Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bridge Funding gets eliminated in "Proposed" Budget from Senate Appropriations Committee

While not official, the proposed Mid-Currituck Bridge gap funding from the State has been eliminated in the recent budget proposal in Raleigh. Below is an article from the Daily Advance on the matter.

Senate budget closes MOA, ends bridge project

By Reggie Ponder and Cindy Beamon

The Daily Advance

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

More The $19.4 billion budget proposal unveiled by the North Carolina Senate Tuesday calls for closing the Museum of the Albemarle and ending development of the long-awaited Mid-Currituck Bridge.

The Senate Appropriations Committee Report on the Continuation, Expansion and Capital Budgets, posted Tuesday on the official website of the N.C. General Assembly, lists as item 58 on page J-19 “close Museum of the Albemarle.” The item goes on to specify that it “closes the Museum of the Albemarle and eliminates salaries and benefits of 15 filled positions.”

The cut is estimated to save nearly $959,000, according to the committee report.

Museum of the Albemarle Director Ed Merrell noted Tuesday afternoon that the state budget is far from final.

“This is a draft budget proposal in the Senate,” he said, pointing out the museum closing was not included in the budget passed by the House of Representatives.

“It’s still got a lot of steps to go through,” Merrell said. “Our position is that we have a museum to operate and we’re going to keep on operating it until somebody tells us to stop.”

Merrell said he got a call Tuesday morning from his supervisor at the Department of Cultural Resources letting him know that the closure was listed in the Senate budget proposal.

He said he and the rest of the Museum of the Albemarle staff believe the museum serves an important role in the community.

“It is important,” Merrell said. “It’s an important asset to the community, the county, to the region as a whole, and in some respects to the state as a whole.”

He mentioned the work the museum does with school systems in the region and its involvement in the Civil War Sesquicentennial, which is expected to bring many visitors to the state.

“We feel very strongly that we are an important asset to the community as a museum and as a tourist draw,” he said.

Merrell said the museum staff hears positive comments about the museum from visitors and people in the community.

According to The Associated Press, the proposed Senate budget also ends development of at least two major road projects: the $900 million proposed Garden Parkway connecting western Gaston County over the Catawba River to the Charlotte airport; and the $600 million Mid-Currituck Bridge. The plan also shifts $50 million in “gap funding” for road projects to purchasing school buses and constructing urban loops.

Like Merrell, Currituck Commissioner Owen Etheridge cautioned that the Senate plan unveiled Tuesday won’t be the state’s final spending plan.

Etheridge, who was in Raleigh Tuesday, said budget negotiations have just begun in the Senate, and he is “cautiously optimistic” that the mid-county bridge will be reinstated during deliberations.

“This is when the real negotiations come into play,” Etheridge said, noting that much debate is still ahead on the spending plan.

Commissioner Paul O’Neal agreed.

“It’s not the end until the final budget is voted on,” O’Neal said.

O’Neal said the votes of state Reps. Bill Owens, D-Pasquotank, and Tim Spear, D-Washington, may be key in securing funding for the $600 million bridge project.

Both House members’ votes are needed by the Republican majority to veto-proof the final budget, and the mid-county bridge could be part of the bargain in securing those votes, O’Neal said.

“We are still pretty confident that Bill and Tim will be able to keep it alive when it goes to conference because it’s in the House budget,” said O’Neal.

Last year, the General Assembly earmarked “gap funding” for the project that would be used to subsidize construction costs so that tolls are not too high. The budget plan called for the state to provide $15 million a year in gap funds for the first three years of the project and $28 million after that for up to 50 years.

Under the proposed 2012 House budget, the gap funds are still earmarked but payment could be delayed a year. Earlier this year, a spokesman for the N.C. Turnpike Authority estimated that a delay in funding could push back the project’s proposed 2016 completion date by a year or two.

The proposed Senate budget redirects those gap funds to other projects.

State Sen. Stan White, D-Dare, whose district also includes Pasquotank and Currituck counties, could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.

The Turnpike Authority was set to release its Final Environmental Impact Statement this summer for the 7-mile span connecting Currituck’s mainland to the Outer Banks. Plans for financing the state’s first public-private venture have been ongoing.

The state has been negotiating a contract with private company ACS Dragados to construct and help finance the $660 million project

Friday, May 20, 2011

Currituck County budget keeps property taxes the same for 2010

Ahh, a piece of good news, NO TAX INCREASE. Credit (somewhat) County officials fiscal responsibility. Also, don't forget to thank the visitors we invite here every year whose occupancy and sales tax payments keep the county fiscally afloat without having to reach deeper into our own pockets. They provide a living to most residents as well. This particular luxury is often forgotten by residents when they are stuck in traffic, going 25mph in a 45mph zone, grocery store is all sold out, etc...

Below is an article for the Daily Advance on the budget proposal.

