Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Contractor Earmarked for Currituck Bridge

Here is a quality article found in the TollRoads News by one of the blog readers, Tony, highlighting who is pegged for the bridge when/if we go to construction. Thank you Tony.

ACS selected for Mid Currituck Bridge NC
Posted Fri, 2008-12-19 20:52
ACS Mid Currituck Bridge north carolina turnpike authority
A group led by ACS Infrastructure has been scored highest by staff of North Carolina Turnpike Authority in an assessment of private sector proposals for a possible concession to develop the Mid-Currituck toll bridge in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. ACS is teamed with Dragados, Lochner-MMM lead engineers and environmental, Arup traffic & revenue and Planning Communities public outreach. The project still has to be developed to gain local acceptance and get through environmental permitting with alternative concepts to be studied and compared. And it has to be demonstrated during this first phase that the bridge project is financially viable for it to move on to a toll concession.

Dragados is named as lead contractor with Traylor and Weeks Marine doing bridgeworks, but that is obviously a while off.

ACS beat out groups led by Skanska, Hochtief and Bechtel in the staff scoring.

Reuters carried a report from Madrid Spain where ACS is headquartered that ACS has "won the contract" for the project. North Carolina Turnpike Authority confirm that ACS is the top scorer and that ACS will be first in line in negotiations for a contract. But there is no contract yet.

The intitial contract will be for project development work to get the project to the stage when it can be designed, financed and built. This is being called a Predevelopment Agreement (PDA) and Steve DeWitt of North Carolina Turnpike says they hope to have this detailed and signed by the end of February.

The project development work will be shared between ACS and the turnpike authority and will provide that ACS will have first choice to negotiate a toll concession if the project proves viable. DeWitt of NCTA says the project development work should be complete by mid-2010.

At issue is improving mobility between the mainland and the barrier islands immediately south of the Virginia border on the Atlantic coast - often referred to as the Northern Beaches of the Outer Banks - an area of weekender and vacation houses, and motels with both ocean frontage and the sheltered waters of the sound.

One road alternative is improving the existing route mostly on the approach roads on either side of to the existing US158 bridge which is at the southern end of Currituck Sound. The existing Wright Memorial Bridge lands not far from Kitty Hawk, famous for the world's first airplane flight of the Wright brothers a hundred years ago.

Best site for a mid-sound bridge called Mid Currituck Bridge is about 28km (17 miles) to the north of the existing bridge nearer where US185, the main road from I-95 approaches the Sound providing a more direct crossing to many of the northern barrier island communities. That bridge would be about 11km (7 miles) total and about 8km (5 miles) over water landing south of Corolla.

A NCTA presentation earlier this year puts the cost of a 2-lane bridge at $385m. A 4-lane bridge will be looked at too. It would allow higher speed travel and about 3 to 4 minutes time savings. The bridge's capital cost would be perhaps $150m extra, and seems unlikely to be warranted.

Possible improvements to approach roads on either side of a mid-sound bridge range between about $100m and $600m depending on their length and scope. Costs of improving the approach roads are higher for the existing bridge because the roads to be improved are longer, but the bridge cost is avoided.

Total capital costs are not very different.

If there's no new bridge there's no toll concession, Steve DeWitt says. Only a new bridge would be tolled. The Wright Bridge at the south end of the Sound is tax-supported.

Similar project development agreements with a right of first refusal to negotiate a subsequent concession have been done in Texas.




ACS Group

ACS Group or in spanish Grupo ACS is related through a 26% ownership to Abertis and to Hochtief through a 30% ownership. It had sales of about $30b (E21b) in 2007 and profit of $2.2b (E1.6b) and 19k employees with work in many countries. It has about 40 concessions in process.

Its share price at around E31 is about 25% off its high in the past year.


SEMANTICS: the "Pre" in Predevelopment Agreement seems misleading since it is an agreement to develop before you go to a detailed concession and design, financing and construction, which makes it a Pre-concession Agreement or a Development Agreement.

TOLLROADSnews 2008-12-19

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ocean-Carova Corp gets approval for subdivision in 4WD area of Outer Banks.

As has been reported here in previous posts, the proposed reconfiguration of the 19 los into 29 residential lots was approved by County Commissioners at the Dec 15th, 2008 meeting. I have included a link of the minutes below for those interested. There are still some hurdles to overcome with various agencies, but getting past the county was a major step. These parcels will be 2.5+ acres a piece if all goes through. I might even put my name on one....Here's the details.

County to try Dredging Whalehead Club basin....again

The County has hired the director of the agency that denied the dredging the last time. I guess if all else fails, hire the guy who knows how to get it through the system. Seems like his moral compass just did a 180, but what do I know about it? Here's the article from th VA pilot:

By Jeff Hampton
The Virginian-Pilot
© December 21, 2008
A former director of a state environmental agency that has opposed dredging the Currituck Sound could help Currituck County get permission to dig a boat route to The Whalehead Club.

Charles Jones, former director of the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management, has already met with local officials and is expected to work as a consultant in the county's third attempt to get a permit to dredge a channel to The Whalehead Club boat basin.

Jones retired from the agency last year and has become a private consultant.

Plans are to allow public access to the basin, created decades ago when hunters moored their rigs there. Several of Currituck's preserved historic boats could be docked there for viewing by the more than 10,000 annual visitors to The Whalehead Club.

But the way from deeper water to the boat basin has filled in over the years. Propellers from even small boats strike the bottom trying to pass through. The old channel needs to be dug out to about 4 feet, said Horace Bell, chairman of The Whalehead Preservation Trust.

State and federal environmental agencies, including the Division of Coastal Management, have opposed dredging in the Currituck Sound, saying it would disturb sub-aquatic vegetation and damage fish-breeding habitat.

Jones' expertise can help with the latest permitting, Bell said.

"We want to put some horsepower behind it this time," he said. "All we're interested in is the historic channel."

Old maps, Whalehead Club records, photographs and local stories provide evidence that a channel led to the boat basin at The Whalehead Club at least since Pennsylvania businessman Edward Knight built the lodge in the 1920s.

In 1996, Currituck County applied for a permit to dredge a channel to the Whalehead boat basin 2,250 feet long, 55 feet wide and 6 feet deep. The county gave up on the permit after a year of objections from environmental agencies.

Four years later, the county hired Environmental Professionals Inc. of Kill Devil Hills to apply again. This time, the channel proposal was reduced to 1,900 feet long, 50 feet wide and 5 feet deep.

The state, backed by several federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, denied the permit in a letter dated Sept. 13, 2000.

In May 2004, ferry employees were reported for prop washing not far from the Whalehead boat basin. The ferry division planned to build a docking area for a passenger ferry to carry students from Corolla to the mainland. The employees were found guilty of charges related to illegal disturbance of the sound bottom.

State and federal environmental agencies forced the ferry division to refill the dredged area.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Another option for high speed internet in 4WD area of Outer Banks

Internet Service providers (ISP's) and their reliability has been a very difficult thing in the remote beaches of the Northern Outer Banks. One could make the case that you don't need any internet in such an area, which I actually agree with, but if only to keep current with my semi-famous blog.....

Embarq now offers ISDN service in the 4x4 area. Internet, free VOIP, security systems and video can now be used in the off-road area. Embarq supplies a free modem for a plug-in installation. Bundling a number of services together will save you a few bucks overall. Just remember, their tech support is not local which if you rent your house can be frustrating to your guests. Just tell them that the best surfing on the Outer Banks involves a board and wax.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

NC creating another agency to manage the Coast

I don't know folks, depends if you are a half-empty or a half-full type of person. I like the intent and the mission statement of the Beach & Inlet Management Plan, but I could say that about a lot of agencies I deal with on the Outer Banks that seem to encourage red tape too. I am excited to see one particular statement in the article below from the VA pilot, I have highlighted it.

By Catherine Kozak
The Virginian-Pilot
© December 12, 2008
Considering the web of federal, state, county and municipal plans and studies that already exist, it may seem that the last thing North Carolina needs is another bureaucracy to manage its coast.

Even the acronym for the state's first Beach and Inlet Management Plan - BIMP - seems to lack the gravitas of its stated mission: development of a comprehensive regional strategy for management of 326 miles of barrier islands and 19 tidal inlets.

Rather than adding to bureaucratic bloat, the plan is intended to streamline planning, speed permitting, improve coordination, promote pooling of resources and create a clearinghouse for coastal data on beaches and inlets, all on a regional scale.

It will assess ongoing activities, provide the framework for additional work and ultimately develop a long-term approach to sustain the coast.

