May 15, 2014

Guest Column:

Guest Column: The county commissioners CAN
 just say ‘no’ to concrete plant in Waves 


After we read The Editor’s Blog in The Island Free Press last Friday, we felt it was necessary to express our views on the concrete plant being proposed in Waves. This column represents the sentiment of the surrounding property owners living on Laughing Gull Lane, Lance’s Landing, and Sea Isle Hills, as well as many property owners along Highway 12 and further north and south of the village of Waves.

To start off, we’d like to express that we all want the bridges that will be built over the “hotspots” on Pea Island so we can have reliable access on and off of Hatteras Island. The company chosen to build at least one – and maybe both of those bridges -- needs to build a concrete plan near the locations.

However, as a whole, we feel this is the wrong location for this plant for several important reasons and that there are several others locations available, all of which are far better suited for the project, both with regards to the negative effects on our community and also to the increased work efficiency of concrete production/delivery to the jobsite. 

The situation is that in their April meeting, the Dare County Planning Board voted 4-2 against this project being located in the middle of Waves. Then board members pushed it forward to the county commissioners for their input and final decision. The reasons the Planning Board voted against approving the plant in Waves include the late-night concrete pours, high-intensity lighting, dust and pollutants, noise, traffic, and the size of the lot. It is too small to buffer the adverse effects on the surrounding neighborhoods. 

Before the vote, Planning Board Chairman Elmer Midgett advised his fellow board members, “You’re going to have to hurt someone’s feelings. That’s what you’re here for.” 

Planning Board member Beth Midgett commented that she is against the plant in the proposed location because the night-time pours are a “deal-breaker.” 

In addition to the 4-2 vote against the plant being located at the former Dare Building Supply site, in Waves, some questionable activities and inconsistencies with Dare County’s S-1 zoning came out during the meeting.

If you attended the Planning Board Meeting, you learned:

  • Concrete/stormwater runoff will go directly into a man-made pond, which will then filter into our drinking water.
  • A Quible Engineering representative said the subcontractor could use lime to suppress the concrete dust. This would also filter in the drinking water table.
  • The same man-made pond is regularly flooding into adjacent neighbors’ properties. This translates into concrete, stormwater, and lime flooding into adjacent neighbors properties.
  • Industrial use of S-1 zoning states that no portion of a building or open storage or processing area shall be closer than 75 feet to a residential structure. The proposed plan showed all of these industrial components only 28 feet from the property line, and given current setback requirements, far closer than 75 feet to the closest residential structure.
  • Industrial usage of S-1 zoning clearly states the highest floor level shall be no greater than 35 feet above the lowest ground grade. 52 feet max height was used throughout the meeting for the cement silo. 52 feet is the maximum height for commercial or residential structures (not industrial) measured to the top of the building, not the top floor. Fifty-two feet is not mention in the text of industrial S-1 zoning, so we’re not sure where this number came from.
  • Air temperatures higher than 80 degrees would trigger the necessity for night-time pours in order to be able to deliver concrete to the site at 75-degree required temp. This equates to night-time pours June through September, our busiest months of the year, both for surrounding full-time, working residents and families, as well as for rental homes located in the area.
  • There were no traffic studies performed to weigh the impacts placed on the surrounding community with 1,344 trucks per month servicing the site, with 2,688 entrances and exits of these trucks on/off Highway 12 every month. These trucks are full-sized commercial cement trucks and 18-wheel raw materials haulers. There have been multiple vehicle accidents with many moderate to severe injuries, including two deaths, at this exact location because of to the bending/blind curve at the site.
  • There was no hurricane evacuation plan to secure site and concrete materials and to protect surrounding communities in the event of high winds and severe flooding.
  • Fencing surround the proposed site was specified as chain link at 10 feet high. This material doesn’t stop sound, dust or light. For comparison, Lowe’s in Kill Devil Hills was required to install a 15’ high solid fence with sound reduction characteristics.
  • The site usage by the proposed concrete plant was characterized as “industrial usage” throughout the meeting. Parties characterizing the proposed concrete plant site usage as “industrial usage” included the Dare County Planning Board and Starkey Sharp, the attorney for Commercial Ready Mix Concrete, as well as the surrounding community members who spoke during public comment.

Is there a way for the Dare County Commissioners to say “no” to this project?

Before this Planning Board meeting, in speaking with multiple members of the Planning Board and County Commissioners, as well as many respected members of our community, we were told that the final decision must be based on the Dare County S-1 Zoning Ordinance. 

