OBAR Legislative Briefing

June 16, 2015 Legislative Briefing

Settlement Agreement Reached on Bonner Bridge and N.C. 12
The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) announced on Monday that they, along with the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) have finalized a settlement agreement with Defenders of Wildlife and the National Wildlife Refuge Association represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center regarding the replacement of the aging Herbert C. Bonner Bridge. The agreement allows NCDOT to replace the bridge over Oregon Inlet with a new parallel bridge. NCDOT will also consider options that would move vulnerable portions of N.C. Highway 12 out of the southern half of Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge and into Pamlico Sound.  The Bonner Bridge is in frequent need of repair and maintenance and the replacement is needed for the safety of drivers and the economic vitality of the Outer Banks.
“We appreciate the efforts of all parties to agree on a viable solution that best serves the people and interests of North Carolina,” said NCDOT Secretary Tony Tata. “The settlement agreement will allow NCDOT to provide a safe and reliable bridge for thousands of residents who rely on this lifeline to get to work, school, and healthcare and for millions of visitors who travel to the Outer Banks every year.”
“We are pleased that NCDOT and its partner agencies will consider additional options for N.C. 12 that will provide safe, reliable transportation by avoiding the areas where erosion and washouts shut down the road in its current location.  This is a win-win for the Refuge and everyone who relies on N.C. 12,” said Julie Youngman, senior attorney with SELC, who represented the conservation groups.
Under the settlement agreement, after certain tasks are complete including ceasing work on a 2.4-mile bridge within the Refuge, the conservation groups will dismiss both federal and State Bonner Bridge-related lawsuits.  NCDOT will move forward with construction of a new bridge parallel to the existing Bonner Bridge and will study options for Pamlico Sound structures to address the Mirlo Beach area and the Pea Island inlet created by Hurricane Irene.  NCDOT will complete this entire process collaboratively with the Merger Team, composed of state and federal resource and regulatory agencies. During the study period, NCDOT will implement interim measures on Pea Island to provide safe and reliable transportation through this area. In September 2014, NCDOT suspended construction on a permanent Pea Island Bridge as part of the settlement process.

Nags Head Workshop on Drones
On Wednesday, June 17th at 6 p.m. the Nags Head Board of Commissioners will hold a workshop to seek public input on possibly regulating unmanned aircraft systems (drones) in Nags Head. If unable to attend, submit comments to Robert.Thurman@nagsheadnc.gov . The Board of Commissioners meeting follows this meeting.

Nags Head Looking at Comprehensive Code Update
At last month’s Board of Commissioners meeting, the Board authorized staff to begin refinement of a scope of services for development of a Comprehensive Plan and update of the Town’s codes with Code Wright Planners. At this week’s meeting, staff is seeking approval on the scope of services from Code Wright Planners and on the draft project timeline.
According to staff, the entire project is expected to approximately 25 months to complete. There are 6 overall tasks to be completed as part of both portions of the project. It is anticipated that the Comprehensive Plan project will take approximately 8 months to complete with an anticipated adoption of April 1, 2016. The Code update portion of the project is expected to take 22 months to complete with an anticipated adoption of July 2017. The first 4 months of the project are dedicated to research, interviews, and analysis for both the comprehensive plan and code update. There will be several opportunities for community input throughout the process.

Duck Planning Board Discusses “Height” Issues
The Planning Board met last week and held a long discussion on the issue of “height” and how it is measured in flood zones. Community Development Director Joe Heard followed up from the Board’s May 13th discussion and presented information on how other communities measure the height of a structure. Communities vary as to where height is measured from, to what point on the structure it is measured, whether height is measured pre or post development and what type of information is required to document building height. The Board also reviewed the definitions of “finished grade” and “average finished grade” and the problems faced by owners of hilly properties in X flood zones.

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