"What we really want to do with this effort is take what we've learned in the last 30 to 35 years and figure out what to do in the next 30 to 40 years," Steve Underwood, assistant director of the Division of Coastal Management, said at a public meeting on Thursday.

In a later interview, Underwood said the plan may sound overly ambitious, but the goal is to stay ahead of the curve with looming climate change challenges facing the state. Also, conditions in the southern and northern regions of the coast are not the same and should not be managed the same.
Four regions and numerous subregions have been established. Management strategies will be developed for each region, incorporating ecological, economic and sociopolitical factors that could affect inlet and beach management.

"I would argue that we are right out in front in making that approach to coastal management," he said. "I think people are going to have to look at a different way of doing things."

As it stands now, Underwood said, there is no comprehensive plan that prioritizes projects, no long-term funding plan, no sea-level rise plan, no centralized repository for masses of data.

"We also pursue coastal projects on a case-by-case, project-by-project basis without considering the regional implications of those projects on the system as a whole," he said in an e-mail. "This approach leads to a more reactive way of dealing with coastal management issues versus a more proactive approach."

Part of the early impetus for establishing the beach and inlet plan, Underwood said, was frustration with coordinating sediment management projects with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Various factors - cost, sand travel, shoaling - have contributed to loss of sediment in the coastal system, an undesirable consequence when beaches are eroding and sand sources for replenishment are few.

More recently, the Corps and Coastal Management have been working closely together in study and funding of sediment resources, he said.

Coastal Management and the state Division of Water Resources partnered to develop the initial beach and inlet management plan, which was recommended in the state Coastal Habitat Protection Plan in 2004 and mandated by legislation passed in 2000 by the General Assembly.

So far, $1 million has been appropriated for the plan, although $250,000 of it is frozen in the fiscal year 2008- 09 state budget. The final report is to be presented to the legislature in April.

Public input, as well as interagency and local government cooperation, is critical to the success of the plan, Underwood said.

"No one has really come to the table for an overarching plan or an idea for bringing all these groups together," he said.

That could even translate into something as cost- and time-saving as regionwide environmental impact statements, or other management changes.

"I think we can do things a little quicker and be smoother about it because we have this information right there," he said. "There'll have to be tangible, real things."

For more information, visit: www.ncbimp.net

Catherine Kozak, (252) 441-1711, cate.kozak@pilotonline.com

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Bowden gets proper send-off

While opinions have varied from time to time about his views, his level of service and dedication are unquestionable. Mr. Bowden has provided a level of effort to the community that we wish could be seen by many others. 30 years rolls of the tongue with ease, but working for the Currituck community for 10,950 days offers better perspective. First class Mr. Bowden, Thank you.

Photo and article provided from the Daily Advance:
Bowden, 84, served county 30 years
Staff Writer

Thursday, December 04, 2008

CURRITUCK — Wearing a grey western style suit with camel-colored cowboy boots, the 84-year-old outgoing Currituck Commissioner Ernie Bowden strolled through his send-off party looking a little bit country, and a little bit rock ‘n’ roll.

The catered reception, held at the historic county courthouse Monday night, was held to honor Bowden’s three decades of public service to the county.

Attended by more than 30 guests, including all seven board members, County Manager Dan Scanlon, Planning Director Ben Woody, and several members of Bowden’s family, it was the first reception in Currituck history held for an outgoing commissioner.

“I was deeply humbled,” Bowden said reflecting on the party. “I cannot say how much I appreciate what the county did for me.”

After losing the primary election earlier this year, the District 1 commissioner is stepping down from office. But ask Bowden if he has plans to run for office again in 2010, and he might just say it’s a possibility.

“I don’t know if I’ll run again,” Bowden said laughing. “It depends on the circumstances I suppose, but I never say never.”

Those that know him well aren’t surprised with Bowden’s conceivable future run for office, witnessing firsthand his tireless dedication to the county.

“When (Bowden) gives his word, or a handshake on something, that’s it, he follows through,” Commissioner Gene Gregory said remembering his service with Bowden the past 15 years. “There aren’t too many people like that anymore, it will truly be a loss to the board.”

Bowden says he was first motivated to run for the Fruitville Township seat in 1976 after a long delay occurred with a governmental board and other groups who were unable to move forward with a connection route from Virginia to N.C. Highway 12 in Corolla.

The access road, Bowden says, was marketed to prospective residential buyers interested in moving to Carova Beach at that time.

Owning many acres of property in the Corova Beach area, Bowden became fundamentally involved in the first-ever residential development project in Carova Beach, managing lots, assisting with subdividing the properties, and creating right-of-ways.

“What predicated my entry into politics was when I learned this road would not become a reality, and I didn’t see anyone indicating an interest in accommodating the people who bought property there,” he said.

At the encouragement of others, Bowden began to get involved in local politics, attending commissioners meetings, chairing the Outer Banks Civil Team, and eventually running for Currituck’s Board of Commissioners in 1976.

Bowden served 12 two-year terms as county commissioner from 1976 to 1980, 1984 to 1988, and 1992 to 2008. He also served one term as board chairman in 1994.

Bowden has even been around long enough to have served with every county manager in the history of Currituck, as the county manager form of government was adopted in 1974,

Looking back on his many years in office, Bowden says he never came to a point where he wanted to exit politics.

“I don’t think I ever wanted to (leave office). I have always felt like I had something to contribute to the county,” he said.

More than three decades later, Bowden has seen numerous changes in the county, primarily growth-related.

In 1976, there were 8,500 residents county wide, nine people who worked in the sheriff’s office, and about 40 people working in administrative positions, Bowden said.

Today, there are about 23,000 residents, 117 people in the Sheriffs office, and about 400 people working in administrative positions.

“We had a budget of $3 million when I joined the board in 1976,” Bowden said. “This year, we adopted a budget of $63 million.”

But even if Bowden never returns to state politics, he says he will be most proud of the high level of commitment to exemplary education within the county.

“There are many rewarding experiences I’ve encountered over the years, but I have to rate the development of our education system as extremely high, and I’m very proud of it,” he said.

For the many public officials he served with, he will be remembered as the consummate southern gentleman, a man of great wisdom and a friend to the county.

“I’ve worked these (30) years for the county not because I had to but because I wanted to,” Bowden said. “I thank you all for allowing me to serve you through the years and I’m always a phone call away.”

Bowden offered two final pieces of wisdom to the incoming board and first-time commissioners.

“My advice to the board and especially the new commissioners is to leave their ego at home, and come to the meetings with an open mind,” Bowden said. “If they can do that they’ll do all of us proud.”

Monday, November 17, 2008

Commercial Historic Overlay District Denied.

Here's the follow-up in the local Daily Advance by Brenda Kleman from the BOC meeting as reported previously:

By Brenda Kleman

CURRITUCK — Carova residents came out in full force Monday and once again managed to thwart attempts to open up the off-road Swan Beach district to more intense development.

About 70 residents and several environmental advocates filled the Board of Commissioner’s meeting room to oppose developer Gerald Friedman’s request to amend the county’s Unified Development Ordinance to create an off-road historic village overlay district in Swan Beach.

Following a long session of public comment, the board voted unanimously to kill the proposed amendment.

If approved, the action would have opened the door to allow overlay districts on parcels greater than 20 acres for shops, professional offices, churches, convenience stores and inns.

Twenty-eight people urged the board to deny the amendment claiming that it would entice more tourists to converge on the quiet residential village and exasperate public safety and environmental concerns.

Carova resident Elizabeth White said, “Over the last few weeks there has been overwhelming, consistent, strong opposition by the general public to any type of commercial development in the off-road area.”

She added that 1,000 tourists and property owners signed a petition opposing the overlay district.

But Friedman argued that opening up the area to commercial use would help stimulate the economy and increase the county’s tax base. He added that when his Swan Beach property was platted and approved by the Board of Commissioners in 1969, it included both residential and commercial uses.

“My rights to my property are just as important as your rights to your property,” Friedman said.

Several residents told the commissioners that the overlay district and commercial development were inconsistent with the policies of the 2006 Land Use Plan. One of them, Lynn Wilson added that the LUP and state statutes prohibit local leaders from approving development in areas of environmental concern.

Karen McCalpin, director of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, said that she adamantly opposes Carova commercial development as it would jeopardize the public safety and welfare of the horses that are a big part of Currituck’s history. But, Friedman told the commissioners that the horses have 17,000 acres and he only has 25.

Edna Baden, with the Whalehead Trust, said that opening the area to commercial development would hurt the county’s nature tourism since Carova is a relatively undisturbed area that has a wildlife refuge and the horses. She added that it would affect the county’s eco-tourism, which is becoming the nation’s fastest growing segment of tourism.

