and Chris Kent, regional biologists from the NC Wildlife Resources Commission attend the meeting and provide their insights to the Board.

Public Reception – Retirement of Chief Waters

Town staff are planning a special public reception to recognize Chief Waters’ retirement on October 31.  The reception will be held on Thursday, October 27 from 6 pm – 8 pm in the Town Board Meeting Room.  The public is invited to attend, and snacks and drinks will be provided.  We also expect to formally present Chief Waters with his service weapon and badge at that reception.

New Police Chief Selection

I continue to consider the appropriate selection process for the next Police Chief, and expect to finalize my thoughts in the next week or two.  I will reach out to each of you individually to discuss this process.

Beach Strand and The Point Remain in Good Shape

The Beach Commission and the Bogue Banks towns recently received a presentation on the annual beach profile surveys and the status of The Point.  Surveys are performed annually by Moffatt & Nichol and Geodynamics.  To summarize, the entire 12+/- miles of beach in Emerald Isle remain in good shape, and, barring any significant storm erosion, the next beach nourishment project is likely 4-5 years away, if not longer.  Additionally, The Point remains in good shape, with the main ebb channel now located approximately 1400 ft. from the vehicle ramp.  As you know, we are in early stages of planning for the next realignment project, perhaps in FY 19-20 or FY 20-21.  I have attached an interesting graphic of The Point for your information.

NC Beach and Inlet Management Plan (BIMP) Update

State officials are in the process of updating the 2011 BIMP, and will hold a series of public meetings this month.  The closest meeting to Emerald Isle will be held on Tuesday, September 20 at 6 pm at the Pine Knoll Shores Aquarium.  I am planning to attend on behalf of the Town.

There seems to be some growing momentum for the creation of a dedicated State funding source to assist local communities with beach nourishment projects.  I recently provided the comment below, along with revenue data, to the BIMP consultant, in hopes of moving this discussion forward.

Dedicated State Fund / State Funding Source for Beach Nourishment Projects

North Carolina beaches are important economic drivers for the coastal region, the entire State, and the United States.  Similar to the "Shallow Draft Navigation Channel and Lake Dredging Fund" established by the NC General Assembly in recent years (with dedicated funding sources), a new fund earmarked specifically for State contributions toward beach nourishment projects is needed to assist coastal communities.

The State's 2011 Beach and Inlet Management Plan estimated a total annual funding need of $19.1 million for beach nourishment projects in North Carolina.  In order to generate the necessary funds, the Town of Emerald Isle proposes the creation of a new "Storm Protection and Beach Preservation Fund" by the State of North Carolina, with dedicated revenues derived from a portion of the existing State sales tax (4.75%) paid on transactions in NC Department of Revenue Business Category 708:  Hotels, Motels, Cottage Rentals, Etc.  within the 8 oceanfront counties ONLY.  The total amount of State sales tax collected from Business Category 708 in Currituck, Dare, Hyde, Carteret, Onslow, Pender, New Hanover, and Brunswick counties during FY 14-15 was $48.44 million.  The Town of Emerald Isle proposes that the proceeds of 2% (the other 2.75% would continue to be retained by the State for general purposes), or $20.36 million, be statutorily earmarked for the new "Storm Protection and Beach Preservation Fund" for distribution by the appropriate State agency to coastal communities engaging in beach nourishment projects.

The proposed "Storm Protection and Beach Preservation Fund" follows the same template successfully used by the "Shallow Draft Navigation Channel and Lake Dredging Fund" by earmarking a small portion of the existing State revenues generated by the users of the resource.

New Small Storm Water Relay Pumps – 6400 Block & Bogue Court

Public Works has finally completed this new system, and we look forward to evaluating its effectiveness in resolving chronic nuisance flooding at this location. 

The next location for a similar small pump system is Bogue Court, and we hope to complete this work in the next month or two.

Beach Music Festival a Success!

I am very pleased with the success of the Emerald Isle Beach Music Festival on August 27, and greatly appreciate the great job by Town staff and others. We also greatly appreciate the support of the Crystal Coast Tourism Development Authority and all of our great sponsors.

We don’t have an accurate way to determine the total attendance, however, based on the land area occupied on the beach by attendees and assumptions about the # of sq. ft. per attendee, we estimate a crowd of up to 9,000 people that day. 

