I would like to add the following thoughts to the discussion of the pressing issues that I presented on the home page:
TRAFFIC: I am eager to initiate a serious dialogue with all interested parties, especially N.C. DOT, about our traffic problems with an aim toward devising realistic, cooperative solutions. Looking the other way or throwing up one’s hands is not acceptable. Because I live on Hickory Trail and visit the “low traffic area” on Ocean Blvd. every summertime weekend, I am immersed in traffic and have insights into its flow and patterns that others lack. I have ideas that are outside of “don’t block the box.”
ROADS: In recent years we have seen an increase in unnecessary and expensive road rebuilding that has created curbs, gutters, and storm drainage systems—rainwater now pools where it didn’t before (and mosquitoes breed)—and destroyed too many trees along the right-of-ways. We always should think repair before we think rebuild. As your representative, I would strive to protect our fragile ecosystem, of which trees are a vital part, as well as to preserve the town’s aesthetics and residents’ property values. Southern Shores is not a suburb of Washington, D.C., or Raleigh. I also question the current town council’s emphasis on roads in the woods, rather than roads in the dunes or on the beach.
CLEAR-CUTTING: Human habitation should not mean nature’s decimation. The Southern Shores Civic Assn. drafted an ordinance to prevent the clear-cutting of trees and other vegetation on undeveloped building lots and on lots in which homeowners intend to do major renovation work. The Planning Board held two public hearings on this ordinance this fall. This is the second draft clear-cutting ordinance presented to the Board this year. I supported the SSCA’s effort, in principle, but believed the ordinance required substantial modification. I would like to work on fashioning an ordinance that would protect the Southern Shores environment and way of life. Property owners must consider the general welfare of the town and all of its residents when they plan development.
FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY: Southern Shores is now paying excessive sums for road-rebuilding projects that incite resident opposition, detract from the appeal of our community and the value of our homes, and too often require remediation. Southern Shores exceeded the original budget projections for the canal dredging project by millions—and paid $123,500 this year to settle a breach-of-contract lawsuit filed by an aggrieved contractor. Our town manager is the highest compensated town manager on the Outer Banks: He annually receives, in salary and benefits combined, about $184,000.
Considering that Southern Shores only consists of 4 square miles and has just 2800 residents, I question these numbers and others I’ve uncovered in budget research. Southern Shores is not Kitty Hawk, which has a FY 2015-16 budget of $7.3 million. The SSCA owns and maintains our common areas; we do not have a serious problem with beach erosion; and our fire department, although it receives some town money, is volunteer. Further:
TAXES: Southern Shores has a strong tax base, with more than 90 percent of all property owners paying their ad valorem taxes in a timely fashion. The FY 2015-16 town budget estimates $2.8 million in property-tax revenue. The town budget also has an undesignated-funds reserve of more than $3 million. No property-tax increase should be suggested by any public officials until the budget has been rigorously analyzed, and the fat trimmed.
ELDERS: I know from personal experience how difficult it is to find reliable, compassionate, competent, and affordable caregiving assistance. I also know how vital independence is to an older person’s identity and sense of well-being. I’d like to hear from elders and their families about their needs and see if, with leadership and initiative, our town of volunteers can help them.
And One More Important Item: The town website needs a radical overhaul. It is unacceptable that residents and property owners cannot go to the website and easily find important town documents, such as the FY 2015-16 budget report filed by the town manager; notices of all town meetings, including those of committees; and other relevant information. Kitty Hawk, KDH, and Nags Head know how to design an open, crystal-clear, and user-friendly website. It’s not that hard. There’s no excuse for the confounding website that Southern Shores maintains.