Former Fire Chief Marshall Cherry said that hotels and commercial businesses would greatly increase tourism and create huge demands for fire and rescue services.

Friedman’s representatives asked the commissioners to put aside emotions associated with the overlay district and consider the legalities. His attorney, Bryan Plumlee, said that his client has a vested right to develop the property since the Board of Commissioners, in 1969, approved his plat which allows for both residential and commercial development.

Plumlee added that Friedman entered into a contractual agreement with the 1969 board and that it should be honored.

However, county attorney Ike McRee disagreed saying that at the time H.D. Newbern, as commissioner chairman, signed off on the plat, there was no zoning ordinance in effect. He added that after zoning was adopted, Freidman never developed the property for commercial uses and therefore has no vested rights.

McRee also said that no site plan for the property was ever submitted and approved, and that North Carolina does not have laws pertaining to contract zoning. He advised the commissioners to use their discretion based on laws and the Land Use plan.

Chairman Barry Nelms motioned to oppose the text amendment and the rest of the board agreed.

Afterwards, when asked if he would pursue legal action, Plumlee said, “The county seems to leave me no other option.”

As of 1 min ago, all 5 Commissioners denied the request for Commercial development in Swan Beach. More information to follow in the next days. To watch the Commissioners' meeting video, click here

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Planning Board Hear's Ocean-Carova Request To Reconfigure Carova Beach Lots

Here are the meeting minutes from a recent planning board meeting:

PB 08-41 Bissell Professional Group - Text Amendment for RO2 Roads and
Lots: Request to amend UDO Chapter 9: Infrastructure; Chapter 2: Zoning
Districts; and Chapter 10: Subdivision Requirements to allow existing larger
parcels to be re-subdivided into open space subdivisions in the RO2 zoning
district with sand roads that follow the configurations of previously approved
roads and lots (Carova Beach, Swan Beach, etc.) Mark Bissell, Bissell Professional Group, Larry Riggs, Ocean Sands Corporation and Lynne Wilson appeared before the board. Mr. Webb presented the following case analysis to the board.
Link for case analysis for PB 08-41 Bissell Professional Group - Text
Amendment for RO2 Roads and Lots

Mr. Kovacs stated if this text amendment was approved by the Planning Board it
would set a precedent on the Outer Banks, as well as the mainland requiring the
same consideration.
Mr. Webb stated this request is only pertaining to the RO2 zoning district.
Mr. West asked if this was approved, how many new lots would be created.
Mr. Webb stated approximately 548 additional lots.
Mr. Kovacs referred to the ocean lots asking if a storm comes through and
washes away part of this lot, would they now be non-conforming lots?
Mr. Webb stated it would be regulated by Coastal Management regulations and
not county regulations. Once a lot is platted even if at a later date it becomes a
non-conforming lot, the county ordinance allows you to build a house.
Subdivision approval occurs at a point in time; basically you take a snapshot of
all the ordinances in place at that time and create a subdivision.
Mr. Kovacs asked if this is approved will the general business go away with this
Mr. Webb stated that there is currently no general business zoning in the RO2
Mr. Bissell stated it is a misunderstanding on the 548 lots. There is no difference
in the number of lots developed if this amendment is adopted vs. the number of lots developed if it is not passed. Mr. Bissell stated it is not 548 lots, but it is
closer to none. The minimum lot size is 2.75 acres and it is just a difference in
how you configure the lots.
Mr. Woody stated that unless you had these lots surveyed, you would not know if
there is a net increase in lots.
Mr. Bissell stated the purpose is not to get more lots; the purpose is to get lots
that are more appropriate with the configuration of the parcels in the
development. Mr. Bissell stated that the residents are concerned with minimizing
the clearing of the Maritime Forrest in a traditional tract of land. The 7:1 ratio is a
benefit because you have 70% less roadway than you would have with a 4:1
Mr. Riggs provided an overview of the history in this area.
Mr. Bissell stated if they went with a 4:1 ratio in Section 2 they would end up with
2 ocean front lots instead of 3 and 5 interior lots instead of 4.
Mr. West stated with the 4:1 ratio you would have fewer ocean front lots, but
more internal lots.
Ms. Turner asked why the open space language needs to be in the text
amendment since there are no existing open space parcels.
Mr. Woody stated that zoning districts have standards that are unique to that
zoning district, which is why the open space language is included in this request.
Mr. Bissell stated they have had a local meeting and there was also a meeting at
the local fire department which was well attended.
Mr. Woody stated he attended both meetings. Both the applicant and citizens
worked diligently and tried to find compromises. All parties have worked hard to
find a solution.
Ms. Wilson stated she lives in North Swan Beach and she represents the four
wheel drive community. She attended the meeting at the local fire department
and had another meeting with Mr. Bissell, Mr. Riggs and Mr. Woody. They had
many concerns which were addressed and corrected. The biggest concern is the
7:1 reconfiguration. Mr. Bissell stated with the 7:1 ratio there will be less roads
and maritime forest disturbance. The concept of an open space subdivision, if it
doesn’t result in more lots, is very appealing if it only involves the reconfiguration of lots. Ms. Wilson stated they were very appreciative of Mr. Bissell addressing their concerns, including some concerns that were safety issues. Ms. Wilson stated that in all fairness, speaking for the community this proposal has
presented them with many challenges, but they have been discussed and met
and they have come to an agreement that they are not protesting this request.
Mr. Webb stated that the applicant can take all these parcels and do a single
recombination. By doing this amendment, it saves the applicant six to eight
months in process.
Ms. Turner stated that in the proposal they are not taking back deeded open
space and re-subdividing it; how do you reword this in the text amendment?
The board discussed how it would be reworded in the text amendment. It was
suggested in Item 3, D. add the word “proposed” before open space. It would
read “proposed lots and proposed open space”.
Mr. Bissell stated that the proposed open space would be offered to the county
and if they did not want it, it would be offered to a conservation group.
The board discussed who owns the property from the property line to the ocean.
Mr. Webb stated the property owner, but he cannot restrict public use.

Ms. Turner motioned to recommend approval of the Text Amendment for RO2
Roads and Lots with staff recommendations and the addition of language added
to Item 3, D. “proposed” open spaces. Mr. Winter seconded the motion. Ayes:
Ms. Turner, Mr. Bell, Mr. Keel, Mr. Kovacs and Mr. Winter. Nays: Mr. West and
Mr. Midgette.

Currituck County Commissioner Election Results

From the Currituck County's website produced the election results updates below. Also see the following links for local articles on the election:

Republicans Sweep Currituck
Victors to work with Dems

November 4 Election Results

Currituck County Board of Commissioners Adds New Members

Voters in Currituck County participated in a historic election on November 4, 2008, both in the national election for President and in local races as the county's Board of Commissioners expands from five members to seven.

Incumbent Republican Commissioner Owen Etheridge won his re-election bid in District 4, and three new members gained seats in other races. Republican Vance Aydlett, Jr. was elected in District 1, Republican John D. Rorer won election in District 2, and Republican Paul O'Neal was elected to the Board's new At-Large seat.

The four newly elected commissioners will join three current members - Democratic Commissioners Barry Nelms, Gene Gregory and Janet Taylor - to form Currituck's first seven-member Board of Commissioners. The new Board of Commissioners will officially be seated in December 2008.

For more information regarding the November 4 Election, contact the Currituck Board of Elections at 232-2525.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Candidates don't want the "No Bridge Option"

All: Sorry for the delay but I have been out of town visiting extended family. Here's an article by the Daily Advance's Jennifer Preyss on where some candidates for commissioner stand on the bridge options.

Staff Writer

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Candidates for the Currituck Board of Commissioners say they’d support a state highway improvementoption that includes building a Mid-Currituck bridge and the least amount of road widening.

Five candidates shared their views on the proposed N.C. Turnpike Authority project during several recent community forums, and all agreed that the agency’s no-bridge option likely won’t be an option.

“My heart tells me one thing and my head tells me another,” said Republican District 1 candidate Vance Aydlett. “If the no-bridge option is really not realistic, then I would support (the third option).”

The third, also referred to as option MCB4, would cost $480 million and include the least amount of road widening on Highways U.S. 158 and N.C. 12.

The first “no-bridge” option, also called ER2, is the least costly at $315 million, but features extensive widening of both highways.

The second option (called MCB2) is the most expensive at $635 million. It also includes building a bridge across the Currituck Sound, from south of Coinjock on the mainland to south of Corolla on the Outer Banks. It also includes more road widening than the third option, including all of N.C. 12 from Corolla to the Wright Memorial Bridge.

