November 14, 2017

MEMO TO:        Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners

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

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

The Board is scheduled to consider final adoption of the 2017 Comprehensive Land Use Plan at the November 14 meeting.  Following Board adoption, the plan will be submitted for certification by the NC Coastal Resources Commission and approval by appropriate Federal authorities, and will satisfy relevant State and Federal coastal planning requirements.  

As you know, the Board approved the draft plan in February 2017 after a year+ planning process led by a citizen steering committee chaired by Commissioner Normile.  The planning process included a review of the Town’s 2004 plan, research on existing conditions, expert testimony, and significant public input, including a series of public meetings and workshops, a Town survey, online input, and more. The draft plan was reviewed and approved by the citizen steering committee, the Planning Board, and the Board of Commissioners in late 2016 and early 2017, and was then submitted to relevant State agencies for review and consistency with applicable State planning guidelines.  State agency review was completed in late August, and resulted in only minor clarifications and formatting changes, with no changes to approved Town policies. These changes have been incorporated into the plan presented for final adoption on November 14.

A hard copy of the draft 2017 plan was previously distributed to the Board, and has been available on the Town’s website since the beginning of 2017.  In the interest of conserving paper (the full plan is 169 pages long), and because the changes incorporated since February 2017 are relatively minor, I have not attached a full copy of the plan.  The Board and the public should review the full text of the plan at .  I have, however, included the following to summarize the plan for the Board and the public:

As discussed previously, the Town is required to prepare and update its formal land use plan periodically by the NC Division of Coastal Management.  In that sense, the 2017 plan is presented again for formal Board consideration simply to meet these State requirements.  From a practical standpoint, however, the plan is so much more important than simply meeting State requirements, as it represents the community’s vision for Emerald Isle in the future and serves as the foundation for nearly every other policy decision made by the Town.  The Town has diligently adhered to the 2004 plan since its adoption, and many of the initiatives undertaken in Emerald Isle since 2004 were rooted in specific policies and goals noted in the 2004 plan.  It is my expectation that many future initiatives will be rooted in specific policies and goals included in the 2017 plan, and the Town has already begun relying on the 2017 plan after the Board adopted the draft plan in February.   

As discussed in February, many of the policies and goals included in the 2017 plan are consistent with those in the 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 beach” 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, including appropriate storm water management,
  • continues to support construction of traffic improvements along NC 58 that provide safe and convenient access between the ocean side and sound side, and don’t harm the overall community character,
  • continues to support the development of a mid-island bridge on Bogue Banks to address traffic concerns, and
  • 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 (the “commercial village” concept),
  • promotes the future development of limited centralized wastewater treatment systems to serve the Village East, Village West, and NC 58 commercial 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 received detailed presentations about the 2017 plan earlier this year, and the changes made since February are all relatively minor and do not make any substantive changes to the Town’s policies and goals.  Josh Edmondson, Town Planner, will briefly review the 2017 plan with the Board at the November 14 meeting, and he and I will be available to answer any questions. 

The Board previously advertised and conducted a public hearing prior to adoption of the draft plan in February, and another public hearing has been scheduled for the November 14 meeting.  Following the public hearing, the Board should identify any additional desired changes to the 2017 plan and/or adopt the attached Resolution Adopting 2017 Comprehensive Land Use Plan.  Upon formal adoption by the Board, Town staff will formally submit the plan to the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management for formal review and certification by the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission (CRC).  Following CRC certification, the plan will be submitted to Federal authorities for formal approval.  All State and Federal approvals will likely be received in spring 2018. 

The 2017 Comprehensive Land Use Plan is the result of a very 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 November 14 meeting.