There were also several references to the Tri-Villages choosing to not have more restrictive zoning and since we chose this road, this is what we can expect. With every person involved hanging their hat on S-1 zoning, our next step was to research the S-1 Zoning Ordinance with our attorneys and find out where there were inconsistencies within the document and the proposed plant. 

Above, we have already mentioned the S-1 industrial use height restrictions and also the 75-foot setbacks from the closest residential structure. 

The following was also clearly stated in Dare County S-1 zoning and noted in public comment in the Planning Board meeting:

“Section F (#4): No industrial use shall be permitted which has noxious, harmful, or deleterious effects on other development.”

While S-1 zoning does allow a “broad flexibility of services and uses while establishing certain density limitations, setbacks, parking requirements and other general requirements,” it also has specific “industrial usage” restrictions, as well as a clear and available “no” to industrial usage that has “noxious, harmful and deleterious” effects on the surrounding developments and communities. 

It’s okay to not know the definitions of most of these words -- noxious, harmful and deleterious. Most of us didn’t either! Here they are directly from the Merriam Webster online dictionary:

  • NOXIOUS: 1. physically harmful or destructive to living beings.
  • HARMFUL: 1. of a kind likely to be damaging.
  • DELETERIOUS: harmful often in a subtle or unexpected way

Section F (#4): No industrial use shall be permitted which has noxious, harmful, or deleterious effects on other development. 

This basically translates to you can do anything on your own property in S-1 zoning, as long as it doesn’t negatively affect your neighbors. In this specific case, it does significantly, negatively affect all of the neighbors, as well as anyone traveling on Highway 12 through the Tri-Villages because of the incredible amount of heavy truck traffic trying to enter and exit the highway.

It seems that the Dare County Zoning Ordinance was written and put into law with a specific out for cases just like this one. Yes, S-1 zoning allows almost everything, but the people involved in writing this ordinance also had the forethought to add Section F (#4) to make sure that any industrial use in S-1 would not negatively affect the surrounding community.

It is our opinion that based on S-1 zoning, the Dare County Commissioners have the legal ability to say “no” to this project being located at the former Dare Building Supply location in Waves.

If not in Waves, where else could it go?

Is this a question of “Not in my backyard?” No. It’s a question of what’s best for our community as a whole and which location will have the least adverse effects on both permanent residents and visiting tourists. There are several other better-suited sites for this plant, the best being in Rodanthe, directly behind the Liberty Gas Station, aka Island Convenience or “Mac’s”. To date, this site has not been written or spoken about, since it is illegal for public officials to influence private business decisions and contracts. 

Why is the site behind Liberty better suited for this project?

It is three or more miles closer to all of the bridge construction projects. This equates to no truck traffic within the Tri-Villages, faster transport times for the curing cement, lower labor costs for the drivers, lower wear on the trucks and the highway, and reduced fuel costs for the transportation of raw materials and curing cement.

Trucks will be able to turn right off the highway (rather than left) and not disrupt traffic behind them. They will also be able to purchase fuel, food, use restrooms and access their cement plant, all in that same right hand turn. Remember this is 1,344 trucks per month, entering and exiting the highway 2,688 times per month.

The lot behind Liberty is significantly larger with larger buffer zones to closest residential properties, and significantly fewer homes (both permanent resident and rental homes) that will be negatively affected. This is a factor of the area having far fewer homes plus the lot being significantly larger to create larger buffers.

What can you do to help?

You can make plans to attend the Dare County Commissioners’ Meeting on Monday, May 19, at 5 p.m. You’ve heard it before when it comes to public elections -- Every Vote Counts! When it comes to these meetings, every person who comes to the meeting and either speaks during public comment or expresses concern just by being there, shows the commissioners that this is a very important issue to you. 

Both the Planning Board and the commissioners are made up of neighbors from our community, who make great decisions and give incredible guidance, as long as they know what their fellow neighbors are thinking. It is very easy for people to think their presence (or absence) at these meetings won’t make a difference. But when you multiply this by the 100-200 people that may think the same way, you have an empty meeting – indicating that nobody cares – rather than a full meeting indicating that this is a hot topic. 

Bottom line? You have to be there to make a difference. Please make this meeting a priority for just that evening if you care about what happens.

In closing, we’d like to thank the Island Free Press for providing such an incredible communication channel for our community -- for good news, bad news and in this case controversial news. 

Trip Forman has been a full time resident of Hatteras Island since 1991 and is the Co-Founder of REAL Watersports, Watermen’s Retreat and Watermen’s Bar & Grill. Trip has helped our community in the past by being an active member of the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, as well as holding a seat on the ORV Negotiated Rule Making Committee defending ORV access rights in the National Park.

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