Joining Aydlett in supporting the third option were Democrat at-large candidate Stanley Griggs, Democrat District 4 candidate Johnny Messina, Republican District 2 candidate John Rorer and Republican District 4 incumbent Owen Etheridge.

The Turnpike Authority will soon release an environmental impact study of the three alternatives for the Mid-Currituck toll-bridge project.

Officials anticipate awarding the project contract in early 2010 and project opening to traffic sometime in 2013.

The project is expected to improve traffic flow between U.S. 158 and N.C. 12, while reducing travel time between Currituck’s Outer Banks and the mainland. Also, in the event of a hurricane, the bridge will help reduce evacuation time.

While the no-bridge option was not originally part of the design, the turnpike authority was encouraged to include that alternative after recommendations from environmental agencies and reviewing public comments from public forums.

Many of the candidates however, agree the no-bridge option simply isn’t viable.

Adylett, among others, said they supportminimal road widening that the third option offers, although he noted concern for residents who live near the proposed bridge construction site.

“I’m concerned what will happen to them, it’s really a tough decision.”

Griggs agreed.

“I think third is the best option, but what needs to be decided now, is if that will adequately handle the traffic,” Griggs said.

But even while determining how traffic will increase in with the addition of the bridge, Griggs said the bridge will not attract an overwhelming flow of cars.

“(Traffic increase) is not going to be two-fold, it will be a modest increase at most.”

Messina, who also supports the third option, said he’d like to see the least amount of road widening down N.C. 12.

“I definitely think (the third option) will help with traffic, but we want to be careful about the road widening there,” Messina said.

Rorer said he favors the third option because it is the “only reasonable alternative.”

“(Third) is the least expensive and disruptive of the toll bridge options,” Rorer said.

Etheridge, who is up for re-election, said he will never support the no-bridge option because of the potential harm the extensive road widening.

“I will never agree to have road widening from one end of the county to the other,” Etheridge said. “It would devastate the county.”

Etheridge also favors the third option because it has the least amount of road widening on N.C. 12.

“With (the third), we could always go back and make adjustments later,” he said. “(It) would have the least amount of harm.”

In addition to the bridge proposals themselves, the turnpike authority has outlined two prospective termini locations within the second and third options.

Known as C1 and C2, the exit points are located within two miles of each other.

Bridge terminus C1, would end in the Corolla Bay subdivision, while C2 would end two miles south near Albacore Street.

Each candidate interviewed agreed C1 was the better terminus choice because Corolla Bay has substantially less congestion that the C2 location, near Albacore Street.

“There’s less development in Corolla Bay, and it gives the public more input on development near the bridge,” Messina said.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Bridge Plans Moving Forward, Narrowed Down To 3 Options

The NC TurnPike Authority has recently released their newsletter in October 2008 that inicates that the financial feasibility study is complete. There have been 4 proposers to make the list for the project. Additionally, the NCTA has narrowed down the Mid-Currituck Bridge Project to the following three options:

One option, ER2, includes not building the bridge but improving and widening US 158 and RT 12. This would involve a '6-8 lane Superstreet' between the Wright Memorial Bridge and Rt 12 whereby entering sidestreet traffic could only turn right.

The second option, MCB2, involves a combination of building the bridge AND making road widenings along US 158 and Rt12. Road widenings would not be to the extent of the first option, ER2.

The third option, MCB4, is more of a straight bridge only the least amount of road widening manipulations of existing infrastructure.

Up next in 2009 will be the draft and final environmental impact statement with an outcome decision hopefully to be had in late 2009. I'll update as more information becomes available. For the latest and most detailed information, visit the NCTA's website directly.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Outer Banks Tourism remains robust in current economy

Reports of year to date through August show that the Outer Banks still has a healthy tourism industry. Below is the full article from the Virginian-Pilot's Catherine Kozak:

Amid rocky economy, tourism sailed along in Outer Banks

By Catherine Kozak
The Virginian-Pilot
© October 3, 2008
Despite belt-tightening by the traveling public, Dare County showed a healthy increase in dollars spent in August on accommodations.

"This is probably the biggest August we've ever had in the 11 years we've been keeping records," Carolyn McCormick, managing director of the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, said Thursday.

Gross occupancy receipts were up 13.7 percent over August 2007, with travelers spending almost $96 million on motels, hotels, campgrounds, cottage courts and rental homes, the bureau reported.

McCormick said the Labor Day weekend that began on Aug. 29, the month's fifth weekend, may have affected some of the data comparisons, because the holiday weekend started in one month and ended in another. But variables are typically factored in when calculating the numbers.

Even so, the good news for Dare County, she said, is the figures show that although many visitors may be pinching pennies, they're coming to the Outer Banks and staying at least one night.

"What we have is a convergence of things," McCormick said. "People are still traveling, but they're spending less money when it comes to things like a T-shirt.

"We are closer to more people," she said. "We are easy to get to. We are a safe, beautiful place."

From Jan. 1 through Aug. 31, gross occupancy figures - net dollars spent on an overnight accommodation - show an increase of 3.9 percent over 2007, according to a bureau news release. Receipts for prepared meals in August increased 2.8 percent over last year.

But all is not rosy; August visitation figures have shown a downturn at some sites. At the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island, for instance, there were 51,468 visitors in 2008, compared with 55,279 in 2007; the Whalebone Welcome Center had 7,353 visitors in 2008 and 8,466 in 2007; Aycock Brown Welcome Center had 45,241 this year and 47,310 last year; the Cape Hatteras visitor center had 65,629 visitors this year and 66,496 last year; and the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry had 152,308 passengers in 2008 and 178,682 in 2007.

Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, Wright Brothers National Memorial, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and Cape Hatteras National Seashore, however, all showed increases in August visitation.

McCormick said the bureau has worked to counter the weak economy by stepping up advertising, even through the summer. It has also capitalized on the just-released "Nights in Rodanthe" movie, which was shot on the Outer Banks, with partnerships and national and overseas marketing.

But McCormick said she knows that the country, and as a consequence, the tourism industry, faces a tough year ahead.

"I'm worried about the credit situation," she said, "because a lot of people do put their vacations on credit."

Catherine Kozak, (252) 441-1711, cate.kozak@pilotonline.com

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Carova Beach Park Open For Business

As many of you have seen the Carova Beach Park is now open to all. Tab Winborne, owner of the Tab Winborne Corporation and general contractor for the construction of the project finished the park (ahead of schedule) in early September. I asked him to give me the park's latest update and his email reply was as follows:


Thank you for your recent inquiry about the Carova Beach Park.

The park was completed in August and opened to the public in Early September. The park has become a destination for people in the area. By truck, by foot and by boat everyone stops in. Any time during the day you can find people walking their dogs, fishing and crabbing on the bulkhead and walks or picnicking under one of the 4 shelters. The park is equipped with a professional size volley ball court, horseshoe pits, grills and did I mention it has the only public restrooms in the 4 x 4 area.

Since your last update the County realized there was a need for a larger gathering area. So an additional picnic shelter was added to the three original shelters. The new and largest shelter is over 1800 square foot with a concrete slab, 8 x 8 support post and fancy rafter tails. The big shelter, with views along the water front, has 6 large picnic tables and grills. This shelter is perfect for a reunion, gathering, community meeting or church group.

The footprint of the park allows plenty of room for expansion. The county has welcomed input from the community. I have had several people inquire about a playground & swings for children (yes, my children have their fingers crossed). I would encourage your readers to contact the Managers office if they have ideas.

There was a request to hold off on the boat ramp and investigate the possibility of dredging the entire canal area along the park. We are in the process of the permit stage to acquire another major CAMA permit required for the additional dredging. The standard review for this type of permit is expected to take nine months. We hope the boat ramp will be installed by next summer.

The pier, bulkhead and walks currently allow for 8 mooring slips and the possibility to up-graded to 10 if more room is needed.

We are very proud of the park and honored the County choose our firm to complete the project. This park will be a great addition to the community.

Tab Winborne
Tab Winborne Corporation
757 237 2802

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Commercial Development in Swan Beach

Unlike previously reported, we seem to now have confirmation that the proposal is moving forward for the commercial component in Swan beach. Here's the report from the Virginia Pilot's Jeff Hampton.

By Jeff Hampton
The Virginian-Pilot
© September 25, 2008

Plans have resurfaced for a commercial development, including a 50-room inn, on the northern Currituck Outer Banks where wild horses roam.

Residents in Currituck's four-wheel drive area have begun mustering opposition, as they did four years ago, when the project was withdrawn.

