Contentious issue resolved with pared down proposal

After more than a year of debate about a text amendment that would exempt certain items from the town’s 30 percent lot coverage maximum, the Southern Shores Town Council finally settled on a pared down list of exemptions at its Sept 5 meeting.

By a 4-to-1 margin — with Gary McDonald dissenting — the council voted in favor of an amendment drafted by the Southern Shores Planning Board that would only exclude gravel walkways from being considered part of the lot coverage, as well as open-slatted decks that allow water to penetrate through to pervious material and do not exceed 25 percent of the dwelling’s footprint area.

These few exemptions differ significantly from an earlier list of proposed items that would have been excluded, including certain amounts of pervious material on a lot, portions of swimming pools and sections of eaves. According to the amendment, applicants seeking to install open-slatted decks would be required to provide a engineer survey that includes a storm water management permit.

As is the case with a number of issues in Southern Shores, the lot coverage matter became part of the ongoing debate about the character and ambiance of the town.  Some councilmembers described the amendment as a compromise between those who wanted to maintain the town’s strict lot coverage limitations and those who sought to loosen them in some areas.

The debate over the issue also erupted into controversy this summer — one that culminated in the censuring of Council Member McDonald, who made a comment during a July 10 meeting suggesting that Mayor Pro Tem Chris Nason supported the amendment in hopes of profiting as a local architect.

In casting the one dissenting vote on Sept. 5, McDonald cited concerns over storm water running off onto adjacent properties and lot owners using material other than gravel, such as stone or pavers, once they acquire an occupancy permit.

“I think we should leave it as it is,” McDonald said of the current lot coverage requirements. “We’ve all seen our storm water issues over the past two years I’ve been on this council. We’ve spent money to take care of those and we have a lot more to take care of, and I see this as an issue of adding more density to our neighborhoods.

Nason, a proponent of loosening of some lot coverage restrictions, thanked the planning board for its work, adding, “I appreciate their willingness to compromise on this, and I support this measure and would make a motion to accept it.”

Council Member Fred Newberry — who had voted with McDonald to defeat an earlier version of the amendment and who also opposed the censure of McDonald— indicated that he could back the new proposal.

“I agree with Gary, I think we should leave it as is,” said Newberry. “But we have a compromise, and the planning board did a good job, I can probably live with it.”

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Reporter, Outer Banks Sentinel

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