DEVELOPMENT INTERESTS CONTINUE TO THREATEN THE EAST COAT WILD HORSES, as this May, 2005 article shows:
Commercial development north of Corolla stalls
BY J.H. SNOWDEN III, PUBLISHER THE INDEPENDENT -
SPECIAL TO THE SENTINEL
Once roaming the northern Currituck Outer Banks from Sandbridge in Virginia to the Dare County line, the herd of wild horses has been corralled into the isolated reaches of the far northern beaches. Residents of the Swan Beach and Carova Beach area are concerned that a proposal allowing commercial development in the isolated off-road area will threaten the existence of the herd.
Plans for a proposed commercial district in Swan Beach may have hit a snag at the Currituck County Planning Board meeting Tuesday, April 12.
Board members unanimously voted for denial of the proposal, citing nonconformity with the Land Use Plan,public safety concerns, lack of road access, and an overall impact on the aesthetics of the northern Currituck Outer Banks environment.
Both the ordinance change and rezoning request originally were slated to be heard at the Dec. 14, 2004 board meeting but were removed from the agenda. Currituck County Board of Commissioners, prior to its Jan. 3 meeting, held a work session with Jeff Malarney, general counsel and representative for the developer, Doug Twiddy, to discuss the proposal. During the work session, Malarney presented Twiddy's vision for a low-density coastal village-style development on a 25.77-acre site at the northern end of Swan Beach.
The requested ordinance change and accompanying rezoning request, as presented by Mark Bissell of Kitty Hawk-based Bissell Professional Group, would open the door for commercial development in the isolated RO2 zone of Currituck's northern Outer Banks. Under the current county code of ordinances, commercial uses are prohibited in the RO2 zone - areas north of the end of NC 12 in Corolla.
Implementation of the "off road historic village commercial overlay district" would require a two-step process: first by changing the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), defining the applicable uses and rules for the district, followed by applying the new zoning to a specific tract of land.
According to the language of the proposed ordinance, possible uses in the zoning overlay district would include: post offices, Fire/EMS/Sheriff's offices, churches, convenience stores, real estate offices, professional offices, inns not to exceed 50 rooms and accessory lodging units or bungalows. The designation would only be applied to contiguous parcels of 20 acres or more.
During discussion at Tuesday's meeting, Planning Board members expressed concerns about the proposed 42-foot building heights. Current height limitation throughout the county is 35 feet. Planning Board Chairman Horace Bell III asked Bissell about water supply and sewage disposal. Bissell replied that water and sewer needs for the sites in the proposed district would be served from a community water system and community wastewater treatment system.
"The water and sewer impacts [of the proposed development] would be lower than the 13-bedroom homes, which could be built on three-acre lots at the site," said Bissell. Board member Eddie Hawley questioned possible impacts of increased traffic from delivery trucks for linens, food and other supplies for the proposed businesses in the district.
Bissell said that studies indicate traffic would not increase significantly, and would likely be comparable to the existing flow of cement, lumber and other large trucks serving the construction trade of the northern beach areas.
During the public hearing, several northern beach residents spoke in opposition to the proposal. "One tract of commercial development [in this area]would open the door [for further commercial development]. It will not be long before the horses are crowded out," said Gene Snow, co-director of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund.
As a result of increased accidents involving collisions with automobiles, and their affinity for the lush green lawns and shrubs surrounding the resort community in Corolla, the herd of wild horses, once roaming freely from Sandbridge in Virginia down to the Dare County line, has been confined to the remote area north of the end of NC 12.
Snow also pointed out problems with the proposal to possibly build stables in the area and bring in horses, citing transmission of diseases from domestic horses to the wild horse population. "You have a very important proposal before you, which could decide the fate of the remaining wild horses," warned Snow.
Carova Beach property owner Tom Huda, said that members of the Swan Beach Property Owners Association and the Fruitville Beach Property Owners Association were overwhelmingly opposed to altering the isolated nature of the northern beaches. Hudak also noted numerous inconsistencies between the proposed overlay district and the new Land Use Plan, slated for adoption later this year.
Gene Walters, also of Carova, pointed out prohibitions on commercial operations on the beach, such as rentals of horses, jet skis, ATVs, and hang gliding. "The county stopped commercial uses [of the northern beaches], why reverse course now?" asked Walters.
"We cannot get 40 feet in the air with anything we can roll down that beach," said Bill Vann, Carova Beach resident and member of the Carova Beach Volunteer Fire Department, referring to the proposed 42-foot building heights. The Carova Beach Volunteer Fire Department, located several miles to the north, provides fire coverage to the Swan Beach area. Access between communities north of the end of NC 12 in Corolla is by driving on the narrow foreshore area of the beach. Vann expressed concerns about accessibility, particularly during storms such as northeasters or hurricanes, "there are several times a year that I cannot get out of Carova Beach with a fire truck or other equipment."
After brief discussion, the Planning Board voted 9-0 recommending denial of the UDO changes establishing the overlay district. The Board also voted to recommend denial of the accompanying rezoning request. This item will come before the Currituck Board of Commissioners at its May 2 meeting.