MEMO TO:           Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners

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

SUBJECT:           2016 Land Use Plan Update

The Board of Commissioners is scheduled to receive an update on the proposed planning process for a new 2016 update to the Town’s current land use plan (LUP) at the November 10 meeting.  I anticipate that the Town will spend most, if not all, of 2016 working on the updated land use plan, culminating with formal Board of Commissioners approval in late 2016 or early 2017.

Current Land Use Plan

As you know, the Town’s current land use plan was completed in 2004.  The Town has diligently relied on the 2004 LUP in all land use decisions over the past 11 years, and has also taken action on many initiatives outlined in the LUP.  The Town has also amended the LUP several times over the past 11 years as needed to reflect changing conditions and/or changing priorities.  I have attached excerpts from the 2004 LUP that include the overall vision outlined in the plan, along with the goals and policies included in the plan.  Goals and policies identified in the 2004 LUP that the Town has taken action on over the last 11 years 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”.

Hopes for the 2016 LUP Update

I was very pleased with the process used by the Town to develop the 2004 LUP, which included a great deal of public participation.  I was also very pleased with the final product – a thorough, yet concise and easy-to-understand expression of the Town’s land use goals and policies that, I believe, accurately captured (and likely still reflects, for the most part) the overall sentiments of the members of our community.  I am hopeful that the 2016 LUP update will result in a similar outcome, and that the Town will diligently rely on the 2016 plan for the next decade.

Ideally, the 2016 LUP update will:

  • confirm that the goals and policies outlined in the 2004 plan are still valid, and/or
  • amend the goals and policies 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 goals and policies, and
  • also result in the identification of new goals and policies to guide the Town’s growth and development over the next decade.

Planning Process

I envision the 2016 LUP update process beginning in January or February 2016 with the Board’s award of a contract to a consultant to assist in the planning process and the development of the updated plan.  The Town recently released the attached Request for Qualifications / Statement of Approach document, and established a deadline of November 25, 2015 for interested consultants to submit.  After Thanksgiving, I envision an ad-hoc consultant selection committee reviewing the submissions and then interviewing the top consultant candidates in December. I then envision the ad-hoc committee making a recommendation to the Board of Commissioners for formal consideration of a contract at the January 12, 2016 meeting.

I envision that the ad-hoc consultant selection committee will consist of:

  • Town Planner Josh Edmondson,
  • Town Manager Frank Rush,
  • either 1 or 2 members of the Planning Board, selected by their membership, and
  • either 1 or 2 members of the Board of Commissioners, selected by the Board at the November 10 meeting.

The Board should  a) indicate whether or not the ad-hoc consultant selection committee should include 1 or 2 members of the Planning Board and the Board of Commissioners, and  b) identify the specific 1 or 2 members of the Board of Commissioners to serve on the ad-hoc committee.  If the Board concurs with this approach, the Planning Board would identify 1 or 2 members to serve on the ad-hoc committee at its November 23 meeting.

I envision that the 2016 LUP process will be overseen by a diverse, Board-appointed “steering committee” that will provide its insights and opinions on the Town’s future goals and policies, provide general oversight of the entire process, and promote significant public participation (likely including an online survey) in the development of the 2016 plan.  I envision that the Board would appoint the specific members of the steering committee at the January 12, 2016 when the consultant contract is awarded.

I would like to receive input from the selected consultant on the exact makeup of the steering committee, however, at this point in time I would recommend the following size and representation, aimed at including representative of all of the Town’s customer groups on the committee :

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

The total membership of the steering committee would be 15 individuals.  The Board can certainly add to, reduce, or adjust this committee composition in any way deemed best.  I would caution the Board, however, against making it larger than 15 individuals, as the group can become more difficult to manage as it gets larger.

I envision the steering committee meeting monthly, or perhaps only every other month, during the planning process.  Following the steering committee’s recommended LUP, the full Planning Board would review the plan and recommend approval or amendment.  Following the Planning Board’s recommendation, the full Board of Commissioners would formally consider the adoption of the new LUP, hopefully in late 2016 or early 2017.

Consultant Expenses

As noted in the attached RFQ document, we indicated that the Town has established a budget of $25,000 – $30,000 for consulting services, due to the fact that this is primarily an update and also due to the fact that the Town Planner and Town Manager will be assisting.  Many consultants may consider this level of compensation insufficient by their standards, and I am not certain how many or what quality level of submissions we will receive.  We can certainly adjust later if needed.

The Town’s FY 15-16 budget for contacted building inspections services with Carteret County is approximately $85,000, or nearly $7,000 per month.  Thus far, our monthly expenses are averaging less than $5,000 per month and projects out to approximately $60,000 for the year, resulting in $25,000 of savings for the LUP consultant.

I look forward to receiving your feedback on this issue at the November 10 meeting.