Saturday, May 29, 2010

Property Tax Rate to Stay the Same in Currituck County

With every county and town in the State having to make tough budget decisions, Currituck County managed to get it done without raising taxes or laying off numerous county employees. Bravo. Below is an article from the Daily Advance's Cindy Beamon:

No tax hike in $45M Currituck budget
By Cindy Beamon

Friday, May 28, 2010
CURRITUCK — Property owners won’t be paying a higher tax rate and no county employees will be losing their jobs, but that doesn’t mean Currituck County residents won’t see the effects of a tough economy in next year’s proposed $45 million county budget.

The county expects to receive less money from property taxes in fiscal year 2010-11, but it will manage the shortfall by making cuts to departmental budgets, County Manager Dan Scanlon said this week.

The county will spend 7 percent less than it did last year, mostly by cutting out or delaying purchases of technology, educational courses, travel and other operating expenses, Scanlon said. Also, capital outlay spending will drop about 25 percent as the county pares back on major construction projects.

Income from property taxes is expected to decrease — not because of lower property values or lower tax rates but because the county anticipates it will not be able to collect as many taxes from property owners in financial trouble. Last year the county anticipated it would collect 98 percent of taxes due; this year, that figure has dropped to 96 percent. The 2 percent difference in collections accounts for about $300,000 less than in earlier projections.

Property taxes, currently assessed at 32 cents per $100 valuation, account for more than half the revenue in next year’s proposed budget. State sales tax revenue, another important source of income for the county, has remained flat, Scanlon said.

The shortfall in funds has forced the county to tighten spending, but the county should be able to retain its 359 employees and absorb most of the increased costs for health care and other benefits, he said. No cost-of-living pay increases are included.

“I want to give the departments a lot of credit for understanding the dire economic conditions,” Scanlon said. “We were asking them to go back through their budgets to see what items they could cut, what items they could delay, and I think they did a great job.”

Also feeling the pinch will be the Currituck County Schools, which will face a $134,773 reduction in county funds earmarked for instructional use. Two factors have contributed to the reduction — lowered inflation and fewer students, Scanlon said. For several years, the county has calculated its funding based on the number of students attending schools and the rate of inflation. Next year, the number of students is expected to drop by 45 and inflation is down, which reduces the county’s contribution.

The reduction in local funds for education may foreshadow a shortfall at the state level as well. The school system is awaiting word from the General Assembly before determining its final budget for the coming year.

At the local level, school funding for capital outlay will also take a hit because of a reduction in sales tax revenues. During 2009-10, the schools received $1.1 million in sales tax revenue from the county; next year it will be down to $990,000.

Even with these reductions, the county has managed to tuck away $1 million for future school construction projects. No immediate project is under way, but the county needs to continue saving for future projects, Scanlon said.

In addition to the general fund budget, the county is projected to operate an $8.7 million tourism budget fueled by occupancy tax revenue. By law, those revenues must be used to promote tourism and tourism-related expenditures. Occupancy tax collections are down from the previous year because of reduced bookings and discounted rentals on the Outer Banks last year.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Commercial Development In 4x4 Area Back on the Commissioners Agenda

It appears that the Commercial Development proposal by Swan Beach Corolla, LLC in Swan Beach is on the Board of Commissioners agenda for June 7th after being removed for the agenda earlier in the year. I have reprinted my earlier post. I invite all of you to voice your opinions as this will have a dramatic impact if approved.


Commercial Development has always been a wildly unpopular idea in the 4WD off-road area of the Outer Banks. The most recent (and most ridiculous) proposal came before the planning board on Feb 12th, and fetched a resounding NO. Below I am pulling the minutes from the planning board meeting for accuracy on this subject.

PB 10-03 Swan Beach Corolla: Request to rezone 37.36 acres from Outer
Banks Limited Access Residential (RO2) to Conditional District-General Business
(CD-GB). The property is located in Swan Beach, Tax Map, 101 and 101A,
Parcels A,B,C,D,1A,M1 and M2, Fruitville Township.