Developer Gerald Friedman of Norfolk wants the Currituck County Board of Commissioners to amend the development ordinance to allow "off road historic village commercial overlay" districts. If that passes, commissioners would be asked to designate Friedman's 25.77-acre site on Ocean Pearl Road and Albatross Lane in Swan Beach as such a district.

Allowed uses, all of which are listed in Friedman's plan, include a 50-room inn, a convenience store, county services such as a fire department, a church, professional offices and apartments.

Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the request at the Nov. 17 board meeting, said Ben Woody, director of the county planning department.

Residents have created a blogspot that includes a link to a petition against the project.

"This is the last sanctuary for the wild horses," Lynne Wilson, a resident and member of the Northern Currituck Beaches Task Force, said in an e-mail. "Commercialization would certainly bring an end to their safety and ultimately their freedom. Where will they go?"

Wilson said residents are concerned that if overlay districts are approved, they could be applied anywhere in the northern Currituck Outer Banks.

The project envisioned by Friedman was first proposed in 2004 but withdrawn from the agenda of a Board of Commissioners meeting in 2005. At the time, the planning staff and the planning board did not recommend the project, basing their decisions largely on the county's land-use plan, which calls for the four-wheel-drive area to remain sparsely developed. Three weeks ago, Friedman's attorney asked county officials to reactivate the approval process.

The north beach communities were platted in the 1960s and 1970s with plans for a future paved road. On old plats, the tract proposed for the commercial overlay district was labeled as a business district. Currituck officials maintain the old maps do not override the residential zoning there.

Friedman has owned and paid taxes on the property since 1966, he said Wednesday. The business district was part of a contract signed by county officials at the time and filed with the plats, he said.

"I hope the county has enough class to honor their contract," Friedman said.

The herd of wild horses roams in about 17,000 acres between a fence that runs from ocean to sound north of Corolla to another fence at the Virginia line about 12 miles north. Horses often graze around homes there. But much of the area remains undeveloped, owned by the state and federal governments.

Jeff Hampton, (252) 338-0159, jeff.hampton@pilotonline.com

Previous Post from 9-24-08

I received a comment on the last post that I felt should be brought out in the form of another post.

I understand there are a few proposals for commercial development in the four wheel drive area. I am very curious about all of them. I do some retail business and wonder if there is the possibility of retail opening up up there.

I have heard, though I am making an effort to confirm directly, that there may be a proposal presented to the county commissioners again at their November 17th meeting to make a UDO amendment to create an Off Road Historic Village Commercial Overlay District on the North end of Swan Beach. The developer, Swan Beach Corolla, LLC, initially attempted something similar to this in 2005 but removed it from the agenda before the Board was to take action. It appears this is a very similar plan or a reinstatement of that plan. One group opposed to such a plan has posted a copy of the request on their blog. I'll update more as I receive verifiable information.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Outcome of the Public Hearing regarding the Development Proposals in Carova

The Currituck Couty Commissioners voted in favor (4-1) to approve the measure. The minutes from the meeting and the Video of the session can be found here

Previous Post:

It is apparent from the response and phone calls that the last post entry was not comprehensive enough for many of you. Let me clarify what the public hearing is about and give a little history.

There are three large areas in the Carova Beach subdivision that were originally platted for business use though never actually zoned as commercial property; one area by the fire station, one area at MP 23, and one area at the Virginia line.

Now the owner/developer of the Carova parcels, Ocean-Carova, would like to reconfigure the large parcels into residential building sites to be sold off in the future. These lots will be much larger than the current Carova single family residential lots because they have to conform to current Currituck County lot size requirements, thus the density will be much less than what currently exists. Additionally, the developers are proposing that a number of acres be deeded to Currituck County for its land bank. Those who champion less development and no commercial activity should be thrilled at the proposal as this is probably the best case scenario for lower density while still maintaining some economic viability for the developers.

Here's where the public hearing comes into play: Since all three parcels have portions in the Area of Environmental Concern (AEC), it falls into the Coastal Resources Commission's CAMA jurisdiction. CAMA (Coastal Area Management Act)is enforced by the CRC who reviewed the proposal and noticed that there were certain breaks in the dune line that were being used as driving easements that were not platted to be there. Additionally, there are easements that have been platted to exist that are not being utilized. So, the CRC indicated that it was their preference that instead of blocking off the illegal dune cross-overs and bulldozing the dunes where the easements should be, why not just establish easements where people are driving and remove the platted easements that have not been physically cut in? Ultimately the theory is that there will be less frontal dune disturbance that way. To make such a shift of easements requires a public hearing, so there you have it. Note: The easements only impact land between Sandfiddler Road and the Ocean.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Re-establishing Northern most Carova Roads

Currituck Planning Dept received a proposal for the 3 northern, formerly commercial sections, in Carova to accommodate residential lots. Below is the article from the Daily Advance by staff writer, Jennifer Preyss. (Note it is Carova, not Corova)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Currituck's planning director says revised plans for several sand streets in Corova Beach do not call for the streets to be closed.

Ocean Corova developers Larry Riggs and Glenn Gray have submitted a proposal that would decrease the size of the existing business plats to make way for oceanfront homes. Several decades ago, though, the land was zoned for residential use but was platted for a business district. So, the existing plats must be scaled down to an appropriate size for home building, said Ben Woody, the planning director.

The lots vary in size, but each block is several acres and far too large to build an average-sized home on.

In the process of decreasing the size of the blocks to accommodate a new residential neighborhood, several of the existing nearby sand roads will need to be re-established and moved.

Residents have expressed concern that Ocean Corova developers' request to change the business blocks may result in the closing of Shark Lane, Rock Lane and Shad Lane, where four-wheel-driving is currently permitted.

"(The developers) are not closing the roads, they're moving streets to combine streets," Woody said.

Planning maps indicate the lanes run in straight lines toward the ocean, passing over dune areas. But the existing roads are incompatible for new development. The recommended right-of-way size is too small and the roads cannot accommodate two-lane driving.

In addition, Woody says that many drivers simply ignore the sand street parameters because they are an off-road area.

"(Drivers) will actually drive off Shark Lane, sometimes ending up in Riggs' backyard, and they don't even know it," Woody said.

Residents have been hesitant in the past to improve the sand roads because they say doing so would make the area less rural, create additional traffic and congestion, and possibly harm the wild horses and other wildlife.

If Riggs' planning request is granted, the roads would be placed near their original location, but in an area that would make sense for development.

"The only disadvantage to improving the existing (roads) is it would disturb some of the dunes," Woody said. "But (re-establishing) the roads isn't to the detriment of residents."

A public hearing is scheduled for Sept. 2 for members of the community to voice concerns and ask developers questions.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

COBRA Flood Insurance Premiums more attractive and accurate in 4WD area.

As previously stated, I have been working closely with a wholesale and a retail insurance outfit to formulate an flood insurance policy program that more accurately analyzes the risks associated with a dwelling and takes into account a number of factors when determining a policy premium.

The Problem: To date, nearly every policy written has only required an elevation certificate to determine the risk. Having visited Lloyd's of London and witnessed how the end user (insurer) determines the risk, this is very disadvantageous to the homeowner because there are a number of unknowns that the insurer must assume the worst.

The Solution: In addition to providing the elevation certificate data the insurers are used to seeing, help fill in the blanks or unknowns for them so that they do not assume the worst. In the meetings I attended, all of the insurers we spoke with were very open to being supplied more data and indicated they would treat the premiums with more careful consideration. They asked us to provide a premium model that distributed various weights to certain characteristics that would either increase or decrease the premium amount. Characteristics such as distance to the Ocean, primary dune height, total property value, and protection between dwelling and the Ocean, as well as construction style/standards were among a number to be considered.

Test Case 1: I decided to submit a house that is to be a model for what the insurers want to cover and see how low they would consider a home in the most hazardous flood zone, VE. A large Oceanfront home was coming up for renewal and was current paying $11,600 with a $50,000 deductible. They we set back very far from the Ocean, had NO groundfloor enclosure, and a very stable and high primary dune in front of their property. Since it was a renewal, the homeowners (and their bank) were fine with the same $50K deductible. After submitting topo surveys, elevation certificates, plans, photos during and after construction, as well as dune heights and distances to the Ocean, the premium model computed a figure of $5,600 and it was accepted! That was a $6,000 difference for the exact same coverage on the exact same property.

Test Case 2: The second house submitted was a 3rd row house that was under contract and the new owners had to purchase a flood policy. The house did have a ground floor enclosure but the elevation of the grade at the house was 20 ft, 8 ft above the base flood elevation. They too have a good distance from the Ocean even though the dune size is not as prevalent. Additionally, their deductible was $25,000 instead of $50,000. Their premium was placed at $6,800, significantly better than every other quote they received.