Town staff will be meeting later this week to recap the event, identify areas for improvement, and begin preparations for the 2017 event.  We are targeting a mid or late September date for the 2017 festival.

Meeting with Vacation Rental Agencies

I will be meeting with the EI vacation rental agencies later this month to recap 2016, discuss any issues of concern, and plan any helpful improvements for 2017.

Deer Population Estimate

EIPD and NC Wildlife Resources Commission staff will conduct a new deer population estimate in late September, and we will report these results to the Board in October.  Depending on the results, we will consider another controlled deer hunt during January and February 2017.

Beach Driving Season Begins Thursday, September 15

Beach driving season begins on September 15.  I will be meeting with Pam Minnick, chair of the Emerald Isle Sea Turtle Program, early this week to review the status of remaining sea turtle nests and will determine whether or not to close small areas of the beach to driving until the nests hatch.

New Beach Access Walkway at The Point

The Town’s contractor, B&P Services is nearing completion of the new walkway at The Point vehicle ramp.  We expect the new walkway to be open to the public by September 15.

Wyndtree Public Beach Access

Due to concerns from the adjacent oceanfront property owners about the public access sand path meandering onto private property, we have surveyed the boundaries of the public access easement in this area.  We will soon be performing minor grading in the sand dunes to locate the sand path completely within the public access easement to prevent the public from traversing private property in this area.

Emerald Isle Woods Walkway

We have awarded a contract to B&P Services to construct a new walkway over wetland areas in EI Woods Park along the Cape Emerald boundary.  The new walkway will provide a safe, convenient pathway for the park trail in that area, and will also make it easier to monitor water levels in EI Woods Park in the future.  Total cost of this work is approximately $7,000, and funds are included in the FY 16-17 budget.

Lee Street Sound Access

The Town removed aging and deteriorating walkways at three sound access locations on Sound Drive last year due to safety concerns.  Town staff converted the walkways to sand paths, and in most locations the sand path is easily navigated.  There is, however, a steep slope at the water’s edge at the Lee Street access, and we will soon be constructing a small set of steps at that location to make it easier and safer to access the water.  Cost is expected to be minimal.

Old Ferry Road Status

In response to questions from Georgia Ricks, an adjacent property owner, I have tasked Town Attorney Richard Stanley with researching the legal status of two segments of Old Ferry Road:  1) the segment that runs through the Island Harbor Marina property leading to the old ferry landing, and  2) the segment that runs from Mangrove Road to NC 58 (behind the CVS).  I will update the Board on Richard Stanley’s findings. 

Rusty Pelican Sign

Due to its unattractive appearance, Public Works recently removed the old Rusty Pelican sign frame.  We received permission from the owner for this action, and the work only took about 15 minutes to complete. 

Coastal Awnings, Keller Williams Signs

We have communicated a December 31, 2016 deadline for the removal of sign messages on each of these signs, due to the fact that neither business is physically located in Emerald Isle, as required by Town sign ordinances.  Each sign owner has the opportunity to appeal this decision to the Board of Adjustment if so inclined.

Bogue Inlet Navigation Dredging

We are still awaiting new survey results from the Corps of Engineers, which will determine if the Corps pursues the new connecting channel delineation in the center of Bogue Inlet.  We remain hopeful that the Corps will complete a new dredging event in Bogue Inlet sometime in the coming weeks.

CVS Aesthetic Improvements, Better Traffic Flow

I continue to pursue possible aesthetic and traffic flow improvements with CVS.  At this point, I believe we have buy-in from CVS corporate office in Rhode Island, and now need to reach out to the building owner.  I will be pursuing this idea further in the coming weeks.  I have attached a copy of the proposed new traffic pattern, sidewalk installation, and curb & gutter installation.  I also hope to encourage the building owner to pursue aesthetic improvements to the existing building.

Cape Emerald Pipe Expansion / Replacement

I have not yet been able to devote time to this project, but still hope to solicit informal quotes for this work later this fall.  I remain hopeful that the budgeted amount will be sufficient to award a contract later this fall.  Permit authorization is still necessary, but we don’t anticipate any hurdles.

Emerald Plantation Canal Concerns, Road Concerns

I met recently with representatives from the Emerald Plantation residential subdivision regarding concerns about algae, duckweed, and debris in the canal between the commercial center and the residential subdivision, and may pursue grant funding in the future to assist the community in its goal to clean up the canal. 