Brian Plumlee, Mark Bissell, Elizabeth White, Debra Lanucci, Lillie Daniels, Bob
Albrecht, Michael Cherry and Greg Lampy appeared before the board.
Ms. Voliva presented the following case analysis to the board.
Link for case analysis for PB 10-03 Swan Beach Corolla
Mr. Plumlee stated they are asking for conditional zoning meaning they would be
required to follow the conditions set by the county. Mr. Plumlee stated his client
has been paying taxes on this property since 1969 as a business parcel. What
his client is proposing to build is a private beach resort for weekly rentals and
special events. It would include a chapel, fire and rescue station, wellness center
and commercial for neighborhood services. At the south end there would be a
fishing pier. Mr. Plumlee addressed staff recommendations for denial.
• The proposed request is not consistent with the Carova Sub-area Policy:
What they are proposing is an old beach village style development and
clearly these plans can be tailorrd by the county. They will be very small
structures, 900 to 1200 sq. ft. They are looking into the potential of shuttle
service for people using the resort.
• The proposed uses and development plan does not promote compatibility
between the subject property: Having smaller structures is going to be a
better development.
• The intensity of the proposed uses and development plan will encourage
commercial services in the off-road area: The pier will be at the southern end
of the property and the Inn will be at the northern end. The Inn will not
encourage adjoining commercial structures because of shuttling people in.
Currituck County Planning Department
February 9, 2010
Page 11
The fishing pier is to encourage fishing. Mr. Plumlee stated to consider these
two items separately, the Inn and the pier. His client is mostly focused on the
• Vehicular access: Mr. Plumlee stated he hopes they have addressed this
with the shuttle services and they would have to buy their own private
Mr. Bissell provided an overview of the project, addressed the community
meeting comments, and examples of the building styles.
Ms. Taylor asked where in Corolla are the cars are going to be parked.
Mr. Bissell stated the developer has a special use permit for a remote parking
Mr. Wright asked how vehicles or emergency vehicles will pass under the pier
when the water comes up and the height of the pier will decrease as it gets
closer to the dune line?
Mr. Bissell stated this will have to be addressed in the design.
The Board was concerned with more traffic being routed from the beach to the
local roads.
Mr. West asked for clarification on the Inn and individual cottages.
Mr. Bissell stated it is an Inn in multiple structures. Two buildings will have 8000
sq. ft. on each floor with 12 units per floor. It will be operated under single
management. Mr. Bissell stated each unit will have their own individual septic
Ms. Wilson stated that Mr. Plumlee stated that Mr. Friedman is doing this for the
community. She lives in the community and from the community meeting that
was held the community is not asking for this. Ms. Wilson stated that
architecturally it is nice but it is still a commercial development. Ms. Wilson stated
it is setting a precedent because other properties that are currently zoned
residential could put in a request for conditional rezoning for commercial.
Mr. Clark asked if the beach would be open in front of the development so the
public to drive down the beach.
Mr. Bissell stated yes.
Ms. White stated she is a resident of Swan Beach and the president of the Swan
Beach Property Association. The members of the Swan Beach Property
Association are against the conditional rezoning request and are in agreement
with staff recommendations for denial. Ms. White stated this request will lead to
Currituck County Planning Department
February 9, 2010
Page 12
incompatible and disruptive activity and will be detrimental to the general welfare,
safety, health and well-being of their community. The community is not
requesting any of the services in this proposal. The Swan Beach Property
Association is asking that the board deny this request.
Ms. Lanucci stated she is property owner in Swan Beach and is against the
rezoning request because it is a drastic change in the landscape of Swan Beach.
Ms. Daniels stated she hopes the board will deny this request and leave it like it
is. It has worked in the past and hopefully will work in the future.
Mr. Albrecht stated he is against the rezoning request because of the lack of an
adequate infrastructure, septic systems, and not in harmony with residential
nature of the community.
Mr. Cherry stated he is the former president of the Swan Beach Property
Association. Mr. Cherry stated he lives in a house that had been moved and if
the pier was built this would eliminate the ability to do this. Mr. Cherry stated this
project is not in harmony with the residential nature of the community and asking
that the board deny the request.
Mr. Lampy asked the board to deny this request.
Mr. Plumlee stated what is popular is not always right and what is unpopular is
not always wrong. They do believe this project would reduce impacts compared
to the results of residential developments at this location. The pier is not the main
part of the project. This development will not decrease the value of adjoining
properties. This is a lower impact plan. If it is the concern to lessen impacts then
you would adopt this plan, if it is the issue of controlling what is happening at all
times around you then you would reject it, it is as simple as that.
Ms. Wilson stated she has a letter from the North Swan Beach Property Owners
Association, a statement from the C.O.A.S.T. environmental group and the
Corolla Wild Horse Fund in opposition to this rezoning request.
Ms. Wilson recommended denial with staff recommendations and LUP Policies,
OB6, CD5, ES8, ES7, and ES6 to rezone 37.36 acres from Outer Banks Limited
Access Residential (RO2) to Conditional District- General Business (CD-GB).
Ms. Taylor seconded the motion. Motion carried unanimously.