Premiums are getting better, or at least more accurate. With lot prices where they are and building code requiring smart construction, new homes will inevitably receive some of the very best rates available. Existing owners, feel free to email me if you want to try and get a better policy. Most existing policies can be refunded after 3 months without penalty.



Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Waterfront Owners in Carova should remain unaffected

I have gotten a number of questions from canalfront owners concerned that their setbacks will be impacted from the new Coastal Stormwater Rules recently approved in North Carolina. The current setback of 30ft from the water will remain UNCHANGED. Currituck County, encompassing all of the Carova area, does not have what is considered to be shellfish waters.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Coastal Stormwater Rules are tweaked with new version passed through Senate Committee

Here's is a recent update from Willo Kelly, the extremely hard working Government Affairs Director for the Outer Banks Realtors and Home Builders, on the latest developments on the Coastal Stormwater Rules:

Special Legislative Alert

July 9, 2008

Stormwater Rules Update:

NC Senate Bill 1967, a bill that would disapprove the March 2008 EMC approved Coastal Stormwater Rules and that would super cede the current Coastal Stormwater Rules that have been in effect since 1995, was approved yesterday by the Senate Committee on Agriculture/Environment/Natural Resources. The bill now goes to the House committee for approval.

To clarify info included in the last Legislative Briefing:

The Coastal Stormwater permitting threshold for residential development is one acre of land disturbance (development which would require a Sedimentation and Erosion Control Plan or that requires a CAMA Major Permit).
If a permit is required, the low-density development thresholds are 12% built-upon area within 1/2 mile of SA Waters and 24% built-upon area outside 1/2 mile of SA Waters. If built-upon area exceeds that percentage, then a project would need to meet the requirements of a high density permit.
The non-residential(commercial, industrial, any development other than residential) permitting threshold for all twenty coastal counties is 10,000 square feet of built-upon area or development that requires a Sedimentation and Erosion Control Plan. There has not been language added to provide relief to those properties less than an acre and not contiguous to other commercial property outside of 1/2 mile of SA waters.
A 50 ft. vegetated buffer (defined in the rules) is required for new development and a maximum 30 ft. buffer is required for redevelopment. These buffer requirements only apply if you need to get a stormwater permit. It was anticipated that this would be changed back to the current 30 ft. requirement since a 50 ft. buffer is more restrictive than Phase II rules and a minimum requirement of a 30 ft. buffer is acceptable under the voluntary Universal Stormwater Management Program.
CAMA wetlands are now the only wetlands being excluded from built-upon area (impervious surface) calculations. The EMC rules excluded all wetlands - 404 and non-404 jurisdictional wetland from built-upon area calculations.
There is a provision [Section 2.(c)] that if you are not required to get a residential stormwater permit (over an acre of land disturbance as described above) but are within 1/2 mile of SA waters and will have residential development over 12% built-upon area and that built-upon area is over 10,000 sq. ft. impervious surface, then you will be required to obtain a special non-renewable, one time only permit which will be recorded with the deed or included with restrictive covenants. In calculating when this provision may apply - you would need a lot that is approx. 85,000 sq. ft for the minimum of 10,000 sq. ft built-upon area AND over the minimum 12 % threshold to kick in. With most towns/Counties allowing only 30% lot coverage - your lot would have to be approx. 33,000 sq. ft. to even be allowed to have 10,000 sq. ft of built-upon area.
Lots that are "platted" are not vested under the current rules. If you have a lot that is part of subdivision that has already been issued a stormwater permit, then you do not have to comply with these rules. Other exclusions to the rules are listed under Section 2.(d).
The effective date of the disapproval of the EMC rules is when the General Assembly adjourns. This is necessary so that the EMC rules do not become effective. The effective date of the implementation of these new rules will be October 1, 2008.
There are exclusions to the vegetative buffer requirement - they are listed under Section 2.(e).
There have been many questions about 15,000 sq. ft. lots in Colington and how would the rules apply to them - They would be exempt because you could not have 2/3 of the lot covered with impervious surfaces (10,000 sq. ft) and you would not have one acre of land disturbance.
A map of SA waters can be found at here. There are no SA waters in Currituck County and only in parts of Dare County.
Senate Bill 1967 is attached and a handy, easy to follow flow-chart outlining the permitting thresholds and requirements of the rules.

Updates will follow as soon as new information becomes available.

Willo Kelly
Government Affairs Director
Outer Banks Home Builders Association
Outer Banks Association of Realtors

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Lloyd's of London meetings on flood insurance for Carova Beach

Many of you know that I recently was asked to go and speak with a number of syndicates at the Lloyd's of London market in the UK. The sole purpose of my being there was to offer full market perspective to the underwriters about how CBRS flood insurance, calculated risk, and current lending and market conditions are interacting in the 4WD Area of the Outer Banks. It is no secret that flood insurance can be rather expensive in certain flood zones of a 'COBRA' area and obtaining coverage essentially forces you to purchase a flood policy through Lloyd's. To date, policy premiums have essentially been designed to have a minimum base premium price. From this base price, the premium gets more expensive if you have certain enclosures, less desirable elevations, etc...

I have always lobbied hard for the fact that there needs to be an "average" premium price for the "typical" home constructed in the 4WD area. From this sort of average standard, homeowners could then be rewarded or penalized with their premiums depending on factors such as elevation, preventative construction standards, groundfloor enclosures, proximity to the ocean, frontal dunes, etc... This method would allow a more accurate assessment of the property and thus a more accurate premium rate.

We further contested that rates should take into consideration all of the factors listed above and more when providing a quote. Currently the underwriters only use an elevation certificate with their application. They have no indication for such things as how far the water is (they assume the worst case scenario) or what kind of construction methods were used.

The underwriters of certain syndicates welcomed the idea of additional data and indicated that significant consideration would be given if they got a better sense of what they were quoting. I have sent a test case to see what they will say.

The last front of the appeal came in the form of deductible options. Currently most syndicates require a $50K or $25K deductible. Some lenders are not keen on the deductible amount being that high and won't quote reasonable rates or even quote rates at all. The underwriters seemed willing to allow us to design a flood policy that would allow some ala carte options such as choosing the deductible amount (ie $12.5K, 25K, 50K), coverage options/restrictions, etc... I was very encouraged by the meetings and their willingness to let us tweak some policies to give homeowners needing the flood insurance some options.

With all of that, we should be able to have some flood programs in place by mid-July that should be significantly more accurate and less expensive. Obviously the best rates will be for those without the enclosures on the groundfloor, the ones with good elevations above base flood, good dunes, etc... I would argue that is the way it should be. With current construction standards in place for coastal areas, new construction will inevitably offer some of the best premiums available.

Stay Tuned!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Senate Budget Proposal Allocates Funds For Bridge

It seems there is quite a bit of momentum for the Mid-County Bridge nowadays. A recent report shows a healthy amount of private investors lining up for th project and now the "public" portion of this project has allocated funds in the State Budget. Below is the full article from the Daily Advance:

By Zac Goldstein
Staff Writer
Daily Advance

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The budget proposed by the state Senate on Tuesday includes $15 million per year for the mid-Currituck Bridge.

The proposed two-lane, seven mile bridge would link Currituck's mainland near Aydlett with the Outer Banks south of Corolla across the Currituck Sound. The bridge has an estimated price tag of nearly $460 million and is set to open in 2013.

Partial funding for the bridge comes from a provision in the Senate budget which allows money from the Highway Trust Fund to go to the North Carolina Turnpike Authority for construction of toll roads. Of the $64 million appropriated annually from the Highway Trust Fund, $15 million will go to debt servicing and other financing expenses for the bridge over 39 years.

With costs factored in, about $198 million will go toward the bridge, according to the Turnpike Authority.

"After many years of hard work, the Mid-Currituck Bridge is coming closer to being built to benefit the residents and visitors of the northern Outer Banks," state Sen. Marc Basnight, D-Dare, said in a release.

Basnight, an early supporter of the bridge, said the budget provision would allow the bridge to be built with environmentally friendly features such as a pedestrian walkway and a bike path.

The budget, including the funding provision, has yet to be voted on by the full Senate. Even if it is adopted, the bridge will remain a public-private partnership with private investors picking up the remainder of the bridge's cost. The Turnpike Authority is currently soliciting qualifications from investors and contractor to design, build and finance the project.

While a toll for the bridge has yet to be determined, the Turnpike Authority had proposed $12 for a round trip over 39 years in order to pay back investors. According to the Turnpike Authority, the estimated toll amount will not be affected by the budget provision as the toll amount was calculated with the state funding in mind.