No tax hike in Currituck budget

By Cindy Beamon

Staff Writer

Thursday, May 12, 2011

CURRITUCK — A draft spending plan for Currituck County includes no property tax increase and some big-ticket purchases for water and sewer upgrades, economic development, and a new emergency communications system.

During a budget work session Wednesday, County Manager Dan Scanlon recommended no change to the county’s 32 cents per $100 valuation tax rate.

If approved by commissioners, the tax rate would remain the same it’s been since 2005 when the county revalued property. For a property owner with land valued at $100,000, taxes would remain at $320 next year.

Scanlon is also recommending the purchase of a new $4 million communications system over the next two years. The 800-megahertz system would replace towers and update equipment for law enforcement, emergency services and other county offices, he said.

To pay for the upgrade, the county could suspend saving $1 million each year for new school buildings over the next two years, Scanlon said. He said the school system has no immediate building plans, and the upgrade is needed because of “critical public safety concerns.”

Another shift in funding would create new dollars for economic development incentives. During the budget work session, Currituck commissioners agreed to shift $2 million earmarked earlier for county land purchases and farmland preservation to a new economic development fund.

For the past 10 years, the county has saved $100,000 toward a federally supported program for preserving farmland. However, no farmer has taken advantage of the program over the past 10 years, Scanlon said. The program essentially allows farmers to sell their rights for developing their property.

Now, the $1 million in reserves and annual $100,000 payments once earmarked for farmland preservation would be used to extend water or sewer lines or install new fire hydrants. Commissioners said the county could “sweeten the deal” for new businesses to locate in Currituck by offering those incentives.

The budget draft would also include allowances toward big infrastructure projects in Moyock, Maple and the Currituck Outer Banks.

Scanlon has proposed using the county’s portion of the state sales tax to pay for roads and stormwater drainage at the new Maple Commerce Park. Prepping the site will allow the county to market the property to potential businesses, he said.

The county has also earmarked funds for a new wastewater treatment plant to serve the commerce park, the new YMCA/Community Center, and the surrounding area. The low bid for the plant set its construction cost at $1.94 million.

The proposed budget also allocates funds for designing a new aviation training facility in the same area. The county recently announced plans to partner with College of The Albemarle in building the facility near the county airport on U.S. Highway 158.

In addition to improvements in Maple, the county budget also includes financing plans for user-paid water and sewer systems on the Outer Banks and in Moyock.

In Moyock, the county has begun design plans for a new $3.3 million sewer system to serve businesses at the northern end of the county along N.C. Highway 168. On the Outer Banks, the county is considering options for replacing the aging Ocean Sands sewer system at an estimated cost of $13 million. The county plans to borrow money for the upgrades, but users — not other taxpayers — will be responsible for paying back the debt, Scanlon said.

In addition, the county is awaiting approval from the state Utility Commission for its purchase of two water systems on the Currituck Outer Banks. That $5.5 million purchase would make the county the sole water-provider for the area. The county is also planning a $5 million upgrade of its reverse-osmosis plant to serve the new customers. Water customers will be expected to pay the cost for the water system purchases and upgrade, Scanlon said.

During Wednesday’s work session, Scanlon said he will formally present his recommended budget in June after receiving input from commissioners.

Mid Currituck Bridge Update

Gap Funding for the Mid-Currituck Bridge is still the subject of NC Senate negotiations and reconciliation of both chambers’ versions. Final voting is expected in June by the Legislature, and then to the Governor. As you know, without the funding, the project would languish in delay and existing contracts may be at risk.

Citizens’ groups are lobbying hard on both sides of the issue, working diligently to organize support or opposition to the Bridge and have made a big push with the Senate in the past week.

Interested parties – residents, visitors, homeowners, business associates in Corolla, and really anyone who will be impacted by the project - are encouraged to voice their opinion by contacting key legislators. The following links provide specific information. enables advocates to take action and send letters to both county commissioners as well as state officials right from the website. enables opponents to take action, sign a petition, and email various officials

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Follow up article on Commercial Development

The Daily Advance posted a detailed article on the recent Commissioners meeting, see below:

Currituck denies OBX commercial project

By Cindy Beamon

The Daily Advance

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

CURRITUCK — A ban on building businesses along Currituck’s remote beaches remains intact after a developer’s challenge fell in the face of heavy opposition Monday night.

Before a standing-room-only crowd, commissioners unanimously voted down a developer’s plans to build a cluster of cottage suites and businesses in the four-wheel drive area. The decision upholds a 30-year-old policy to restrict business and discourage development in the northern Outer Banks.

The proposal was developer Chip Friedman’s third attempt to rezone property in Swan Beach since 2004. Planning director Ben Woody said the developer’s request is the 10th challenge to the ban since 1980s.