The final say will be on May 3rd (NOW JUNE 7TH)when the Board of Commissioners vote to approve or deny. I cannot see how the BOC will approve so close to an election and without planning board approval in the midst of rewriting the Unified Development Ordinance. Nonetheless, if you have an opinion, it is important to be heard. There are two websites to visit depending on your stance on this issue. If you oppose commercial develpment, you should go here. If you are for commercial development, you should visit here.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Public Meetings on Currituck Bridge Brings Both Support and Opposition for Project

From the Viginia Pilot's Jeff Hampton, He provide's feedback from the public meetings around the area below:

By Jeff Hampton
The Virginian-Pilot
© May 23, 2010

Opinions on a bridge to the Outer Banks depend on the neighborhood.

During public hearings held last week by the North Carolina Turnpike Authority, Corolla and Aydlett residents generally opposed the five-mile span. Residents in Duck and Southern Shores, though, mostly supported the bridge.

Groups have formed on both sides: Build the Bridge - Preserve Our Roads in support and No Mid-Currituck Bridge in opposition. Each has a website and advertises on billboards.

"I feel like this is a want, not a need," Corolla resident Nancy Baker said. "I don't want to pay $800 million to solve traffic flow."

Baker was one of about 125 people who attended a hearing in Corolla on Wednesday. A hearing was also held in Kill Devil Hills on Tuesday and another in Barco on Thursday.

"On balance, the benefits outweigh the negatives," said Duck resident Allan Starr, among a minority who spoke in favor of the bridge at the Corolla hearing.

The North Carolina Turnpike Authority proposes building a bridge across the Currituck Sound from Ayd-lett to Corolla, ranging in cost from about $600 million to more than $1 billion.

The project has been debated for more than 20 years and went through public hearings in the 1990s with opinions divided according to locality. Lack of funding and environmental issues delayed the project.

Options include a five- mile span across the sound that would turn into a short road through Aydlett before becoming a bridge again through two miles of swamp to intersect with U.S. 158.

Toll plazas would sit at the U.S. 158 intersection just south of Coinjock. Aydlett Road would remain in place parallel to the bridge.

In another configuration, the bridge would end at the Aydlett shoreline and merge into a road that would travel through the swamp to U.S. 158. Aydlett Road would be closed and toll plazas would sit in Aydlett.

Currituck County officials who have supported the bridge oppose building toll plazas in Aydlett and further disturbing the community.

Building a road through the swamp saves about $60 million on the project, b ut environmental agencies prefer a bridge to allow free flow of water and wildlife.

On the Corolla side, the bridge could connect to N.C. 12 near the TimBuck II commercial complex or near the Corolla Bay subdivision about two miles north.

Another alternative is not to build a bridge and instead widen existing highways.

Aydlett is a community set along the Currituck Sound without traffic lights, gas stations or convenience stores.

Most residents own at least a small boat, part of an old tradition of traversing the sound without a bridge. Many tend gardens as large as small farms. The bridge would destroy the rural character and quiet lifestyle, residents say.

In Corolla, a tourist resort area, the bridge would increase day-trippers and burden N.C. 12 with more traffic, not less, opponents said.

Corolla lacks parking and other facilities to handle the swell of day-trippers. Crime would increase because of the extra escape route offered by a bridge, opponents said.

"Day-trippers bring their own food and beer and leave their trash," Corolla resident Barry Richmond said during Wednesday's public hearing.

In Duck and Southern Shores, traffic would probably decrease with a new bridge. Now, traffic clogs on N.C. 12 as it winds north from Southern Shores to Corolla.

Travelers heading to Corolla would take the bridge, trimming about an hour off the circuitous route through southern Currituck, across the Wright Memorial Bridge into Dare County and then north about 20 miles on N.C. 12 through Duck to Corolla.

Hurricane evacuation and medical services would be faster, supporters said. Currituck County employees and construction workers would have a quicker trip to the Outer Banks.

The public can make comments to the Turnpike Authority through June 7. The state plans to make a decision on the preferred option in August and issue a final environmental impact statement in September.

If approved, construction would begin in 2011 and the bridge would open by 2014.