When complete, the bridge is expected to relieve congestion on the Wright Memorial Bridge which links Currituck and Dare counties.

Friday, May 30, 2008

The economic outlook for is summer still looks good.

Though Memorial Day figures are fully realized yet, the summer should still be bustling with our Summer guests. See a recent article for a more detailed breakdown

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Taxes proposed to stay the same, more law enforcement for Corolla

In the County Manager's budget report to the Commissioners, property taxes would stay the same. Outer Banks side of Currituck would get 8 new police officers. Here is the report from John Henderson of the Daily Advance:

CURRITUCK — Just as most Currituck families are tightening their finances during the current economic downturn, county government must do the same, County Manager Dan Scanlon told commissioners on Tuesday.

Scanlon expressed that sentiment as he unveiled a $47.9 million spending plan for next year that represents a less than 1 percent increase from the current year's budget.

The proposed budget includes no tax or fee increases. The tax rate would remain the same as the current year — 32 cents for every $100 of assessed property value.

"We are in a declining environment," Scanlon said. "We are not seeing an appreciable increase in our tax base. It isn't the time for government to look at expanding services and programs."

The only major personnel change in the proposed budget is the addition of eight new deputies to cover the Corolla area. The expenditure was actually approved by commissioners last year.

The new budget calls for spending $996,235 million more on the sheriff's department in the coming year, which includes the cost of the new deputies. Sheriff Susan Johnson has asked that the amount be increased about $150,000 to add a supervisory position.

"Now we only have one supervisor (in Corolla). I'm asking for a second one," Johnson said.

She said the new deputies would be in training for six months. "It will be next July before they are actually ready to go," she said.

Corolla residents can't wait. They have been pleading with the county for beefed up law enforcement. It was a campaign issue in the recent primary election, and it was a rallying cry by some who advocated incorporation a few years ago.

Scanlon told commissioners that the county would have to be frugal for the next several years. All signs point to a real estate market in Currituck that has significantly slowed, and along with it, the county's tax base, he said.

"We have seen a significant decrease in building permits," Scanlon said. "We have seen a significant decrease in (land) transfer taxes. Those have an immediate effect today, because that is revenue we are not collecting today. If we're not issuing building permits today, you're not going to expect significant increases in our tax base the next year or year after."

Increases in the assessed value of property in Currituck – which determines what homeowners pay in taxes – have significantly slowed in recent years.

From 1999 until 2005, assessed values of property in Currituck increased by 5 percent or more each year, which gave the county hundreds of thousands of dollars in extra revenue to spend even if commissioners adopted the identical tax rate as the year before.

"We've enjoyed a very robust economy, a very robust increase in a our tax base, Scanlon said.

But no more.

Assessed property value has increased by only 1.01 percent this fiscal year, and 0.61 percent last fiscal year.

Moreover, land transfer fees that are paid to the county by sellers at real estate closings have decreased by more than $2 million from two years ago.

And sales tax revenue has been flat.

"You are not seeing a growth in sales tax (revenues)," Scanlon said. "Not what we have traditionally seen."

The county plans to set aside $4.2 million of its $20 million emergency fund to spend, if need be, in the coming fiscal year, Scanlon said. But that shouldn't be construed to mean that the county's reserve fund will be depleted by a quarter, he said.

"We may spend none of it. We might spend half of it. We might spend all of it. I don't think we will spend all of it," Scanlon said.

The one bright spot in Currituck's economy is tourism. Occupancy fees paid to the county when visitors stay in rentals and hotels are at an all-time high, with $8.3 million collected through April.

"People are saying right now they feel pretty good about what is going on in the Outer Banks," Scanlon said. "I'm hearing reports that folks are coming (to visit)."

Commissioners will review the proposed budget at their June 2 meeting, and are slated to give it final approval on June 16.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Mid-county span draws worldwide attention

Designers, builders, financiers sought
From a recent meeting in Raleigh, the Daily Advance article reported:

Staff Writer

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Companies from around the world are expressing interest in designing, financing and building the Mid-Currituck bridge.

At a meeting held in Raleigh last week, representatives from 13 firms discussed the project with officials from the North Carolina Turnpike Authority.

Also in attendance were several hundred people representing companies wanting to handle some aspect of the project, said Grady Rankin, the authority's chief financial officer.

"We were very pleased with the meeting," Rankin said. "I'd describe the interest as high."

The proposed two-lane toll bridge linking Currituck's mainland and Outer Banks is planned to open in 2013. The project's current estimated cost is $459.6 million.

Rankin said representatives from several major European companies are interested because design-build-finance projects like the proposed mid-county bridge are more common in Europe.

"There are significant advantages for bringing the (design-build-finance) teams together under one tent," he said.

It will be North Carolina's first attempt at such a venture.

"There is no doubt the private sector can do it," Rankin said, referring to building the bridge. "I think major question is how much support it will require from the state of North Carolina. That has yet to be determined."

Just because the private sector has expressed interest in the bridge doesn't mean the project can completely be financed with private funds. More than likely there will have to be some state funding, he said.

"One of our objectives is to minimize the costs to the state to get the project off the ground," Rankin said.

It's not clear yet whether one company will be hired to operate and maintain the bridge after it is built.

Ralph Salamie, an engineer with Kiewit, Pacific Structures District in Vancouver, Wash., attended the meeting because his firm is interested in building the bridge. But to land the contract, Kiewit would have to join forces with other firms to handle financing and design, he said.

"If you develop it as a team, and approach the job as a team, it's nothing really out of ordinary, combining people," Salamie said.

Barry Nelms, chairman of the Currituck Board of Commissioners, said the wide interest in the bridge project is a positive sign.

"It is encouraging, because that will mean more competition, and with that, theoretically, you can get the best price and the best design," Nelms said. "We're excited we've got a lot of interest in it."

Nelms said devaluation of the dollar has made projects in America like the mid-county bridge more attractive to foreign-based companies.

"Because construction is down nationwide, it makes this a more favorable time to take on a project of this magnitude," he said.

Although the exact toll on the bridge has not been determined, the Turnpike Authority is projecting that motorists over a 39-year period would pay as much as $12 for a two-way trip. The toll will be collected to pay back investors who are expected to front the bulk of the money needed to fund the estimated $459.6 million project.

"This project has been looked at since the '60s," Nelms said. "I think that it's going to happen. Everybody at the county and state level are in a cooperative mood, and we're going to hopefully make it a very worthwhile, and a really nice bridge."

County Commissioner Gene Gregory, who attended last week's meeting, also sees the interest in the bridge as an encouraging sign.

"It was a great showing," he said. "I think we're well on our way to getting this bridge built. I feel closer to getting the bridge built now than ever. I think the people are finally realizing how badly we need a bridge."

Gregory said the bridge is sorely needed for hurricane evacuation and access to the Outer Banks. Today, the only route to Currituck's northern beaches from the mainland is a trip over the Wright Memorial Bridge and up N.C. Highway 12.

The process of picking a firm to handle the design-build-finance project is expected to take the remainder of the year, Rankin said.

He said the authority will soon be seeking information from companies about their qualifications to build the bridge.

"It is sort of a two-step process," he said. "We will select three or four teams, then we'll submit a request for proposals that is much more specific about what they propose to do."

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Wild Horse Study: Smaller herd suffering genetic harm

In a study recently reported in the Daily Advance, a Texas A&M professor advises that adding horses would reduce inbreeding. See article below:

Staff Writer

Monday, May 05, 2008

The wild horse herd in Corolla has suffered genetic harm as the result of a Currituck County-endorsed program limiting its size, a study has concluded.

Inbreeding among the horses is the culprit, and could lead to defects, according to a study released by Texas A&M professor Gus Cothran, an equine geneticist who is a worldwide expert on feral herds.

A new study by a Texas A&M University professor suggests that the smaller size of the herd of wild horses on Currituck County Outer Banks is hurting its genetic diversity.

DNA testing taken of the herd of 89 showed "low genetic diversity" due to the inbreeding among the small herd, Cothran said. The horses have not yet shown outward physical signs of deformities, but that will become a possibility if the herd numbers aren't increased, he said.

"There certainly are 20,000 known genetic defects in humans," Cothran said. "Any one of those is a possibility" in the horses.

Examples could include clubbed feet or dwarfism, he said.

To prevent any further genetic decline, Cothran is recommending that the herd be allowed to reproduce and grow in number, and a few new horses be injected into the mix.

Cothran's study is recommending a herd in excess of 110 to increase genetic diversity. But that would conflict with an agreement to limit the herd to 60 that was agreed to in 1999 by Currituck County, the National Wildlife Refuge, and the herd's overseers, the Corolla Wild Horse Fund.

