There is an old saying that may be half-joking, but is probably more than half-true. It goes: “News is something that happens to or near an editor.”
This week’s story on the abandoned trailer covered with graffiti on Colington Road came about exactly that way. After driving by the ominous-looking eyesore twice a day, I wondered what, if anything, was being done to remedy the situation.
Michelle’s Wagner reporting finds that the trailer on the heavily trafficked road has generated concern among people who live and work in the neighborhood and who are surprised that the problem has been allowed to linger. Our story indicates that the issue has fallen into a kind of jurisdictional no-man’s land, but there is hope the property owner will clean it up and maybe this coverage will prompt some action.
A more consequential Sentinel story was the one we published online and in the Dec. 19 Sentinel headlined, “In Manteo, a debate over the future.”
The event that triggered that story was not, on its face, all that earth shaking. On Dec. 5, the Manteo Board of Commissioners unanimously rejected a proposal by the Manteo Planning Board that called for a legal review of the Town Code to bring it into line with state zoning laws.
But the underlying dynamic behind the vote was very interesting — a number of opponents of the legal review were clearly concerned that the review might end up paving the way for major zoning changes in the community. Manteo prizes its unique, small town feel, but there is a tension with the desire to do some upgrading and responsible development that would allow the community to take better advantage of its destination status.
Mayor Bobby Owens, who expressed interest in fostering some additional development in Manteo when he challenged and defeated incumbent Jamie Daniels in 2017, said in our recent story, that the town “can’t stay the same. If it does, it dies.”
That story sparked a nuanced and thoughtful discussion about Manteo’s future, evident in comments posted to both the Sentinel Facebook page (www.facebook.com/outer.sentinel/) and our website (www.obsentinel.com)
Some comments stressed the need to preserve that small town feel as the top priority. “People like quaint little towns like Manteo,” read one on Facebook. “Let's keep it that way…Yes the infrastructure needs some help. But let's not change its character. Wonder how much of Manteo was in Andy's Mayberry. He loved it here for a reason.”
One longtime visitor who plans to relocate to Manteo wrote, “We want to raise our grandson in Manteo and enjoy all that there is being offered in such a beautiful island paradise. Why change anything that will allow mega size home building, overcrowding and crime and countless hotels all of which would ruin the uniqueness of Manteo. Leave Manteo alone.”
Some differing views were offered in comments on our website. One resident stated that. “Considerable areas of our town are looking pretty shabby; hardly inviting to visitors, prospective property buyers or business people looking for new markets to invest in…The town has not thrived in what have been some of the best years for the national economy in many years. “
And yet another commenter declared that. “Sites such as the old Weeping Radish and the Duke of Dare do need to be replaced with something else. Manteo truly doesn’t have any night life whatsoever except for a few local bars downtown. Growing up here all of my life, it would often get extremely boring down here due to nothing being open at night.”
But no one should construe the conversation as simply dividing up between those advocating for sweeping changes and those intent on keeping the town as is. Many of the comments called for a kind of happy medium, or as one individual put it, “Some changes and updates, but with much thought and consideration.”
The Dec. 19 Sentinel story was a good start. But we think it only scratched the surface of what is a clearly a critical debate and ultimately, a crucial decision, on how much change, and what kind, would be beneficial for the town as it attempts to balance its basic character with appropriate improvements.
We’d like to continue to play a role in fostering that discussion. If you have any thoughts on the issue or ideas about related stories we should be paying attention to, please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.