During its Tuesday meeting, Oak Island Town Council agreed to seek a replacement for a council vacancy, and approved refinements to the rules for trees and two other development-related issues.
Council voted for the town to advertise the vacancy created when Jeff Winecoff resigned in May. It also agreed to amend its rules of procedure to make it clear that the appointment, to be considered at the August 10 meeting, will only last until the next general election which is set for November. Town Attorney Brian Edes said conflicting language between the town charter, state law and rules of procedure could have left the impression that council had the chance to appoint a replacement who would have served out the remainder of Winecoff’s term, which is for two more years.
After public hearings, council agreed to changes that would allow the largest of residential lots to have two driveways instead of only one.
Members also approved changes that clean up the requirements for building facades in commercial areas. The rule now calls for at least 35-percent of the street-facing portions to have glass or other transparent materials. Mayor Ken Thomas asked staff to study the question of whether that could impose a hardship on small businesses, especially given they are near the ocean, and Council Member John Bach questioned what are the best practices. Thomas said he wanted a balance between aesthetically pleasing facades and measures that would be cost prohibitive.
Joyce Griffin urged the town to pass the refined tree ordinance, which the Planning Board worked on for months.
Griffin said the rule would help future generations, and Liz White called the ordinance “important to the health of the island.”
The rule does not count palms toward the required minimum number of trees on residential lots and, in some instances, offers extra credit for planting live oaks. Thomas said he thought palms should count for something, especially since they seem to survive in near-beach areas after storms.
Council Member Charlie Blalock disagreed. Bach said the town could debate palms versus live oaks indefinitely and it was time to move on. The measure, which offers some favor to live oaks, passed unanimously.
Thirty people applied for seven seats on an ad hoc beach renourishment committee expected to give a report as soon as September. Council appointed Rick Barry, Mariann Fox, Christina Dooley, Terrance Dunn, Glenn Frazier, Randy Johnson and Sue Stewart.
During public comments, Gerald Edwards related the incident with his four-year-old granddaughter during the Independence Day holiday. The young girl was walking along the beach and stepped into a pile of smoldering coals that had been covered with only a few inches of sand and not properly extinguished. He assumed someone had been grilling on the strand and didn’t douse the coals. The child suffered serious second-degree burns on her left foot and hasn’t walked for nine days, he said.
Edwards asked that the town consider some sort of regulation and Edes agreed to look into the matter.
“It’s hard to regulate common sense,” Bach noted.
Council also recognized Dennis Maneri for his service to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and Chris Franks for his service as assistant police chief.
In other business, council:
n Heard staff is looking for ways to pay for stormwater improvements with the $2.67-million the town will receive from the American Rescue Plan (COVID relief).
n Asked staff for recommendations on low-speed vehicles and whether raising the speed limit on East Oak Island Drive would help. Golf carts are not allowed to travel along streets where the speed limit is higher than 35 mph.
n Appointed Kerri McCullough to a term on the Environmental Advisory Committee that expires in June 2023.
n Agreed to name the splash pad after the late Mary Anne Brewer.
n Appointed Shawn Barry to an unexpired term on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board that ends March 2022.