Federal officials have been concerned that too large of a herd could damage the habitat at the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge makes up a large portion of the horses' grazing area on the Currituck Outer Banks north of Corolla.

Refuge manager Mike Hoff could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Karen McCalpin, the director of the Corolla Wild Horse fund, said the group is trying to be pro-active before the horses start to show outward physical genetic deformities.

"Low genetic diversity (in the horse's DNA samples) means it is starting to be a problem, that already irreparable genetic harm has occurred (to the horses)," she said. "We're recommending ways to prevent further harm, to have a larger herd."

The horses are believed to be descendents of Spanish mustangs that arrived several hundred years ago, and are considered a tourism draw for Currituck County.

A few years ago, the herd numbered 119. But in the past year, an aggressive adoption effort and a birth-control program have reduced its size to 89.

"We've physically removed horses. We adopted out 30 horses in the last 18 months," McCalpin said.

In the wake of Cothran's study, the horse fund has requested a moratorium on the removal of horses. The birth control program would remain in effect, however.

"In the meantime, we are trying to gather scientific data that all of us need to make a management plan that will be in best interest of the wild horses," McCalpin said.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Estuarine Research Reserve will be conducting a study to determine exactly where the horses are feeding and what impact they are having on the wildlife refuge.

"The 'impact and carrying capacity study' will give us a lot of important data we don't have, not just about horses, but the impact of feral hogs, what kinds of vegetation are being eaten by which animal," McCalpin said.

She said the information could help define what areas should be a horse sanctuary.

"The ultimate goal is to be able to own that land," McCalpin said. "That will help me when I go to a foundation to ask for support to purchase land."

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Watch Currituck County Commissioner Candidate Forum

Whether you can vote on not in Currituck County, you may want to know who the players are. There are several candidates running for Currituck County Commissioner. A candidate’s forum sponsored by the Currituck Chamber of Commerce was held recently and can be viewed by going here.

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Currituck to hold candidates forum April 17

While many of the Carova Corner readers do not have any voting power in the County, decisions made by our elected officials certainly impact all property owners the same. For those more active, you may want to attend a candidate forum later this month. There will also be a broadcast of the forum that I will attempt to get my hands on and maybe even upload to this blog if I can get a 9 year old to help me. Below if the Daily Advance article with the date and times.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Currituck residents will get a chance next week to question candidates for the county board of commissioners on the ballot in next month's Democratic and Republican primaries.

The Currituck Chamber of Commerce will host a "Meet the Candidates Night" at the Currituck County Middle School auditorium Thursday, April 17, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Shannon Kinser, Chamber president, said the forum will feature the eight candidates in contested races for four open seats on the commission board.

"There are a lot of new people on the ballot this year," she said. "I think it's important for folks to be able to make an informed decision, to come out and ask questions, and hear what candidates have to say."

The invited candidates include Stanley D. Griggs and William Carlton Etheridge Sr., two Democrats seeking the new at-large seat on the commission board. Also invited are Oswald Vance Aydlett Jr. and Keith Charles Hill, two Republicans seeking the new District 1 seat; incumbent Commissioner Ernie Bowden and Michael Cherry, two Democrats seeking the new District 1 seat; and Jerry W. Wright and Roy Lee Etheridge, two Democrats seeking the new District 2 seat.

Each candidate will be introduced, and will then be asked questions submitted to a moderator from the audience.

Kinser said community participation is essential to insuring a successful forum.

"This open forum will provide Currituck County citizens with an opportunity to question and evaluate those running for office," she said.

Under the forum guidelines, the questions may not be directed at any particular candidate. The forum will be aired on the local government channel at least once prior to the election.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Wildlife refuge closed for bomb hunt

Officials checking for unexploded ordnance

As reported in the Daily Advance by JOHN HENDERSON, Staff Writer, about the Army Core of Engineers combing the Refuge:

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Currituck National Wildlife Refuge has expanded an area closed to the public as officials hunt for potential explosives from an old Navy bombing range.

The area includes the Monkey Island tract of the federal refuge north of Corolla.

The Currituck National Wildlife Refuge has closed an area of the refuge (shown in red) as officials hunt for possible explosives from an old Navy bombing range.

A contracting firm has been hired to look for unexploded ordnance, and officials aren't sure what, if anything, will be found.

"It's very old," Mike Bryant, the project leader for the refuge, said of the refuge area where the contractor will be checking for ordnance. "I'm not sure if it was from World War II or later. But the Army Corps of Engineers has the responsibility for investigating and cleaning up sites. They have issued a contract to do some of that work on that land."

Bryant said the public is prohibited from driving through the area right now, and he hopes that people who see the contractors' vehicles driving up to that area to look for explosives don't follow them.

Expanding the closed area "is for the safety of the public," Bryant said. "There could be everything from fifty-caliber bullets in the sand, to small practice bombs. The stuff was dropped, who knows how many years ago, long before refuge was established in the '80s. We were simply made aware that part of this refuge had been part of this old gunner bombing range."

The expanded closed area of the refuge will now start 1 mile north of Corolla, and continue north approximately 750 yards. The area, from the leading edge of the primary dune westward to the Currituck Sound, will remain closed to the public until further notice, according to a press release.

The vehicle access portion on the beach will be unaffected by the closure, but motorists need to use caution as surveyors with equipment may be present on the beach after the project starts Monday, the release states.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Carova Beach Park & Boat Ramp

UPDATE 4-23-08

In my quest to obtain real-time, first-hand information about the 4WD area, I went straight to the source and once again called on Tab Winborne, local builder and general contractor for the Carova Beach Park and Public Boat Ramp for an update. His detailed response is below:

The Park is moving along.

The split face concrete masonry foundation and below grade walls are completed. The cells will eventually be filled solid with concrete & #5 rebar installed from the footing to the roof. It will be the most solid building in Carova.
The select fill is completed below grade and the electrical/ plumbing rough-in has been completed.
We anticipate the slab and some walks to be completed next week.
The masons will return to complete the walls once the slab is completed.

The Bulkhead is completed.

Picnic Shelters:
Our framers have completed the framing of the picnic shelters. They are heavy timer constructed but still have some gentle details on the rafters.

I attach some details for the building and site.

We anticipate the major permit required by CAMA any day. This permit will allow us to begin work on the walkways around the bulkhead, the boat ramp, boat dock and the sidewalks in the Area of Environmental Concern. The process is lengthy but there are several Governmental Agency's which have our design under review.

Tab Winborne
Tab Winborne Corporation
757 237 2802

UPDATE 2-3-2008: Carova Beach Boat Ramp And Park
In a recent email from contractor and local 4WD area builder, Tab Winborne, he stated that the park should be completed in the Spring of 2008. The bulk head is finished and the building should start next week. The ramp and walkways require a special permit and it is currently under review. For further details, you can email Tab directly.

Original Post
Construction is underway for the public boat ramp and park in Carova Beach! The park falls under the jurisdiction of the Currituck County Parks & Rec Dept. The most recent article on the park I have found is here. The County obtained the land when the Wild Horse Estates subdivision was developed and received a $250,000 grant from the State to construct the park on the Southern-most canal in the Carova area. According to John Cece, CAMA officer in Elizabeth City, the county has not yet applied for a permit to dredge the canal, particularly an area known locally as the 'cattle crossing', where depths and winds can render access impossible. It is my understanding they will be applying for this permit further along in the project. For a plat of the proposed park (subject to change), click here.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Great Wild Horse Video

The Corolla Wild Horse Fund has put together a fantastic slideshow, entitled "The Voice" for Currituck County's Mascots, the Corolla Wild Horses. Now restricted to the 4WD area of Carova, it is evident that their survival is paramount to maintaining the unique character and living history of the Northern Outer Banks. Enjoy. Special thanks to the Corolla Wild Horse Fund.


Friday, April 18, 2008

New Update on Mid-Currituck Bridge. First ever NC Public/Private Partnership

The NC Turnpike Authority has just updated their website with some interesting and new data regarding the Mid-Currituck Bridge. The NCTA is soliciting bids from investors and contractors to partner up with the state. Their release can be read here. For a copy of their Final Purpose and Statement with all the details, click here.

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NC Turnpike Authority updates website with information on Mid Currituck Bridge
After a series of three public meetings, the NC Turnpike Authority has posted all of the handouts, aerial images with traffic-flow scenarios, comment forms, etc.. on their website. Be sure to click on newsletters/documents. It is a very good site and descriptive read without a lot of opinion around the factual data.

Related article regarding the toll figures and lifespan.
Related article featuring local response to the Bridge.
Related article on cost estimates and bridge history.