Local residents had feared approval of the project would lead to more commercial growth along the remote stretch of beach. Lynne Wilson, spokeswoman for the Off-Roads Community, said the “domino effect of commercial rezoning requests” would commercialize the area and endanger the wild horse habitat, fast shrinking as development presses north on the Outer Banks.

In recent months, Friedman had pointed to home-based businesses in the area as evidence that more commercial services were needed. Friedman also charged that the county was “turning a blind eye” to existing illegal businesses while blocking commercial use of his property.

Friedman’s charges prompted a county investigation of 27 properties and resulted in citations for nine violations, Woody said.

An attorney for Outer Banks residents argued that the investigation should not be grounds for opening up commercial growth in the area. Attorney Lars Simonsen said “mere laxity in enforcement” was not the same as discrimination against the developer and encouraged the county to deny the rezoning and continue enforcing rules for home-based businesses.

The debate has raised questions about how the county should regulate needed services — like trash collection — in the off-road area.

Before voting against the project, county commissioners discussed the need for a study to direct growth in the area. At question is how the county can restrict development while allowing necessary services in the residential-only district.

At Monday’s meeting, attorneys for both Friedman and property owners in Swan Beach faced off with a variety of arguments about the project.

Simonsen argued that the developer’s request equated to “illegal spot zoning,” and would give the developer an unfair advantage over existing landowners restricted to residential use of their properties.

He also said widespread opposition to the project should also factor into the board’s decision. One Carova resident said that opposition included a petition with 1,000 signatures.

John Morrison, an attorney for Friedman, countered that the conditional rezoning would actually give the county more control over development of the property. He said the commercial project would be subject to more scrutiny than an ordinary residence.

“You know exactly what the property will be used for,” Morrison said.

He acknowledged the request was “politically unpopular” but argued the project would have no more impact than “beach mansions” with 20-plus bedrooms.

“Ultimately this comes down to an issue of fairness. Can you distinguish between what these folks want to do and what is already up there and allowable now?” Morrison asked.

Swan Beach residents disputed that claim, however. Several said the impact of the commercial development would be different from a house — even a very big house.

Jane Overstreet of Swan Beach argued that the big beach homes are on 10-acre lots and would not yield the same density as the 294-unit project on 37 acres that Friedman was proposing.

Mike Long of Corolla said the cottage suites would also attract a different type of vacationer. Families are more inclined to rent the larger homes, Long said. The off-road community also includes permanent residences and investment homes for people hoping to retire there, he said.

Long said the cottage suites would attract smaller groups who demand more entertainment and services outside of their smaller-scale lodging. The result would be more demand for commercial services in an area where growth should be discouraged, he said.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Commissioners to Commercial Development: Nope.

Amidst a packed courthouse of committed locals and friends of the 4x4 beaches Monday, the Currituck County Commissioners could sense the conviction of the public and unanimously denied the Commercial rezoning request yet again in Swan Beach. A video post of the Commissioners meeting should be available by Wednesday or Thursday on the Currituck county website or this blog. Congratulations to all of those who's support and organization brought forth the preservation of one of the most unique areas on the East Coast.

Below is an article just posted by the Virginia Pilot's Jeff Hampton

Currituck officials reject hotel and shops in wild-horse area

By Jeff Hampton
The Virginian-Pilot
© May 17, 2011

Currituck County commissioners turned down a rezoning request Monday that would have allowed a hotel and shops in the four-wheel drive area. Developer Gerald Friedman requested the county rezone 37.4 acres in Swan Beach to general business from residential.

More than 100 people showed up to Monday’s meeting opposing the project, which has been turned down at least two other times by county officials going back to 2004. Earlier applications listed the project at 25.8 acres.

If one property was granted commercial status others would follow, said Vance Aydlett, chairman of the Currituck County Board of Commissioners. The vote was unanimous.

“Once you open that Pandora’s box it’s over with,” Aydlett said Tuesday morning.

County planning staff and the planning board recommended denial. The county’s land use plan calls for limited development in the four-wheel drive area, where a herd of about 100 wild horses roams. No roads are paved and access is difficult. Currituck’s northern Outer Banks falls under the federal Coastal Barrier Resources Act which discourages development. The northern Outer Banks was zoned residential in the mid 1970s.

Friedman has contended that the northern Outer Banks communities first platted more than 40 years ago included sections for business. Friedman’s tract in Swan Beach was set aside for commercial on an original plat dated Sept. 2, 1969, and signed by the county chairman of the Board of Commissioners. Friedman also said his project is no more intrusive than the 23-bedroom house used for weddings and many home businesses operating in Swan Beach and Carova.

Home businesses are allowed under certain restrictions, Aydlett said.

But in response to Friedman ’s charges, county inspectors found nine home businesses not in compliance. Most are cleaning up their sites to meet county ordinance, but at least two have not responded, said Ben Woody, director of the Currituck County Planning Department.