April 20, 2011

Ocracoke Real Estate: New blood on the village’s planning advisory board

As communities grow, there is change. This is a given. Some of the changes are positive and some negative, in the eyes of the general population.

The negative reactions, in the community, crystallize the potential of what could be and force us to focus on the need for planning the direction of that change. It is prudent for a community to stay on top of the momentum and the path of this unfolding development. I see it as a matter of not only reacting to the transformations to the face of the village but also in thinking ahead and being proactive about future concerns.

Questions around this subject of development have been backing up for our new Hyde County Commissioner, Darlene Styron Doshier. As the representative of the only government we have on Ocracoke, she would be the go-to person for these matters.

Lucky for Darlene, the county provided her with a vehicle to make representative decisions on these types of questions. The Ocracoke Planning Advisory Board was born out of a burst of change in the early ‘80s. The village had just voted down any kind of zoning. Subsequently, when drastic expansion followed, the public wanted a voice, and the commissioners set up a mechanism to monitor and guide this growth. The board formulates the proposals, and the commissioners vote them into law.

There have been numerous and varied opinions on the advisory board. The Ocracoke Building Ordinance has had many additions and refinements. But the process has been dormant for at least the last two years.

As confusion over the interpretation of the ordinance mounted and new issues surfaced, it was obvious that the board needed to be reactivated. The Ocracoke commissioner is empowered to choose seven community members for the purpose of advising the county on a guide for development that is specific to the island.

Darlene found seven people with divergent backgrounds, who agreed to make this investment in the community. Amy Johnson, Bill Rich, Jennifer Esham, Keith Parker-Lowe, Tom Pahl, Kirby Van Landingham and I now comprise the current board.

Kirby and I are returning members from the last board, attempting to provide a bit of continuity for the process. We also will be the first to rotate off of the board, opening up two spaces for continued new blood. This board needs to remain active to protect against a backlog of questions, therefore providing enough time for each point to be fully vetted and enough time to “hear” the will of the community.

Some of the pressing matters for discussion include bringing clarity to current gray areas in the ordinance, the subject of travel trailers as living units, “pop up” businesses along the right of way, and devising a written complaint process for tracking community concerns.

The Planning Board invites the public to attend the meetings. Please watch for emails from Jamie Tunnel and for the notices in the post office and bring your voice to the conversation.

(B.J. Oelschlegel has lived on Ocracoke Island for more than 30 years and has worked in the real estate business for 26 years.  She is a broker with Ocracoke’s Lightship Realty and a real estate columnist for The Ocracoke Observer. You can reach her by e-mail at [email protected])

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