The bridge would be built and operated by a private developer with state oversight. Tolls could run from $6 to $12 each way. The state sets aside $15 million annually to help pay for the bridge.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Carova identified in AOL's top 10 Secret Beaches

Jordon Simon's article on AOL has put Carova in the Top 10 for Secret Beaches of the US. While in some repsects I like the P.R., secrecy is like toothpaste, hard to put back into the tube. Here is the link to the article.

Currituck Commissioners Approve Corolla Hotel on large undeveloped tract of Pine Island Oceanfront

From Jeff Hampton of the Virginia Pilot, the article below:

The Currituck County Board of Commissioners on Monday approved a development in Corolla that includes a 100-room hotel, 32 condominiums and 22,000 square feet of retail space.

Sitting on 13 acres of oceanfront property, developer Sumit Gupta and SAGA Construction plan to break ground on Corolla Club & Resort next year.

Currently owned by the Audubon Society, the property was part of a Natural Heritage Area that includes 2,600 acres of undeveloped land on the Currituck Sound.

Audubon officials have agreed to sell the property, located between the Hampton Inn and the Pine Island subdivision, saying it has limited conservation value.

Pine Island residents oppose the development.

The project is expected to create 1,000 construction jobs for about three years, and 75 to 100 permanent jobs, said Carol Norris, a partner at Lawrence-Park, a marketing firm in Virginia Beach representing SAGA Construction.

Click here to see video of the Currituck Board of Commissioners meeting that approved the special use permit and the conditions set forth.

Monday, May 17, 2010

23 Bedroom "Wild Horse" largest on Outer Banks

A recent article in the VA Pilot about the Wild Horse rental home in the 4wd area is below. Quite the house indeed.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Outer Banks Vacation Rentals up from last year

It seems economic situations, the need for vacations, and time with family has rebound somewhat and the rentals on the Outer Banks are well ahead of last year. Below is an article from the Daily Advance's Cindy Beamon:

By Cindy Beamon
Staff Writer
Thursday, May 13, 2010
After taking a heavy hit last year, vacation bookings on the Outer Banks appear to be rebounding for the coming season, particularly for the late summer months.

The tourist season does not officially begin until late May, but the bookings have already begun to look promising, according to area realtors and tourism officials.

Ross Twiddy, director of marketing for Twiddy Realty, said demand for May and June have been slower than last year, but that demand is high for rentals from July to September. “Last year we have seen a lot of uncertainty because of the economy,” said Twiddy. “I think this year we have seen a reduction in the guests’ perception of job uncertainty, and they are willing to book their vacations.

Janice Farr, senior vice president for Sun Realty, agreed. “Rentals are going up a lot from last year,” said Farr, who said her company makes thousands of bookings on the Outer Banks each year. “People are more confident in their current situation. Things have calmed down a little bit, and they are ready for summer vacation.”

Farr and Twiddy both said that vacationers appear to be less conservative than last year about their spending.

Last year, vacationers were looking for discounts, opting for smaller rentals that were farther away from the waterfront, said Farr. To help minimize costs, vacationers were cooking rather than eating out, Retail businesses and restaurants were negatively affected by the trend. Across the board, retails sales were down 10 to 25 percent last year, said Shannon Kinser, president of the Currituck Chamber of Commerce.

This year, vacationers are asking for larger homes that are closer to the waterfront, said Farr. “They are not going whole hog, but they are looking for he right size house for their needs,” Farr said.

Another positive indicator is the number of visits to the Currituck Visitors Center in Moyock this year, said Tourism Director Diane Nordstrom. More than 600 visitors stopped at the center during last week alone, reported Nordstrom. In addition, occupancy tax revenues were up 12 percent in March, normally a slow time for vacation rentals.

“I am hearing through casual conversation that bookings are going well, particularly for summer,” said Nordstrom.

Area retailers and restaurants are also hoping for a better season. “It’s still a little early in the season, but I think people are optimistic. We are keeping our fingers crossed for a good season,” said Kinser,

This summer, Corolla businesses and restaurants will be able to better advertise their offerings. A new county sign ordinance allows businessees off the highway to place sandwich board signs along the highway.

Doug Schmoyer, owner of The Flying Dutchman at the south entrance of the Currituck Club, said the signs help to draw in more business. “I know for a fact that it’s going to benefit,” said Schmoyer. He said he does not think the economy will affect his business. “In another two years, we be back to the way it was,” he said.

Twiddy said he is optimistic about the overall outlook for this year. “I think the Outer Banks is going to have a very lucky season,” he said.