Additionally, some members in Emerald Plantation have expressed interest in the Town assuming ownership and maintenance of Emerald Plantation Drive between NC 58 and the Emerald Isle Baptist Church.  I expect that the Town may receive a formal request at some point in the future, at which time it could be scheduled for Board consideration at a Town meeting.

Nies v. Emerald Isle

Oral arguments before the NC Supreme Court have not yet been scheduled, and will not occur in September or October.  A November or December date is likely. 

Cape Emerald Pipe Failure

A private storm water pipe in Cape Emerald recently failed, in part, due to poor workmanship by the Town’s contractor on a Town storm water pipe in 2012.  I am still working to secure compensation from Southeast Pipe Survey, the Town’s contractor for the original work on the Town storm water pipe, but have not yet resolved this issue.  It may now be necessary to secure assistance from Town Attorney Richard Stanley. 

Town Dumpster Service

I continue to review different options for dumpster service at condominium complexes.  The Town’s existing contract with Waste Industries expires on December 31, 2016, and has an annual value of approximately $80,000.  I hope to make a recommendation to the Board at the November meeting.

NC 58 Traffic Improvements

NC 58 traffic improvements at the Bogue Inlet Drive intersection, Coast Guard Road intersection, Emerald Plantation intersection, and at the NC 24 intersection have all scored well, and were included on the priority list for both the Carteret County Transportation Committee and the DownEast Rural Planning Organization.  Unfortunately, due to the priority assigned to two major regional projects in the Kinston and Wilmington area (very expensive projects), our projects did not make it into the “region” version of the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program.    I remain hopeful that these projects will ultimately be included in the “division” version of the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program when it is released later this year.  Based on discussions with DERPO staff, I believe the Emerald Isle projects have a decent chance of being included.

Potential Partnership To Provide Staff Assistance for Emerald Isle Business Association

I have not yet had an opportunity to pursue this idea, but still hope to develop a cost-effective plan to create a paid staff position for the EIBA, ideally in partnership with the Tourism Development Authority.  I envision 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. 

Design Students to Develop Plan for Additional “Downtown”  Streetscape Improvement

I have reached out to the NC State School of Design to secure assistance from design school students to recommend and develop graphics illustrating additional streetscape improvements in Emerald Isle, but have not yet received any return communication.  The project would be focused on the area between the Welcome Center and the Town Government complex. 

NC League of Municipalities Annual Meeting – October 23 – 25

Mayor Barber, Commissioners Dooley, Finch, and Normile, and I are registered for this annual meeting in Raleigh. 

Pursue Change in NC Residential Code Re: Railings on Fixed Seating

I have submitted suggested language to the NC Department of Commerce to pursue an amendment to the NC Residential Code to create an exemption from requirements for deck railings to extend 36 inches above the seat bottom of fixed deck seating.  As drafted, the exemption would apply to railings associated with fixed seating in barrier island communities only over natural sand dunes.  If the exemption is granted, it would measure the 36 inch requirement from the floor, which is the requirement for deck railings, and would eliminate the “cage” look that is created when railings extend 36 inches above the seat bottom.  I am not sure what the chances are for affecting a positive change, however, I will continue to pursue.  In the meantime, many contractors are simply installing non-fixed seating in order to pass the inspection.  

Potential Speed Limit Change, Golf Cart Ordinance Amendment

I am contemplating presenting two ordinance amendments to the Board at a future meeting in response to the Board’s discussion at the August 9 meeting regarding golf carts. 

One ordinance amendment would reduce the speed limit on Coast Guard Road between Deer Horn Drive and NC 58 and Crew Drive from 35 mph to 25 mph.  The second amendment would eliminate the language in the golf cart ordinance that prohibits golf carts from driving on Coast Guard Road and NC 58, and would replace it with “golf carts may only operate on streets with a speed limit of 25 mph or less”.  This ordinance amendment would effectively allow golf carts on the segment of Coast Guard Road between Deer Horn Drive and NC 58 and Crew Drive, and would likely assist many golf cart operators without creating significant safety concerns.  This amendment would also allow golf carts to operate legally on Coast Guard Road between Ring Street and Inlet Drive. 

Please let me know your thoughts on this idea.